The Donner Lake Triathlon - July 17, 2011

I have many fond memories of this race (well, mostly, except for getting my car towed that one time). I haven't been here since my hip saga, i.e. the mid '90's. Last time I did the bike, I had 4 flat tires! All "snakebite" pinch flats from the rough roads. Feeling somewhat cash-challenged, I decided not to do the whole race. Turns out Kathy Frank and Roger were planning on doing a relay, and might need a swimmer, or might not. I wanted to do the swim, and the run. I wouldn't know whether I was on the relay until after arriving, since this packed weekend also included the annual IOTA Conference, at nearby Sierra College in Rocklin. I would be doing the meeting all day Saturday, then after dinner heading up to Donner and hopefully meeting up with Kathy and Roger at Kathy's friend's place a few blocks from the race start.

I first drove to Kathy's friend's place a block from the start - but Kathy and Roger were not there. Oh well, looks like I'd do the race on my own. I drove back up the old Donner Pass road, finding a nice campspot.

Physics in the pre-dawn morning. A perfect way to focus the mind before my race


When I put the book down and flipped around, this was the view out my tent door.

Donner Lake at dawn, from near my tent

A warm-up run from my car down to the lake gave this scene, with the beach on the right and the swim course beyond.

Kathy and Roger did in fact make it to the race, arriving after midnight. They'd do a relay: Kathy swimming, Roger biking and running.

Donner Lake is a delight to swim in - crystal clean, and today the weather was perfect

An artsy refletion shot

Ferrell finally shows

I'm guessing from this shot that the notorious "Mr Coffee" machine once again made the trip

Time to put the camera away. The swim start was a water start, in the creek entering the lake. We'd heard the water temperature was 63F, which would be a great temperature for a good hard swim in my sleeveless wetsuit. But it felt like the low 50's in the creek and I didn't immediately put it together that the creek would not represent the lake, being as there was still snow melting higher up. Treading water after a warmup swim to the bridge and back, I noticed it was ice cold down where my feet were, and realized it was denser snowmelt water down there. The lake would be warmer so no worries. Right, mate? I took up position at the far shore of the creek. Rick closer to the middle, and off we went. Swimming right into the sun, it was pretty hard to tell where to go and my line was a bit eratic till I got close enough to the yellow bouy to see it. The other two legs were not a problem. Rick (I think... or someone who swam a lot like Rick) was close to me for most of the swim, but in the last leg of the triangle course, I didn't see him. I got out at 28:10, got to my transition, and - since I wasn't doing the bike - grabbed my camera. Got some shots of Rick during his swim/bike transition...

note the artistic frame framing


squeeze into those cleats

...afix helmet...

Ready to roll

Roger waits for Kathy to come in from the swim

Zero the cyclo computer

The relays were the last wave start, and there few relays, so it was a lonely swim for Kathy.

The chip handoff

Kathy and I cheered on this athlete, who needed special time in making her transition. I quipped "at least you won't have to worry about a calf cramp", which brought big laughs from her cheer section just behind the blue fence.

Kathy and Roger had to make do in this place, while I had the majesty of the mountains for my accomodations. I had time to visit this amazing home (for which Kathy helped install the floors), before returning to the transition to ready for my run.

Rick comes in after a solid bike

...squeeze into those shoes. Skip the socks.


Time to start my run as well.

I brought my little pocket Lumix to snap a few shots along the way.


Well, my camera gave me black frames near the finish. Bummer! It was a tough run. I was not yet recovered from a 15 mile run the previous week. I felt good for 2 miles.... and my left hip hurt like hell for the last 4.5 miles. Same problem as always - tight hip flexors or psoas causing inflammed bursa immediately above my new metal hip.


Rick brought the family for all the fun. Jamie, Kelsey, and friend get the lowdown on the post-race plan.

Roger and Me

After lunching, Rick left his daughters on the beach while he packed out of the motel, Roger and Kathy spent the afternoon canoeing the lake, and I headed back down the mountain to join the 2011 Annual IOTA Conference in Rocklin.

Here's the official results Note that a race official said to me before the race (when I asked about the temperature) that the 1 mile swim course was "a little long". I'm guessing it was ~1.1 mi, based on my time and what my typical race pace has been this summer.

  1 mi swim T1 40k Bike T2 6.5 mi Run Total Age Group Place
Rick Ferrell 28:33 2:23 1:25:55 1:26 53:14 2:51:31 5th/20, 48th overall
Rick Nolthenius 28:10       1:16:14    
Kathy / Roger 35:27   1:51:51   1:10:44 3:42:23 5th in mixed relay

Excellent effort, gang! A memorable adventure.