Los Alamos Triathlon: More than 300 athletes are expected for 35th annual race

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By Mike Cote

The longest continuously-run triathlon in the country will keep that streak going in 2009.

Over 300 athletes are scheduled to compete at this year’s Los Alamos Triathlon.

The Los Alamos Triathlon, celebrating its 35th running this year, is scheduled for Saturday. The triathlon starts just outside the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center.

With registration closing today, 261 individuals, 12 two-person teams and 21 three-person teams have already signed up for Saturday’s event.

That number is slightly down, however, from the 400 athletes that was projected by Los Alamos County’s recreation department.

A drop in participation this year doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Garry Wolfe of the county’s recreation division, who is the race director for the third straight year.

“It’s in line with what we’re seeing in other races,” he said.

Economic reasons might be a factor, Wolfe said, as some people are less willing to travel and stay overnight, but judging from a packet pickup session in Albuquerque Wednesday, any participation drop-off this season won’t be terribly pronounced.

Amy Regan of the Triatomics Multisport Club, who has helped organize a series of triathlon training events this summer known as Splash N Dash, said she feels like there is still plenty of local enthusiasm about the event, which debuted in November 1975.

Saturday’s first competition wave will go out at 7 a.m. if the weather cooperates —forecasts call for possible thunderstorms. Elite racers, teams and 20 and younger competitors will start their bike legs in the opening wave, followed by two more waves starting in 10-minute intervals.

The triathlon consists of a 20-kilometer bike race, a 400-meter swim in the Walkup Center’s main pool and a 5-kilometer run on Canyon Road.

The bike course starts at the aquatic center and goes down N.M. 501 — the Back Gate — and turns around near the intersection with N.M. 4.

A couple from Boulder, Colo., took top honors in the elite divisions of the 2008 race. Jimmy Archer won by a comfortable margin in the men’s elite race, posting a time of 59 minutes, 42 seconds, while girlfriend Kristen Peterson won the women’s elite competition with her time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 37 seconds.

Archer is expected to return to defend his title Saturday. Local multi-sport competitor Chip Cooper, the 2007 champion, is also scheduled to compete at this year’s running.

A few weeks ago, the county put out a plea for volunteers on its website. Wolfe said he received plenty of response from the community, particularly from the Pajarito Aquatic Club, a local swimming organization.

Safety has been a main concern for the triathlon since an accident involving a motor vehicle which occurred on the running portion of the triathlon in 2005.

“We’re vigilant,” Wolfe said. “We’re worried about something like that repeating…but (Canyon Road) is safer than the Diamond Drive route, especially with the construction that’s going on.”

Safety concerns have been heightened around this event and other competitions such as the recent Tour de Los Alamos due to a bicycle accident on Los Alamos National Laboratory property earlier this summer.

Sunday, the county is hosting its 16th annual Kids Triathlon. The Kids Triathlon is a non-continuous event for children 14 years of age and younger.

That event, which will also be held in and around the aquatic center, will start at 1 p.m.

Home Run Pizza will provide food after Sunday’s event and Daniel’s Café will have ice cream for the competitors.