Triathlons can be run at any distance – from a kiddie triathlon to a full-on Ironman – and most of them incorporate three separate events, swimming, biking and running.
Most, but not all.
The Root River Triathlon is an exception to the norm, as it substitutes the swimming portion for a canoe or kayak.
“Some people simply don’t like to jump in the water to swim,” said Hein Bloem, Root River Triathlon race director, “and some can’t even swim or avoid it at all costs. But they don’t seem to mind the bike or run. In that sense, being able to canoe or kayak makes our event a little different than the rest, and we don’t mind that at all.”
Hey, whatever works.
The 19th annual Root River Triathlon will be run Saturday in and around Houston. It starts with a 6.5-mile canoe or kayak trip down the Root River to Mound Prairie and then everybody hops on their bikes for a 7.9-mile ride back to Houston.
In Houston, the race wraps up with a 3-mile run on the Root River trail and through the streets of Houston. The finish is at the band shell in Trailhead Park.
The canoe/kayak trip is downhill on the river but bike riders on the return will experience a few challenging hills. That said, the 3-mile run is fairly flat, mostly on a paved trail.
Winners and losers?
“It’s always nice to win, of course,” said Bloem, “but in this race participation is the key. Just to say you’re out there and to finish is the important part.”
The maximum number of entries is
400, and it filled up eight years ago. Bloem expects in the 210-215 range this time around.
“For the first time, we’ll have team competition, and that has created a lot of interest,” he said. “Again, not everyone likes all three events and if that’s the case, just do one or two and come with a partner or two.”
Bloem, who is from Holland, met his wife Karla through the Houston-based International Owl Center, where she currently serves as the director. He is also a member of the local Lions Club, a major benefactor of the race.
“I started with the race in 2010 and the directors before me were doing it long enough, so here I am,” said Bloem.
Those on the triathlon board include Dennis Eich, Mike Beckman, Gene Lundak and James Bromeland.
The first Root River triathlon was held in 1998 by the city of Houston. The race has been held in all kinds of weather over the years but Bloem is hoping for only one thing: “No snow.”
Oh, and if the Root River happens to flood above the five-foot level, the race will be canceled.
“We don’t want one of our canoeists or kayaker to wind up in Louisiana,” Bloem said. “That wouldn’t be good for publicity.”