If it feels like spring, it means the Sugarbush Triathlon is just around the corner -- Sunday, April 11, to be exact. It's part of the Sugarbush Adventure Games, which also includes a Kids' Triathlon on Saturday, April 10. Registration, volunteer recruitment and final plans are underway. This event has a long history in the Mad River Valley and is coming back full circle as a community event.
Each year iron men and women join casual athletes to celebrate the end of winter in The Valley. Starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, participants will start from Warren with a five-mile run, then paddle six miles (canoe or kayak), cycle 10 miles, then cross-country ski three miles.
TRI IS FOUR?
Why does this "tri"athlon have four legs? In 1979, the first year of the event, the snow melted early making it necessary to substitute a run for the ski leg. After that, founder Rob Center just stuck with the run portion, but there was enough snow most years, thus the four legs.
Weather is unpredictable, especially in April. In 1982, the river was frozen so the boating portion was cancelled. That year canoeists and kayakers ran two miles on Route 100 in their personal floatation devices. Another weather faux pas was in 2000 when a 13-inch snowstorm made cycling impossible. No problem; cyclists ran the bike leg to get to all that new snow on the cross country course.
When asked why the Sugarbush Triathlon became so popular, its founder Rob Center says, "We always had a whale of a good time; that includes the volunteers and the athletes. Having fun made the event grow, but keeping topnotch competitors involved made everyone happy. I hope teams and volunteers come out in droves to support the great turn of events that now makes the Mad River Path the beneficiary of the triathlon."
Through the years, many community members have made this event a spring ritual. Jon Jamieson of Waitsfield is one of those people. When asked why he loves the Sugarbush Triathlon, he responded with his top 10 reasons:
1. I've been participating since before I had a driver's license.
2. It's a race that utilizes all the best The Valley can offer!
3. It gets me through mud season.
4. It includes so many disciplines: you're bound to be good at at least one and terrible at at least one.
5. It brings out the best in the community.
6. There's a beer at the end.
7. You never know how to dress until the day of the race: the weather plays havoc.
8. I get to Nordic ski at Mt Ellen.
9. The glassware.
10. The older I get the better I place.
Those reasons are meaningful reasons to participate in the triathlon, but the unsung heroes are the volunteers. Over the past 31 years, hundreds of people have volunteered repeatedly. This year's volunteer party takes place on Thursday, April 8, at Lincoln Peak.
Karen Anderson of Fayston, like many others, has been involved with the Sugarbush Triathlon for well over two decades. When asked about how she got involved with volunteering, she replied, "I paddled and biked the triathlon for a few years; then after a conversation with Rob Center decided to add my name to a long list of people who'd already been volunteering. For many years Dick Lane, John Lynch and I were the core crew assisted by a cast of others who pulled cold, wet, tired people and their boats out of the river. We'd wear waders or sometimes wetsuits and get a fabulous upper body workout. Not everyone is willing to stand in the river in April, some years in rain, sleet and one year in over a foot of snow, but it was fun to lend a hand at such a great community event. I'm hoping lots of people volunteer; it's a great joy to me that the triathlon benefits the Mad River Path this year. It was wonderful that Sugarbush took over the event when Mad River Canoe left The Valley."
Another aspect new to the 2010 event is the nonprofit challenge. The Mad River Valley Rotary is sponsoring the $100 prize for this challenge. Nonprofits entering a team in this year's Sugarbush Triathlon can advertise their mission by wearing colors, costumes, hats or sashes. The winning nonprofit will be awarded $100 for spirit and garb, not race standings.
Applications are available at the Path Association office at the General Wait House, the chamber and other locations around town and need to be postmarked by April 2, 2010. Athletes can register online at www.active.com until April 7, 2010. No race day registration for adults (kids can register for their event on race day, April 10, 2010. There is a discount for registration before April 2, 2010). Triathlon participants can do the four-leg event as an iron man or woman, with one partner or with as many as five people total on a team (when entering a canoe most teams choose to have two people paddle). Corporate, family, college and high school teams are encouraged and prizes will be awarded at an after-race party at Mt. Ellen.
Bibs must be displayed on the chest throughout the race and all racers must pass through the designated timing area; then team racers must pass on their ankle band within the exchange zone. PFDs are mandatory and kayakers must wear helmets. Protective headgear is required for cyclists and no escorts are allowed. Cross country skiers are asked to yield to faster skiers and bibs must be clearly visible. For more information visit www.sugarbush.com or www.madriverpath.com.