The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 10, 2013

Elysian Triathlon to celebrate 30 years

Race began with 53 participants in 1984

ELYSIAN — Jeanne Zwart's job during the first Elysian Rookies Triathlon in 1984 involved pointing participants in the right direction.

"When the bikers would come back and leave their bikes, I'd point them in the right direction for the run," she said. "It's exciting every year, but that got me hooked."

A year later, Zwart wasn't just directing one corner of the route. She was making sure the entire event was pointed in the right direction.

Today, she's still the race director and this week is preparing for the triathlon's 30th running (and swimming and biking).

"My youngest daughter was born in 1981, and the first triathlon was in '84," Zwart said. "She does not remember a time when we've not been involved in the triathlon."

The race will take place on Saturday, starting on the south shore of Lake Francis. It includes a four-tenths-mile swim in the lake followed by an 8-mile bike out and back on County Road 11 and a 4-mile run on the Sakatah Trail.

The course hasn't changed much, if at all, since that first race.

"People say the bike is too short," Zwart said. "But for rookies, it's just right. You don't have to buy an expensive new racing bike."

If there have been complaints, they've been few and far between. One of the longest running races of its kind in the state, the triathlon began with 53 participants. There have been as many as 400 in recent years, Zwart said. Last year's race drew 151 individuals and 19 three-person teams.

Zwart said the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis, which takes place on the same day, has drawn some competitors away. But that hasn't taken away from the event.

Last year saw a course record set by Nathan Korteum, of Clermont, Fla., who finished in 47 minutes, 58 seconds (the 1984 winner, James Graif, of St. Cloud, won in 57:45; Carrie Rethwell of Minneapolis was the first female finisher in 1:06:55), as well as a 40th birthday party and a wedding proposal.

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