July 2016 - Triathlon
CORRECTION!! The Josh Billings RunAground
is on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH (NOT Saturday, September 17th).
Late Summer Roundup
Lake George Triathlon Festival and 40th Anniversary Josh Billings RunAground
By Christine McKnight
The Lake George Triathlon Festival is once again offering something for everyone this Labor Day weekend, with a smorgasbord of races that includes both an Olympic and Half-Iron distance, teams, an aquabike for the Half Iron Big George, and – for the unapologetically hard-core – a “King George” category that combines racing in both the Olympic triathlon on Saturday, September 3, and the Big George on Sunday, the 4th.
The weekend also features a competition among 100 or so college triathletes from more than a dozen schools across the Northeast, and a kids’ “Splash and Dash.” All of these events are staged in a world-class venue that offers spectacular views of “the Queen of American lakes.”
The Lake George Triathlon Festival has become a kind of end-of-the-season multisport ritual for lots of folks, including South Glens Falls triathlete Tom Hansen and his family. Tom has competed in the Lake George Triathlon annually since its inception 11 years ago, as well as volunteering in some capacity before or after the event.
His daughter Kaitlyn, now 19 and a student, originally worked as a kayak volunteer, but as soon as she was old enough, she began racing it herself, posting age-group podium finishes in 2013 and 2015. Her brother Kyle, 16, who handed out finisher medals as a youngster, still volunteers in the transition area, and Tom’s wife Carrie oversees the food tent. And the cross country team Tom coaches at South Glens Falls High School staffs a water station on the run course. “It’s a tradition before we all head back to school,” said Tom, a teacher at South Glens Falls High School.
“You can’t beat the swim. It’s the best water anywhere. It’s pretty amazing watching those college kids, who have their own swim wave. It’s a good bike course, and it’s well laid out for a quick (T1) transition,” said Tom, who has turned in a string of remarkably consistent finish times over ten years at Lake George, all of them between 2:27 and 2:37.
Kaitlyn, competing in the 20-24 age group, is looking to go under three hours this year, and aspires to someday finish the Big George. “I love how well it’s organized,” she said. “It’s a great course, and it is nice having my friends cheer me on.”
That core of dedicated volunteers, many of whom return year after year, is one of the reasons for the success of the Lake George triathlons, according to Randy Rath, one of five business professionals and athletes who stage the race as the Adirondack Race Management team. Randy said the group expects the Olympic-distance Lake George Triathlon to once again sell out at around 500. Numbers for the Big George, which last year attracted 260 registrations for the tenth anniversary, are also expected to remain strong. About 30 triathletes are expected to once again complete the two-day King George competition. For details and to register, visit adkracemgmt.com.
“To Finish Is to Win”
Over in the Berkshires area of western Massachusetts, the 40th anniversary Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon on Sunday, September 18 is another late-season multisport ritual with a different twist.
Five-hundred teams start in Great Barrington, Mass., and bike 27 miles through five towns on scenic backcountry roads to Stockbridge Bowl in Stockbridge. The bikers hand off their wrist bands to paddlers waiting at the lake. The paddlers – there are categories for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddlers – sprint five miles around the lake, then toss their wristbands to runners waiting on the beach. The runners race six miles around the lake and finish down the main gate of Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, where thousands of friends and fans cheer on the finishers. In all, the Josh offers 43 categories for teams and ironpersons – athletes who do the entire event themselves.
Race director Patty Spector of Lenox says she expects more than the usual number of folks to return from all over the country to be part of the 40th race. Among those are the original teammates who won the first race back in 1977: cyclist Bill Farrell of Canaan, N.H.; paddlers Steve Blazejewski (owner of Berkshire Outfitters) from Adams, Mass., and Paul Dyka from New Britain, Conn., and runner Mark Sisson, a former Williams College track star who now lives in Menlo, Calif.
Dick Billetter and Steve Dudziak, two Berkshire natives who have competed in the Josh all 39 years, say they will also be racing again this year.
“It’s more than a race. It’s a community event and it’s the end of the season, so all of your training all summer long culminates in the Josh,” said Patty.
Josh Billings is the pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw, a 19th-century author and humorist known for his down-home philosophies and Yankee one-liners. One of his sayings, “To finish is to win,” is the motto of the RunAground.
Christine McKnight (email@example.com) of Wilton has competed numerous times in the Lake George Triathlon. She is registered to race again this year.