AUGUSTA — If Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 triathlon goes well, it is because of the weeks of preparation and training that have been invested, but not by the hundreds of athletes who are traveling from all over to Augusta.

Over the past few months, a wide array of representatives from organizations across the region have been meeting regularly to prepare for the half-triathlon that kicks off at 6 a.m. Sunday and make it a success.

The Ironman 70.3, also known as a Half Ironman, includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bicycle ride and 13.1-mile run. The event’s course encompasses 11 Maine communities in three counties.

Bicycle racks stand Thursday at Capitol Park for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, set for Sunday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The race’s relocation from Old Orchard Beach to Augusta was announced in mid-January by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce after a series of preliminary meetings with the Ironman organization as it was scouting new locations in the state.

The athletes who take part in these events can spend weeks building the strength and stamina to complete the course.

The time commitment to put on a half-triathlon is not much different. For weeks, a coalition of federal, state and local officials have been meeting to work through the details of making sure the event runs smoothly.


“This being the first year, there’s just a lot to take in,” said Earl Kingsbury, director of Community Services for Augusta.

In central Maine, there has been no other event that could be used as a measuring stick.

Among the tasks to be accomplished has been lifting the decades-old ban on swimming in the Kennebec River for the first leg of the race and surveying the course to make sure it is in good shape for the cycling and running legs.

Kevin Lully, deputy chief of the Augusta Police Department, said other events, such as the Trek Across Maine, the American Lung Association’s annual cycling tour, and large-scale protests held in Augusta have required multiagency coordination, but nothing to this degree.

“Here’s just a bullet point list of the entities involved,” Lully said. “The Augusta Police Department, the Augusta Fire Department, Augusta Public Works, the engineer’s office, Augusta Parks and Rec, the Greater Augusta Utility District, the Department of Transportation, the Capitol Police, the Maine State Police, the Maine Marine Patrol, Maine Emergency Management, Delta Ambulance, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Hallowell PD, the Augusta State Airport (and by extension, the Federal Aviation Administration), Gardiner Police Department, the Richmond Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Tents are erected Wednesday in Augusta for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, to be held Sunday in the city. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Because the 56-mile cycling leg includes portions of Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, the sheriff’s offices from those counties are also helping with traffic control.


And there is more.

Lully said fire departments from Augusta and Gardiner are among those that will be available to offer emergency medical services.

Joy McKenna, director of marketing & communications for MaineGeneral Health, said MaineGeneral is providing a large contingent of volunteers from its medical and office staffs — some of whom have experience with mass sporting events — and donating supplies, including epinephrine auto-injectors known by the brand name EpiPen.

Steve Diaz, MaineGeneral Health’s chief medical officer, is the lead medical volunteer for the race, and is to serve Sunday as the local medical lead.

The other partner at the table is the Ironman organization, which is a well-oiled machine. It hosts about 170 triathlons and half-triathlons a year, and takes part in the planning and preparations.

Sunday’s events, in Maine and Calgary, wrap up July’s slate. In August alone, 13 more events are scheduled, beginning in Boulder, Colorado, and skipping around the globe to places like the Philippines, Estonia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Rwanda and Brazil.


Bicycle mechanics Rachel Cameron, left, and Jason Covais set up rental bikes Thursday inside the Playtri tent at Capitol Park in Augusta. Playtri, the official Ironman 70.3 triathlon store, is selling equipment and supplies at the athletes’ village. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Earlier this week, the organization started setting up its tent city at Capitol Park, where it will host a registration area for athletes, spaces for vendors and a medical tent.

The event has also required outreach on a couple of fronts.

An enterprise the size and scope of an Ironman 70.3 requires volunteers — hundreds of them.

Recruitment efforts, including a request at the annual Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce Kenney Awards earlier this month, complete with a QR code printed in the program to register, have been ongoing. So far, about 600 people have signed up, but more volunteers are needed.

A green tape arrow marks the course for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon running leg at the Kennebec River Rail Trail in downtown Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It also requires communications support. Everyone who lives along the course has been sent a mailer explaining the event and impact the race is expected to have, including road closures that are to begin ahead of Sunday’s events and expected delays and detours on Sunday morning and afternoon.

“This is a great example of showing what our community can do and really support big, large events,” said Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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