Putting A New Spin On Triathlons

Kalani Vierra, Chrissy Schecter, Mitch Lee, Alexa, Joel and Andreas Ehrlich, Christy Jo Williams, Joe Williams and Carol Peacock Williams are all ready for the upcoming Garden Isle Tri Festival

Joe Williams and Carol Peacock Williams are coordinators of the Garden Island Tri Festival March 12-13, a benefit for Kaua’i Charities

Anyone who’s ever trained for a marathon, triathlon or any other race knows that it can become a healthy – and addictive – habit.

That’s the case for Carol Peacock Williams and Joe Williams, who have had athleticism in common for the past 30 years, and want to share that passion with others.

The couple has brought a new triathlon and standup-paddling race to the island with their upcoming Garden Isle Tri Festival, scheduled for March 12 and 13.

The event, which starts at Kaua’i Marriott Resort fronting Kalapaki Bay and benefits Kaua’i Independent Food Bank and Rotary Club Island Scholarships, puts a new spin on the idea of triathlons in general.

That’s because unlike other Kaua’i races, this series has added keiki activities and standup paddleboarding to the mix, the latter of which is thanks to the help of waterman and standup-paddling veteran Kalani Vierra.

Though Williams’idea was originally to put on a duathlon, it has since evolved into something more interesting than that, Peacock-Williams says.

“We’ve been taking suggestions,” she says, noting athletes have been “coming out of the woodwork.”

The festival includes an Olympic and sprint triathlon, sprint duathlon, keiki, youth and junior triathlons (for ages 7-19), 5K and 10K runs and a paddleboard challenge.

Vierra, head lifeguard for the county, will handle the safety of those swimming in the race, along with coordinating the standup-paddle race details.

“We’re going to have three lifeguards working, a variety of buoys stationed throughout the bay here, and will be doing a crisscross, zig-zag pattern, and will position the lifeguards in between the buoys,” Vierra says. “We’re going to make sure everybody is having a good time and doing it safely.”

Vierra, who got into standup paddleboarding about eight years ago after seeing others doing so in Waikiki, says he fashioned his own paddle and used a longboard in those early days. Of course, that was back before standup paddle-boards became such a hot commodity.

“I was one of the few guys who started back then,” Vierra says. “It was kind of popular on Oahu and probably only a handful of guys were doing it here. When I started, people were going, ‘Eh, what are you doing?’Standup paddling is so popular now. It’s the fastest-growing recreational sport. That’s why I think it’s such a good idea to have it in this event.”

Joe Williams walks a 5k

The event is not exclusively for those who have been doing the sport for a long time, but for novices, too.

“It’s not going to be for the fastest guys in the world,” Vierra says. “It’s something fun. And what perfect place to do it, on Kalapaki Bay. It’s a good area for beginners.”

That’s what Williams thought, too, when he envisioned creating this event and approached partners, including Wilcox Hospital, Island School and Kaua’i Marriott Resort.

“(If you) look at the month of March, there aren’t a lot of sporting events going on,” Williams says, noting he also picked this time of year because it corresponds with the end of the wet (ho’oilo) season.

Williams, a self-admitted “non-water person,” says he wanted to offer an event that wasn’t centered around water activities.

“I’m a runner and a biker,” Williams says, noting that being a transplant from Texas, he’s used to competing in several duathlons a year, and that while there is opportunity to compete in duathlons on Oahu, there isn’t that much opportunity to do so on Kaua’i.

“You’ve got a max of five triathlons a year,” he says, noting he wanted to do something different. “Ours is basically a family weekend, and, of course, it benefits charity.”

Williams expects to raise a minimum of $2,000 for Kaua’i Food Bank this year. “This is a not-for-profit deal,” he says. “I’m financing it, but we want to break even and give everything else to charities.”

Though it’s been somewhat fast and furious for those involved in getting the tri festival off the ground (Williams says they officially launched the idea a short four months ago, an admitted mistake), the race is on track for some 350 participants.

Referring to Kaua’i Marathon as a classy event, Williams says he aims to be on the same level of professionalism, although not at the same scale.

“That’s ultimately where I want to be,” he says.

And registrants coming from Neighbor Islands and the Mainland will help contribute to the overall Kaua’i economy is an added bonus.

“We’ve got people from Chicago, Canada, California, Washington,” he says.

A bonus for visiting athletes is those using their own bikes will get a 50 percent discount on their entry fee via reimbursement for shipping, Williams says, noting that because this race qualifies as a series of official USATriathlon events, participants will be able to accumulate points and be entered into the nationally ranked system, enabling them to qualify for other events.

“Not every triathlon has to be a USAT event, but it certainly helps because even an old man like me can be ranked,” Williams says, tongue in cheek.

Noting he is hoping for a good turnout, he says that the event won’t be successful without the participation of the local community and hopes this will help enable the further betterment of other races on-island.

“We’re trying to bring in some other possibilities,” Williams says. “If you only have the same five triathlons every year, that’s all you’ve got. You don’t have any competition, and you don’t have to improve.”

For more information, go to https://gardenisletrifest.com.

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