By Shawn McNamara, Barrelman Ambassador
One of the most rewarding aspects of triathlon is the sense of community it builds. Triathletes are often seen helping each other during training or the race itself. Sometimes it can be as simple as lending a bike pump in transition or reassuring a newbie before a race. It might also be encouragement while passing on the bike or run, or “finding” a spare salt tablet/gel for a competitor who has bonked during a hot/humid run. We may be out for victory on the race course, but ultimately want everyone to cross the finish line safely and to see the sport grow!
Participating in multi-sport for many years, my wife (and fellow Barrelman Ambassador) Shannon McNamara and I were looking for a way to promote the positive values of triathlon in our local Michigan town. We decided on partnering with our local community center to organize youth triathlon training classes in summer 2015, complete with a mini-sprint triathlon to finish! Each week we hosted small swim, bike, run, or brick workouts for a group of about 15 kids. Both Shannon and I got so much out of seeing these young athletes achieve success at something new and have fun at the same time. However, the parents’ responses completely blew us away (“WE want to do this too!”). We had create a monster!
By summer 2016, we added adult summer triathlon training classes (and an adult sprint distance triathlon)! This August we hosted the 4th Annual Level Pebble Triathlon weekend, with 50 youth completing a mini-sprint triathlon and 60 adults completing a sprint distance. Over 80% of competitors were first-time triathletes! Many are now considering sprint, olympic, and 70.3-distance events for 2020 (including Barrelman). Watching both young kids (age 6) and older adults (age 71) cross the finish line has been both heart-warming and motivating! While we’ve given back to the sport, it has rewarded us even more! Looking ahead, we plan to continue growing the sport and dream of bringing a larger Michigan contingent to Multisport Canada events!