Despite May weather conditions creating a months-long change in plans for the Root River Triathlon, the triathletes will soon crowd Houston on Saturday.
The triathlon, which is normally scheduled on the third Saturday of May, was rescheduled this year due to high river levels, rain and cold weather. The race features 6.8 miles of canoeing or kayaking down the Root River from Houston to Mound Prairie, 7.9 miles of biking back to Houston and 3 miles of running through Houston.
“We’ve had to reschedule it once before,” Houston Lions Club President Mike Beckman said. “The Department of Natural Resources says that canoes cannot be put into the water safely. That helped us make the decision for the safety of both the participants and the volunteers.”
With 180 registrants in May, the delay allowed 50 more participants to register.
“We have participants from Northern Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming, Illinois and Wisconsin. People come from all over,” Houston Lions Club Race Director Hein Bloem said.
There have been two triathletes from Winona and Houston who have participated in all 19 years of the race's history.
“They have done it every single year. One is from Winona and the other is from Houston,” said Beckman.
As 100 volunteers help and encourage participants, those racing wear sensors on their shoes to time each section of the race.
Boy Scouts help fish out canoes after participants jump out of the water.
“Our motto is participating is more important than winning,” Bloem said. “All the people participating like to do triathlons but they might not like to do the swimming portion. Swimming is very difficult…Every year some of the participants get into the canoe for the first time in their life on race day. Of course, some capsize about 10-yards in.”
The participants are broken into age and gender groups, in which they receive awards.
“It’s a great community event that brings people into a place like Barista’s Coffeehouse. It helps promote local businesses and hotels,” Beckman said.
The largest fundraiser for the Lions, the race brings about $10,000 to the organization.
“Most importantly it really goes back to the community,” Beckman said. “This event takes all year to plan.”
The 23 Lions members are normally too busy to participate in the race.
“Part of the reason we have them canoe to Mound Prairie is for the views. Watching them from the bridge is a sight to see,” Beckman said.