By JERRY HITCHCOCK
On July 23 at 7 a.m., Race the River sprint triathlon will be underway in its 10th installment. Scores of local triathletes have used the event to get their feet wet (no pun intended) in the triathlon discipline, and it continues that tradition along with being an ideal event for seasoned athletes to work on transitions and a difficult bike course.
“The partnership with North Idaho College has been great,” RTR Event Organizer Issac Mann said. “While we started off with Riverstone, that was back when they needed us and we needed them. John Stone financed the event the first three years — and that was tremendous.”
Operations Director Curt DuPuis said the event has added some prestige in the form of various championships over the years. “We hosted the Pacific Northwest Regional Championship for four years, the Pacific Northwest Para-triathlon regional championship once and this year we’ll be hosting the USA Triathlon Idaho High School State Championships.”
“They came to us a little late and asked us if we would step up, and we’ve answered the call,” Mann said.
Over the years, Mann and DuPuis have seen trends within the event come and go, and this year is no different. “The biggest trend we’re seeing now is in demographics: 60 percent of our women participants are between the ages of 35-50.”
For someone starting out in the sport, a no-nonsense, safe course helps an athlete focus on his or her big day, and Race The River fits the bill.
“We’ve got a great introductory race and it also works well for those who want to continue their fitness goals,” Mann said.
DuPuis said if you take away the Ironman races, RTR is the most popular (sprint) triathlon in the area in previous years. “We’ve had more athletes in our sprint event than the Coeur d’Alene Triathlon has had in their sprint and duathlon combined.”
But not only adults can enjoy the course — kids are welcome as well and due to the safety of the course, it should put parents’ minds at ease when their kids are competing. “Even if the kids can’t swim well, they can walk the swim portion, right near shore and still be racing,” Mann said. “The kids race has increased (in size) because we have the campus and they let us use these campus roads. We went from a duathlon at Riverstone and now we have the full triathlon for the kids.”
Mann added the swim course will promote confidence in those not 100 percent committed to a deep-water swim portion. “We have designed the swim zone to be accessible all the way around. You are three hard swim strokes away from touching bottom at nearly every point.”
North Idaho College has designated an expansive area near the river as a green space. “They have allowed us to use this area for our transitions and finish line, so it is right in the wheelhouse of what this area is supposed to be used for,” Mann said. “The grass transition is huge for your feet — much nicer than the gravel we had in our previous location.”
Mann said one of their main goals is to make sure the event accommodates new triathletes and inspires them. “And for the seasoned athletes, we have many on the pro field and age-groupers — this is like their prep race, getting ready for a big race.”
RTR received a grant from the USAT organization, and most of it went toward subsidizing registration for the high school athletes, bringing the cost down to $35 for the event.
“We are a preview of the first leg of the Ironman course,” DuPuis said. “People who are practicing for 70.3 or full Ironman can really practice the hill work during our event, and our bike course is a little longer than a typical sprint.”
“The run course utilizes the Centennial Trail, looping out to Riverstone and back,” Mann said. “It is nice, since we don’t have to worry about closing roads, there are no vehicles, no crossings for the athletes to worry about.”
Mann and DuPuis wanted to give a shout-out to Advanced Dermatology — the event’s major sponsor, and also Riverstone and John Stone.
“When this event started, we wanted to get something going that was intimate and we could get the newbies involved in the sport — I think we’ve succeeded.”
For more information, visit www.racetheriver.com.