By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle
NORTH MUSKEGON, MI – Robert Richthammer woke up at 4 a.m. to do what he does best.
The Zeeland resident has completed and competed in a “couple hundred” triathlons since 1983, and ventured out for the Bear Lake Triathlon on Sunday, May 25, after hearing about it through race director Ron Knoll.
The triathlon, which is in its seventh year, started at 8 a.m. at Bear Lake Beach Park behind North Muskegon High School where triathletes lined up along the beach to start. Among other participants, it featured a Grand Haven High School physical education class.
Richthammer could remember his first triathlon when he made a bet with a roommate while in service with the military. On the day before Memorial Day, the veteran intended on reenacting it.
“I was in the military and we found a triathlon,” Richthammer said. “We bet who could win and I ended up winning the race, so I kept doing it.”
The 47-year-old was coming off an injury where he was required to wear an air cast. This limited him a bit as he decided he would use this triathlon as a training race. With a bad case of Achilles tendinitis, Richthammer had a few tricks up his sleeves.
“Never set a personal goal until the morning of because you never know how your body’s going to feel,” Richthammer said, “and you never know what the weather is going to be like.”
The event featured three separate courses – the Sprint Course Duathlon, the Sprint Course Triathlon and the Olympic Course Triathlon – set aside for athletes of different skills and ability levels. The Olympic Course, which maintains the same distances as the triathlon in the Summer Olympic Games, encompassed a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
Knoll, who has been the director of the race for the last five years, said the event had close to 200 participants, which was up from last year. Triathlons feature segments of swimming, running and biking.
A large portion of the crowd came from the Grand Haven High School triathlon class, a physical education class that is part of the high school’s curriculum.
“In the last four years that class has grown from 20 to 70 students,” Knoll said. “Derek Warner is the instructor of that class and he does a phenomenal job.”
Delton resident Chris “Cricket” Howard had completed more than 50 triathlons including one in Thailand in November of last year and said he loves the challenge of a triathlon.
Despite having a decade of experience under his belt, Howard had never done the Bear Lake Triathlon.
“I race on a team and I heard about it through them,” Howard said. “Everyone has their eating program in the morning, I just get my stuff into a transition area and it all comes down to practice, practice, practice.”
However, not all participants were seasoned veterans.
Gina Otterbein, from Coopersville, took part in her first triathlon after years of indecision.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years, I just needed the guts to swim,” Otterbein said. “Swimming is probably my biggest obstacle, but I have been running for seven years.”
The winners for the courses included Jim Minnema for the Olympic Triathlon, Aron Mohammadi for the Sprint Triathlon and Fred Bunn for the Sprint Duathlon. Results for the courses can be found at runnersedgeracetiming.com.published on May 25, 2014)