After hearing exciting accounts of recent single sport events (Kelly’s run, Scott’s swim and Jean-Marc’s bike) a report about a triathlon seems pretty humdrum. However, the Oakland Triathlon Festival is worth writing about.

I was looking for a race that differed from the small, rural/suburban Rancho Seco/Granite Bay races. I found it in the 2nd

Annual Oakland Triathlon Festival, which claims to be the “Largest West Coast Urban Triathlon’’ and included a sprint, Olympic, aquabike, and duathlon. With more than a thousand participants I wouldn’t be surprised if it is indeed the largest. And there were constant reminders that it was an urban race—funky-smelling, murky water; potholes, manhole covers, and multiple 90-degree turns; and paved running paths winding through culverts and homeless people encampments.

The water temperature in the Oakland Estuary was surprisingly warm; however, the race organizers misjudged the tide flow, and the advertised fast down-current dash turned out to be a slow up-current slog. Nevertheless, it was an interesting swim along embankments and piers packed with cheering spectators (an especially fun moment occurred during the swim exit at a floating dock, the top of which was about a foot above the waterline. As I swam up to the dock a race volunteer called me over, grabbed my hand, and yanked me clear out of the water and onto my feet). After exiting the water we had to cross over the railroad tracks using a high pedestrian crossing with a really, really long series of stairs (pant, pant, puff, puff). The bike was a nice mixture of hard turns and long straightaways through the city—highway overpasses even provided some rolling hills. Car traffic was well controlled (it seemed like the entire Oakland police force had been mobilized). The only dicey moments were caused by streets slickened by the usual Bay Area morning fog. I also enjoyed the run, which was a fast out and back (with the exception of the pedestrian bridge you were forced to cross again at the very end—yuck).

Post-race food was good and plentiful (there was even a food truck giving away chicken wings that were so tasty even Sonja, a “vegetarian”, was scarfing them). Plus unlimited free beer of various types. At $150 the race fee is a tad pricey, but most of the money goes to local charities.

And the race has another major plus—you can get to it by train! Just hop on Amtrak (free bike racks) in Davis and hop off at Jack London Square. The central race area was a block away.

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