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Ultramax Serves Up Fun and Safety at Annual Octomax Race

10/14/2009 - 12:00

tri clubbers innsbrook awards.jpgBy Mary Czarnecki
Ultramax Events hosted its 7th annual sprint and Olympic distance triathlon this year in Innsbrook. The event hosted about 550 racers who took on the challenge of either the Octomax or the Quartermax race. The Octomax consisted of a 500-yard swim, 18-mile bike and 3-mile run. The Quartermax consisted of a 1,000-yard swim, 28-mile bike and 6.5-mile run. A kid’s race was also held.

The swim was held in Alpine Lake, one of the largest and calmest lakes of over 100 lakes at the resort. The Octomax racers lined up at the edge of the lake first, followed by the Olympic distance participants. The race was wetsuit legal (USAT’s rules say you may wear a wetsuit at 78° or below), and the majority of athletes opted to wear wetsuits, although there were a few who braved the lake without them. (Personally, I don’t like to be cold in the water, so any wetsuit-legal race, you can be sure I’ll have mine on!)

In the last few years, Ultramax has added a special “last-wave” swim start for those who aren’t comfortable starting the swim in a large group. Participants can request to be in the last wave anonymously on the day of the race, and since it’s not reflected in the race results, it’s another way to ensure that safety comes first in this race. This year, approximately 40 participants took the last-wave option.

“By taking the last-wave option, athletes who are less comfortable with the swim don’t have as many other athletes passing them in the water,” said Mark Livesay, Innsbrook race director and founder of Ultramax Events. And with the unfortunate drowning of one of the participants at Innsbrook in 2006, Mark’s not taking any chances. “It’s always been our policy to exceed the standard number of rescue boats in the water, and we have even enlisted the St. Louis dive team to ensure the safety of our participants. Our hope is that athletes really think about the physical challenges of racing, and make sure they are capable and comfortable completing the distances. We take safety very seriously, and we need our athletes to take it seriously, as well.”

The second leg of the race, the bike portion, took participants on a hilly course outside the resort. Luckily, the course was only hilly for about the first 6 or so miles, then flattened out. The wind also kept calm for most of the race and the transition areas were spacious and well organized. The volunteers were great and did a wonderful job directing people around the turns and curves.

The third leg, the run, was the toughest of the race, and probably one of the toughest run portions of any race in the Midwest. Participants ran an extremely hilly, winding course on all gravel roads. It’s really a beautiful run—it’s peaceful and shaded and runs past some quaint little A-frame homes and lakes. But those hills were brutal!
Crossing the finish line was an exhilarating experience, the fans were cheering and the announcer got on the loudspeaker and announced each participant as they completed the race. There was even a pause in the awards ceremony to announce the last finisher, a participant from Team in Training, who crossed the finish line to a standing ovation! Overall this is one of the best shorter-distance races in Missouri, and with the extra swim start, it’s great for newer athletes looking to complete their first Olympic distance triathlon.

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