The Lobsterman Triathlon, one of Maine’s premier sporting events, returns to Winslow Park in Freeport on Sept. 17, and while the race itself remains largely unchanged, its impact on the wider world is only growing as it redirects much of its charity to a new beneficiary: the Maine Cancer Foundation.
“We are proud to help [the MCF] in their fight against cancer in the great state of Maine. This our second year in our partnership with them and we think it has great potential to grow,” says Mike O’Neil, who heads up Ethos, the event management company that owns and operates the Tri.
Traditionally, the Lobsterman benefited Winslow Park itself. In 2015, however, O’Neil and Co. decided to reallocate the bulk of the event’s fundraising take to the fight against cancer, a less-regional cause. This year, they’re adding a new race-within-a-race, called the LobsterJAM, as a means of drawing special attention to the event’s burgeoning alliance with the Maine Cancer Foundation.
“We partnered with Julie Marchese, founder of the Tri for a Cure and SheJAMS,” says O’Neil. “The Tri for a Cure has raised millions of dollars for MCF through their women’s-only triathlon in July. I reached out to my friend Julie and said, ‘Cancer is not a gender-specific problem. Let’s get the men involved. Let’s have them join the women in their lives and race a relay or the entire race themselves and let’s get them fundraising, too.’ Julie loved the idea and she and I created ‘LobsterJAM.’”
Whereas Lobsterman participants adopt the traditional competitive spirit and race one another to the finish line, LobsterJAM participants will vie more with themselves than they do the other athletes around them.
“Participants will compete together in a smaller field of athletes, and have special exclusive waves,” says O’Neil. “This event will bring together athletes of all ages and abilities who enjoy being active and want to raise money for a great cause.
“LobsterJAM was created to foster an atmosphere for those who train together to share each other’s experiences and accomplishments and revel in the energy that a group of people with common interests can generate,” he says.
“It’s a great opportunity for those doing an Olympic Triathlon for the first time.”
An Olympic Triathlon is one of several standard distances in the sport. Athletes undertaking the Lobsterman or the LobsterJAM face a 0.93 mi swim, a 24.7 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run. Participants can tackle the entire course on their own, or as part of a relay.
For those who wish to forego the run, a unique option – aquabiking – is available. Aquabikers pedal alongside the swimmers, then join them on road bikes for that second portion of the race, but peel off into the finish chute before transitioning to the run. They receive a finisher’s award, and are welcome to partake fully in all end-of-race celebrations.
LobsterJAM participants commit to raising a minimum of $100 for the cause, but all athletes are encourage to donate.
“We will have about 75 athletes that are committing to raising money in addition to racing,” O’Neil says. “[But] we are hopeful that all involved in the Lobsterman Triathlon will consider donating, volunteering or raising money for [the MCF].”
Bostonian Annie Fisher founded the Lobsterman Tri in 2002; O’Neil acquired it in 2012 – after taking part in it and falling in love with it. He’s hardly the Tri’s only devotee, however: A long list of major publications have lauded it, and its reputation has only grown. Men’s Health named it one America’s 20 best triathlons in 2015, placing it alongside such monsters as the New York and Chicago Triathlons. Completetri.com went further still, naming the Lobsterman one of their 10 best races in the nation. Fodor’s, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness and others have likewise heaped praise on the Lobsterman.
There’s no formal cap on registration for the race, which attracts athletes from approximately 30 states each year, but O’Neil and Co. do run up against some practical roadblocks as the headcount climbs.
“We try to limit it to 700-800 athletes,” says O’Neil. “The limiting factor is parking at Winslow Park and that varies a bit each year. We don’t want to strain or damage the facility by overloading it. That said, demand is very strong and we are trying to consider some creative parking options that would allow us to host more athletes.”
“Lobsterman offers the quintessential Maine experience,” says O’Neil, “combining the stunning beauty of the Maine coast, an amazing race and a lobsterbake that any foodie would appreciate – there is no better way to wrap up your summer. We are told all the time by racers: ‘This is my favorite race ever!’”
The Tri is online at http://www.lobstermantri.com/. Ethos can be found at http://active-ethos.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/active.ethos/
Racers in an Olympic-distance triathlon face a .93-mile swim.
Awards await participants of the Lobsterman Tri.
All Lobsterman and LobsterJAM participants are invited to feast on – you guessed it – lobster after tackling the course.
Athletes, event staff, volunteers and fans dot the beach at Winslow Park during the Lobsterman Triathlon.