106° West Triathlon

Here's what seems a novel idea for a race: Put it on in a scenic location.

Yes, there are existing races in North America known for their beauty. Still, think about your season of races undertaken this year, or last, or the year before. Did the races you chose take place in scenic locations? Does it seem to you that physical beauty was a motivating factor when race organizations chose venues for the events they produced, in which you participated?

Here's a race just announced where scenery and geography are the focus. It will take place for the first time on September 10, 2016. It's the 106° West Triathlon and it's named after map coordinates of the township of Dillon, Colorado. Dillon sits at 39° North Latitude and 106° West Longitude. But the notable metric is the Z coordinate. With the swim a touch over 9,000 feet above sea level, this will be the highest-elevation triathlon in the World. The bike leg takes competitors to over 10,000 feet in elevation, twice, and the race never dips below the 9,000-foot level.

There will be two distances: a half-distance race as well as a quarter-distance, which would mean something like an Olympic distance tri, with something closer to a 1k swim than a 1-mile swim.

I flew to Denver's airport, rented a car, and drove about 2 hours to Dillon to attend the launch of this race. Lake Dillon is not small. It's got a surface area of about 5 square miles, and at a surface elevation of 9,016' is the low point of a valley surrounded by a basketful of Colorado's well-known ski areas, including Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge (among others). I spent an evening and a morning with the race's organizers: Jeff Suffolk and crew of Human Movement. Jeff cut his teeth working for Ironman, then split off to form his own company. Human Movement produces a range of events from triathlons to footraces, adventure and in-city cultural events. They produce the Dirty Girl series of mud runs.

On the drive from the airport to Dillon, I swung into the parking lot of the Scott Carpenter pool in Boulder (that Greg Bennett can still swim! Hey Greg!) for a couple thousand meters, raced over to Louisville, banged on Timothy Carlson's door, threw him into the passenger seat, and off we went. These are Timothy's pics here.

Bob Babbitt was, along with me, the other oldie-von-moldie triathlete at this launch. As an Ironman Bob predates me by one year. It takes something special for Bob and I both to be roused from our lairs for an event launch, since neither of us was getting paid to attend.

This course is single- or double-out-and-back depending on the distance you choose. The bike ride scoots by Keystone before taking a left turn and heading to the counter-culture township of Montezuma. A vintage engine erected as a town monument serves as the turnaround. The run is along Lake Dillon's shoreline.

Coursewise, think Ironman France, just 5000 miles west, 9000 feet higher, fresh versus salt water, and no topless women on the beach to look at while running... that I know of. Pros will have a purse. Leadville style, the rest of us get the buckle.

What motivates Human Movement's Jeff Suffolk is, for this race, what also motivates me. I produced my first triathlon in August of 1981. I wanted to produce in my hometown a little of what I experienced in Kona, when I raced that event for the first time. Back then most U.S. states did not have a triathlon. Any triathlon was a new experience.

Today, the bar is set a little higher. We routinely publish images here of races that are not routine, from Ötillö, Norseman, Arctic Triple, Rockman, Engadin, Celtman, Inferno Tri and others. These are ridiculously scenic races, where one is tempted just to stop, midrace, just to gaze.

Does Europe hold a monopoly on scenery? Part of why we don't have races as scenic as Europe in the U.S. is a lack of access. Courses are easier to get in Scandinavia than in a U.S. National Park. But part of it is also a lack of savvy in opening a course. Lake Dillon is not only not open to triathlon, it's not open to swimming.

But it is going to be open for swimming and triathlon in one place, on one day, each year. I intend to be at the 106° West Triathlon to enjoy that day.