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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
March 5, 2024

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WHY Racing Events fetes thrill of activity

Fest aims to inspire kids, adults to get outside

By , Columbian staff writer
6 Photos
Competitors get ready to swim the Columbia River during a previous triathalon.
Competitors get ready to swim the Columbia River during a previous triathalon. Photo Gallery

Kids run free!

Actually, many kids are pretty sedentary these days. Their eyes and minds have been swamped by screens. Their bodies have been saturated with sugar.

“In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s when I was a kid,” said Sherri McMillan, the owner of WHY Racing Events. She’s correct, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also says that in 2015-2016, 18.5 percent of youth were considered obese and so were a whopping 40 percent of adults — underlining the trend that we tend to get heavier as we get older.

Unless there’s a countervailing trend, McMillan said. “We’ve got to get these kids off their electronic devices and get them outside playing, training and experiencing the joy of … crossing the finish line,” she said.

To encourage that to happen, WHY Racing is waiving registration fees for runners 17 and younger who want to try the inaugural Columbia River Sunset 5K/10K, which is set for Friday — and is part of a larger, 10th anniversary racing festival that lasts all weekend long and offers events for everyone. WHY calls it a “Triathlon and Endurance Sports Festival,” but don’t let those macho words scare you off; WHY calls itself WHY to underline that everybody’s different and everybody’s got personal reasons to pursue fitness and health. Whatever your WHY, McMillan likes to say, there’s something for you this weekend.

If You Go

  What: Columbia River Triathalon & Endurance Sports Festival, featuring Friday night Sunset Run and Kids’ Triathalon.

 When: 5 p.m. Aug. 17; 9 a.m. Aug. 18; 8 a.m. Aug. 19. Please arrive at least one hour before start time.

  Where: Frenchman’s Bar Park, 9612 N.W. Lower River Road, Vancouver.

  Cost: $30 and up; free for kids doing Sunset Run.

 Registration: whyracingevents.com

“It allows people who aren’t into the sport of triathalon to experience it and be part of the festivities,” she said. “It’s as much about the party as it is about the race.” And Frenchman’s Bar Park is a great place for all that, she added, thanks to stunning sunsets, a big beach and, of course, flat pathways for runners.

“No crazy hills,” McMillan said. “This is very doable for everybody.”

Super cute

Kids can even try the triple test of swimming, cycling and running known as triathalon, McMillan said, because the whole weekend launches at 5 p.m. Friday with a Kids’ Triathalon, customized for three different age groups. First comes swimming in the Columbia River, with distances of 200 yards (for 11-15 years), 100 yards (7-10) or 25 yards (6 and under), right along the shoreline and closely accompanied by a wading or walking parent — yes, that’s mandatory. (Adult safety volunteers will be in the water too.) Kids may use flotation aids too, but not flippers. The swim is downstream with the current, McMillan noted, so kids will enjoy a gentle assist.

“We had a 2-year-old who did it last year, who was just running through the water,” McMillan laughed. “Then they come up and get onto bikes. Depending on the age, some are literally on tricycles or bikes with training wheels. It is super cute.” The bike distances are 3 miles, 2 miles or 1 mile (or, for the littlest cyclists, whatever works) on the paved paths in and around Frenchman’s Bar. Finally, the kids run a little more than half, a little less than half, or one-quarter of a mile.

The Kids’ Triathalon may be adorable, but it’s not free. The free-for-kids event comes at 7 p.m. Friday: WHY’s first Columbia River Sunset Run, with 5K and 10K courses that go out and back from Frenchman’s Bar, halfway or all the way to Vancouver Lake along the separated, delightfully flat pedestrian path.

Girlfriends, iron men, beasts

“Saturday is all women’s day,” McMillan said, with numerous “Girlfriends” events all beginning at 9 a.m.: a sprint triathalon (half-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 5K run), a duathalon (5K run, 12-mile bike, another 5K run) or an aquabike (half-mile swim, 12-mile bike, no running at all). Or, just enjoy a single 5K run and call it good.

“Saturday is great for ladies” who’ve never tried anything like this before, McMillan said. “No crazy distances, no iron-man hills.” Just a sense of accomplishment and celebration as you cross the finish line with your girlfriends, she said.

Sunday is when those iron people, both men and women, take on serious challenges: so-called sprint and Olympic distances in triathalon, duathalon and aquabike events. It’s recommended that you show up bright and early, no later than 7 a.m., as waves of competitors start their events beginning at 8 a.m.

Most competitors get some sort of medal or award, including all kids undertaking the Kids’ Triathalon. Also, if you compete in more than one event over the weekend, you’re an official beast — and you earn a Beast Medal, a Three-Headed Beast Medal or a Tri-Princess Beast Medal.

Enjoy snacks and beers from Deschutes Brewery while awaiting the awards ceremony.