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Favorite Local Races Of The Pros

We polled top pros to find out what grassroots tris they love to race—not for points or a prize purse, but for the love of the sport.

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With Ironman, Rev3 and Life Time Fitness races constantly popping up around the country, athletes are not hurting for race options. We decided to poll some top pro triathletes to find out what local, grassroots races they love to race—not for points or a prize purse, but just for the love of the sport. Here are some races you should consider adding to your racing bucket list.

Linsey Corbin
Based in: Missoula, Mont.
Results: 2010 Ironman Coeur d’Alene champion

“I just love racing the Grizzly Triathlon (Grizzlytri.com), Montana’s largest triathlon that has been going on for 24 years. I first volunteered at the 2004 event and that really opened my eyes to the sport. I went back in 2005 and raced and just was in awe at the span of abilities that showed up on the day—from beginners on MTB to the pros in the “elite wave.” The reason I keep coming back is the race is the epitome of what our sport is all about. I love encouraging others to try something new, be active and what better venue than a local, grassroots event? A highlight of the race is the trophies: giant river rocks for the top three finishers.”

RELATED: Linsey Corbin From San Diego

Kelly Williamson
Based in: Austin, Texas
Results: 2012 Ironman 70.3 Texas champion

“I am going to go for Skeese Greets Triathlon (Skeesegreetstri.com). It’s run by Stacy Keese, who is the wife of the ‘Jack’ of Jack & Adams bike shop. She has a greeting card company, and every spring she puts on an all-women’s tri. It’s a 300-meter swim, 11-mile bike and 2-mile run. I love this race. It encourages all women of all ages, shapes and sizes to come out and partake. It is an awesome, nonjudgmental environment for women, especially first-timers, and the distances are that which even if you have never even considered a triathlon, you can wrap your head around. Given all the super-competitive races that I do all year, there is nothing better than doing Stacy’s race, as it takes me back to why I started these things 10 years ago—because they are fun!”

RELATED: Kelly Williamson Post-Texas 70.3 Interview

T.J. Tollakson
Based in: Des Moines, Iowa (and Tucson, Ariz., part of the year)
Results: 2011 Ironman Lake Placid winner

“My favorite race in Iowa is a small sprint race in Des Moines called Copper Creek (Coppercreektri.com). It is a true sprint tri with a 750m swim, 20K bike, and 5K run. The swim is in an old gravel quarry, so it is one of cleanest open-water swims in the Midwest. The bike course has a couple of good hills for a challenge, and the run takes athletes through the small golf course community and loops around the lake for the finish. I love that Copper Creek has so many young junior athletes at the event. The sprint distance is very inviting to first-time athletes yet offers a very competitive field of local elites.”

RELATED – T.J. Tollakson: The Idea Man

Sara McLarty
Based in: Clermont, Fla.
Results: 2010 Life Time Fitness Race to the Toyota Cup winner

“I have to give a shout-out to the local race! The Great Clermont Triathlon hosted by Sommer Sports (Triflorida.com), Olympic distance. This was the 29th year of the event. I grew up doing this race (and others hosted by Sommer Sports). Clermont is a great winter training ground for triathlon and this is one of the earliest Olympic-distance races on the calendar. It’s also got some decent rolling hills on the bike course that people from out of town can be surprised by! On a side note, I live 200 meters from transition area and can hear the start of every race all summer long.”

RELATED – Sara’s Slam: Are Kicking Sets That Important?

Meredith Kessler
Based in: San Francisco
Results: 2010 Ironman Canada winner

“The full [iron-distance] Vineman (Vineman.com). I have done this race probably eight times as an amateur and think it is one of the best (and most challenging) full-distance triathlons in the nation. Of course I am biased because it is right in wine country (which I clearly admire wholeheartedly) so how could you not love the race? Truly, it is a one-of-a-kind venue and race that offers pristine scenery of vineyards upon vineyards with very challenging hills on the bike course that will knock your socks off! The two-loop run out to La Crema Winery has enough inclines to make it legit combined with the Russian River Valley heat in August, but the surrounding environment and the crowd support help motivate the athletes to get to the finish line.”

RELATED – Meredith Kessler: Life In The Purplepatch

Lesley Paterson
Based in: San Diego
Results: 2011 Xterra world champion

“The Xterra Mission Gorge Trail Run (Trailrace.com/missiongorge). It’s a super fun race as they take you up this really steep technical terrain and the famous steps up to the vantage point on Mission Trails. It’s always baking hot and you get to see parts of San Diego you never see, plus it’s a brutal workout. You get all the road runners showing up and while they can often keep up running up the hills, they get their asses handed to them on the way down!”

RELATED: Sh*t Triathletes DON’T Say

Jesse Thomas
Based in: Eugene, Ore.
Results: 2011 Wildflower Long Course champion

“The Rolf Prima Tri at the Grove (in Cottage Grove, Ore., July 28, Rolfprima.com/tatg). It’s a super fun, easy going, and purely Oregon experience. It’s produced by the guys at Rolf Prima, who not only make awesome hand-built wheels, but are a small Eugene company and my first sponsor. Late July in Oregon is beautiful, and Cottage Grove Lake is absolutely spectacular. It’s mostly local racers just having a great time enjoying the sun. Last year Graham O’Grady and I raced on separate relay teams for charity. Kate Bevilaqua and Mackenzie Madison raced the Olympic, and Heather and Trevor Wurtele lead a practice swim. All of us were there to support the community. It was a blast.”

Pick up the May issue of Triathlete, on newsstands now, for more insights into races around the world.