Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Keegan: Triathlon gaining repute

June 22, 2008

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They motor in water, on top of cycles and by moving one foot in front of another, but when it comes to growing an event that was a smashing success in its first year in Lawrence, triathletes have been doing their best work motoring their mouths.

Word of mouth is always the best way to grow anything, be it a restaurant, a bar - and with apologies to the salamander-savers, even a town - or a triathlon.

"Great event" are the two words most often uttered about the first Ironman 70.3 Kansas Triathlon, which took place last Sunday, the first year of a three-year contract.

Rather than taking a complacent approach and assuming the race doesn't need to get better, it always pays to remember that whatever isn't getting better is getting worse. One way Ironman Kansas could improve would be if it took on a more local flavor. The Friday night downtown concert had a very local feel to it and dozens of local athletes competed in the race. Growing the number of local competitors will make the event feel like more of the town fabric. It will happen. Some who competed on teams will branch off and partake in the grueling event as solo artists. Replacements will be sought and found. Others who talked about registering either as an individual or a team but never did will make it happen next year.

Swimmer Donna Evans, cyclist Ken Morris and runner Christi Douglas competed as "Local Flavor" and are among the many spreading the good word about the state's first Ironman. They finished second in the relay standings.

"I admire triathletes and I'd like to try it someday," said Douglas, mother of two and a former soccer player at Rockhurst University. "Probably having the discipline to train at all three sports, I would think, would be the hardest thing."

Evans had heard that Douglas recently had competed in a marathon in Eugene, Ore., and suggested Morris should see if she would want to join the relay team. Morris, like his great-grandfather, Phog Allen, deserves credit for knowing how to put a team together.

"I knew Donna Evans and she was going to do the whole Ironman herself and started training for it," said Morris, son of late Kansas University quarterback Duane Morris. "I told her if you change your mind, let me know."

A two-time All-American swimmer (1995-96) at KU, Evans changed her mind, let him know, and jumped the relay team off to a terrific start.

"I actually ran into a couple of former KU swimmers who had come into town for this race, one married couple from Minnesota and another girl who lives in Mississippi," Evans said. "I didn't know they were coming in and they said they were trying to get some other former KU swimmers to come to compete either as part of a team or do the whole thing. We'll do it as a swim team reunion. I can't see how this won't grow. I thought it was fabulously run."

Given that no baseball team plays closer than the Kansas City T-Bones and with the KU football season several weeks away, Ironman Kansas was a welcome event to spice up the sports calender. With any luck, the lightning will stay away the next two years and the event will become a summer staple.

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