By Jared Eborn
VERNAL – In a state with numerous multi-sport events carving their own niches, Vernal, Utah’s DinoTri is doing just that but with a unique flair.
The race, which just completed its fifth year, attracts a small, but loyal group of participates. Though far from a metro area and often competing with other races to attracts athletes, the DinoTri is a success because of community support which includes significant sponsor backing that allows the race organizer Mark Mason to offer a $3,500 prize purse as well as the race’s signature trophies carved out of the desert sandstone that makes the region what it is.
That prize purse attracts some of the top triathletes from around the state and region including several professionals from Colorado and Utah.
This year, on June 25th, Boulder, Colorado’s Alan Gardner set a course record with a time of 1:58:02, edging Boulder’s Dan McIntosh for the top step on the podium. Utah’s Malaika Homo dominated the women’s field with a time of 2:10:40 for an almost five minute margin of victory over Colorado’s Kristen Peterson.
With a start at Red Fleet State Park, Olympic distance swimmers completed a pair of laps around the swim course amid red rock cliffs. Things got decidedly difficult after that, though with a brutal climb to begin the bike course. With grades in excess of 10 percent over the first two-mile stretch, cyclists had to dig deep into the pain cave to get to the top before a quick descent into the Ashley Valley and Vernal.
After descending Highway 191 – which, for the race, was closed to vehicle traffic in the right lane – Olympic distance triathletes make their way through some of Vernal’s farmland before turning up Dry Fork Canyon and suffering through a few miles of a deceptive energy-sapping false flat. Participants likely missed much of it, but the canyon is filled with cliffs, petroglyphs and rock formations usually associated with Southern Utah’s slick-rock country.
Turning around just past the sheer cliff wall of Remember the Maine Park, the bike course gives cyclists a quick, but technical, descent to Transition 2 at Uintah High School after roughly 27 miles of riding.
The fun ends there, though. After the challenging swim and difficult bike, participants are faced with a run not only against the clock but the elements. As it can in many Utah races, the sun plays a factor at the DinoTri with a run that – with the exception of a trip through a tunnel under a road – features virtually no shade. The course, which this year traveled through a new development near the Utah State University extension and the area’s technical education center, has perfectly smooth roads but little opportunity to hide from the sun.
Aid stations were well used as runners sought water and electrolyte replacement drinks to combat the 90-degree temperatures.
While the course was challenging but also fun, family and friends waiting for finishers were greeted by a festival atmosphere with bounce house inflatable toys for the children, a water misting tent and the ever-present promoter on the microphone welcoming finishers.
Unlike many events, however, the DinoTri is as much about selling the community as it is about selling the race. Local tourism officials were on hand at packet pickup handing out brochures touting the area’s attractions.
The DinoTri, perhaps one of Utah’s smaller events in participation numbers, is nonetheless one of Utah’s best events because of the course, the community, and sponsor support.
2016 Event Details:
June 25 — DinoTri, Vernal, UT, Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlon. Race starts with an open swim at Red Fleet state park. The bike starts with a crazy hill climb out of the park and heads into town for a run and finish at Utah State Extension., Emilee Johnson, 801-520-0921, [email protected], dinotri.com