Cold at the Desert’s Edge

Low temps don't hamper first-year triathlon

Some of the 340 swimmers hit the water Sunday at Highline Lake State Park for the Desert’s Edge Triathlon. The first-year event featured two distances — Olympic and sprint. The Olympic distance was a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10K run. The sprint distance was half the Olympic distance. Davide Giardini won the Olympic distance men’s title.

Usually he gets out of the water, strips off his wet suit, throws on his bike shoes and rides away into elements much warmer from whence he came.

Sunday, he needed to put on a jacket. Even then, the start of his bike race was cold, and after beginning his triathlon career in Hawaii, where he resided for three years, Davide Giardini isn’t used to that.

A few other things were new to Giardini on Sunday morning when the 24-year-old competed in the Desert’s Edge Triathlon, a first-year event at Highline Lake State Park that drew 340 competitors, exceeding the expectations of race coordinator Darrin Eisman of Golden-based Racing Underground.

“I said, ‘If we hit 300, I’ll be ecstatic,’ and we blew that out of the water,” Eisman said, adding registration was halted when it hit 400, and some of Sunday’s no-shows were a product of the cold snap that brought a record-tying overnight low of 30 degrees to the Grand Valley.

Giardini, who now calls Boulder home as a graduate student and triathlon team member at the University of Colorado, rattled off a list of hindrances he wasn’t expecting during a race that was billed as being warm enough this time of the year to host a triathlon.

“The cold got to me, the dry air got to me, the altitude got to me,” Giardini said.

He also got to the finish line first in the Olympic distance triathlon, winning in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 1 second, which was 17 seconds faster than runner-up Steve Mantell of Fort Collins.

“I’ve never raced in this tough of conditions,” said Giardini, who posted the fastest time in the 1,500-meter swim, second-fastest time on the 40-kilometer bike ride and eighth-best time in the 10K run. “Times overall were really slow.”

Giardini didn’t consider the 66-degree water to be all that cold, but the women’s winner of the Olympic distance race, Sinead O’Dwyer, thought differently. The 23-year-old said she exited the water unable to feel her feet. It wasn’t until about the second mile on her bike that the feeling started to return.

Only 10 men completed the course before she did, as O’Dwyer clocked in at 2:16:13, almost a minute ahead of the women’s runner-up: 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Susan Williams, who’s 43 and living in Littleton.

After the two received their trophies Sunday, O’Dwyer had her picture taken with Williams, who coaches triathletes and offered words of encouragement to O’Dwyer as she aspires to become a professional triathlete and member of the U.S. Olympic team.

O’Dwyer, who swam and cycled competitively at Bucknell University, now lives in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where she trains. She ended up at Highline Lake State Park because she was looking to do one or two more triathlons this year, and she found the Desert’s Edge Triathlon during an online search and figured an eight-hour drive wouldn’t be bad.

“I love the scenery,” she said of the Desert’s Edge course, adding the rolling hills on the run were a welcome distraction during what is her weakest leg in the event.

The Desert’s Edge Triathlon also offered a sprint race, half the distance of the Olympic race, and Golden’s Garret Rock won it in 1:09:29.

The 34-year-old chiropractor and exercise physiologist couldn’t say enough good things about the event, which he entered with an eye toward winning and retaining sponsors to continue competing professionally.

“I was looking for a late-season race to do, and this was a really cool one. And the environment was super cool,” he said. “It was a really fun course, just sort of being out here in farm country and camping here, very cool.”


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