Triathlon Across the USA: State #36 – Wisconsin

Triathlon Across the USA: State #36 – Wisconsin

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, June 3, 2018 – Mayo Clinic Health System Eau Claire Triathlon

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

Planning the Wisconsin Triathlon

Our schedule for June was somewhat uncertain.  On top of that, since we like to stay near our Minnesota home on weekends during the summer months, we really did not want to travel far for a June triathlon.

Timing for the Eau Claire Triathlon (first weekend in June) and its close proximity to home (two hour drive) made it attractive.  The event’s priority for supporting local and international causes sealed the decision.


Travel to the Triathlon

Eau Claire, Wisconsin is 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 that is 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 managed to make it back to the hotel before the skies opened and rain poured down until sometime after we had turned in for the night.


Fundraising Through Triathlon

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

For more than 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 live 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.  Over their 14 year history, the clinic has served over 6,600 individuals through a staff that today consists of over 200 volunteers and 6 paid staff members.

You can learn more about these two causes at


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 participated 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 can be found at



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.  Remaining waves were started at two minute intervals.  The last wave included the relay team members.

With the air temperature at 60°F and the water temperature only slightly warmer, a wetsuit felt really good.   Looks on the faces of those lined up for the swim without a wetsuit confirmed this.


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.  Roads were generally 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 that it had on the bike.   The good thing was that it provided a tailwind on the last portion of the course.


The bike course consisted of 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 transition (lower right).



The run was on a paved trail leading from the transition area to a bridge crossing Halfmoon Lake 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 banging into each other.  My first thought was that, odd as it seemed for a Sunday morning, someone was emptying recycling containers.

I found the real source of the noise when I came upon a horseshoe court.  There were probably at least ten games 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 could see something lying in the middle of the road.  At first, it appeared to be an animal that had been struck by a car.  However, the object finally came into view – a sizeable snapping turtle munching on a bunch of leaves.

The run continued through the park – past the statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, and past the Chippewa Valley Museum – and eventually out of the park, back across the bridge and onto the finish line.  The final jog to the finish line was the only portion not on a paved trail.  The last two hundred yards to the finish line covered a narrow dirt trail, a grassy patch, and a short section of a coarse gravel covered path.


After Crossing the Finish Line


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.

As I downed 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.  We returned to the hotel for a quick shower and headed home.


Race First’s

  • 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

You may also be interested in these posts about other triathlons that doubled as fundraisers

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