||Hansen Dam Triathlon
5th Annual Hansen Dam Triathlon, Sunday August 16th, 2009
For those unknowing or uninitiated in L.A. lore, Hansen Dam is a giant park in the northeastern part of the San Fernando Valley. I had never been there before I went to the packet pick-up the day before, and I was surprised at the size of the recreational area. One big plus was the quality of the t-shirt given to participants in the swag bag. Instead of a regular cotton t-shirt, we were all given lightweight running shirts with the race logo printed on them.
For some reason, our bike and helmet stickers were not given to us at packet pick-up. Instead, we had to wait in a line on the morning of the race. With almost 700 participants, I felt lucky that I was among the first to arrive. At 7:00 am, when the first wave was scheduled to start, there were still many waiting to pick up their stickers and the start had to be delayed. Since this is the 5th annual race, I would have thought the would have sorted things like this out by now.
The water was about 80 degrees, and I was surprised to see so many people wearing wetsuits. I had brought my Ironman wife-beater wetsuit with me, but I opted to swim in my speedos. I could only have looked more European if Iíd also been wearing loafers and dark socks. The swim took us 500 yards through a small man-made lake (or is it a large pond?) adjacent to the Aquatic Center. Due to the temperature, it was about as pleasant a swim as I have been on, since the demise of the Big Bear Triathlon. The only negative aspect, and it was a slight one (and unavoidable,) was that the only place to enter the water was at the boat landing, so those of us in later waves were stepping aside to get out of the way of the swimmers from the early waves, who were finishing on the same boat landing as we were starting.
The bicycle route took us first onto Osborne St., passing an L.A. landmark, of sorts. To the left, one could see the vacant lot at the corner of Foothill and Osborne, which was the location of the Rodney King beating. Itís still vacant, though fenced off. An interesting bit of serendipity is that this race features an agency challenge, involving law enforcement officers.
As we went up Foothill Blvd., there were many rolling hills, which werenít too big (unless you had just finished swimming.) This wasnít mentioned in the course talk or the website, but I expected it. To paraphrase the character of the Torturer in American Dreamz (ďThe donít call me the Torturer because I donít torture peopleĒ,) they donít call it Foothill Blvd. because there arenít any hills. There were also quite a few meadow muffins to avoid on the bicycle route, as this is a popular equestrian area.
The nicest part of the race was the dedicated bicycle lane over the Hansen Dam, which provided a spectacular view of the park on one side and the golf course on the other. Approaching it is the steepest hill on the course, albeit a very quick one. After crossing the dam, itís just a quick downhill spin into the transition area.
The run is a trail run through the park. A friend who did the race last year emailed me on Facebook and said he hated it. I checked his splits from 2008 online and I found out why. Apparently it slowed him down quite a bit. I enjoy running on dirt, and there were no nasty obstacles to avoid, so I found it pleasant. My only issue was that the second water station, which also had energy bars, was out of everything by the time I got there. Really, just a bit of water would have sufficed.
The run finished up along the small lake we had begun our day in. I enjoyed the race, but I would like so see a few improvements. Mainly, they should give out the bicycle and helmet stickers with the race number and timing chip, so that all can start on time; bring enough water to the aid station; and add a Clydesdale/Athena division. Other than that, they have a good thing going.