Outdoor enthusiasts in Lodi appreciate the rare opportunity of sitting in their own backyards.
For many in the area, Lodi Lake, and its surrounding wilderness area that includes the flowing waters of the Mokelumne River, is a favorite location for recreation.
On Saturday, the spot will feature an event the likes of which have never been seen before with the hopes of not only getting more locals to appreciate the park, but attracting some attention from out of town as well.
The Mokulemne River Adventure Challenge, a swim, run, kayak triathlon, will make its debut at Lodi Lake Park in what event coordinator Alan MacIsaac hopes will be the start of an annual tradition.
MacIsaac, who runs the river awareness website www.mokelumneriver.com, tailor-made the event to fit the Lodi Lake area. It starts with a 0.6-mile swim in Lodi Lake, then includes a 3-mile run through the Lodi Lake Nature Area to the north side boat launch, and then concludes with a 7-mile round-trip kayak up the Mokelumne River to the Highway 99 overpass and back to the finish line at Patterson Point.
The distances are shorter than a traditional triathlon, which also usually includes a swim, run and bike ride. MacIsaac said the course allows for more recreational participants to compete, as either individuals or as part of a team, and not just Ironman-like competitors.
"It fits in the footprint of Lodi Lake and the wilderness area and the river that's all enclosed," MacIsaac said. "For the recreationalist, especially teens, it's great. If you are doing all three, you have to be a pretty good athlete. Or you can find one decent swimmer and one decent runner and one decent kayaker to make a team. The hardest part is getting a boat."
Although the number of entries already registered is lower than the 100 participants MacIsaac was hoping for when he first announced the event six months ago, he did say he had about 10 three-person teams and another 6-10 individuals signed up just days before the inaugural event is set to launch.
"Registrations could be a little stronger, but it's a first-year event so we are not complaining," he said. "If we get a few more stragglers coming in, great. If not, we are going to have a hell of an event for the people we have. It's very professional, it's very safe and very well-organized."
Registration is being accepted through midnight tonight at www.active.com. There will also be race-day registration, but competitors have to have kayaks. The Lodi Parks and Recreation Department has a handful of boats available to rent, but anyone who is interested in doing so must e-mail Dan White at email@example.com today to secure a rental. Costs to compete in the event vary from $35-$150, depending on division and team vs. individual participants.
MacIsaac said some of the competitors signed up so far are local, while others are coming from Sacramento, Stockton and even the Bay Area. He admits it's taken a lot of work to get all the details lined up for the race this year, but hopes that he has built a foundation to build off of. He hopes someday it can be like Sacramento's Eppie's Great Race, a run, bike, kayak triathlon that will feature its 37th annual race this summer at the American River Parkway.
"We have the blueprint now. If 10 teams do it this year, and 100 teams do it the next year, that would be great," he said. "It could be the next Eppie's Great Race. It's a great opportunity for the city, for hotels, for restaurants. People are going to come here and spend money."
Pat Patrick, the president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, hopes to see the event succeed and grow every year.
"I think it is going to have a great effect on Lodi," Patrick said. "It has the potential to unveil one of our greatest hidden accents. As visitors come to town, they often don't see the Mokelumne River, or if they don't drive down Turner Road, may miss Lodi Lake. Certainly anyone who has seen it knows that it's a jewel. It's a beautiful resource."
Lodi's Chris Brown, a longtime Eppie's Great Race participant, is looking forward to the inaugural event. Living less than a mile from the Mokelumne River, he is excited not to have to travel very far to compete.
"It is awesome. It's perfect," Brown said. "It is going to be a good event for the community and it is something we can build on. If you look at what happened to the Eppie's Great Race in Sacramento, it's huge. Hopefully we can build this up."
About the Mokelumne River Challenge
What: The inaugural Mokelumne River Challenge is a multi-sport event, sort of like an alternative triathlon, that includes a swim, a run and a kayak trip.
Where: The course is enclosed in Lodi Lake Park. The 0.6-mile swim is in Lodi Lake, the 3-mile run goes through the Lodi Lake Nature Area and then concludes with a 7-mile round-trip kayak up the Mokelumne River.
When: Saturday, 8 a.m.
Cost: $35-$150 depending on division and individual vs. team participants.
To register: Go to www.active.com. Race-day registration will be available, but participants need to have kayaks. The Lodi Parks and Recreation Department has a handful of boats available to rent, but anyone who is interested in doing so must e-mail Dan White at firstname.lastname@example.org today to secure a rental.
Brown is going to be competing as part of a three-person team, the same he does the Eppie's with. Brown is the kayaker of the team, but admitted that training for the Mokelumne River Challenge has been hard with the rainy and windy weather of late. But he also said he's still been hitting the gym four or five times a week to try to stay in shape for the event.
While the distance of the Eppie's kayak, which is 6.35 miles, is pretty close to that of the Mokelumne River Challenge, he said the water is much different. He's been out on the course's section of the Mokelumne before, but he's ready to see what it's like to race on it.
"I have been out there and done that section of the river many times, but I haven't pushed it hard as if I was going against the clock," he said.