Triathlon Across the USA: State #24 – Utah

Bountiful, Utah, September 7, 2015 – South Davis Labor Day Triathlon, South Davis Recreation Center

The Utah triathlon was the first of three sprint triathlons within seven days.

Deadlines Can Make a Difference

If you are like me, a deadline can be important for keeping training on track. We start with an admirable, and achievable, goal, like improving our fitness or losing a few pounds.

However, it is easy to lose momentum once we start making progress toward the goal and the ‘pain’ that motivated us initially is no longer as great.

“A goal without a deadline is just a dream.”

Robert Herjavec, Canadian businessman

That’s where committing to a specific race can help to maintain the momentum. An impending race is what many of us need to remain focused.

I know that registering – and paying for – a race works because this is my story.

This is also a reason many local fitness centers, community recreation centers, and even YMCAs sponsor triathlons, like the South Davis Labor Day Triathlon. These races provide its members the much-needed deadline and focus for training.

And, they usually come at a reasonable and affordable fee, especially when you consider the t-shirt and other giveaways (also known as ‘swag’) given to participants.

Before the Utah Triathlon

The Bountiful, Utah triathlon was one stop on a roughly two-week road trip to complete triathlons in Utah, Oregon, and Washington, all within a seven-day period.

Our route to Bountiful (Salt Lake City) from our Minnesota home included an overnight stay in Omaha, Nebraska with our son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters. From here, it was a comfortable, albeit long, day’s drive to the Salt Lake City area.

We arrived two days before the Labor Day Triathlon so we could take in some of the unique sights and activities of the area that included:

  • Touring the Latter-Day Saints Conference Center.
  • Listening to an organ recital at the Mormon Tabernacle.
  • Searching family records at the Family Search Center in the Joseph Smith Memorial. I learned about my paternal grandmother. Joy learned that she comes from French and English royalty; she always told me that she was a princess.
  • Walking in and around the Great Salt Lake.

On Sunday afternoon, Joy and I drove the bike course for the triathlon, a typical pre-race ritual. We were unable to drive the entire course since several miles of the course was on a combination bike and walking/running trail near the Legacy Nature Preserve.

7th South Davis Labor Day Triathlon

Bountiful is a northern suburb of Salt Lake City that sits at around 4,300 feet elevation. This is high enough for someone from the middle plains of the USA to feel the effects of the altitude, especially during biking and running.

The Labor Day Triathlon is part of a series of races organized and managed by the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful. The event included both sprint and novice individual triathlon distances. It also included a sprint relay option.

Logo on the t-shirt provided to participants of the 2015 South Davis Labor Day Triathlon.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.2 miles (350 yards)
  • Bike: 12 miles (19.3 km)
  • Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)

The novice race included distances approximately half those of the sprint triathlon:

  • Swim: 150 yards
  • Bike: 5 miles (8 km)
  • Run: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)

The triathlon made use of the Center’s 14-lane pool. The transition area for the triathlon made use of the parking area for the Bountiful City Park located immediately behind the fitness center.


The 350-yard (320 m) swim followed a serpentine path across the 14 lanes of the 25-yard long pool.

Before the start of the triathlon, swimmers lined up in order of the time in which they anticipated completing the swim. Every few seconds, a swimmer would jump into the first lane and swim to the other end.

At the end of the first length, we ducked under the lane divider and swam back to the starting end in the second lane. It was then under the lane divider for a swim to the other end of lane 3. For the sprint distance race, this process was repeated for each lane of the pool.

After 14 lengths, we got out of the pool and walked or jogged out of the pool area onto the outdoor sidewalk leading to the transition area and our bikes.

Just before the start of the triathlon, swimmers lined up according to their anticipated time for the swim leg. (Picture courtesy of South Davis Recreation Center.)


The initial and final portions of the relatively flat bike course were on the streets of Bountiful. An intermediate section of the course followed the bike trail next to the Legacy Nature Preserve.

While we had driven the road portion of the course the day before the race, we obviously could not drive on the bike trail portion. Neither had I taken time to ride the trail portion.

Did I Miss the Turn?

With swimmers starting one at a time, bikers were also spread out along the course. In fact, there were times, especially on the portion along the Preserve, when I did not see another biker.

At one point, I was sure that I had missed the turn-off and was on my own. I knew that the course eventually turned onto a path leading back to the streets. All of sudden, I realized that there were no other bikers around me and began to worry that I had already passed the turn.

I decided to trust the race directors to have clearly marked the course or to provide a volunteer to keep racers on course.

Sure enough, a few blocks ahead, I found the sought-after volunteer. A quick turn, followed by a ride of about one block on a section of the trail, and I was in a parking lot heading back onto the city streets and toward the transition area.

Triathlon Tip: Many athletes, including elite triathletes, have lost races by missing a turn on the race course. This has occurred despite the best attempts of race directors to mark all turns. Take advantage of race course maps and instructions provided before the race to become familiar with the course. Ironically, being familiar with the course is more important for races with fewer participants, for which the spacing between racers is often greater.


The run course left the transition area, heading west about a block to the street that passes in front of the South Davis Recreation Center. With the first of five right turns complete, the run on this flat course continued along a rectangular path on the sidewalks of the streets north of the South Davis Recreation Center.

It was during this leg that I felt the effect of the altitude. Fortunately, there were many supporters shouting out their words of encouragement to a background of ringing cowbells. Music along the course arranged by the race organizers the much-needed distraction as I worked my way toward the finish line.

With the Utah Triathlon Complete . . .

With the race complete and a long drive ahead of us, Joy and I went back to the hotel for a quick shower. We packed the rest of the luggage into the back of our van and headed to our next destination. It turned out that this would be Bend, Oregon.

Race Firsts

  • First triathlon on a weekday.
  • This was my first triathlon held on a national holiday.
  • First race in which part of the bike course was a biking/running/walking trail.

Have You Made a Wrong Turn During a Triathlon?

Have you ever taken a wrong turn during a triathlon? How did you get this corrected?

Please tell us about it in the Comments below.

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