Competitors in the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon will have a new option this year.
In addition to the Olympic distance race and the aqua bike race set for the Aug. 18 event, perspective triathletes will be able to compete in a sprint distance race.
The sprint distance is shorter than the traditional Olympic race and is aimed at getting first-time participants to compete.
“We are always trying to move the race forward,” race director Joanne Gensel. “It’s an opportunity for athletes that might be afraid of the Olympic distance.
“It allows them to do the whole thing.”
The sprint division will feature a .75K swim, a 26K bike race and 5.5K run. The Olympic distance comes in at 1.5K for the swim, 40K for the bike and 11K for the run. The aqua bike covers the Olympic distance in the swim and the run.
According to Gensel, response to the shorter distance has been good with about 45 of the 100 people already registered signing up for the sprint race.
“I’m pleased so far,” she said.
There is also a change in the bike course for the Olympic distance event and this one won’t make the race easier for anyone, according to last year’s champion.
“It’s going to be more challenging, especially heading into that run,” Sean Robbins said earlier this year.
More hills, less time for recovery, according to Robbins.
Gensel agreed, but she says area triathletes don’t seem to mind.
“It’s definitely a lot more hills. It’s more challenging,” Gensel said. “But the little bit of feedback I’ve received is that the triathletes love it.
“So go figure.”
The changes weren’t made to make the race more challenging, however.
The change was made because the old course — used for over 20 years — was becoming unsafe. Population growth on Lower Demunds Road and increased traffic from the various new industries that use Route 309 are to blame.
The new route still starts at the Harveys Lake Beach Club and ends at Penn State Wilkes-Barre in Lehman, but it avoids crossing Route 309 and Lower Demunds Road.
“Crossing 309 with all the traffic and the tractor trailers was getting to be potentially dangerous,” Gensel said.
For those reasons “a group of very talented triathletes came up with the new course,” Gensel said.
Making sure the triathletes are aware of that isn’t Gensel’s only concern.
“It’s definitely going to be new for the community,” she said. “That’s why we have to get the word out.”
A map of the new course is available at http://www.wilkesbarretriathlon.com.