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Riding Mountain Triathlon

The Riding Mountain Triathlon is Manitoba's biggest race and easily its most scenic.

The Riding Mountain Triathlon is Manitoba’s biggest race and easily its most scenic. Now, as the race celebrates its 25th anniversary in August, it’s trying to become Manitoba’s greenest. Race directors Ellis and Debbie Crowston took over an event in 2007 that many athletes thought was stagnating. Situated in beautiful Riding Mountain National Park, an hour north of Brandon, the race needed a jolt of energy. The Crowstons provided both, as well as big plans for the race.

“With the beauty and diversity of the park, we knew the race had the potential to be bigger,” Ellis says. “From the start, our goal was to develop a race that the park would be proud to call its own.”

The Crowstons specifically assign volunteers to recycling and composting. All barricades and sign stands are made from recycled lumber from the park landfill. Last year, new course signs were made from recycled coroplast and all cups are compostable. It’s become a key objective for the couple.

“Since we’re a guest in a national park, we have a responsibility to take a leadership role in putting on an environmentally responsible race,” Debbie says. “Each year we incorporate a new initiative. This year we’re working hard to introduce bamboo bike racks to complement the natural setting.”

The Olympic, Sprint, shorter Try-A-Tri and duathlon are held on a beautiful course. The triathlon races start with a bracing swim in deep spring-fed Clear Lake, move onto an out-and-back, rolling, bike course through boreal forest and end with a scenic run along the lakeshore path that also winds along quiet cottage roads.

The Crowstons have a cabin and a long history at the park, which has helped them establish deep ties with other cottagers and the local community of Wasagaming. As a result, an army of experienced volunteers called the Clear Lake Crew enthusiastically look after athletes on the course.

Wasagaming is a draw in itself. The small, seasonal, resort community offers boutique shopping, restaurants, hotels and campgrounds, and a wide range of recreational opportunities. Located an hour north of Brandon and 425 kilometers east of Regina, triathletes flock to the park to get their hill work in.

The race has grown by 15 per cent each year under the Crowstons’ guidance. In fact, they’re hoping to eclipse 400 athletes this year. Some of the growth has come from Saskatchewan, where the Crowstons have worked hard to draw athletes.

“Being in the middle of the Regina/Saskatoon/Winnipeg triangle, as well as the fact that a significant percentage of the summer cottage owners are from Saskatchewan, RMTri is a perfect venue for athletes from the two provinces to meet. In a year or two we intend to incorporate a club challenge.”

While the Crowstons know it’s impossible to offer what the top-tier Ironman and 70.3 races do, they focus their efforts on making the Riding Mountain Triathlon a top-notch racing experience. They knew the quickest way to any athlete’s heart is through their stomach. The post-race buffet offers everything from the standard bagels and bananas to delicacies like home-made dainties and even a chocolate fondue. And, on top of that, athletes also receive a ticket to a local restaurant for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

“We want to give the average age grouper the feel of a high-end race without having to travel far,” Debbie says. “We strive to do our best to be well organized and to deliver a unique, first-class event to our athletes.”

The Crowstons also do little things that make the race a big deal. For instance, award-winning photojournalist Bruce Bumstead shoots pictures each year, which are then displayed on the race’s website (rmtri.com).