I first lined up to compete in the Toad Suck Tri about 10 years ago, back when it was just the CATS Sprint Tri. I did the race a couple of times over the years and my daughter did it once as part of a relay. It was smaller back then with just the sprint triathlon as the only event of the day. It was also the first race where my wife, Lisa, yelled, “hurry up and finish so we can go home,” she’s always been supportive. That phrase has been a touchstone of races ever since.
The event is now hosted by DLT Events at Beaverfork Lake just north of Conway, Arkansas and involves both the sprint and Olympic distance triathlon plus a duathlon, aqua-bike and distance swim. With food and music at the finish line it’s turned into an event that we wouldn’t be in such a hurry to leave anymore. Gary Taylor of Go! Running who’s been doing the race for about 10 years, told me, “This is one of my favorite tri’s, the finish is a great party.” Another reason he enjoys this race is he’s pretty good at it winning the Grand Masters division of the sprint this year.
It was a beautiful morning for a race, the lake was smooth as glass and as the sun rose on the far side and a flock of canada geese crossed in formation the stage was set. Swimmers trickled down to the beach area that would serve as the start, a few went out and took a few strokes to warm up. The start of the swim would head directly into the sun making spotting the turn buoys tough due to glare but the last half would be faster.
The first group to go was a combination of the Olympic distance race, the open water swimmers and aqua-bike (swim-bike only). They all went at once with no staging by age group. The swim course went the opposite direction from the last time I raced here and now goes counter-clockwise like a NASCAR race. The Sprint Tri which serves as the State Triathlon Championship started in age group waves about half an hour later to keep the beginning spread out but everyone finishing a little closer together.
As the swimmers come out of the water they run up a carpeted hill to the transition area where they switched to bicycles. Just about every kind of bike you could imagine was there, mountain bikes to high-tech time trial/triathlon bikes. The course headed north for an out and back giving competitors the chance to see where their competition was.
Once back at the transition area the run portion went south and west, an improvement over the early days of the race where cyclists and runners had to share the road with occasional groups of cars coming through. I remember it getting a little crazy as racers neared the transition. That is thankfully fixed now.
DLT events used No Limits Timing for the event allowing them to announce finishers as they approached the finish line. The race is very spectator friendly allowing fans to watch from several vantage points near the transition as participants headed in and out of transition and into the finish. Results for the race are available at No Limits Timing.
The first 100 finishers were greeted with finisher medals and everyone had access to hotdogs and hamburgers fresh off the grill and an assortment of other foods and beverages. The familiar classic rock music was blasting across the park while families and racers visited. When I finally started walking away from the party all I could think of was how I really
want need to get back to competing in this event.
The Toad Suck Triathlon is part of the Windstream Triathlon Series, the next race in the series is the Heber Springs Triathlon.