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It Takes A Village.

What a year 2022 has been! When we ended the 2021 race season, we had put on three successful events and were looking forward to expanding just a little bit, maybe adding a race or two. But by the start of the year, we had added “Ugly Dog Gravel Tri”, “Waterloo G+G” and created “The Dirty Mitten Bike Race”. We were also making behind-the-scenes plans for the new “Rode To Hell” and the newly acquired “The Brainy Day Trail Run”. Our modest expansion plans went out the window, but for anyone who has come to know our co-owners Jon Conkling and John Mosey, this may not seem surprising.
The expression, “it takes a village”, is true of putting on a successful event. It doesn’t matter if the event is an 80-person trail run or a 1,500-person triathlon. We can think of the biggest and craziest ideas all day long, but they mean nothing without our sponsors, the Tris4Health team, race champions and scores of volunteers who are critical to making events a reality. This massive group effort is the reason we have been able to pull off a successful eight-event season in 2022.
Going into 2023, we look forward to improving our existing events and are excited to bring Fondo back to Grand Rapids as the new GR Gran Fondo. We hope to see you at many of our starting lines and we thank you for racing with us this past year.
But before we jump into the new year, we wanted to take a moment and think back on some of our favorite memories from the year.
So, in no particular order here our our top-10 event moments of 2022!

1. Putting on our first single-sport event at Waterloo G+G.

While our name is “Tris4Health”, we are more than just triathlons. Our goal has always been to expand into single-sport events.

We are huge gravel fans, so when the opportunity to take over Waterloo G+G (previously owned by Epic Races) was presented to us, it was a no-brainer. As this would be the first time putting on a single-sport event, we were excited to put our spin on Waterloo G+G.

It’s safe to say that a large majority of triathletes tend to be “Type A” and are very organized and meticulous about race-day preparations. Cyclists are a different breed, however. A large number of you showed up on race day with just enough time to grab your packet and get to the starting line. You also don’t expect much. The amount of you who were surprised when we explained that “yes you don’t have to pay extra for the shirt”, or “yes, you can have that post-event banana for free” was shocking. We definitely enjoyed the more laid-back energy that gravel riders bring.

2. Gatorade Shower at Ugly Dog.

Another first-time event for us this year was Ugly Dog Gravel Triathlon, also previously owned by Epic Races. Ugly Dog is the perfect companion event to our gravel triathlon, The Dirty Mitten. As this event was held at the same venue as Waterloo G+G, we were already familiar with the setup location. 

This event ended up being a huge all-hands on deck type of event for our T4H team. We didn’t have a ton of volunteers, so our team really stepped up and put this event on from start to finish.

Because of the amazing partnership with Ugly Dog Distillery, the awards for this event were probably our favorite. A bottle of premium vodka and a custom whiskey glass? Top-notch. 

When it came time to celebrate yet another accomplished first-time event, the only appropriate act was to dump a whole cooler of gatorade on our unsuspecting Race Directors, Jon and John. 

3. Grand Rapids Triathlon Gets a Beer Tent.

Since 2011, GRTri has been the premier triathlon in Michigan. As a two-day event since 2021, it continues to grow and remains a fan-favorite. With its family-friendly, community feel and welcoming energy, it is the perfect event for newbies and veteran triathletes alike.

So how do you upgrade an already fantastic event? Beer.

For the first time and in partnership with Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery, we added a beer tent to GRTri. This allowed us to add a new post-event atmosphere for athletes to stay and enjoy themselves after crossing our finish line. To make things even better, all proceeds benefitted MyTeam Triumph.

4. Exploring Beautiful Mosquito Creek Trails for Brainy Day.

The Brainy Day Trail Run was a meaningful addition to the Tris4Health family in 2022. Our co-owner Jon Conkling and his family had been supporters of this event for years. As our first running-only event, the mission behind the race and raising money for the critical issue of pediatric hydrocephalus, made our team extremely excited to put this event on.

This new event also meant we needed a new location. Mosquito Creek Trails in Muskegon County quickly became our new venue. This absolutely stunning mountain bike trail system offered something for everyone, which we learned first-hand during our many trips exploring the trail system and creating our trail running routes. 

5. Dakota’s Ultra-Distance Finish at Michigan Titanium.

Every year at MiTi, we get to witness athletes who are truly inspiring. This race is tough no matter the distance, but for those taking on the challenge of becoming a TITAN, enduring 140.6 miles pushes your limits both physically and mentally. 

A special moment from this year’s event was witnissing Dakota cross the Ultra finish line alongside his Angel team from MyTeam Triumph. We are forunate to have mTT join us at many of our races every year, but this was the first time they attempted the ultra-distance triathlon at MiTi. After a grueling 14 hours of racing, Dakota and his team came into the finish chute as family and friends cheered him on. Every single person who was still at the venue stopped to watch Dakota bring it home. Moments like these make us show up for our athletes year after year.

6. Return of the Strippers.

Thanks to COVID, our athletes had to endure a whole season of taking off their own wetsuits after the swim. 2022 saw the return of that time-honored race feature – The Wetsuit Strippers.

Our strippers were so good that they could get you out of your wetsuit before you utter the word “transition”. Just a tip for next year : stay out of the line of fire. We saw many bystanders get soaked with potentially urine-drenched wetsuit spray.

7. Swim Courses: Safe for Athletes NOT for Radios.

Tiny brag: we have some of the best staff in the business. They spend months before every event helping us plan and prepare and then hours before and after every event helping us setup, put on and then take down each race. They are, without a doubt, the backbone of Tris4Health.

Our Swim Champion, Dawn, is phenomenal. She is an EMT and also works for our partner, Athletic Mentors as a swim coach. With her expertise and hard work, we put on some of the safest triathlon swims anywhere. If you were at GRTri, you saw the huge amount of kayaks and lifeguards that were on the course. She had also planned a full day of training before the race to make sure that every single participant that went in the water would feel safe and taken care of in the case of an emergency.

However, despite Dawn absolutely crushing it when it came to all things swim safety, for some reason she could not hold onto a radio. It seemed like everytime we gave her a radio, it magically disappeared into the water. We lost track of the number of radios sacrificed to the water gods this year. 

On our list for 2023: buy more radios.

8. Angels, Devils and BOMBARGO Go To Hell.

Thanks to the presenting sponsorship from Experience Jackson and partnership with the Southern Michigan Outdoors, putting on our first-year event, Rode To Hell was a resounding success.

What made this event so memorable for us was having the opportunity to have the Canadian band, Bombargo, join us at the post-event after party. When we were setting up the bike course and seeing the MASSIVE stage get put together, it put into perspective the reality of what we were doing.

At what other gravel bike race can you witness a rock band jump off stage, ride around on a participant’s bike through the crowd and then chill out after the concert to have s’mores with the riders? IT WAS EPIC.

And that event can’t be mentioned without touching on Hell. The aid station we set up in Hell was a hit, in large part to two of our staff members, Lori and Chelsea, who really leaned into the theme, dressing up as a devil and an angel to welcome our 100-mile riders in Hell. 

9. The Brutality of “The Half-Crazy” at The Dirty Mitten.

After the debut of The Dirty Mitten Gravel Tri last year, numerous athletes commented on the difficulty of “The Long One” (Olympic) course. We knew we needed to lean into that idea even further. Soon enough, “The Half Crazy” (half-distance) course came to be and boy, was it going to be a doozy.

Lets rewind a bit. A few years before becoming a race director, our very own John Mosey got a bit lost on a training ride. He happened upon Sager Road, which he had to hike-a-bike as it was pretty much unridable. From that experience, the idea for what would eventually become, The Dirty Mitten, was born. When working on The Half Crazy routes, Mosey decided that athletes would have to ride a particularly nasty section of Sager not once, but twice!

By race day, conditions were simply brutal on Sager. Athletes were falling over, walking their bikes and cursing our names. Our plan worked better than we could have hoped. Which leads us to our final moment of 2022…

10. The First-Annual Gravel Triathlon World Championship of the Universe.

Considering the extreme difficulty of “The Half Crazy”, we knew we had to recognize anyone who attempted this distane with something truly special, unique and a little bit ridiculous. We wondered: what’s bigger than a Gravel Triathlon World Championship? Answer: The Gravel Triathlon World Championship… of the Universe.

How could we do this? Well, as far as we know there isn’t a Universal Governing Body, so the Jo(h)ns can basically do what every they want.

With such a big idea, we knew we needed a BIG AWARD. Cue the wrestling belts!

These belts were better than we could have imagined. They are legit, and we don’t think we have seen The Jo(h)ns more excited than to officially give out the inaugural belts to the overall Half Crazy Champions. 

What will we think of in 2023?!?