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Chris Braden, Savannah Dearden Swim Out of Fog to Win Goleta Beach Triathlon Titles

Heavy marine layer forces long-course triathlon competitors to swim laps on sprint course

Triathletes in the Goleta Beach long-course event come out of the water and the fog to complete the first of three laps in the altered swim portion of the race.
Triathletes in the Goleta Beach long-course event come out of the water and the fog to complete the first of three laps in the altered swim portion of the race. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

It was a shock to everyone at Sunday morning’s Goleta Beach Triathlon.

After a week of clear skies, a heavy marine layer rolled in, severely reducing visibility and making it unsafe for the participants in the long-course triathlon to do the 1-mile ocean swim along the cove, parallel to the beach.

Triathlon director Jerret McFarland, however, came up with a Plan B.

“We had to make the long-course guys do the short sprint course three times, which turned out to be 1500 meters, which was perfect,” he said.

The three waves of long-course competitors did three laps on the 500-meter out-and-back route. On the return portion of the loop around three buoys,  they had to get out of the water, run around a pair of flags on the beach and head back out for laps 2 and 3.

It was a little hectic and congested but Chris Braden and Savannah Dearden got through the traffic and opened up big leads in the 22-mile bike and 5-mile run to capture the top honors. Braden won the overall title in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 35 seconds, while Dearden was the women’s winner and eighth overall in 1:56.00.


The competitors had to run around flags on the beach before returning to the water for laps 2 and 3. Click to view larger
The competitors had to run around flags on the beach before returning to the water for laps 2 and 3. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)




“It was actually really fun doing three laps,” said Braden, a professional triathlete who is a Dos Pueblos High alum and a former University of Colorado-Boulder triathlon team standout. “It takes your breath away, though, having to get out of the water, sprint around on the sand and dive back in. It’s kind of shock to the system, but I was glad we were able to swim instead of making it a duathlon.”

Said Dearden: “It was harder for sure because you had to run out on the sand every time. I had to take the swim a little slower so I wouldn’t blow up. It was fun. I think it mixed up who would be the first out of the water a little bit and I think that helped me because I’m not that strong of a swimmer.”

The fog rolled in quickly, leaving McFarland to make a quick decision.

“We had no choice; God takes care of that,” he said of the sudden change in weather. “We just had to work with God. It was a total surprise; I turned my back for 30 seconds and it was this foggy, and not only foggy, it was dense — it was almost like a rain. (The staff) looked at each other like: ‘I didn’t do it. Did you do it?’ They couldn’t really blame anybody.”

The good news for McFarland and his staff was “everyone got their distance in and everyone got their race in. (The fog) didn’t change anything.”

The laps of the swim-run-swim made the opening event of the long-course race a lot more fan friendly.

Hometown triathlete Chris Braden won the Goleta Beach long-course race in 1:33.35. Click to view larger
Hometown triathlete Chris Braden won the Goleta Beach long-course race in 1:33.35. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

It also made it a little precarious for the favorites.

“It was interesting having to swim around people because there were 3-4 waves, so you’d come into a pile of people and you’d have to navigate around them. But that’s all part of the fun,” said Braden.

If the swim traffic slowed Braden and Dearden, they made up lost time in the bike and run portions along the Goleta bike paths.

McFarland said the flat and narrow bike and run courses can bring out the best in the competitors.

“They can see the competition. It pushes them that much harder. It’s not an easy course, it’s going to make you push hard,” he said.

A native of Florida, Dearden, 22, was competing in her second Goleta Beach Triathlon. She recently earned her master’s degree from UCSB in molecular and cellular development biology and works at the biotech firm Apeel Sciences in Santa Barbara.  Her triathlon experience includes competing for the UCSB Triathlon Club team and doing some International Triathlon Union events. She recently earned her pro card and did a pro event in Iowa.

Dearden is enjoying the camaraderie of the endurance sports community.

“It’s so great, everybody is so friendly and fun," she said. "You have tons of people to train with and they become your really good friends. It’s wonderful. She's working with San Marcos High and SBCC swim and water polo coach Chuckie Roth on improving her swimming.

Roth competed in the long course triathlon, finishing 16th overall (2:04.23) and winning the men's 40-44 age group.

Savannah Dearden was the women’s long-course champion and finished 8th overall in 1:56.00. Click to view larger
Savannah Dearden was the women’s long-course champion and finished 8th overall in 1:56.00. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Katie Kyme of Los Angeles was the second-place woman in 1:56.58 and Jenny Perrottet of San Diego was third in 2:01.20.

Goleta’s Sean Harrington (1:42.49) and Chad Whittington of Davis (1:43.18) finished second and third, respectively, behind Braden. Goleta's Jonathan Waltman (1:46.08) was fourth and Scott Mahan of Santa Barbara came in fifth (1:46.44).

In the sprint triathlon (500-meter swim, 11-mile bike, 2.5-mile run), Robert Farrell won in 52:47 and Jennifer Walker was the women's winner (14th overall) in 59:17.  The duathlon (5-mile run, 22-mile bike, 5-mile run) was won by Tom Resh (1:31.49) and Patty Peoples-Resh (4th overall, 1:39.02). The winners in the aquabike (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike) were Alan Cheeks (1:25.30) and Taylor Brown (third overall, 1:27.42).

Braden, 26, is going through a transition in his life. He was recently hired at Yardi Systems.

“I’ve been a professional triathlete full time the past 2 1/2 years,” he said. “I’m going from full-time athlete to hopefully get more balance in my life. “I’m starting the whole weekend warrior thing with the Goleta Beach Triathlon. It went well today. I’m happy with it.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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