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Athletes prepare for the 12th annual Grand Haven Triathlon on Sunday

Josh VanDyke • Jul 7, 2017 at 6:15 AM

If you’re a competition-aholic, there are few challenges more daunting than participating in a triathlon race. Whether it is an Olympic triathlon or a sprint triathlon, the three-sport course challenges the human mind and body in a way that seems ludicrous to those looking on.

This year, the Mercy Health Grand Haven Triathlon event will celebrate its 12th year along the Lakeshore with an increase in participation, water temperature and difficulty.

PARTICIPATION

Race director Ron Knoll expects a bump in numbers at this year’s event, which should make for an even more competitive field.

“We’re expecting 40-50 more people to be involved this year,” said Knoll on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re around the 375-380 range by Friday night. We’ve had a pretty strong showing at these events, and we’re hoping to keep growing every year.”

A big reason for that strong showing is the community that surrounds the event.

“The camaraderie within the triathlon community is amazing,” added Knoll. “Everyone is supportive of one another and we all just want to see each other succeed and finish the race. That’s what initially drew me to these events.

“Personally, I’ve done over 120 triathlons. I just really love the environment and camaraderie. In my very first half-ironman in Muncie, Indiana, I got a flat tire three miles into my bike ride portion of the race. I was distraught, and I didn’t have any spare tires on me, because I had left them in my Jeep. Luckily, it only took three people passing me for someone to stop their own race and help me out with my flat with a spare they had.

“You never see that anywhere else. I was amazed that someone would sacrifice their own time in such a competitive sport to help someone else out.”

RACE OPTIONS

There are four options for individual competitors for Sunday’s event:



Sprint triathlon: 500-meter swim, 12.5-mile bike ride and 5K run



Olympic triathlon: 1,500-meter swim, 25-mile bike, 10K run 



Sprint duathlon: 5K run, 12.5-mile bike ride and 5K run



Olympic duathlon: 5K run, 25-mile bike ride, 10K run



Athletes are also allowed to create relay teams.



Those interested can register online at www.grandhaventri.com until 11:59 p.m. today.

 The Tri-Cities YMCA will host in-person registration Saturday from 1-5 p.m.

TAKE YOUR MARKS

The first race kicks off at 7:45 a.m. with the Olympic Triathlon, while all other races will begin at 8:15 a.m.

The transition area opens at 5:30 a.m. and closes at 7:15 a.m. The transition area is located in the grassy field at Mulligan's Hollow, adjacent to the YMCA parking lot. Athletes can pick up their race materials, timing chips, get body marked and receive final instructions from the on-site announcer during that time frame.

There is no race day registration allowed, and there will be no parking allowed in the YMCA parking lot. The Grand Haven State Park parking lot opens for athletes and spectators at 6 a.m. If you don't have an annual state park sticker or license tab, you need to purchase a one-day pass.

WARMER WATER

Last year’s event featured unforgivingly chilly waters in Lake Michigan, which made the initial leg of the races even more brutal for the participants.

That won’t be a problem this year, as warm weather has created friendly waters for the swimming portion of Sunday’s races.

“I usually take a water temperature read at 2:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. just to prepare for what the race time temperature will be. So far, the water temperatures haven’t dipped below 60 this week, so we’re really happy with that.”

COURSE CHANGES

Due to construction and traffic concerns, elements of Sunday’s races have been changed.

The swim will still start at the beach, with participants entering Lake Michigan, and swimming parallel with the shoreline in approximately 6- to 10-feet-deep water. Once exiting the water, the participants run a half-mile on the boardwalk to the transition area at the Tri-Cities YMCA.

That’s when the changes come into play.

“The run and bike courses have changed,” Knoll continued. “Bikes are now going to go straight out of the backside of the YMCA, instead of down Harbor Drive. They will now be turning on Sherman and Howard, and then jumping onto Sheldon Road. There were too many issues with Sunday beach traffic the last few years, and we want to avoid that if possible.

“The runners will be going straight out of Y Drive to avoid any crossover traffic between the bikers and runners. We’ve also swapped the transition area around to make that process a little smoother.”

VOLUNTEERS

The triathlon and duathlon is a massive undertaking, utilizing more than 200 volunteers to make it a reality.

More volunteers are needed to help monitor the run and bike courses. Duties will involve standing at barricaded intersections, making sure cars are aware of racers and cheering racers on.

Those interested can contact Lisa Highstreet via text/call at 616-502-1242, or email her at dewittlr@hotmail.com

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