If you’ve been a triathlete in the Northwest for a decade or more, you’ve undoubtedly noticed some big changes – and many of them not very fun to talk about. There are a lot of cool races that aren’t on the calendar anymore…. Escape from the Rock, 5-Mile Lake races, Lake Stevens 70.3, Issaquah & Lake Sammamish, Danskin, ELMA! I can hear (and join) the collective sigh from my oldest tri friends right now.
And it’s not just the cancelling of races that we’ve seen. Important Retailers who have been staples in Multisport have boarded up – Seattle lost Speedy Reedy this year and our Portland neighbors are now without Athlete’s Lounge. These days Brad at NWTB finds himself owning the only Tri-Specific Brick &
Hang on – is Triathlon in trouble? Is our sport sliding down the slippery slope created by a lack of enthusiasm and excitement? Are we being left behind in the mud left behind by Tough Mudder and extreme adventure events? I’m going to go out on a very wide, sturdy limb here and say NO WAY.
RTB data geeks have looked at participation numbers over the last 5-6 years and while many races have indeed fallen away, most that remain grew in 2016. Our own RTB events saw great growth, as did Budu’s Bonney Lake and Lake Stevens, and the Lake Wilderness Tri. Seafair exploded with an impressive increase of 18%! And what about the incredible phenomenon of the Coeur d’Alene 70.3?? The finishers of this first-time event numbered around 2500 – including an army of our own RTB athletes.
Remember what else happened in 2016? THE OLYMPICS! Every 4 years, the Summer Olympics bring fresh awareness and energy to triathlon and prompt the question in potential triathletes that all of us asked at the beginning of our own journeys: “Could I be a triathlete?” This past summer, a 30-year old Accountant/Swimmer from Wisconsin, Gwen Jorgensen, brought home a gold medal and a new energy to US multisport only 6 years after she asked and answered YES to that question herself. 2017 will be a good year for triathlon - due in no small part to her hard work and success.
Bill and I watched her win that gold medal from a hotel room in San Francisco where I was getting ready to race at the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz. We were INSPIRED! Inspired by the performance and presence of a young woman standing at the tip top of our sport who races hard and seems like such a delightful girl next door. Inspired by a sport filled with people who are driven and eager to take on challenges no matter how they place in an event.
Triathlon is indeed strong and well - and while we make plans at Raise the Bar for our 2017 team and events, I find myself thinking ahead to what events I’ll squeeze in. Maybe you're doing the same. Or maybe you’re asking yourself the question for the first time, “Could I be a triathlete?” I hope you find that answer to be ‘Yes’ and if you do, our paths will cross.
Athlete & Event Wrangler at Raise the Bar & Happy Triathlete