After a three-year hiatus, the Tsalteshi Trails Triathlon will return on Memorial Day, which this year is on May 26.
The triathlon was fast becoming a local tradition when it reached its ninth year at Tsalteshi Trails, located behind Skyview High School, in 1999.
However, the triathlon was not held in 2000 due to road construction on Kalifornsky Beach Road. It has taken until this year to revive the event.
The brains behind this year's event is John Steckel, a Kenai resident who taught physical education for 20 years before retiring four years ago. Thanks to coaching track at Soldotna Middle School for 15 years, in addition to dabbling in coaching a number of other sports, Steckel has his finger on the athletic pulse of the area.
"I volunteered," said Steckel of how he attained the position of race director. "I have a friend that's done the triathlon, and was disappointed it wasn't being carried on.
"I contacted the (Tsalteshi Trails Association) to see if they wanted someone to run it."
The Tsalteshi Trails Association handed the duty over to Steckel, and he has responded with some fresh ideas for the event.
"The emphasis is on numbers of participants, local families and local athletes rather than trying to draw top athletes from cycling clubs in Anchorage and Fairbanks," Steckel said.
To that end, the bike portion of the swim-bike-run event will be done on trails, and thus require a mountain bike. Under the old Tsalteshi Trails Triathlon format, competitors used a road bike.
"When I go around in the community, I just don't see too many road bikes," Steckel said. "I see a lot of mountain bikes, though."
Like the running, the mountain biking will be done in the environs of Tsalteshi Trails. Under the old format, competitors used Echo Lake, Gaswell and K-Beach roads.
The exact route depends on how good of shape the trails are in by May 26, but this winter's light snow cover could leave race organizers with more options than they would normally have.
The swimming also has a new twist. There will be an "assisted swim" division, which allows competitors to use fins.
"I'm a substitute teacher, and in all these classes I sub for, when kids have the option to use fins when they're swimming, they'll use them," Steckel said. "The majority of kids know how to bike, but they're not good swimmers.
"Assisted swimming will allow them to compete."
And that's a big focus of Steckel's -- to get as many people in the race as possible.
"I know all the track coaches, cross-country skiing coaches and swimming coaches," Steckel said. "Most of the kids in town that are active, I've known them as they've grown up.
"I'll definitely use that to promote this race."
Competitors can do the race as individuals, or as teams. Steckel is also planning music and a barbecue lunch at the event.
There will be two main categories. The mini-triathlon course is for those in the sixth grade and younger. It involves a 200-yard swim, a 3-mile bike and a 1-mile run.
The open triathlon course has a 500-yard swim, a 10-mile bike and a 3-mile run.
Both these options ramp down the distance considerably from the endurance required for the old Tsalteshi Trails Triathlon. The shortest category was a 500-yard swim, a 2.5-mile run and a 10-mile bike. A long course doubled those distances, and an extreme course tripled those distances.
For more information about the race, contact Steckel at 283-0836 or e-mail him at email@example.com. There also is information about the race at www.tsalteshi.org.
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