How do you define success? Lake Frances Triple P Triathlon organizers define it as, “No lightning, no injuries, everyone completed the course, the wind caused only moderate waves on the lake, and only three no-shows!”
According to Race Director Carol Green, “The skies were angry at 6 a.m. with lightning to the south and stronger winds than we wanted. Someone asked me what we were going to do and I told them we would wait.”
Waiting was a theme during the planning stages of this inaugural event. When races across the state were being canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the organizers chose to wait. Governor Steve Bullock announced the Phase 2 reopening of Montana just in time to allow the event to take place.
“The nature of the race lent itself to social distancing. We already planned to start the kayaks in waves (small groups) about 10 minutes apart. We simply made the groups smaller. The biggest change was how we handled things at the finish line. We had racers disperse rather than hang around for a big celebration. We hope to be able to change that next year.”
They waited and then organizers scrambled! With less than four weeks to pull it all together, things fell into place. Melissa Willis, a key member of the team, summed it up, “If we can pull off a triathlon during a pandemic, we can do anything!”
Waiting proved to be the right move on race day, which was Saturday, June 16. The storm passed, the wind settled a little, and the race was on. “All the athletes were awesome! Nobody let the weather deter them. Everyone who began the race finished without an injury. That’s rare, even for a 5K event. They were tired, but they were safe and injury free!”
Eight teams of two or three started first to get the commotion of exchanging timing chips out of the way. The teams are a lot of fun because they are excited for one another, but it can get a little confusing if you haven’t competed before. Teams are also a great way to participate if you aren’t ready to tackle the course on your own, said Green.
Following the teams were 45 individual triathletes with 28 females and 17 males. Most were new to the sport, but there were some serious competitors in the ranks. Dawn Lev, 54, of Whitefish was the top female finisher in 1:39:06.08. The Juras Bunch team of Great Falls finished with a time of 1:35:55.79. Former Valier resident, Robert Widhalm, 30, now of Columbia Falls, was the top male finisher at 1:21:18.55.”
Complete results can be found online at:
I knew he was going to be fast when I asked him what his average bike and 5K times were … and he was! While it is inspiring to watch elite athletes, the best part about competitions like this is the newfound strength and joy people discover when they participate. I can’t get enough of it,” said Green.
Organizers say they learned a few things that they will adjust for the 2021 event, but all in all it was a success.
Contributing to the success of the event is a long list of sponsors and volunteers. Support from Pondera County Sheriff’s Department, Montana Department of Transportation, EMS, Search and Rescue, and volunteers from Wingina 4-H Club controlled traffic in the water and on the highway. Additional volunteers manned water stations, set up and directed the run course, helped with registration, controlled the kayak start and bike corral, and helped with parking.
“The community was amazing on race day!” exclaimed Green. “We appreciate everyone’s patience, especially the boaters and fishermen who let us take over the lake access for the morning. Jerry, the Lake Frances Camp Host, was also patient and helpful,” she added.
The Lake Frances Triple P Triathlon would like to thank all their volunteers and the following sponsors for helping provide a safe and enjoyable event: Apex Angus, Billman’s Inc., Comfort Inn – Shelby, Conrad Denture Center, Curry Cattle Company, Curry’s Market, Cut Bank Pioneer Press, East Side Building & Remodel, East Slope Realty, Froggie’s Bar & Grill, Hammer Nutrition, Marias Medical Center, Montana Department of Tourism, Montana Department of Transportation, Montana Highway Patrol, One Stop-Cenex, Panther Cafe, Pondera County Sheriff’s Office, Pondera EMS, Pondera Medical Center, Raw Rev Energy, Runners Edge, Search and Rescue, Stone School Inn, Swank Enterprises, The Valierian, Town of Valier, VADC, Windrift Hill, Wingina 4-H, 3Rivers Communications, and several individual contributors who wish to remain anonymous.