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Young Life Triathlon brings hundreds of enthusiastic competitors to Detroit Lakes

Lori Paakh, left, Tracy Pechmann, center, and Nancy Thorsgard won first place in the Young Life Triathlon in their age group and gender. They participated in the race as a relay team. Emily Driscoll / Tribune 1 / 6
Jack Kapenga, 11, left, sprints to the finish of the kids race. Emily Driscoll / Tribune2 / 6
Volunteers Colten Adolphsen, left, Renee Koski and Kelly Johnson enjoy helping out at the Young Life Triathalon every year. Emily Driscoll / Tribune3 / 6
Kids take off for the kids run at the Young Life Triathlon event in Detroit Lakes. Some with their parents, some holding hands. Emily Driscoll / Tribune 4 / 6
Jack Kapenga, 11, left, won the kids run at the Young Life Triathlon on Friday, August 17. Emily Driscoll / Tribune 5 / 6
Participants gather for the award ceremony after the last of the racers complete the triathlon. Emily Driscoll / Tribune6 / 6

From bikes that cost more than a decent car and swimming long distances across lakes, triathlon athletes mean serious business.

The 14th annual Young Life Triathlon brought hundreds of competitors, including relay racers and solo warriors on August 16 and 17.

The event is a fundraiser for Young Life, an organization whose mission is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith. It first established roots in Detroit Lakes in 1974.

All of the proceeds from the triathlon go to the Detroit Lakes Area Young Life, which will help send kids on retreats and get involved in other activities.

"It started out at a property we own in Pelican Lake called Castaway, and then we outgrew that and moved to Detroit Lakes," Young Life assistant director Peter Paulson said.

The Young Life Triathlon offered alternatives to swimming at their event, like kayaking instead of swimming, or choosing the relay option so that three participants can work as a team to complete the three portions.

In addition to participants and competitors, 215 local volunteers and an array of local sponsors helped make the two day event possible.

"We have some of the best true athletes in the region," Paulson said. "We also have people that just woke up and decided to do it this morning."

Paulson has seen every age competitor from 5 years old to 75 years old, and participants compete within their age group.

There were two distance options at this year's triathlon, including a sprint course and olympic course.

The sprint course is a 500 meter swim, 20k bike trail, and 5k running trail. It's a better introductory course than the olympic course, which is twice as long.

The longer version took runners all the way out to Dunton Locks Park and back to the Pavilion via the scenic Pelican River Trail.

They recently incorporated a family fun night and kids race on the day before the Triathlon.

Dozens of kids lined up at the starting line and prepared to run one kilometer.

Jack Kapenga, 11, came in first.

"It feels awesome," he said. "I'm in wrestling, so we have to do a lot of running."

Following the kids race, there was a 5K for adults and kids that they referred to as the "fun run."

The event on Friday also featured inflatable games and food.

"It's pretty fun because there's just stuff going on everywhere," Paulson said. "Anybody who participates gets a metal and a T-shirt."

Sponsors at the race included Bell Bank, Midwest Bank, Essentia Health, La Barista, Lakeshirts, Central Market, and Scheels.

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