For 12 years, athletes have been gathering in the backwoods of Daviess County on the second Saturday in June for a race that impacts far more people than just the participants. Since 2003, the town of Whitesville has played host to a triathlon that sees hundreds of participants. To be more precise, the race is held on the Anderson family property, near the small community known as Lakewood Valley.

In the early 1970’s, Richard Anderson saw potential for the densely-wooded land, which began as a project to help his sons learn how to manage and buy property. Their task: find enough land to build a lake that could be used to race very fast boats. Over the years, tennis courts were built, over 90,000 trees were planted, and several miles of roads and trails were added to the remote property. In 2003, the family decided to begin a partnership with the YMCA, creating the Lakewood Valley Triathlon. Every year the Anderson family continues to make improvements to the property, adding parking lots, maintaining trails, and even laying concrete at the portion of the lake where participants enter and exit for the swim portion of the race.

Anywhere from 200 to nearly 500 people participate in the annual race. Proceeds go to the YMCA in Owensboro to support the financial assistance program. With a budget of well over $100,000, the assistance program does just that – it provides families who can’t afford to use the YMCA’s services with financial assistance so they have someplace to exercise and spend time.

“We serve all,” said Corey Gant. “It doesn’t matter what your income level might be.”

Gant is the Membership Coordinator for the Owensboro YMCA, and served as the director of the Lakewood Valley Triathlon until 2010.

“I’m not a long distance runner,” he said. “It amazes me to see the people who come out every year for this race.”

Still, Gant says the numbers are dwindling as local residents who have run the race in years past start looking further and further outside Daviess County for their next challenge. That’s why this year, for the first time, the Lakewood Valley Triathlon is being advertised to a national audience on a national stage.

“There’s a lot of potential there,” according to Gant. “If you’re going to do this race, most likely you’re going to have to come in the night before and stay in Owensboro.”

That’s music to the ears of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, who would like out-of-town race participants to come to Owensboro. For the CVB, it’s about putting “heads in beds” and having events like the Lakewood Valley race help make that idea a reality. In years past, the race has garnered entries from as far away as Texas and Florida, but that was by word of mouth. Gant says by placing information about the race in national publications, the potential to catch the attention of people who have never heard of Owensboro (let alone Lakewood Valley) increases dramatically.

“We’re really trying to broaden our range and get more people in here for this race,” Gant exclaims. “Owensboro is really going through a growth right now and the city is trying to attract new events and we’re just trying to ride on those coattails.”

The more participants the race sees and the more corporate sponsors that step up to help with the cost directly correlates with the amount of assistance the YMCA has for those underprivileged families.

What about the course?
The race is a half-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run. It’s referred to as a “Sprint Triathlon” based on its distance, and for all you die-hard runners out there, you get credit with the USA Triathlon Committee for running this race. Along with the race each year, the YMCA hosts a triathlon training class led by several of the facility’s staff. Gant says this year’s class is the largest since the training program began. The class helps participants train for the race and lasts five months starting each year in January and meets three days a week.

How do you sign up?
You can register online at doactivities.com, go to the events tab on the homepage, and search for the Lakewood Valley Triathlon. Early registration is now opened and runs through May 17. The cost: $65.00 for individual contestants and $120.00 for relay teams. After May 17, the price goes up to $80.00 for individuals and $150.00 for teams; registration stays open until June 4. There are categories for all ages ranging from 15 to over 70 years old.

Gant says the race really wouldn’t be possible without the generous support from sponsors every year. Currently, the YMCA is looking for sponsors, which help offset the cost of putting together the event so more of the money raised from entries can go to the family assistance program.

“Logistically it’s about a week and a half setup for the event,” said Gant. “We’ll be out there several times in the two weeks leading up to the race. We’re [YMCA staff] responsible for signage, setting up bike racks. It’s not a bad process. We’ve done it so many times now it has become routine.”

Gant replies that race officials really started planning this year’s event soon after the last contestant had crossed the finish line last year. This year’s race will be June 14.