It is a rite of passage for every weekend warrior to compete in at least one triathlon during his or her lifetime. And Utahns have plenty of options to live out their triathlon dreams in the Beehive State. In recent years, triathlons have popped up all over, with courses that welcome athletes of all abilities.
Chris Bowerbank, owner of TriUtah and chairman of USA Triathlon’s Rocky Mountain region, says triathlon participation in Utah has increased over the past decade because completing a triathlon has become one of those things many people want to do before they die.
“The triathlon has become something for everyone’s bucket list,” Bowerbank says. “A lot of the newbies get into the sport because they want to check that off their list.”
If you are looking to check competing in a triathlon off your bucket list in the near future, the following five local triathlons should be considered:
1. Moab Triathlon Festival
This two-day festival offers something for every triathlete. The XTERRA Moab Triathlon features a challenging off-road bike course, and will be held as both a full- and sport (half)-distance triathlon. The Moab Road Triathlon is for road warriors—the bike portion is held on Spanish Valley Drive, and athletes can choose from sprint and Olympic distances. Future triathletes ages 7 to 14 will enjoy competing in a kids triathlon, with two distances depending on age level. All races take place near scenic Ken’s Lake.
The XTERRA Moab Full Triathlon begins with a 1,500-meter swim in Ken’s Lake, progresses to a 15-mile bike race on the Steelbender trail and concludes with a two-loop 6.8-mile run to scenic Faux Falls. The Moab Road Triathlon features the same distance swim in Ken’s Lake, a 40-kilometer bike race on Spanish Valley Drive with an out-and-back leg to Pack Creek Ranch and finishes with the same distance run to Faux Falls.
June 8-9, Ken’s Lake, Moab, TriUtah.com
2. Echo Triathlon
Held annually in July, the Echo Triathlon has grown into one of the state’s biggest triathlons. It hosted the 2011 USAT Rocky Mountain Regional Championship and has consistently drawn some of the best competition in the state since the 2001 inaugural race.
The scenic Echo course takes swimmers on a 1.5-kilometer swim in Echo Reservoir, transitions into a 40-kilometer bicycle race up Echo Canyon and then concludes with a 10-kilometer run down the historic Park City Rail Trail.
Anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of race participants each year are first-time triathletes. The relatively flat course, combined with warm July temperatures, make it a beginner-friendly race.
July 14, Echo Reservoir, Coalville, TriUtah.com
3. Jordanelle Triathlon
Few triathlons use a nature preserve as a background to the actual race. That’s one of the things that makes the Jordanelle Triathlon a consistent draw for local triathletes. It is staged in the beautiful Rock Cliffs recreation area on the southeast side of Jordanelle Reservoir and is ranked as one of the top 100 races nationwide by Triathlete magazine.
“The views and the atmosphere and the potential to actually see wildlife while racing have been a big draw,” Bowerbank says.
The Jordanelle Triathlon is one of the state’s oldest triathlons. It has been staged annually since 1999. Competitors enjoy a swim in the Jordanelle Reservoir, a run around the Rock Cliffs area and a bicycle race along the Lower River Road that winds through Francis and Woodland. Athletes can choose to complete a sprint-length or Olympic-length course. The Jordanelle course has hosted the USAT Rocky Mountain Regional Championship in past years.
Anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of participants at Jordanelle are first-time triathletes. The course is relatively flat, making it a good introductory race for a beginning triathlete.
Aug. 18, Jordanelle Reservoir, Park City, TriUtah.com
4. Bear Lake Brawl Triathlon
Part of the Gold Medal Racing Championship series, the Bear Lake Brawl is an extremely competitive event held in northern Utah at beautiful Bear Lake, called the Caribbean of the Rockies because of its vivid blue waters. Because of the event’s popularity, it’s now held on two different weekends: The Olympic and sprint distances of the triathlon are held Aug. 25, with the half Ironman—70.3 miles total—on Sept. 8. In the half Ironman, athletes will swim 1.2 miles in Bear Lake, followed by a 56-mile bicycle loop around the lake and a 13.1-mile run around Laketown. While the half Ironman isn’t for beginners, Bear Lake and the surrounding towns, like Logan, are a perfect setting for a family weekend.
Aug. 25 & Sept. 8, Garden City, BearLakeBrawl.com
5. St. George Ironman
2012 was the final year for this grueling triathlon, touted as one of the toughest in the nation—and the one with the highest rate of failure. To attract more athletes, organizers have decided to cut the triathlon down to a half Ironman in 2013. Previously, the St. George Ironman featured a 2.4-mile swim through Sand Hollow Reservoir, a 112-mile bicycle race through Snow Canyon and a 26.2-mile run through downtown St. George.
Going forward, athletes will have eight hours and 30 minutes to complete a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. Still, the scenic red rock course, with its many elevation changes, will be challenging enough to test even the best athletes.
“Having Ironman in Utah helps to put Utah on the triathlon map,” Bowerbank says. “Many triathletes across the country had never traveled to Utah before Ironman. It gives the state an opportunity to showcase all of the outdoor activities that are available.”
May 2013, St. George, IronManStGeorge.com