Last weekend, more than 2,000 athletes took part in the 2013 Timberman Triathlon Festival. While the athletes swam, biked and ran at Gilford's Ellacoya State Park, their progress was being monitored more than 2,000 miles away, in Austin, Texas.
Why would someone in the Lone Star State keep tabs on a multisport event in the Granite State? Because the man doing the monitoring was Keith Jordan, Timberman's creator.
In the late 1990's and early 2000's, Jordan was a triathlete living in Gilford and traveling around the country to compete. Unlike most athletes who focused primarily on their race, Jordan took time to observe the surroundings and operations of the events he attended. He was so impressed, he asked himself, "Why not New Hampshire?"
The wheels started turning in Jordan's head as he began to imagine a major triathlon in the Granite State. But, as he recounted during a recent phone conversation from his current home in Austin, there was a problem.
"At the time, there were probably less than 100 triathletes in New Hampshire," Jordan said. "If I was going to host a major race, with hundreds of athletes, I had to create an event that people would be willing to travel to."
Jordan also knew the general public knew very little about triathlons at that time.
"I spoke to a lot of people who were excited about the idea of bringing a big race to New Hampshire," he said. "But they needed a lot of education to understand what a triathlon was all about."
Jordan also quickly learned that among those who needed to be educated were he and those close to him.
"A few days before the race. we were stuffing race packets and filling water bottles. I don't think we realized just how much work we had to do," he recalled. "At one point, I feared we wouldn't be able to pull it off."
In August of 2001, the first Timberman Triathlon took place, a sprint and half-ironman race on the same day. How successful was it? Twelve years later Jordan recalls a moment at the awards ceremony.
"The athletes gave me a standing ovation." he said. "They were so grateful for what we had done. It was quite something to see."
It was also the beginning of something special in the Granite State. Within a few years, Jordan started the Big Lake Half Marathon in Alton, the Mooseman Triathlon festival in Bristol and the Black Fly Triathlon festival in Waterville Valley. Thousands flocked to each event for years. Family commitments brought about the move to Texas, but Jordan kept traveling back to New Hampshire for his races.
While he loved the other events Timberman was, in his words, "my baby." Over the years, the event became a major race on the national triathlon scene, attracting some of the country's and world's top athletes. It became a can't-miss event for triathletes from all over.
In 2009, Jordan surprised many when he sold the Timberman and Mooseman races to the World Triathlon Corporation. There was some disappointment among local athletes who feared a loss of the local feel, but Jordan felt the time was right to turn the races over to WTC.
"The races were taking their toll on people around me and on me," he explained. "I didn't think we could continue at the level we wanted.
Jordan also found himself spending more time in Texas. That resulted in his selling the Big Lake Half Marathon and discontinuing the Black Fly Triathlon. WTC then discontinued Mooseman in 2012. The "end" of Jordan's reign in New Hampshire came when his website, Endorfunsports.com, which used to list all his races, was turned into a goodbye message in 2012. His parting words to Granite State athletes were: "Thanks to all of you for making this last 13 years the best of our lives, and thank you for all of the memories that will always be with us. Remember, it's not goodbye. It's see you later."
Most New Hampshire athletes will never race a Jordan event, but based on last week's turnout at Timberman, they will continue to race across the foundation Jordan laid.
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RUNNING SHORTS: The Timberman Half Iron winners were Andy Potts of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Melissa Hauschildt of Australia ... Big news on the New Hampshire road race scene. According to the website CoolRunning.com, this year's Applefest Half Marathon, set for its 31st running in Hollis on Oct. 5, will be the last. No reason for ending the race is given ... Speaking of races that are more than 30 years old, the winners of the Saunders at Rye Harbor 10K, held on Aug. 15, were Dover's Nathan Huppe and Kristen Courcelle of Colchester, Vt. ...The next major road race on the New Hampshire schedule is the St. Charles Children's Home 5K, taking place on Labor Day at Pease Tradeport in Portsmouth. The St. Charles race offers one of the most unique perks around: Anyone who runs or walks 5K PR receives a special personal-record award.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.