Johnathan Roth hadn’t raced in five years.
Alysa Makila borrowed her dad’s credit card and signed up on a whim.
April Connolly was inspired by a group of teachers to start the sport three years ago and has been hooked ever since.
Each story was as unique as the next at the 19th annual Woody’s Triathlon and they all happened to have something in common– winners of a category after the final competitors crossed the line at Michener Park.
All told, more than 500 racers took to the course Saturday for the Kids of Steel race and for Sunday’s junior and adult distances. Even more important than that number, race director Shaun Richer said it’s the smiles on the racers’ faces and all the positive feedback that makes running the day worthwhile.
“It was great and the addition of our new try-a-tri was a success because we heard from a lot of athletes that they were always hesitant on trying this race out when we introduced it, it gave them that opportunity to come on out and experience the race itself,” Richer said.
“I’m really proud of my committee members, they put a lot of work into this. The biggest satisfaction is seeing some of the athletes come across the finish line and them coming up to myself or the committee and saying they really enjoyed the day.”
Connelley, who won the female sprint race is a teacher in Red Deer Catholic School District and said it’s the welcoming community that’s kept her coming back year-after-year.
She volunteered to help out with the Kids of Steel Race, watching her nieces compete as well as a number of students.
“The people, I love the local race. People know your name and they’re super supportive. Even the really good, first place guys are like ‘good job’ as they go past you, which is a really good feeling,” she said.
Plenty of family and friends gave her a big applause when she was crowned the winner on Sunday. She just narrowly edged second-place finisher Naomi Crowe by five one-hundredths of a second, with a time of 1:21.25.
“Every little thing in transition makes a big difference. I’m happy with the weather, I thought it was definitely going to be raining,” she said.
“Really good. I trained in the winter. I do spin in the winter. Felt really good that all the hard work pays off on race day.”
Roth was once a hardcore triathlete but as it does, life had got in the way lately.
He works in Emergency Service in Red Deer and only was able to get his training regimen going the last month or so. After watching the race last year, he knew he had to get back on the course and compete. All he did was win the male sprint race in a time of 1:05. He’s looking forward to getting back into it after a long hiatus.
“It’s my first race in about five years and there was a lot of remembering what it used to be like. It was great though, I had a great time,” he said.
“I’ve got big plans… I watched last year and it looked so beautiful and well run I decided I have to do it. That motivated me to get off the couch.”
Noah Arychuk was second and Dawson Abraham was third in the male sprint race.
Makila is a grade 12 student at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School and didn’t really know anything about triathlons. She had heard of the race in Red Deer and after a jog with her dog one day, figured why not add swimming into her repertoire as well. She did and it paid off with a win in the junior race Sunday, finishing in a time of 1:23.
“During it, I felt pretty good. My swim – I was surprised with how I was able to do. I’ve only been training for about a month. I’m so excited to come out next year, with this being my first time,” she said.
“Just out of nowhere, I used my Dad’s credit card and registered for the triathlon.”
Jade Weber was second in the division and Joshua Hope was third.
Heather Debruin was the top competitor in the female try-a-tri race and Graham Vanderwater was first in the male race.
In the team relay, Triple Threat was first, Parkland Gas Guzzlers were second and They Believe They Could so They Might was third.
Overall, Richer said the event was another success and for those interested, big things are expected for the race’s 20th anniversary next year.
“We’re going to have a heck of a party,” Richer said.