Mountain View Masters

2003 Sandman Triathlon

Aptos, August 3, 2003

by Ahmet Gokcek

The Sandman Triathlon is somewhere in between a sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon: ½ mile swim, 15mile bike, 4.2mile run. It's located in Aptos at Seacliff State Beach. The race is called the Sandman because about 80% of the run is on the sand. The Santa Cruz Jr. Lifeguard association puts on the race and the race benefits their program.

I had done this race last year and the swim is pretty straightforward as you swim straight out, turn left at the end of the ship and swim back to shore. The bike is about 15 miles (maybe a little shorter) long and is technical with rolling hills everywhere. The run is a 4.2 mile run on the beach except for a short portion where you run up the campgrounds and do a small loop and run back down to the beach. My goals for the race were to break 1:20 as I did a 1:22:30 last year, and to place in my age-group.


I felt pretty good before the swim and noticed that the ocean was a little warmer then at the recent Monterey Bay Challenge tri. They said that the current was coming from the south meaning that warmer tropical water was making its way to shore.

After warming up a few minutes the 34-years old and under wave went off then we took off 5 minutes later. The start of the race was great. The ocean waves were small and I didn't have any major shoving or kicking incidents at the start like most other race maybe because everyone really spread apart along the beach. I had open water all the way to the first buoy and there was a little shoving at the first buoy turn but other then that it was a smooth swim.


I made it out of the water and heading straight for the bike racks. I didn't check my time and the race didn't use a chip so I don't know how fast I swam. I got my wetsuit off pretty quickly and took off on the bike after putting on my helmet and glasses. My shoes were on the bike as I slipped them after getting on and riding a little.


The bike course starts off with a few small hills and I attacked really hard up them trying to catch as many people as I could. After this there was a mostly flat section followed by a small hill before you start descending. I passed a lot of riders but because they didn't put the ages on our calves I had no idea who was in my wave or the wave ahead of me. Right before the hill there was a biker that passed me and he was going strong. I couldn't stay with him but I was trying to minimize the distance he put on me so I could try to catch him on the run.

The rest of the bike went well except till the very end when I saw my friend Sam Liccardo pulled over to the side with another triathlete who was on the ground, not looking too good. He was hit by a deer that went onto the street. I slowed down a little to see if he was okay and one of the guys told me to keep going and make sure they get an ambulance up there. I kept going but lost a lot motivation to race hard after seeing that guy lying on the ground like that.

My total swim + bike combined time was 53:09.


Got to T2 and didn't really feel like racing anymore but at that point there was nothing I could do so I put on my shoes and started the run.


I started the run not really concerned about my place or time then I came along side Nick Daugherty and he told me I was up in the front and I need go out and kick some butt. That was the spark I needed to get refocused and to try to catch the runners ahead of me. I felt great on the run and was passing a number of runners mostly in the waves ahead of me. I really focused on keeping a short quick cadence that my tri coach Lisa teaches us. This is even more critical running on the beach where you want to minimize the amount of time your foot is dug in the sand.

Right before the run up the stairs I saw Todd Laberge who's a really good triathlete I battled in many races last year. I new I was in good shape if I was that close to him. At the turnaround point we saw each other as he was maybe 25 yards ahead of me and I started picking it up and so did he. I wasn't sure I would catch him as he picked up the pace but I stayed relaxed and I eventually got him a little before the pier.

After passing Todd I saw another runner ahead in me in my wave and I later found out it was Greg Trent, another really good triathlete. I caught Greg right at the pier before the finish and managed to hold him off.

As I crossed the finish line I was told I was the fifth finisher but I wasn't sure if the other people ahead of me were in the wave before me and if so then how many minutes ahead they finish. John Turk, who finished right ahead of me and lead the race at the start of the run, said that he was pretty sure that the runners ahead of him were in the first wave and that they didn't finish five minutes ahead of me. A few minutes later the results came and it was confirmed that I was the first overall finisher.

My run time was 24:24 but I do want to note that the course was about 0.2 miles short as construction in the campgrounds made us take a detour on the course.


I had a solid race and everything went real smooth. I got a real nice trophy for the victory and spoke with the Santa Cruz Sentinel for a few minutes. I felt bad for the triathlete that crashed as he hit the deer and I later found out that he was a former pro who was up in the in the lead and may have won the race if he didn't have that unfortunate incident. I hope he's doing okay.

There were a lot of other SVTC'ers that had great races including Sam Liccardo, John Turk, Nick Daugherty, Jorge Breton, Asheley Frogner, and Tara McFarland. It was great seeing everyone and hanging out with them afterwards. My apologizes to anyone I've missed.


Sandman Triathlon: Leader felled by deer

From the Sentinel,

APTOS — The one obstacle that Joe Sanders could not overcome was not an obstacle at all.

In fact it was a deer.

Poised to win his first Sandman Triathlon on Sunday, Joe Sanders instead ended up in the hospital after he failed to elude a bamboozled bambi that had wandered into the path of his bike.

Cupertino resident Ahmet Gokcek was the main beneficiary of Sanders’ misfortune as he took command of the final stages of the run and captured the men’s overall championship in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 33 seconds.

"Joe would have kicked all of our asses," third-place finisher Todd Laberge said. "I probably had one of the fastest bike splits, and he went by me like I was chained to a tree. He’s a 32-minute 10K runner. I’m sure he would have been able to hold us off in the run."

With just two miles remaining in the bike course, Sanders had charged to the front of the pack when disaster struck. As he crossed the intersection of Sumner and Clubhouse Drive, a kamikaze deer — possibly with allegiances to Gokcek — stepped into the road, and Sanders plowed into it, prematurely ending his day.

The 35-year-old San Jose resident was taken to the hospital for X-rays, and later released with minor injuries.

"He was cruising along at 30 miles per hour, and the deer just freaked out," said Watsonville resident Mark Friedley, who was 100 meters behind Sanders when the incident took place.

"The deer just went one way and then the other, and Joe had nowhere to go. He just got T-boned and landed flat on his back."

As Sanders waited for medical attention, Gokcek stormed into contention on the bike and began his assault on the field.

Trailing several runners including Laberge and 42-year-old Greg Trent as he began the 4.2-mile run, Gokcek gradually narrowed the gap. Less than 1,500 meters before the finish line, he took over first place, passing first Laberge then Trent as he barreled across the windswept sand.

A devastating finishing kick widened the lead and ultimately clinched the victory as Gokcek finished 22 seconds ahead of second-place Trent and 46 seconds in front of third-place Laberge.

"I didn’t think I was going to catch either of them," said Gokcek, who finished 11th at last year’s Sandman. "But once I did, I knew I could get this thing. I’m a pretty strong finisher, and I really wanted to win today."

Gokcek was an avid basketball and soccer player before a severe ankle injury forced him to look for other competitive outlets. He first began competing in triathlons three years ago and credits an intense training program for his rapid improvement.

"During the offseason I put in a lot of hard work," said Gokcek, who shaved over five minutes off of his mark from last year. "I really wanted to improve my bike and my swim, and I think it paid off."

Gokcek is thrilled to have secured his first career victory in a triathlon, but he knows that Sanders would have been a formidable opponent had he been able to finish.

"He would have won," the 35-year-old admitted.

But thanks to a strong run and one disoriented deer, it was Gokcek — and not Sanders — who crossed the finish line line victorious.