HUNTSVILLE – Whether competitors placed first or last in the Muskoka Grind triathlon didn’t matter, as there was a cool and unique vibe at Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve on race day, said the race director.
Triathlon competitors give it their all while taking in the beauty of the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve during the Muskoka Grind race.
Photo by Don McCormick
“Everyone was interacting, everyone was talking, whether they were the first or last place finishers they were interacting and reflecting on the course,” said James Kowalewski, Muskoka Grind race director. “Everyone came back saying it’s the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. It’s such a unique location with unbelievably raw beauty. Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve is just one of those gems that are out there that is so unique. Once you find it, you find that it kind of stays with you after being there.”
Racers had to stay focused while taking in the breathtaking views, as the course wasn’t easy in the slightest.
“It is a true off-road (race), a true test. This wasn’t a real simple, easy course,” said Kowalewski. “It was a very tough cardio challenge that had some technical aspects to it. But I told the racers beforehand, ‘race, race hard, strategize but also at times take a moment to look around and enjoy the beauty of where you are.’”
This was the first year Kowalewski’s company, Element Racing, held a race in Muskoka.
After seeing the success of the Grind on Aug. 5, despite heavy rainfall predictions keeping the participant level a little low at 150 racers, organizers would like to bring it back next year.
“I have no doubt with better weather it would be bigger. I have no doubt after how over-the-top well this event went that this is something that’s going to grow into something very, very special,” said Kowalewski.
He said off-road races differ from road races by their nature.
“By the end they all talk about the race, not necessarily about their placings but how was that turn, how was that hill because they’ve just accomplished something that took them on one heck of a journey. I think that’s the thing I’ve noticed more from off-road to road triathlons. We try to send people on a journey, so it’s not just that you’re trying to get from A to B, it’s that there are landmarks along the way, there are sights to see,” said Kowalewski. “We definitely noticed the culture is different. Everyone is in there for a great time, a challenge. They’re racing hard but at the end they’re all there standing together and laughing and talking. They share stories.”
He said this does happen with road races as well, but it’s different. It’s more small pockets of participants versus an entire group.
Kowalewski was very thankful to everyone at Limberlost, TriMuskoka, Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and all the volunteers.
“They took a chance on a new event and I hope they’re proud of what we did,” he said. “It’s overwhelming how beautiful the area is and the people as well.”
The generosity of Muskokans and the friendships Kowaleski and his partner Deanna Rando made had the two considering moving here.
“It really touched me,” he said. “There’s no question the passion is there for this to continue and to grow.”
Proceeds from the race, more than $3,000, will go to Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve’s charity, Trails Youth Initiative.