More events, more competitors on tap at triathlon festival

Scott Swanson

The third annual Best in the West Triathlon Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8, at Lewis Creek Park on Foster Lake.

The event has been expanded this year to include events for children, for rank-beginner triathletes and to make it an attraction to the general population as well as triathlon enthusiasts.

“We’re continuing to improve and grow,” said Blair Bronson, founder and director of the festival.

The two days will include Sprint, Olympic, Half-Iron, Try-A-Tri, and a Kids Splash & Dash event. It will also feature pre-triathlon clinics on Friday evening dealing with open water swimming and nutrition.

Bronson said the numbers are higher already this year than they’ve been during the first two years, with nearly 300 participants signed up early for the event.

“This is our largest crowd so far,” he said.

Volunteers are needed to help with the events, Bronson said. Participation by local residents has been increasing and triathletes have noticed.

“The race, as a whole, has been going on well the last couple of years and community support has played a big part in that success.”

Volunteers can be triathlon rookies, he said. Needs range from “cheering people on and pointing them in the right direction to handing out water and things like that. There are plenty of volunteer task and each position is really important. The volunteers add a lot to the event, having them out there, having community support from Sweet Home.”

Volunteers can check out the needs and sign up at http://www.bestinthewestevents.com. Those who participate get breakfast, lunch and a post-race barbecue, plus a T-shirt and “other cool stuff,” Bronson said.

He said the festival has also gotten the attention of serious triathletes because of the venue itself.

“Lewis Creek Park is much nicer than a lot of places where triathlons are held and the lake is great – it’s clean and warm enough to participate without wearing a wetsuit,” Bronson said. “Then you have beautiful roads to bike and run on, with everything from old-growth forest to riding along the river front.”

Not only does the festival include the regular races, but it will serve as the Northwest Collegiate Conference Championship for the second straight year, featuring college club teams from California and Montana in addition to Oregon State University and the University of Oregon teams. OSU will be looking to defend the championship it won last year in the Olympic event, said Bronson, who is an officer in the collegiate association.

The regular events include:

— The Half-Ironman, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with a 1.2-mile swim in Foster Lake, followed by 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run – half the distances of a full Ironman. The bicycle portion will run west from the park, along North River Drive to Pleasant Valley Road, on to McDowell Creek Road, then to Berlin Road and Lebanon, on to Lacomb Drive and back to Berlin on Bellinger Scale Road. The run portion will follow Quartzville Road from Lewis Creek Park to Green Peter Lake, then return.

— A sprint triathlon, which will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with a 500-meter swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride along North River Drive to Northside Drive, then back to the park, followed by a 5K run east and south of the park on North River and Quartzville roads with a turnaround between the two bridges on Quartzville north of Highway 20.

— The Olympic Triathlon, which begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, with a 1500-meter swim in the lake, followed by a 40K (just under 25 miles) bike ride along North River, Pleasant Valley and McDowell Creek roads to a turnaround point a couple of miles out of Waterloo, then back to the park, where contestants will finish with a 10K (6.2 miles) run following portions of the 5K and Half-Ironman courses.

One point that Bronson wanted local residents to be aware of is that North River Drive will be closed from 8 a.m. to early afternoon – 1 or 2 p.m. – “whenever the contestants finish” due to safety reasons as cyclists and runners exit and enter the park.

“The traffic coming out of the park is too much to manage, with the amount of cars on the road,” he said. Individuals wanting to use the park should arrive before 8 a.m. or after 2 p.m.

The other plus of having the road closed is that youths can compete in the triathlons, he said.

“With the road closure we can have youths on the course. We’ve really been trying to promote this for youths, get them active. Some people have been waiting for it.”

Two events offered this year for beginners are the Try-A-Tri for first-time triathletes – adults or youths, which will feature a small field competing in a 300-meter swim, five-mile bike ride and 5K (3.1-mile) run. That race will be at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Costs vary, depending on whether people are competing as individuals or teams.

Bronson noted that Foster Lake is warm enough that contestants will not need wet suits.

“This is super beginner-friendly,” he said. “Pretty much everybody has their own lifeguard. We want to make sure everybody gets across the line and has a good time.”

The Kids Splash a& Dash will be a biathlon (two-part event) for youngsters 7 to 15, who will swim 100 to 200 meters in the lake and run from 1 to 2 kilometers, both dependent on age categories. It will be at 11 a.m. Sunday, subject to adjustment depending on how the other events are going.

For more information and costs, visit http://www.bestinthewestevents.com. Race-day sign-ups will be taken starting at 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

In additon to the athletic events, live music will be performed in the transition area at the park on Saturday and Bronson said he is working on lining up a band to play Sunday as well.

“It’s really going well,” he said. “Other races have started to add things to their events that we’ve had in ours. We’re kind of bringing up the game of everybody else. That’s kind of nice.”

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