For one family with longtime Detroit Lakes ties, the annual Young Life Triathlon has become a three-generation tradition.

The cleverly named Team Herk U Lees — Judi Herk, age 76; her daughter Tracy Lee, 50, and granddaughter Judi Jo Lee, 12 — competed in the triathlon this year for the second time together, and the family plans to keep on doing it every year into the foreseeable future. The 2019 triathlon was Aug. 16 and 17 at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion.

Three years ago, Herk’s husband, James, competed with the two younger athletes in the family’s first year as Team Herk U Lees, but Herk said she’s been “standing in” for him the past two years due to injuries. He may return to the team next year.

Either way, it’s a multigenerational family affair.

“We’re all so excited when we finish,” Herk said. “We get done and we think, ‘What a wonderful thing we can do together.’ We’re interested in our health and physical fitness, and we can do this together, and we just have such a good time.”

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The Herk family has had a summer cottage on Detroit Lake for more than 50 years. Judi and James have spent all their summers at the lake home since retiring, while Lee and her daughter always visit for about three weeks near the end of every summer. The rest of the year, the family lives in Mill Valley, California.

“We come every summer in August, and we’re starting to make sure our visits include the triathlon,” Lee said. “It’s just a great way to wrap up our summer.”

She said she fondly remembers spending her childhood summers at the lake cottage, first under her grandmother’s ownership, and then later her parents’.

“There’s a lot of tradition there,” Lee said. “So it’s really fun to have this new tradition at the lake that we can do together every summer.”

An annual fundraiser for Lakes Area Young Life, a local youth ministry, the Young Life Triathlon offers either a Long Course or a Sprint Course, both of which include swimming, biking and running.

Team Herk U Lees competed in the Sprint Course this year, which consisted of a 500-meter swim, 12.1-mile bike ride and 5K run, and Lee said they’re working their way up to the Olympic-length Long Course.

Judi Jo, a member of her local school’s swim team, competes in the swimming portion, while her mom, a longtime competitive runner, takes the running portion. The elder Judi, who’s always been active and still does CrossFit (she said she’s always the oldest person in her CrossFit classes), has done the biking portion for the last two years. James — the “real” biker in the family, Herk says — did it the year before that.

“We don’t do anything special to train for this (triathlon),” Herk said. “But all of us keep in shape and run or cycle or swim as much as we can … We all like competition, and this triathlon is for a good cause and they do such a good job of organizing it … It’s just really fun.”

Team Herk U Lees placed second out of two teams in the Female Relay team division, with a time of 1 hour and 28 minutes even. They missed first place by less than a minute and a half.

“We felt like we did pretty well,” Herk said.

In addition to individual and team Long Course and Sprint Course triathlon options, the Young Life Triathlon also offered Stand Up Paddle Board and Kayak divisions, as well as a 5K, a Kids Run and a Family Fun Fest.

“It’s fun to see how there’s so many great opportunities for health and well-being at the lake now,” Lee said. “With the farmers' market, and CrossFit, and yoga, and juicing, and triathlons… It’s just really fun to see how much Detroit Lakes has evolved and become a healthy place to be.”

On the web

For more information about the triathlon, visit