Saturday, July 25, 2009
What do triathletes, farmlands and potatoes all have in common? They're all part of the Burley, Idaho Spudman Olympic Distance Triathlon that takes place every third weekend of July.
If you're heading down I-84 just three hours North of Salt Lake City don't blink or you'll miss this town's only exit ramp. Burley has a population just over nine thousand. But on this weekend, triathletes come en masse to take part in this quaint, low-key event put on by the local Lions Club.
Festivities start off with a casual bike drop off with volunteers aplenty to help you locate your favorite spot to drop your gear - no assigned spots, and plenty of end caps available. The National Guard watches over the bikes for the night, while you feast on the carbo-load dinner of spaghetti, rolls, green beans, and of course, the biggest spud you've ever seen.
The race begins at 7 a.m.with a swim, or even a float, down the Snake River. Most triathletes get their swim PR here due to the extremely strong current that can carry even a non-swimmer down to T1. Take heed not to pass the swim exit or you'll need those kayaks to retrieve you at the bridge another half mile downstream.
The bike course covers 24 miles of flat farmlands with neighbors who wave, cheer and jingle cowbells to all who pass. You won't see too many expensive bikes or sponsored riders. This race is one for the less seasoned triathetes or even the first-timers.
And just as casual is the run course, which starts off by an immediate left hand turn through a generous citizen's backyard. Eighteen hundred triathletes run not once, but twice, through his grassy lawn. Many farmhouses along the route have extended their hoses out to the street with their sprinkler heads ready to soak the wearied racers. And the circular course brings you back to T2 where friends and family await and cheer everyone who crosses the finish line.
In years past, the Spudman has sold out in a matter of minutes. In 2009 however, race organizers changed the registration to a lottery system. For $5 you can try your luck on getting into this race with that money going toward the total entry fee.
And if you do get in, pack your tents and sleeping bags. The best spot in town to sleep is under the stars on the grassy golf course right next to the start line. Kids and family can cool off in the river after you are done racing. With a little soap and shampoo, who needs a hotel shower to get the job done for a clean ride home back to reality?
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