For many years, triathletes in Tucson had one local race series, Tri Tucson, at which to hone their competition skills in all three disciplines. Race Director Julie Stark, owner of On Your Left Fitness, recognized the demand for more quality triathlons in the Old Pueblo and on April 5, she launched the first Oro Valley Sprint Triathlon.
The event was launched with the support of the Oro Valley Aquatics Center, Fleet Feet Multisport of Tucson, Trek Bicycles of Tucson, Summit Hut, and many other local sponsors.
The morning of the inaugural event dawned clear and crisp at 49 degrees. Triathletes clad in swim gear shivered on deck, but no one complained; they all knew it was better to suffer a little before the race in the name of a cooler bike and run.
In order to get everyone cycled through the pool efficiently, Stark elected to implement a serpentine swim, in which swimmers enter the pool at one end and zigzag up and down each lane towards the other end. Swimmers were seeded according to their predicted swim times, and volunteers from Tucson Tri Girls were on deck to make sure that traffic in the pool flowed as smoothly as possible.
As Stark explained, “It’s not everyone’s favorite, but a serpentine swim allows the athletes to get in the pool sooner, and ultimately finish the race in cooler temperatures.”
New triathletes who had been anxious about the swim later reported less congestion than anticipated, thanks to gaps between groups of swimmers with different abilities. Spectators lined the deck and cheered on the swimmers as they made their way across the pool, and out the gate to the transition area, which was managed by local Boy Scout troops.
The bike course was, in the words of seasoned triathlete Robin Kremer, “perfectly hard.” Athletes rode two seven-mile loops, each with a heart-revving climb up La Cañada Drive, and an exhilawere not closed, a lane of traffic was blocked on each major road to ensure a safer ride for cyclists.
Traffic control was provided by the Oro Valley Police Department.
After the bike segment, athletes returned to the transition zone next to the pool, switched out of their gear, and set out on the flat and fast run course, comprised of two loops around James Kreigh Park.
Runners were provided with water and gels at two aid stations, manned by Desert Endurance Multisport Coaching and Summit Hut.
Mat Loutzenheiser, who came from Georgia with his son Michael for the race, praised the course as “very spectator friendly.”
Triathletes crossed the finish line to the cheers of all those spectators, and indulged in some cool water and post-race snacks. The event was chip-timed by C.E.P, so each athlete was able to receive an accurate time for the overall race, as well as split times. Awards were given for the top finishers, as well as those in each 5-year age group.
There were many raffle give away items, thanks to The Keg, Spinervals, Marriott Hotels and Power Edge as well.
The introduction of this event to the Tucson athletic community is exciting. Many athletes expressed their hope that this will be the first of many Oro Valley triathlons.