On October 23, Sacramento residents and athletes from around the world were brave enough to compete in Ironman California: a triathlon where athletes endure a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and run. 26.2 miles in 17 hours.
The race was originally scheduled for fall 2021; however, the event was canceled at the last minute due to heavy rain. Although the weather was more favorable this year, it was still windy.
“The wind was awful,” said Franz Leitner, an athlete from Vienna, Austria, who finished the race in 9:53 and placed third out of 325 athletes in his age group.
“If the weather was 5 degrees warmer, it would be much more comfortable in the early stages for the athletes,” added volunteer Vitaliy Mikhailov.
The weather affected not only the condition of the athletes, but also the safety of the competition. Several accidents occurred, including a number during the bike portion, according to Leitner.
Mikhailov volunteered from 4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and said the athletes were freezing and unable to warm up. It was cold when they came out of the water and even when they stopped before the start of the race.
The race started from the American River near Township 9 Park, crossed the Sacramento River to Miller Park Marina and finished at Capitol Mall.
The cold made the swim portion of the Sacramento River difficult for the athletes. Mikhailov said a man was shivering with cold and volunteers had to help him walk because he couldn’t do it alone.
“He looked like a very stiff person,” Mikhailov said. But when the sun finally warmed the air, the weather looked much better for the athletes.
“On the race to the end the weather was perfect, not hot,” Mikhailov said.
But in the opinion of the athletes, there was still wind. “When you ran north and northwest, it was really windy,” Leitner said. However, he made it to the podium.
Despite the windy weather, the race was a success, organizers said. Four thousand athletes crossed the starting line and about 2,300 finished the race. The winner of the overall men’s classification was Julien Boulain of Paris, France with a time of 8:53. And Liis Rametta from Estonia became the first woman overall with a time of 9:33.
“I think Sacramento held this competition with dignity,” Mikhailov said, adding the event was well organized. The roads were closed to traffic, there were turn marks for athletes, the trail layout was clear for competitors, and there were plenty of food outlets.
Support from volunteers is also what made the race successful, organizers said. The volunteers were everywhere, in the transit areas and along the race. They helped before the race, during and after. Volunteers helped athletes figure out how to get to their bikes, how to get to the shuttles, where to find restrooms, etc.
“Their bags were sorted by numbers, but the sportsmen were in a sporty mood and exceeded their numbers. They were confused and needed our help to find their bags faster,” Mikhailov said.
Mikhailov competed in Ironman 70.3, ran two full marathons, and did a mountain bike ultramarathon, which is a cross-country race lasting 6-7 hours.
“That’s one of the reasons why I decided to volunteer, because I was helped by volunteers in similar races,” Mikhailov said. And it’s always nice when people are really interested and supportive, he added.
This support is important for athletes. Even for those who are not beginners. For Leitner, the Ironman Sacramento is his 15th full race. Athletes spend a lot of time preparing for these competitions. For most of them, the main objective is simply to surpass themselves.
“The race that is called the Ironman cannot be very easy. It is clear from its name that only iron people can complete it,” Mikhailov said.