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    The shining stars at Albany’s first triathlon

    68-year-old Amy Chuang swam 500 yards, biked 9 miles, and ran 2 miles at Albany’s first triathlon Sunday. Several dozen Albany residents made splashes at the Albany Pool and roused cheering at Memorial Park during the race. Photo by Linda (Linjun) Fan.

    Many of the 65 participants were trying out triathlon for the first time, including the champion Miguel Mejia, a sophomore at Albany High School. In 45 minutes and 25 seconds, Miguel swam 15 lengths at Albany Pool, biked around Memorial Park and Albany High School for 15 times, and ran the same lap for another four times.

    He said he had some trouble taking off his sticky swimming suit before biking, and his knees knocked at each other when he started running after strenuous biking. But he obviously enjoyed the triumph of his first triathlon.

    “I am going to do many more, ” he exclaimed.

     

     Miguel Mejia (right) at Albany Pool after the triathlon race.

    ***

    Gail Shea called up all the mothers she knew from the cross-country team of the high school and solicited them to join the triathlon — just for fun. A dozen of them signed up and each pinned a Team Mom sign on their shirt before the race.

    They gave each other high-fives at the pool and chatted during their running, or walking, section of the race.

    About two hours into the race, I saw Gail walking down the path west of the pool with Connie Kidney, another Team Mom who had a paper cup in her hand.

    “We are going at a conversational pace, ” Gail proclaimed.

    It meant a pace that she could still feel comfortable chatting with Connie while racing, she explained.

    Gail Shea (right) and Connie Kidney (left)

    ***

    Amy Chuang decided to try out her first triathlon the night before the race started. At a family gathering that evening, her children told her about the race. Her son-in-law Jim Quinn was one of the organizers, and her two daughters and two of her granddaughters would participate in it.

    “Grandma, you should join us,” said her granddaughters.

    Amy got interested in the idea. She bikes to everywhere and regularly practices Qigong and yoga. But she hesitated for a while, for she hadn’t swum for several years, and she had little idea of how a triathlon works.

    Her family convinced her eventually. The next morning Amy showed up at Albany Pool in a bright red sweatshirt.

    She took out two tooth implants before swimming. She swam smoothly and finished her first task in about ten minutes. She then changed into her biking clothes, put the implants back and waited for the second part to start.

    Quite a while later, finding out that she should have just gone ahead biking, she hurried to get on her bike and pedaled fiercely.

    It was only during the final part she ran out of steam.

    “I can walk, but I can’t run anymore,” she said while walking with vigorous strides down a path at Memorial Park.

    But when another contestant ran past her, she immediately sped up and started running.

    Amy finished the race in an hour and 43 minutes, including the ten minutes or so she regretfully wasted in waiting.

    ***

    Amy’s two granddaughters, 11-year-old Camille Gwise (right) and 10-year-old Patti Quinn (left) were the youngest participants at the triathlon.  

    The two girls enjoyed the warm water of the pool. After the swimming Patti put on her blue Marin Elementary T-shirt and a pink helmet with grinning faces on it. Camille didn’t bother to change her swimming suit and just put on a jacket outside of it. They got on their small-size mountain bikes and rode alongside each other, faces beaming with joy when passing by cheering family and friends.

    A while later, however, I saw Camille sitting on the cement stairs in front of the pool, head buried in arms and eyes red.  Her dad, who sat beside her, explained that she felt sick to her stomach 13 laps in to biking, because she didn’t have breakfast.

    “I want to finish it, ” Camille held up her head and said.

    She was back in biking the next time I saw her, with Patti riding loyally alongside.
     
    She dashed across the finishing line a hour and 21 minutes after the race started, while Patti finished the race three minutes before her.

    “You guys are awesome. You should join our cross-country team, and the mountain bike team, and the swimming team,”  several Albany High School student said excitedly to the two fledgling athletes.  

    ***

    Another promising young athlete at the race was 11-year-old Diego Chavez. Diego was running on the sidewalk south of Memorial Park when it was more than an hour and an half into the race. The organizers were not sure whether he was racing or just playing by himself. So I ran over to ask him.

    He said he had swum and biked, and was in the fifth laps of running. Obviously he didn’t know that four laps were enough.

    “My mom said I need to run five laps, ” he said.

    After getting confirmed that he had finished his task, he ran back to the finishing line, and proudly signed his name on a notebook, which contained the names and racing records of about 60 Albany triathletes. Although he was not the fastest among them, Diego covered the longest course.

     

    ***
    64-year-old Kathleen Kirke-Young was the last person who signed her name on the notebook, but she was quite happy with the result.

    She said she joined the triathlon after receiving a phone call from her old friend Gail Shea. The two knew each other when their sons were in the same cross-country team, but hadn’t seen each other for six years.

    Although her son is in college now, Kathleen said she was glad that the race helped to raise money for the athletic teams of Albany High School.

    She finished the running section with ease, for she walks three miles every day after work.

    “Walking was nothing,” she said.

    But she confessed sheepishly that she had only swum four laps in the pool.

    “I am gonna to take up swimming, ” she said to me in a whisper. 

    Kathleen Kirke-Young (right)

    ***
    31-year-old Susan Parkinson was the fastest swimmer at the triathlon. She finished 500 yards in 6 minutes and 41 seconds.

    Susan used to compete for Cal on its triathlon team when she was a graduate student. She hadn’t raced for several years after graduation and having a baby.

    “I came out for fun, and to support Albany, ” she said. “It’s also a good way to start the day. “

     

     ***

    Leif Magnuson waggled his hands and bottom at cheering spectators when he was approaching the finishing line. It looked more like that he was performing than racing. He spent about an hour to finish the race. I asked him how he felt.

    “The water in the pool tastes as good as ever, ” he said.

    “Where is your family?” I asked.

    “My wife is racing. My kids are in bed, ” he replied grinning. “I am sure they will make breakfast for me. “

     

    ***

    Allan Maris was the mastermind behind the triathlon. He participated frequently at various triathlons in California, usually enjoying a cup of coffee between the swimming and biking sections. But he had never raced in his hometown Albany.

    “I have been thinking about putting together a triathlon in Albany for five years, ” said Allan, who is an avid organizer of community events.

    He finally got to carry out the idea this year at Albany’s centennial. Working together with athletic boosters of Albany High School, he designed racing rules and routes and souvenir T-shirts, and got the word out to the community.

    He was worried about traffic and many other potential problems. But everything turned out to be going smoothly. Nobody ignored the cones and signs put on the streets which were temporarily used for racing ground.

    “I am proud of Albany, ” Allan said.

    ***

    I have to say that the triathlon is one of the most interesting sports events I’ve ever covered. It’s no less fun than the Beijing Olympics for me. I believe there were many more shiny stars in the race that I wasn’t able to meet. There are pictures of more triathletes in the photo slideshow whose names I don’t know. Please write down their stories and post them under the article if you happen to know about them. And also, correct me if I spelled any names wrong or erred at any details. I am looking forward to meeting more stars at Albany’s second triathlon. —Linjun


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