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Silver Lake Triathlon canceled in Portage

Lyn JerdeMay 20, 2019

A once-popular Portage sporting event is on hiatus, due in part to the chilly, wet spring and an abundance of events for serious runners, bicyclists and swimmers.

Whether the Silver Lake Triathlon is ever coming back remains to be seen, said Mike Frank, who with his wife Heather Frank has operated the event since its 2007 inauguration.

With just a month remaining before the June 15 event date, only 18 people had signed up in advance for either of the two swim-bike-run races that were to be part of the Silver Lake Triathlon: the sprint, featuring a 400-meter swim, a 16-mile bike race and a five-kilometer run, and the super sprint, with a swim of 200 meters, a bike race of six miles and one-mile run.

Frank said it didn’t make sense to order T-shirts, medals, food and other necessities in the hope that more athletes would make a last-minute decision to participate. Pre-registered participants’ fees will be refunded.

“It’s bittersweet,” Frank said. “We had a good run for 10 years, and the participants seemed to like it.”

Last year’s Silver Lake Triathlon, scheduled for late August, also was canceled because construction on Highway 16 west of Portage left planners without a bike race route, and not enough time to find an alternative.

This year, Frank said, the idea was broached to hold the event about two months earlier than usual, in hopes of attracting not only novice triathlon racers, but also seasoned veterans, to an early-season race that could serve as a warm-up for events later in the season, such as the Ironman, scheduled for Sept. 8 in Madison.

Because Silver Lake is a relatively small water body, the water should warm up faster than that of most lakes early in the season, Frank said.

However, he said he understands why some would-be participants might be hesitant to commit to a triathlon in June after experiencing the cold, cloudy and rainy weather in April and May.

Portage Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marianne Hanson said she learned Monday of the triathlon’s cancellation, and is disappointed about it.

“We never like to see events canceled,” she said. “We want people to be able to participate.”

Portage offers a wide variety of other community events and activities throughout the year, she said, and new ones start all the time.

Frank said there has been no discussion as to whether there will be a Silver Lake Triathlon in 2020 and subsequent years.

One challenge is the large number of triathlons and other athletic activities happening at about the same time of year, he said.

The Silver Lake Triathlon stood out, he said, is because it was a good event for someone just getting started at triathlon competition, with shorter distances available for each leg of the race.

Frank said he also appreciated the extensive community involvement in the triathlon -- including youth sports team members who volunteered to help, and many who stationed themselves along the route to encourage the racers.

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