Mary Lou Triathlon welcomes competitors at Deyo Reservoir
By Susan Jacobson
With sparkling mountain lakes, miles of dirt roads and scenic hiking trails, the prairie above Orofino near Weippe is an ideal spot for a sprint triathlon. This beautiful Idaho playground and two active, agile women have brought about an exciting event held each August—the Mary Lou Triathlon at Deyo Reservoir. Previously named the Bald Mountain Triathlon, the event began when Chris Allen and Ann Lima decided the landscape around Bald Mountain Ski Area would be a great site to host a beginner-friendly triathlon. They started the sprint triathlon and a race of their own against elements they never imagined could exist.
The idea hatched in 2019. Chris was working to bring summertime activities to the Bald Mountain Ski Area, and Ann met a visitor with a goal to run up every ski area in Idaho. Chris sought out Ann because she heard Ann had experience competing in triathlons. The 2 became co-chairs, and the planning for a new triathlon started.
That year was a planning year. A date was set for the inaugural race in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic made planning that launch year challenging. They were able to implement a safe event with limited participants. A new challenge arose in 2021. Forest fires caused Potlatch Deltic, the landowner of the property where the triathlon would take place, to close their recreation space, leaving the duo to find a new location to race.
With only 2 weeks until the event, Ann and Chris searched diligently and, with the help of Mike Deyo, found the triathlon’s new home, Deyo Reservoir. In 2022, they considered trying to go back to Bald Mountain, but Deyo Reservoir provided everything the race needed in one place.
The 2023 race will be Sunday, August 13, at Deyo Reservoir. The land that is now the reservoir, campground site and home to the triathlon was donated by the Deyo family. This year’s race, which now bears the name of the Deyo family matriarch, Mary Lou Deyo, will commemorate the park’s 10-year anniversary.
The Mary Lou Triathlon is a sprint event. The distances for this race are a 300- yard swim, a 13-mile bike ride and a 2.2- mile run, which is a far less racing distance than the Olympic or Ironman triathlons.
“It’s a great distance for beginners,” Ann says.
Additionally, participants in this race can stop and rest at any point, even during the swim portion. Aid floats are available and can be used to rest, as long as the swimmer doesn’t make any forward progress with the aid.
If the idea of the three events seems too much for one person, participants can form a 2- or 3-person team with each per- son performing a leg of the race. Race organizers also have bikes that can be borrowed for the event if participants do not own one.
The racecourse begins from the sandy beach at Deyo Reservoir with the 300- yard swim portion before a single transition area to pick up bike gear and leave the reservoir peddling mountain bikes. The bike route follows Schmidt Mill Road to Three Mile Road to Fiddler Road and then along a forested trail back to 3 Mile Road and the reservoir, approximately 13 miles. The run course is the well-travelled 2.2-mile trail around the reservoir.Competitors have come from all over Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington, and 70% of the participants have been women. Participants are often as young as 14 to those in their 70s. Included are veteran racers who have competed in Ironman triathlons (with a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike portion and 26.2-mile run) and those participating in a triathlon for the first time.
“It is always fun to see people do a tri for the first time, push their body and fall in love with doing it,” Ann says.
Participation is not limited to competing in the event.
Volunteers help with pre-event set up, timing and staffing aid stations on the day of, and cleanup after the event. There are also sponsorship opportunities available to help cover costs, and a need for donations of water, snacks, lunches and items for athlete gift bags.
Organizers of the event aim to get people in the area to become more physically active. Practice sessions are held prior to the event all summer, and race participants are encouraged to practice on the actual bike course, swim in the Deyo Reservoir and run with others that might plan to race.The entry fee is $20 for individuals and $50 for teams. Funds collected go toward covering the costs of the event.
Participants do not need to be a member of USA Triathlon, as the event is not a USA Triathlon-sanctioned event. However, the race does follow the organization’s rules. There are no age divisions, but there are divisions for men and women as well as a team event. Those between the ages of 12 and 90 interested in competing can sign up online.
There is also a youth triathlon starting this year for ages 4 and older to begin after the adult race, and a celebration for the 10th anniversary of the opening of the reservoir—10 Years Gone—the same day.