This year’s Cortez Burst Triathlon will be the city’s ninth, and the first Burst to be officially included in a series on the Western Slope.
The triathlon, held on July Fourth each year, includes adult, youth and “kiddie” races, starting with a swimming race at the Cortez Municipal Outdoor Pool.
It’s one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Friends of Recreation for a Healthy Community, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to the Cortez Recreation Center for low-income families. This year, the race is being publicized on the Western Slope as the first of four in the Southwestern Colorado Triathlon Series, along with other races in Gunnison, Montrose and Alamosa.
Members of the Burst’s organizing committee said they started working on a partnership with the other three races last year. They linked to one another’s websites and shared athletes, but race director Kevin Mullikin said this is the first year they have worked together to make sure each race is comparable and that athletes can track their improvement over the series.
“We’ve just taken it to another level,” he said.
Osprey Packs and Tailwind Nutrition will sponsor all four races. Athletes can sign up for the series on its website, and each race has its own registration site. Each triathlon will raise money for a different cause – equipment for local fire departments in Gunnison and Montrose and an accessible pool entrance in Alamosa.
About 85 people participated in last year’s Cortez Burst. Gunnison resident Benjamin Lokie won the adult competitive race with a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes.
Mullikin said that although all triathlons are challenging, he sees this one as a good “baby step” toward longer races. The adult race includes a 500-meter swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 5K run, while the youth race has a 200-meter swim, a 5-mile bike ride and a 1-mile run. Running and biking portions are designed to show off the most scenic parts of Cortez, he said, with routes through Parque de Vida and Carpenter Natural Area.
“It’s a great thing to do the morning of the Fourth of July, before you pig out in the afternoon and watch the fireworks,” said Debi Berger, of Friends of Recreation. “It’s just a great way to start your day.”
The race includes team competitions. Two local swim teams, the Cortez Leopard Sharks and Mesa Verde Aquatics Club, have offered to send swimmers to join teams in exchange for $50 donations.
Organizing committee member Marty McKean said the triathlon needs volunteers to direct traffic, hand out water and perform other tasks to keep the race moving. Last year, about 50 people volunteered.
The second race is the Gunnison High Triathlon on Sept. 1, followed by Montrose’s Black Canyon Triathlon on Sept. 29 and Alamosa’s Splashland Sprint Triathlon on Oct. 20.