COCHITI LAKE, N.M., -- Before dawn, in the wee hours of July 29, the swim beach at Cochiti Lake was already thriving with activity. It was the morning of the second annual (2012) Cochiti Triathlon. Approximately 260 participants, already dressed in wet suits, excitedly awaited the race’s 7:00 a.m. start time.
The Cochiti Lake Triathlon, organized by Chasing 3 Race Productions, is an official triathlon, sanctioned by USA Triathlon, the national governing body for many types of sports and racing events and a federation member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. All participants in this triathlon were members of the USA Triathlon or needed a one-day pass in order to compete.
This was the second time the triathlon was held at Cochiti; the first time was in 2010. A race was scheduled for last year, but the Las Conchas Fire forced organizers to cancel the event.
According to Angie Kandalaft, organizer for Chasing 3 Race Productions, Cochiti is the pinnacle place for a triathlon in New Mexico.
“Cochiti is situated between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which allows easy accessibility from both the north and south,” she said. “The swim beach and boat ramp are contained areas that lead to open water, and this makes for a safe, controlled environment where every participant can excel.”
Two simultaneous races occurred in the morning, the Olympic and the Sprint. Both races consisted of three legs: swimming, biking and running, only the lengths were different. The Olympic race was a swim just under one mile, a 40 kilometer bicycle ride and a 10 kilometer run. The Sprint was one-half the distances of the Olympic. There were approximately 130 participants in each race.
Kandalaft said the race went really well, and one of the main reasons was the coordination effort between Chasing 3 and a number of essential partners, especially the Corps of Engineers’ team at Cochiti.
“Working with the Corps of Engineers folks was a fantastic experience; they were helpful, accommodating and ready to help wherever they were needed,” Kandalaft said. “The race could not have happened without them.”
Nicholas Parks, Cochiti park ranger, took the reins as the primary coordinator for the event, and the Corps’ team was on the ground assisting people as early as 6:00 a.m. The Cochiti Project staff supported the race by performing their typical functions, such as boat patrolling, greeting visitors and monitoring the project’s entrances.
Kandalaft said another important partnership was between Chasing 3 and Cochiti Pueblo.
“We felt it was of utmost importance to involve the pueblo, as the race embodies athleticism at its best,” Kandalaft said. “We met with Phillip Quintana, governor of the Pueblo de Cochiti, and expressed how thankful all the participants were to be able to utilize their beautiful pueblo land.”
Chasing 3 hired 17 pueblo members to assist with the race. Other essential collaborative partners included New Mexico Kayak Adventures, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department, Motion Picture Medics, Set Comm Communications, lifeguards from the University of New Mexico and a myriad of other volunteers.
Interestingly, the winner of the Olympic race, Alex Willis, a 24-year-old, was just picked up by the Olympic training team for 2016. Originally from Leadville, Colo., Willis’ participation in the Cochiti race, along with other previous races, gave him enough points to qualify for an invitation for the USA Triathlon race Aug. 20, which is where he was picked up for the Olympics team.
The next Cochiti Marathon is scheduled for July 28, 2013. Kandalaft believes the amount of participants will double by next year.
“As these types of races grow, one tends to see a more male-dominated event,” she said. “The Olympic race is very male-dominated; however, the biggest growth for the Sprint is women within the 39-54 age range.”
Kandalaft also hopes to include two children’s open water events, so they can become involved early. She and her team are working with the City of Albuquerque to set up children’s clinics, similar to the ones that were held for adults this past year at Cochiti Lake.
“We are looking forward to working again with the terrific Corps of Engineers team next year,” she said.