By Jonathan Tu
Staff Writer

The Santa Barbara triathlon team will host the first annual UCSB Spring Hazard Sprint Triathlon on March 7 at Campus Point. The race will begin at 8 a.m. and is open to anyone.

The course will consist of a half-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride and 3.5-mile run. For those looking for an easier time, a two-mile run will be held afterward at noon. Registration info can be found at

“We’re hoping to get a lot of people from the campus and community. There’s going to be raffles and tons of prizes. It should be a good time for everyone,” second-year grad student and Spring Hazard co-president Jay Ritterbeck said. “And hopefully everyone can see what a great program we have.”

The Gauchos have rebuilt and reloaded after the departure of longtime coach Bert Bolea last year, leaving the team without guidance during the middle of the season. What could have been a crippling blow to the program has instead turned into an opportunity for the team, as new coaches CJ Castle and Jessica Gillett have given Santa Barbara a much needed edge.

The most dramatic difference the coaching change has made is in the area of training. The new coaching staff has allowed the Gauchos to specialize in ways they have never been able to before, since Castle is a professional triathlete who also trains other pros in the Santa Barbara area.

“What CJ has brought to us is a very structured training regimen called ‘periodization.’ We have three-week blocks working on one thing, one intensity, with one week off. Right now we’re working on tempo and next will be speed,” Ritterbeck said.

Besides the new regimen, the Gauchos are using new hardware. Each racer is equipped with a personal heart rate monitor, allowing workouts to be tailored to each specific individual.

“Everyone is training more efficiently, knowing what their heart rate should be. No one is holding anyone back,” Ritterbeck said.

This improvement in training has reflected itself in UCSB’s race performance. With collegiate nationals to be held April 24 at Lake Havasu, Ariz., the team took the opportunity last week to travel to the site of the race and experience the course firsthand. With no one to race against but themselves, they held an intrasquad competition. The results were promising.

“The coaches were amazed how fast we were, even without speed training. Everyone was much faster than they were supposed to be at this point,” Ritterbeck said.

This bodes well for Santa Barbara, who ranks in the top three in the nation. UCSB began its 30-week training period with 100-mile mile bike rides and long runs. The Gauchos are currently in week 20 and are increasing the intensity of their workouts with one thing in mind.

“Before the focus was just to do well. Now we want to win it all,” Ritterbeck said.

This squad certainly has the goods. Last year’s team was young and reeling from the loss of Bolea. Much of that potential went untapped despite the team doing its best to train on its own. With the increased emphasis on specific training and discipline, a doubling of the number of racers and the drive to win on a national stage, all eyes are focused on Lake Havasu in April.