Tri Spudman

Three Decades of Triathlons

By Alice Schenk

This would be my thirtieth Spudman, and as in all the others before it, I intended to bring home a trophy. 

If you finish in the top three in your division at Spudman, you get a ceramic trophy spud, homemade by Burley resident Sandy Baker.  She spends about eight months pouring molds, coloring, firing in the kiln, glazing, firing again, and then painting every iconic Spudman by hand, eyelashes and all—that’s about two hundred spuds every year, for thirty-three years.

The Spudman is an Olympic-distance triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) and a hometown race, even though more than seventy percent of its competitors come from Utah. It’s such a family-friendly event that last year a new “wave” or heat called “Family and Friends” was instituted. No podium awards are given for Family and Friends, just finisher medals and shirts. Each wave has about three hundred swimmers, grouped by age. Waves start every ten minutes, to make sure the biking course doesn’t get overcrowded, so drafting is less likely to occur, and also to accommodate athletes in the smaller transition areas.

Back in 1990, Spudman was recognized by Triathlete Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Must-Do Small Town Triathlons” in the USA.  The event’s original T-shirts were captivating: three potatoes ready to swim, bike, and run across the front of the shirt.  Fittingly, the biking portion of the race is near Declo, former home of J.R. Simplot.  I worked in his potato processing plant for a couple of summers after high school.

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