First Spamtown Triathlon is Saturday
"Les trois sports'' is a race held every year in Meulan, France, which is fine and dandy. But why is that noteworthy? Well, it is thought that "les trois sports'' is the origin of the swimming, biking and running event we know today as a triathlon.
Back then, though, that wasn't even the order of events. It consisted of a 3K run, a 12K bike and then a swim across the channel Marne.
During the 1920s, there were several other three-sport events that had varying lengths. One of them even used canoeing instead of swimming.
Moving a few decades ahead, the first modern triathlon was held on Sept. 25, 1974 at Mission Bay, San Diego. It was sponsored by the San Diego Track Club and they had 46 participants. The race was 6 miles of running, then 5 miles of biking and 500 yards of swimming. One more piece of trivia — Bill Phillios won the first modern triathlon in 55 minutes and 44 seconds.
They soon changed the format of run, bike and swim because it allowed the strong runners to pull away and gain minutes on the competitors, making it difficult to catch up in either the bike or swim.
That said, welcome to today's triathlon, a sport which is growing in leaps and bounds. It is estimated that 1.5 million participate in triathlon events annually.
"There are triathlons in Albert Lea, Winona, Rochester, Owatonna and all around us,'' said Cindy Bowe, "but not Austin. And why not? We figured Austin is more than capable to host a triathlon of its own.''
A triathlon if its own
So say hello to the first Spamtown Triathlon, which will be held starting at 7 a.m. Saturday.
"This is for all levels and for all abilities,'' said Bowe, the co-director of the event along with Kristi Stasi. They started planning for this some 18 months ago. "Hormel and HyVee have been involved in triathlons for years so we figured this was a natural type of thing to bring to Austin.''
The Spamtown Triathlon is sponsored by the Austin YMCA, and that's where Bowe serves as the aquatic director.
Saturday's event is a sprint triathlon, which includes a 500-yard swim, 13-mile bike and 5K run.
The swimming will take place in the YMCA pool, and then transition to the bike, going past Todd Park and through rural Austin on the way back to the Y parking lot. The 5K heads to Mill Pond path, by the Queen of Angels church and loops back on Main Street.
"We put on several runs during the year so making a course wasn't that tough,'' said Bowe, who has competed in triathlons herself, "but our first bike course had one crossback which wasn't going to work, so that had to be changed. It will now all be on blacktop. And the swim is right at the Y. We figured for the first one to swim indoors, but in the future hopefully we'll move that outdoors as well.''
Olympic triathlon next?
Bowe said they may add an Olympic triathlon in the future if the interest is there. That would be a 1.5 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and 10K run.
Now, though, the main thing is to draw interest.
"Getting the word out, that's been our toughest assignment,'' Bowe said. "We're making this for everyone who has ever thought of trying something like this. The distances are not intimidating. Maybe some people think that all triathlons are the Ironman length but that's certainly not the case.
"Once you try, you may get hooked. Like me.''
You can also enter as a two- or three-person team. One team already entered is former Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz and her husband Tim.
All ages are eligible.
The cost is $70 for individuals and $80 for teams, which includes a T-shirt. Participants can register until 6:30 a.m. on the day of the race or anytime this week at ymca-austin.org or active.com