WHAT: Zone Urban Epic Triathlon and Festival
WHEN: Saturday, triathlon begins at 7 a.m., festival follows
WHERE: Over 300 competitors are expected
The organizers of the second Zone Urban Epic Triathlon and Festival want to make the event more than just an athletic contest. They want it to reflect the diversity and lifestyle of its host city, Portland.
"We want it to be the manifestation of the way of life that we envision," said race director Will Thomas.
When the triathlon begins at 7 a.m. Saturday, its 300 competitors will include some top-of-the-line triathletes.
Start with Becky Lavelle, 33, a native Minnesotan who now lives in California. She's visiting Maine for the first time, and in a couple weeks she will be joining the U.S. Olympic triathlon team in Beijing as an alternate after finishing fourth in the trials.
Canadian Tenille Hoogland is one of her country's best. And Eliot native Mary Miller, who now lives and trains in California, is one of the top elite amateurs in the nation.
On the men's side, Westbrook's Mike Caiazzo was the top U.S. finisher at the USA Triathlon Elite Long Course National Championship at the EagleMan Ironman in Cambridge, Md.
"Yeah, we're really excited about that," said Thomas. "We've got a really high-level field this year. We've got a lot of high-caliber athletes and it should be a great race."
Lavelle is looking forward to her first race in New England.
"At my point in my career, it's nice to try new events," she said. "I tend to do the same (triathlons) every year, so it's nice to go somewhere different."
Lavelle didn't compete in her first triathlon until 1994. She became a professional triathlete four years later. "I thought I could be good at it, I liked it, and I did a little more each summer," she said.
"But I never thought I'd be doing this 10 years later as a professional. I wasn't sure how long I would do it. But I love the lifestyle.
"And I guess I still see myself improving. That keeps me motivated and in the sport."
Lavelle couldn't compete in the 2004 Olympic trials because of an injury, so she's happy with her alternate role even though she won't be competing in Beijing.
"I raced the best I could and that's all you can ask for," she said. "I was pleased. I was a long shot, so to be able to finish fourth was great."
Even though this is a local race, Lavelle won't take it easy. She knows everyone will be watching her closely to see how an elite athlete handles the course.
"It's not as high-pressured as World Cup events with the big pro fields, but people know me and know my ability," she said. "It's not like I can take it easy. I've got to go hard."
Caiazzo grew up in Scarbor-ough but attended Gorham High where he was one of the state's top runners. Now 31, he started doing triathlons in 2003 and quickly found his niche.
This year, he has been battling an Achilles problem in his right leg and hasn't been able to compete as hard as he'd like.
"It's been a disappointing year, but I'm still hanging in there," he said.
Caiazzo, who works as an accountant at Stone Coast Fund Services in Portland, will be competing in his second local triathlon this year. He won the Scarborough Triathlon two weeks ago. "My goal is to race hard," he said. "It should be a good day."
The triathlon, which drew about 350 competitors last year, begins with a 1.5-mile swim in Casco Bay from Mackworth Island to East End Beach (the triathletes will be ferried to the island). It continues with a 40-mile out-and-back cycling segment through Portland's industrial district, along Baxter Boulevard, and then into Falmouth and Cumberland. The closing 10K run takes place along the Eastern Prom and Back Cove.
"It definitely looks like a unique course," said Lavelle. "It should be fun."
Over 1,000 fans are expected to line the course, which ends on Fore Street on Portland's waterfront -- right where the urban festival will be held.
The festival will include local vendors, a climbing wall, a live concert, DJs, massages, local artists and break-dancing performances.
"We want to make this a reflection of the city," said Thomas. "And we want to keep growing it. It'll be a really neat experience."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:
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