It was like any other trip to San Luis Obispo, and Ron Santore has been making the yearly trek for more than a decade.
Driving from his Fresno home, Santore participates in the first flight at the SLO Triathlon, and then crunches the numbers to compute results for the city’s parks department.
He’s been pulling double duty since the event was is in its second year in 1980.
Preparing for the triathlon’s 34th-annual running Sunday, Santore has built up quite the streak — one that was in jeopardy a few years ago when his car was rear-ended and totaled on the way to Sinsheimer Park.
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“I was pretty sore, and I had some injuries,” said Santore, who at 64 is still unsure whether he will participate this year, “but I figured I’d start the race and see how it went. I couldn’t extend my arm, so it was a little hard swimming, but once I got past the swim, I was able to basically bike and run OK.”
Some years he’s been sick. Some he has been injured. As Santore has gotten older, his times have gotten slower, but his streak of keeping time and participating is one of the more impressive aspects of the local summer staple.
The year of the auto collision, Santore’s car was towed away. He patched up his computer gear and jumped in the pool.
“He’s amazing,” said race director Rich Ogden, Recreation Supervisor for the City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department. “His knee was skinned up and bloody, but he was still there to compete.
“It’s extremely impressive. I mean, my God, he’s been doing it ever since the beginning. Then he comes back and recovers and sits there all day until 5 or 6 at night doing all the results. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do it.”
Whether Santore is able to take on the half-mile swim at the SLO Swim Center, the 15-mile bike ride down Orcutt Road and the 3.1-mile road run along the Railroad Recreational Trail this year or not, he will be there as always to make sure the times for all 1,000 entries are recorded, which he said has always been his primary concern.
Born to a military family in Philadelphia, Santore’s father was stationed at Vandenburg Air Force Base during his high school years, and after graduating from Lompoc High, he moved north and enrolled at Cal Poly in 1966.
A founder of San Luis Obispo’s Coastal Computers in 1978, Santore said he was approached by organizers when timekeeping did not run smoothly in the triathlon’s inaugural year.
Coastal Computers, which still operates today on McMillan Avenuer near the cross section of Orcutt and Broad, is touted as one of the first authorized retail sellers of computer equipment in the world.
Back then, Santore wrote a program that would sort the results for the staggered-start event, and each year since, Santore has tweaked his software to keep it up to date.
His initial participation has been mirrored by many since then for a short-course or “sprint” distance geared for beginners.
“I’d never done a triathlon,” said Santore, a lifelong recreational runner. “I didn’t know what one was, but it wasn’t too tough to train a little bit and get to be able to do the San Luis Obispo Triathlon.”
In the late 1990s, Santore left the Central Coast to enroll in medical school at UC Davis. He left the computer business and moved to the Central San Joaquin Valley to become an emergency physicians assistant at the top trauma center in Fresno.
Since then, he’s continued to join the hundreds of volunteers and support personnel who help the event run smoothly each year.
“He was a local guy, and his company was actually one of the first sponsors,” Ogden said. “After he left the company, he moved away and continued to volunteer on his own. It means a lot.
“That’s one of the special things about this triathlon. There’s a lot of people that do a lot of little things. It really is a community event.”