When it came to the number of participants it would draw, Sherri Smith knew the St. Joseph Island Triathlon would be a success.
But there is something about it that has definitely surprised the 31-year-old Sault Ste. Marie native.
Smith, founder and race director, never imagined the event would grip people the way it has.
Tuesday, Smith, who won the women’s overall title at the 2004 World Triathlon Age-Group Championships in Portugal, told a story about 10 women who work out together at Achieve Fitness For Women, a local club.
“They’ve been training hard and have made competing this year their personal goal,” said Smith, who’s putting the finishing touches on this year’s St. Joseph Island Triathlon, the fourth annual, slated for Aug. 11.
“It makes you feel good to know the event influences people like that. That’s what I didn’t count on. That’s the part I didn’t expect.”
In 2003, at a time when Smith was employed by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, the idea for a Kids-of-Steel triathlon was presented to her by the late Hui Lee, a local physician. But Smith, a long-distance runner who won the Canadian national 5,000-metre title in 2002, took it a step further.
She organized the first St. Joe Island event in 2004.
“If there’s something missing in your community, you can either complain about it or work to fill the gap,” explained Smith, who won the 2005 H.P. Broughton Award as the city’s sportsperson of the year. “When I set out to do something, I often dream bigger than what’s expected. I knew I would have given anything to race in a triathlon at home and I knew I wasn’t the only one.”
Boasting of 335 competitors a year ago, the 2007 triathlon could reach 400 entrants. The majority are local, but Smith, who has chosen to take some time off from competition, is expecting athletes from Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Maryland, Texas and Calgary.
Action begins at 8:30 a.m. with five adult races scheduled. The Kids of Steel will offer five divisions for those between the ages of 7-15.
There are three adult triathlons of various distances, featuring swimming, biking and running.
The Olympic Distance Triathlon is made up of a 1,500-metre swim, 40k on a bike and a 10k run.
There are also two adult duathlons where competitors run, bike and run again. The International Duathlon compels those entered to run for 10k, bike 40k and run an additional 5k.
Registration closes 30 minutes before each individual event begins and each event carries a registration fee. For additional information, phone the St. Joseph Island Triathlon hot line, 759-2467, or log on to www.stjosephislandtriathlon.com.