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Almaden triathlon goes international
 
   

Virl Norton will tell you he runs about as fast and reckless as anybody.

''That's obvious," the 69-year-old Almaden Valley cowboy and endurance rider said last week after his team's second consecutive win at the Almaden Triathlon Challenge.

Norton, together with runner Mike Porter of Palo Alto and bicyclist Hans Heims of San Jose, won their second team title with a time of three hours and nine minutes. "Those guys won the race for us," said Norton, who rode his horse to one of the fastest times recorded for that leg of the event.

Forty-four teams competed in the Triathlon Challenge, held April 6 at Quicksilver Park in the Almaden Valley. The event featured a 10-kilometer run, followed by a 20-mile bicycle run and a 20-mile horse race.

Nineteen people participated in each leg of the race in the "Ironperson" competition, which was won by Jon Root of Paso Robles.

The Almaden Triathlon Challenge, which started as a local race five years ago, has become an international event, with competitors from as far away as Norway and England.

''They come from all over hell to beat me," Norton said, laughing. "There's a lot of jealousy among us old devils."

The second-place finishers in the team competition were locals Nick Yray, Andrew Masteoralig and Joe Archibald. Third place went to runner Glyn Reynolds from Sheffield, England; bicyclist Eric Pederson of Oslo, Norway; and local rider Gretchen Gearhart, a student at the University of California at Davis.

Finishing behind Root in the "Ironperson" race were Greg Schaffer and Sandy Parker. The youngest participant and finisher in the individual competition was Tanya Duncan, 11, of Morgan Hill.

Norton, the 1976 winner of the Great American Horse Race -- 3,200 miles from New York to Sacramento -- has ridden in endurance horse races in West Germany, France, Spain and throughout the United States.

The Almaden Triathlon Challenge, he said, "is among the best conducted in the world." The local organizers of the race are Adrien Vandenhoogen and John Hardy, both of San Jose.

Norton, who turns 70 in August, said he'll definitely be back for next year's race and probably won't quit until he's 80.

''My mother didn't slow up until she was 83," he said.

Michael Cronk, Mercury News Staff Writer
April 16, 1986

Copyright 1986 San Jose Mercury News All rights reserved. Reproduced with
permission of the Mercury News. Any unauthorized reproduction is strictly
prohibited.

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