'Everybody wins' - community emphasized in 2012 Lake Max Triathlon

Culver has been no stranger to triathlon events in recent years, but organizers of a new such event slated for August 11 feel “everybody wins” due to a complete overhaul of the endeavor, with a much greater emphasis on the entire community -- and two local service organizations as beneficiaries.

Dana Neer, a lead organizer of the 2012 event and Wellness director at Culver Academies (and monthly Culver Citizen columnist), notes there were “some difficulties” surrounding the last two Culver triathlons a few years ago, which were led by outside organizations.

“To resurrect it,” he says, “we believe it should truly be a community event.”

The committee planning this year's triathlon, then, started with four goals, according to Neer:

1. To hold a special wellness event at a superb location.
“Everybody who knows of Culver Academies knows this is a fun place to be,” Neer notes, “so that would not be difficult.”

2. The event should be a humanitarian effort.
Towards that end, Neer says, “we teamed up with the Culver Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, and both groups enthusiastically got behind starting this up again. We would team up by having the volunteers from each organization come and serve at the event, and serve in three event details. Then all money that comes in after we pay the bills, goes directly to those two organizations. This is not a money-making endeavor for Culver Academies, whatsoever. We're not going to take one penny.”

3. Culver's Chamber of Commerce should benefit.
“We looked at the Saturday event and tried to make it a weekend in Culver,” explains Neer, “so athletes and their families could come and spend the night and eat meals here...so Friday night we hoped to have a pre-race meal at one of our local establishments (and) have some events that night, like a Ledbetter boat ride and other events to make it a truly fun Friday evening.

“Our local businesses would come be on campus at the event and provide a representative to explain what they do.”

4. Invite Culver Academies alums to come back to campus.
“This really is an event that fits so well into our Culver town and Academy society,” Neer says. “They would bring a prospective (student) family and come on the day of this triathlon.

“When everybody wins, it's a great event. So we have been working on hundreds and hundreds of details since that initial meeting a year ago.”

On the planning committee have been representatives from not only the aforementioned service clubs and Culver Chamber, but also the Lake Maxinkuckee Association and Culver Academies as well, in addition to consulting with Culver triathlete alumni and marketing experts.

“We have a great logo that will be on decals, shirts, and banners,” Neer says, “and we have a catchy little motto: 'The Lake Max Triathlon -- swim in the lake, bike around the lake, run around the lake, and party by the lake.' We called it the Lake Max Triathlon because we do believe the lake brings all of our groups together, town, Academy, and lake.”

The event will include a 400 meter swim, a 10 mile bike ride, counterclockwise around the lake, and a 5 kilometer footrace starting on the Academies campus, heading through town, and back.

The biking route, notes Neer, was specifically designed so riders would zip through town first, rather than last, giving them an opportunity to experience the town -- something absent from previous triathlons -- but also allowing the streets to reopen as soon as possible.

Also on hand will be a “great little `80s and `90s band coming in to play” in addition to a post-race meal with awards.

“It will be a very flavorful day,” Neer adds.

The festivities will officially begin at 8 a.m. on the 11th.

And Neer also stresses that this event is not an “iron man” triathlon.

“Many people who are active could probably do this,” he insists.
Divisions will begin with age 10, increasing in increments of five years at a time, up to an 80-year-old-plus division. There will also be categories for men's, women's, and co-ed teams, which allows multiple participants to utilize the strengths of each athlete.

“So if you hate swimming,” explains Neer, “but are a runner, somebody else can do that part!”

A “fat tire” division for bicycles allows for any style of bike to participate. Pro Form Bike Shop in South Bend is the event's lead sponsor, and will be on-site to provide advice and administer bike repair.

Awards, besides medals with the event logo, include Lake Max Triathlon-adorned decals, t-shirts, chap stick, swim caps, quality bags, and more.

The last Culver-based triathlon, says Neer, had around 150 competitors. Organizers this time around are hoping for 200 to 250.

“We believe we have the capability and we hope this will be a very well-known event (statewide and beyond) within five years. Even if you have no inkling to participate, everybody says, 'It's a perfect place, a perfect fit.'”

A link for the event will soon be added to the culver.org website, and brochures, posters, and banners are on the way. Since the triathlon is certified, readers may go through the USA Triathlon website to find the event as well, and may register online or download the form and mail it to Neer.