Family, Community, and Inspiration: The Ordinary Mortals Triathlon

As a long-distance athlete racing for over 25 years, it's no secret I crave long bike rides and Sunday runs that leave me hobbling into work every Monday morning. However, there definitely is more to this wonderful sport than just long-distance racing. With all of the airtime recently given to world championship events, we sometimes forget the shorter races that keep the blood flowing for many athletes. As I enter my last year in the 45-49 age group, I continue to remind myself to seek new challenges. Yes, we are creatures of habit, but tell yourself this year to break that mold and do a race a little off your radar.

The Ordinary Mortals Triathlon might not be on your radar now, but for many dedicated athletes in Colorado, the OMT is the highlight of the year. You certainly don't have to be "ordinary" to do the Ordinary Mortals Triathlon, just motivated to try something different. Heck, you don't even need to have swum in open water -- it's a pool swim. The race is actually a reverse triathlon format. It starts with a hilly 5K run across Colorado State University's Pueblo campus. In T1 you strap on your bike shoes (or keep your running shoes on) and ride a quick but challenging 12.5 mile out and back to the airport. Your final cardiovascular test is grabbing your cap and goggles for a wicked fast 300-yard serpentine pool swim. Hop out of the pool for a sprint along the rec centers front lawn to the finish line. Before you know it, you go from "ordinary" to "extraordinary" in an instant.

How did all of this start? The background of this race dates back to 1986 when The "Ordinary Mortals" term was actually first used in Dr. Steven Jonas' book titled, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals (New York: Norton, 1986, 2nd ed., 2006)", which was the first-ever book for beginners in the sport. He subsequently obtained a registered trademark for “Ordinary Mortals” and with his permission, the race is allowed to use Ordinary Mortals as the title. Michael Orendorff, the original race director of the Ordinary Mortals Triathlon was inspired by Dr. Jonas's work and wanted to bring multi-sport to Southern Colorado.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, ordinary is defined as "in the normal order of events" but is far from the truth here in Pueblo. Aside from the events being in reverse order, the race conducts an equally challenging race for kids, hosts competitors from multigenerational families, provides scholarships to local Boys and Girls clubs, and inspires countless athletes and spectators, even local law enforcement. When asking Kim Arline, longtime OMT race director, what makes this race special, there was no hesitation, "This race is all about community and family. It's a smaller venue but with a big heart. Many athletes throughout Colorado say it's like coming home and getting to see familiar faces. We have total newbies to high level competitors competing for the top three overall positions every year, " Arline said. "In addition, this race stays local by assisting youth athlete programs and local non-profits to get people more active and healthy."

The OMT is likely one of the few races in existence where multigenerational families all race on the same day. "What I love to see are the families racing together, helping each other in transition and cheering one another on. We often have two or three families each year with three generations competing together. One year we had a family of four generations! We love to get the multigenerational photos at the finish line," Arline states. “My wish is that I can someday race with my own family to add to these inspiring multigenerational stories.”

When my kids were younger, nothing got me more excited than when my kids would do a running race or kids triathlon. When I discovered that the OMT had a kids race appropriately titled "Mini Mortals Triathlon” (MMT), I immediately signed them up. The MMT was added several years ago and has seen nothing but success. The race introduces kids as young as 5 years old into triathlon and has given scholarships to local Boys and Girls Club kids to compete. The Mini Mortals has motivated countless kids and adults of all shapes and sizes with the message of believing in themselves. It is by far my favorite event to watch, especially at the finish when the kids immediately grab their finishers medal and a well-earned root beer float.

Gwen Steves, a Pueblo triathlete that has been the OMT's head timer for several years, also truly appreciates the uniqueness of this race, "OMT is special because it was indeed my first interaction with triathlon. It started my drive to enter into the sports world again as an adult. When I had my first child, I wanted more for him in sports than just swimming. It's special to watch your child complete a sporting event that you love as well. Just knowing that I helped foster this in our community was a huge sense of satisfaction. Seeing this race prosper and grow is just icing on the cake." Steves added.

I've raced here a handful of times since 2013 and loved every year. Weather it was going head-to-head with some of the top local talent (Grant Drummond, Cory Rose) watching my kids slugging it out against a fellow 6-year-old in the pool, or seeing first timers do something they never thought was possible, each and every year has fueled my soul for this wonderful sport we call triathlon. OMT also reminds me that we are all athletes deep down, and the more we can tap into that, the better our lives will be.

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