The Lake Como Triathlon is a beautiful but challenging XTerra-style race with an open water swim, a mountain bike ride and a trail run on Saturday, July 24.
In 2020, the Lake Como Triathlon was canceled due to Covid.
Mark Butler, a member of Ravalli County Search and Rescue, said as of July 9 there were only 60 athletes registered and that the low number of competitors reflects the trend in athletic competitions.
“It is slowly tapering off over the years as a lot of triathlons have,” Butler said. “I think they were really popular about 10 years ago. Everybody was excited to try them and people have slowly lost interest. We used to do the Bitterroot Classic in Hamilton too. For a while that one sold out then tapered off from 400 to about 60 as well.”
Butler said that with the fading fad only athletes who really enjoy a triathlon challenge are competing.
The Lake Como race is organized by community-minded volunteers as a fundraiser for Ravalli County Search and Rescue and Lost Trail Ski Patrol. Some years it includes the leadership team of the Trapper Creek Job Corps.
Butler encourages fans to come watch the timed event that is free for the audience, but has a fee for competitors.
“A lot of family and friends of the participants come watch,” he said.
The race takes place in the cooler hours of the day. On race day, competitors start by attending a mandatory meeting at 7:45 a.m.
At 8 a.m. the challenging race begins with an open water swim that starts and ends at the beach on the north side of the lake. Swimmers follow a triangle-shaped swim course for about 1,500 yards. Wet suits are optional, the average July water temperature is 67 degrees, but they are rarely worn as changing out of the suits takes precious time.
At the beach, swimmers don flip-flops for a 500-yard sprint to the transition area where they prepare for a 12.6-mile bike ride. The bike course is a combination of rutty and rocky Forest Service roads and bike trails. Riders must wear ANSI- or SNELL-approved helmets, headphones are not allowed and extreme caution is encouraged.
The final leg of the triathlon is the 7.7-mile run, which skirts the perimeter of Lake Como. The run begins on the north side for safety reasons and the least amount of hiker traffic earlier in the morning. Runners are encouraged to watch their footing, be prepared for a variety of surfaces and encouraged to pass with verbal notice. The route goes towards Rock Creek Falls around to the south side and runners finish heading north on the long stretch of the dam. Race numbers must be worn on the front of the runner's garment and visible at the finish line.
Butler said that this year due to lingering Covid concerns the Forest Service and Ravalli County Public Health have discouraged food for the participants.
“We have decided not to have any food,” Butler said. “Participants can bring their own food and we have to be cleaned up and gone by two o’clock. Usually that is when the participants are done.”
Registration for the Lake Como Triathlon remains open until 11 p.m. on July 23 and costs individuals $85 and teams $175. There is a participation waver, register online at lakecomotri.com.
Butler said the draw to participate is the challenge and beauty.
“It’s a really fun, exciting and challenging course,” he said. “It is in a beautiful setting, people come from all over the country because of the great setting and course. There aren’t very many open water triathlon is this region. Polson had a similar one in size about a month after ours, but it was for road bikes. Ours is an XTerra type race, a mountain bike race.”