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Triathlete’s Best Places To Live 2011

No focus groups. No formal polls. Just a bunch of tri-obsessed editors debating the most desirable cities and towns for triathletes. Whether it’s agreeable weather, stunning scenery, unbeatable training spots, lively culture or low cost of living, these cities have it.

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No focus groups. No formal polls. Just a bunch of tri-obsessed editors debating the most desirable cities and towns for triathletes. Whether it’s agreeable weather, stunning scenery, unbeatable training spots, lively culture or low cost of living, these cities have it.

Written by: Sarah Wassner Flynn

Our favorite places to live were put under one of the three following categories.

Still the best: It might be cliché to include these cities in a list of the top tri towns, but with mountains, the ocean and year-round sun, they’re still the best. Can you blame us?

Best metropolitan areas: You won’t get wide-open spaces. And you may have to stash your bike in your kitchen. But what these cities lack in personal space, they make up for in a wealth of resources for triathletes.

Off the radar: They’ve got almost everything—except the recognition. These towns may not come to the front of most triathletes’ minds, but they will soon.

Boulder, Colorado

Categorized as: Still the best
Population: 98,062
Median Home Price: $370,500

The Scene: This is where you go to rub elbows—and share pool time—with some of the fastest athletes in the sport (Matty Reed, Julie Dibens, and Greg and Laura Bennett all call Boulder home). Even local businesses, such as
Bulumu Granola and D3 Energy Lab, are owned by triathletes.

The Selling Points: With the Rocky Mountains casting their glorious shadow over the Boulder Valley, the town is teeming with training grounds, from its biker-friendly canyon roads to easy access running trails. If you’re in the mood to shake things up, recently opened Valmont Bike Park is already considered one of the top off-road cycling spots in the country.

The Snags: While Boulder enjoys mild weather throughout most of the year, be prepared to deal with snow and ice in the winter. But c’mon—it’s Colorado.

Local Flavor: The hometown to many of the world’s best triathletes during the summer also houses one of the nation’s best sports medicine facilities, the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine ( Not only does the BCSM have experienced doctors specializing in endurance sports, they also offer services such as lactate testing, running gait analysis and coaching.

PHOTOS: Ironman 70.3 Boulder

Tucson, Arizona

Categorized as: Still the best
Population: 537,410
Median Home Price: $136,920

The Scene:
Thanks to its amiable climate, varied geography and high altitude (2,000 feet above sea level), Tucson is a triathlete’s playground. The town is home to a cadre of pros, such as Samantha McGlone, Hillary Biscay, Chris McDonald and T.J. Tollakson, and many clubs capitalize on Tucson’s temps and long stretches of roads during winter training camps.

The Selling Points:
500 miles of in-town bikeways, 27 public pools, and trails upon trails in Tucson Mountain District’s washes and foothills. And then there are the climbs: Claiming victory over the 6,000-foot, 19-mile ascent of Mount Lemmon is a badge of honor on par with an M-dot tattoo.

The Snags: Tucson is a sprawl city, so the drive from one side of town to another can cost you an hour. There’s also the intense heat, which makes it a less-than-ideal place to train at the height of summer.

Local Flavor: The Catalina highway zigzags 25 miles up Mount Lemmon from the city of Tucson to a high altitude pine forest that gets enough snow during the winter to support the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley ski hill. It stays cool enough during the summer to offer a little respite from Tucson’s notorious heat as well as a great workout with beautiful views.

Epic Ride: Mt. Lemmon

San Diego, California

Categorized as: Still the best
Population: 1,307,402
Median Home Price: $385,000

The Scene: Triathlon has been a staple here since Nixon was in the White House, and the community continues to thrive. San Diego Triathlon Club recently topped 2,800 members and new multisport-focused brands, like Soas Racing, and events, like TriRock San Diego (, crop up all the time.

The Selling Points: The Pacific Ocean. Coast Highway. The (nearly) eternal sunshine. Need we say more?

The Snags: There are plenty of beaches, sun and surf, but San Diego lacks the more rugged terrain. Off-road racers might prefer Northern California’s more mountainous regions.

Local Flavor: Situated just beneath one of the ritziest neighborhoods in San Diego, La Jolla Cove is one of many beautiful access points to the ocean along the Southern California coast. The things that make the Cove San Diego’s best open-water swimming location are the large crowds of swimmers and permanent distance-marking buoys.

PHOTOS: TriRock San Diego

New York, New York

Categorized as:Best metropolitan areas
Population: 8,323,261
Median Home Price: $458,960
Average Monthly Rent (2BR Apartment): $2,070–$2,890

The Scene: There’s a reason Chris “Macca” McCormack recently tweeted “New York is the new hub of multisport racing in the USA without question.” With dozens of triathlon clubs, shops and state-of-the-art training facilities, New York City is buzzing with all things multisport. NYC-based clubs such as Full Throttle Endurance boast some of the best age-groupers in the country, and, in 2012, the Big Apple will host a full Ironman race.

The Selling Points: Central Park’s 843 acres are a haven for cyclists and runners. While the rest of the city sleeps, triathletes run and ride around the park’s 6-mile loop, including the tough Harlem Hills. Throughout the summer, NYC Swim hosts open-water races in the Hudson River. And if you’re craving country air, the open roads of Westchester County and New Paltz (a favorite training spot for many clubs and elites) is just a short (car-share) drive away.

The Snags: New Yorkers admit that it’s not for everyone. The crowds, the grit and the ridiculous rent prices can be enough to make anyone run to Long Island.

Local Flavor: The day before the Nautica New York City Triathlon (, hundreds of triathletes race through Central Park wearing a lot less than a tri kit for the Jamaica Underwear Run—the world’s biggest gathering of folks in their skivvies.

PHOTOS: Nautica NYC Triathlon

Washington, D.C.

Categorized as: Best metropolitan areas
Population: 591,221
Median Home Price: $340,360
Average Monthly Rent (2BR Apartment): $1,490–$2,030

The Scene: D.C. is a late-bloomer in the tri scene, but it’s making up for lost time. The 1,200-member strong D.C Tri Club has picked up five consecutive Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, and the 4-year-old Nation’s Triathlon is one of the fastest-growing races in the country. Leading the charge is the city’s former mayor, Adrian Fenty, who inspired his constituents by competing as an age-grouper (a fast one) while in office.

The Selling Points: In D.C., you have your pick of places to train, from the paths hugging the Potomac River to Rock Creek Park, a network of trails that make you forget you’re training in an urban area. And you’ll probably never get over the breathtaking sights of running and riding past the city’s monuments at sunrise.

The Snags: Topics of conversations tend to be divided between red and blue lines, so stay away if you don’t like talking politics on your tempo run. And if you live outside the city, traffic can make your commute tortuously slow.

Local Flavor: Conte’s Bike Shop’s Tuesday night ride is so popular, police cars escort cyclists through the streets of Arlington, Va., just outside of the city. Check out the store’s free barbecue after the first ride of each month (

PHOTOS: Washington D.C. Triathlon

Chicago, Illinois

Categorized as: Best metropolitan areas
Population: 2,826,430
Median Home Price: $220,470
Average Monthly Rent (2BR Apartment): $1,420–$1,840

The Scene: Home to the nation’s largest triathlon (the Life Time Chicago Triathlon welcomes more than 8,000 registrants each year), the sport is as pervasive in the Windy City as deep-dish pizza. Among the thriving clubs throughout the city, MultiSport Madness—based in the suburb of Geneva—continually churns out the country’s top junior talent.

The Selling Points: With Lake Michigan, there’s access to open water practically wherever you roam in Chicago. Favorite spots among triathletes include the Ohio Street and North Avenue beaches. Plus, the 18-mile paved path next to the lake offers water and city views without a stoplight to slow you down.

The Snags: Two words: cold weather. The chill of the winter can carry over into late spring, making it especially challenging to get in quality outdoor workouts. Plus, as with most cities, cyclists and runners tend to do battle with meandering tourists on the public pathways.

Local Flavor: The Chicago Triathlon ( tracks up and down Lake Michigan along Lake Shore Drive and past Soldier Field while offering spectacular views of the Midwest’s biggest city for you and thousands of your fellow racers.

PHOTOS: Life Time Chicago Triathlon

Boise, Idaho

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 205,671
Median Home Price: $162,804

The Scene:
Mild weather? Check. Ample options for outdoor activity? Check. Cool coffeehouses and shops? Check. More and more triathletes are turning up to test Boise’s vast terrain—and deciding to stick around.

The Selling Points: It’s not called the “City of Trees” for nothing: Boise boasts nearly 2,000 acres of parks. Cyclists ride the 16-mile Bogus Basin hill climb (the same route pro cyclist Kristin Armstrong trained on before snagging gold in Beijing), and you can log an epic run along some of the 35 miles of trails dissecting the Rocky Foothills. Another Boise bonus: The city sees very little rain or snow—a surprising average of 12 inches per year.

The Snags: While you may be able to buy a home here for a steal, making a return on your investment is another story: At 15.2 percent, Idaho leads the nation in home value depreciation.

Local Flavor: Runners flock to the Boise River Greenbelt (, which follows the river through the heart of the city. With markers at every half-mile, this shady stretch of pavement is ideal for fartlek and speed work.

PHOTOS: Ironman 70.3 Boise

Anchorage, Alaska

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 286,867
Median Home Price: $242,550

The Scene: Alaska may not scream “Tri Town USA,” but plenty of triathletes run and bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (which traces the coast around downtown Anchorage) and hit up local running shop Skinny Raven. Last year, 1,500 women participated in the city’s Gold Nugget Triathlon. The Xterra Hammerman is another popular race.

The Selling Points: Spring through fall, Anchorage’s climate is similar to San Francisco’s, with balmy 65-degree weather in the summer. And the summer solstice gives you extra daylight hours to take advantage of Anchorage’s 10,000 acres of parks and 400 miles of trails. Bonus: Anchorage is expected to gain 1,100 jobs this year.

The Snags: Again, it’s Alaska, so it can be isolating—and unless you love long travel days, it’s not an ideal place to live if your extended family is in, say, Cincinnati.

Local Flavor:
Each June on the summer solstice, Anchorage hosts the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon (, giving runners plenty of daylight—24 hours, to be exact—to admire the scenic course.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 143,986
Median Home Price: $264,290

The Scene: If Boulder is the sparkling gem for triathletes in Colorado, Fort Collins is a diamond in the rough. Home to Colorado State University, the cycling scene has been hot here for years, but the tri community is finally catching up.

The Selling Points:
With 29 miles of bike trails and the annual Fort Collins Cycling Festival showcasing competitive bike racing, it’s hard to find an excuse not to ride here—or a group to ride with. Areas like the Horsetooth Reservoir and Lory State Park offer shaded trails, while you can ride along interstate I-25 for miles in a bike lane. And the dozens of local microbreweries in town (earning Fort Collins the nickname “The Napa Valley of Beer”) give you even more of a reason to work up a thirst.

The Snags: Faced with budget cuts, last year Fort Collins’ Poudre School District laid off 139 full-time employees.

Local Flavor: Check out the much-loved New Belgium Brewery (, makers of Fat Tire Amber Ale. But reserve a tour early—it’s so popular that spots fill up a month in advance.

Columbia, Missouri

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 99,582
Median Home Price: $121,970

The Scene: Sandwiched between St. Louis and Kansas City, Columbia is home to three colleges, including the University of Missouri.

The Selling Points: Open roads, rolling hills and access to the Katy Trail, the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project, can all be found in Columbia. Swimmers love Mizzou’s pool (arguably the fastest in the world), and the college culture fuels a thriving arts and music scene.

The Snags: Columbia’s high humidity lends itself to sticky summers. And though mid-Missouri isn’t a hotbed of tornado activity, the area has its share of twisters: Historically, the Columbia-area tornado activity is about 60 percent greater than the U.S. average.

Local Flavor: With more than 600 participants this year, The University of Missouri Orthopedic Institute TriZou Triathlon (, held each May, is one of the largest pool swim triathlons in the nation.

Mammoth Lakes, California

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 7,869
Median Home Price: $348,880

The Scene: Like Flagstaff, Ariz., Mammoth Lakes is a training destination for many of the country’s elite distance runners such as Ryan Hall. But recently, the resort town has emerged as a hotspot for triathletes thanks to its high elevation and rugged terrain.

The Selling Points:
Picture this: snow-capped mountain peaks, peaceful forests and bald eagles soaring above you while you hammer out a tempo run or pedal the lung-burning climb to the Minaret Vista. The Whitmore Pool is fed by natural hot springs and offers a 360-degree view of the Eastern Sierra. And the June Lake Triathlon each July is a must-do.

The Snags: Mammoth Lakes’ 12.2 percent unemployment rate is above the national average, and in recent years jobs have decreased by 6 percent.

Local Flavor:
Mammoth lakes and the surrounding areas are filled with spectacular trails and roads. provides maps and directions to routes.

VIDEO: Training Day With Josh Cox In Mammoth Lakes

Provo-Orem, Utah

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 122,484
Median Home Price: $140,380

The Scene:
Since the launch of the Utah Half five years ago, triathlon participation has been booming. Athletic college kids from Brigham Young and Utah Valley University (both of which have competitive tri clubs) have further bolstered the community.

The Selling Points: Nestled alongside the Provo River between Utah Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range, there are plenty of hills to run and ride up and lakes to swim in. BYU’s facilities are top-notch, and for a change of pace, the mountain biking hub of Moab is only a three-hour drive away. Plus, with both BYU and Utah Valley University nearby, the job market is strong, especially in the tech space.

The Snags: Many of the roads weren’t built with cyclists in mind. Some major stretches of asphalt in and around Provo and Orem have zero shoulders, so riders have to take extra caution.

Local Flavor: Provo tri shop T3 Triathlon ( hosts a trio of local races, including the Turkey Triathlon, featuring a “splash” distance in reverse order, with the 350-meter swim last.

Sacramento, California

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 1,400,949
Median Home Price: $192,950

The Scene: Sacramento may not be as sexy as say, San Diego, but California’s capital has its own appeal. The city’s Golden State Triathlon, held each October, is California’s only crit-style sprint tri, with a draft-legal bike course. Legendary Ironman champ Dave Scott, a native of nearby Davis, teaches a clinic at the city’s Swimstitute each year.

The Selling Points: Despite its mostly urban environs, Sacramento is rife with a variety of places to get your workout on. There are ample parks, multiple lakes, the American and Sacramento rivers for open-water swims and the 32-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail. Known as one of the sunniest cities in the country, Sactown averages 188 clear days per year.

The Snags: For all of that sunshine, there’s still a dark cloud hanging over Sacramento: The city has struggled with declining home prices, rising unemployment and high taxes (much like the rest of California).

Local Flavor: Throughout the summer, coaching group Total Intensity Sports ( and bike shop Kinetic Cycles host a weekly 10-mile time trial series along the Sacramento River. Cash prizes and coveted gear like Zipp wheels and TT frames are up for grabs for top point-getters.

Portland, Oregon

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 583,776
Median Home Price: $230,000

The Scene: Cyclists and triathletes are everywhere in Portland: gathered together at coffee shops (Stumptown Coffee Roasters is a favorite); tossing back a couple of cold ones at one of the 50-something microbreweries in town; hanging out at The Athlete’s Lounge—part retail shop, part training center and the epicenter for all things tri in Portland. Plus, the city landed an elite race with the inaugural Rev3 taking place here in July.

The Selling Points:
Bike five minutes from Portland and you’ll reach rural roads with very little traffic. Forest Park—the largest wooded city park in the United States—is here, featuring the 30-mile Wildwood Trail. And all of that rain you hear about? It mostly falls between November and March, with the rest of the year soaked with sunshine, pleasant temps and low humidity.

The Snags: With no local lakes and the chilly temps of Portland’s rivers (the Willamette River averages around 69 degrees in late August), open water spots are hard to come by. Locals lament traveling up to an hour to swim in more welcoming waters.

Local Flavor:
With 324 miles of bikeways, bike racks at every corner, café and bar, and a fixie-loving hipster population, Portland is a two-wheeled commuter’s paradise.

PHOTOS: Rev3 Portland Triathlon

Burlington, Vermont

Categorized as: Off the radar
Population: 42,417
Median Home Price: $286,000

The Scene: An area much more well-known for its winter sports, Burlington is emerging as a triathlon-friendly locale. The host of the 2011 and 2012 USA Triathlon National Championships, this town will soon be very grateful for the sport, which is expected to pour more than $2 million into Burlington’s economy.

The Selling Points: Sure, there’s snow on the ground from October to April, but once the thaw hits, you can grind out your miles in Red Rocks Park or explore some of the 1,300 miles of cycling routes on the Lake Champlain Bikeways (or cross-country ski your heart out all winter long). Locavores will love the organic produce from Burlington’s Farmers’ Market, open May through September.

The Snags: Burlington’s full of college kids, ski bums, artists and musicians. (The band Phish got its start here in 1983.) Very cool for some, but if you prefer the straight and narrow, Burlington’s free-spirited vibe may not be the perfect fit.

Local Flavor: Winter doesn’t mean training indoors with the Catamount cross-country trail nearby. At 300 miles and spanning the length of Vermont, it’s the longest cross-country ski trail in the nation.

Video: 4X World Champion Mirinda Carfrae Makes Her Picks for 70.3 Chattanooga

Carfrae and former pro Patrick Mckeon break down the iconic course in Chattanooga, who looks good for the pro women's race, and their predictions for how the day will play out.