How A Wisconsin Triathlon Benefits Kids In The Caribbean

Eau Claire, Wisconsin; June 3, 2018 – Mayo Clinic Health System Eau Claire Triathlon; Halfmoon Park.

The Eau Claire Triathlon, our Wisconsin race in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ journey, is a great example of how triathlons often double as fundraisers for important causes locally and across the world.

Planning the Wisconsin Triathlon

Our schedule for June was up in the air, as we say. Since we liked to stay near our Minnesota home on weekends during the summer months, we really did not want to travel far for a June triathlon. On the other hand, I needed to keep pressing toward the 50-state goal.

Both the timing for the Eau Claire Triathlon (first weekend in June) and its proximity to our home (two-hour drive) made it attractive. Upon learning about the triathlon’s priority for supporting local and international causes, we made the commitment.

Travel to the Eau Claire Triathlon

Eau Claire, Wisconsin was an easy two-hour drive east of our home in Minnesota. It will no doubt be the race in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ quest closest to our home yet outside our home state.

We left our house at about 2pm on Saturday. This allowed us time to check-in to our hotel before picking up the race packet, grabbing a couple of kid’s meals (yes, for us) at Culvers, and attending the Saturday evening worship service at Peace Lutheran, one of the race sponsors.

We made it back to the hotel just before the skies opened and rain poured down. It was still raining when we turned in for the night.

Fundraising Through Triathlon

The Eau Claire Triathlon is a fundraiser for two causes dear to the hearts of the organizers, the Friends of the Orphans and the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic.

For over 40 years, Friends of the Orphans has provided safe and loving homes for children in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, over 3,500 children lived in the homes supported by the organization.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic provides medical services for those living in western Wisconsin without health insurance.

9th Annual Eau Claire Triathlon

Race morning was cloudy and a little under 60°F with a light wind. Fortunately, the rain had passed and would not appear any time during the rest of our stay in Eau Claire.

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

  • Swim: 0.31 mile (500 m)
  • Bike: 17 mile (27 km)
  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)

Racers competed individually, in age groups or as Clydesdale and Athena, or in relay teams. 

The race was well organized. More than 100 volunteers were stationed at various locations along the race course.

Another unique feature of this event was that on the day before the adult triathlon, organizers held a kid’s triathlon for children ages 7-14. Young people competed individually or as teams with two different distances for those aged 7-10 and aged 11-14. Details of the kid’s triathlon are here.


The first of the 153 racers to enter the water for the open water swim were two men, each pulling an inflatable raft connected to a cord wrapped around their waist. Each raft carried a physically disabled child who would be with them through each of the legs of the race. I know this because I passed both on the bike leg. Later, during the run, each of them passed me.

The two men started five minutes before the first group (“wave” in triathlon-speak) of male age groupers aged 40 and under. The other waves started at two-minute intervals, with the last wave including relay team members.

With the air temperature at 60°F and the water temperature only slightly warmer, I was happy to wear a wetsuit. Most of those who lined up for the swim without a wetsuit wished they had worn one. At least, that’s what the looks on their faces told me.

The open water swim occurred in Halfmoon Lake. The first turn in the counterclockwise swim occurred at a red buoy located near the center of the picture on race day.


The 17-mile bike course took us on rolling hills through residential streets out into the country west of Eau Claire, past fields, beautiful patches of wildflowers, and farms. The condition of the roads was mostly good, absent of potholes and cracks that characterize many northern roads at this time of year.

There was just enough wind to know its direction from the effect it had on the bike. The good thing was that the wind provided a tailwind during the last portion of the course.

The bike course covered a mix of city streets and country roads, past wildflowers and livestock. Pictured are the Sherman Elementary School (lower left), Claremont Road west of Eau Claire (upper left), Union Town Hall (upper right), and the Claremont Road tunnel heading back to the transition area (lower right).


The run began on a paved trail leading from the transition area to a bridge crossing Halfmoon Lake and leading into Carson Park. Other than the hill leading into and out of the park, the course was quite flat.

Shortly after entering the park, I heard a clanging sound, like that of glass bottles clanking into each other. My first thought, odd as it seemed for a Sunday morning, was that someone was emptying recycling containers.

I eventually found the actual source of this noise when I came upon a horseshoe court. There were at least ten games of horseshoes being played simultaneously. I later read that “Carson Park features 18 horseshoe courts with a seating capacity of 100”.

A little further down the road, I saw something in the distance lying in the middle of the road. At first, I thought it was the remains of an animal that a car had struck. A little further and this object came into view. It was a huge, snapping turtle lazily munching on a bunch of leaves. It seemed truly unfazed by the many runners passing it.

The run continued through the park, past the statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, and past the Chippewa Valley Museum. We eventually exited the park, crossed back over the bridge, and got onto the path leading to the finish line. 

The final jog to the finish line was the only portion of the run course not on a paved trail. These last two hundred yards covered a narrow dirt trail, a grassy patch, and a short section of a coarse gravel covered path.

After Crossing the Finish Line at the Wisconsin Triathlon

Race organizers provided a post race meal of grilled burgers with various condiments, root beer, and chips.

After crossing the finish line, I bent over to remove the Velcro-strap holding the timing chip around my left ankle. As I stood up, a young volunteer handed me a bottle of ice cold water.

While downing the water, Joy and I headed over to the refreshment tent. Here we exchanged our meal and drink tickets for a grilled burger, some grilled onions, potato chips, and two ice cold root beers. My mouth waters even while writing this string of words.

With the refreshments consumed and the transition area open for removing the items left during the run, we packed up. 

Following a quick shower at the hotel, we headed home with the Wisconsin triathlon completed.

Race Firsts from the Wisconsin Triathlon

  • First triathlon after retiring from full-time employment.
  • First bike course involving a pedestrian tunnel.
  • First race with a turtle in the middle of the run course

Triathlon as a Fundraiser?

Is there a triathlon that doubles as a fundraiser which you like to support? Please tell us about it in the Comments below.

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