Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Portland's first ever triathlon will be eco-friendly

Posted by on February 2nd, 2007 at 7:53 am

Believe it or not, despite our reputation for bikes and our general love of outdoor sports, Portland has never had a major downtown triathlon.

That is, until now.

Triathlon event promotion company One Million Revolutions has just officially announced The City of Portland Triathlon, the first ever triathlon to take place in the heart of downtown Portland.

The race is slated for September 2, 2007 (Labor Day Weekend) and will start and end in Waterfront Park near the western edge of the Hawthorne Bridge.

According to organizers, this won’t be just another triathlon. To mesh with Portland’s earth-friendly values, they are making a pledge to make this,

“the first and only triathlon in the country to staff its medical tent with naturopathic doctorsorganic produce will be used for aid stations and pre-race, and locally sourced food will be served at the post-race meal…the necessary triathlon infrastructure (swim buoys, bike racks, etc) will be created from recycled or used materials whenever possible. Participants will be asked to carpool, take public transportation, or ride their bikes to the race, with incentives provided for doing so.”

There’s also plans for a kids event and an expo area. Sounds like this will be a great new Portland tradition and I look forward to checking it out.

I raced a triathlon back in the good old days and I really loved it. If I didn’t have such decrepit knees, who knows, I just might have become a “tri-geek” myself.

Get all the details at PortlandTri.com and if you’re really interested, check out the Portland Triathlon Club.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Chris Sullivan February 2, 2007 at 9:49 am

    This is going to be very cool…glad to see it happen.

    But I do think there’s one drawback: along with that tasty organic food, racers will get to suck in some seriously dangerous chemicals and sewage from the Willamette. It is a superfund cleanup site, after all.

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  • no one in particular February 2, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Um, will there be real doctors, too, or just hippies?

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  • Paul February 2, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Yeah – if there is a CSO overflow that weekend it would really underscore the need to clean up the river.

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  • TomasCoSauce February 2, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I thought the superfund cleanups were further down the river?

    In any case, this will probably be my first Triathlon. I’ll bring a full hazard suit if I must!

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  • Paolo February 2, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Hey Jonathan,just wanted to let you know that, not that is eco friendly, but they announced the Livestrong Ride for Portland and registrations are open….
    It will be September 29-30.

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  • bArbaroo February 2, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I agree with Chris, not sure I would want to swim in the Willamette with its alphabet soup of contaminants. The superfund site is offically a 5+ mile stretching from Swan Island to the confluence with the Columbia but that doesn’t mean that the water is clean in the downtown reach of the river. Lots of agricultural, industrial and other non-point source yuckies stuff is out there.

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  • Dabby February 2, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    I think having a triathalon in Portland is a great idea, but;
    As the above sentiment shows, the liability of having swimmers in the Willamette River is so great.
    I would never swim in that river.
    But I know others who have.
    The littlest cut on your finger, or anywhere on your body, turns into a painful infection, and can lead to worse……
    I think this is a horrible idea, and was obviously the brain child of someone who has never swam in the river here..or who is not very concerned about the health of others…

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  • Cecil February 2, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    There is no way I would swim in the Willamette. Ever. And I have been known to swim in some pretty gnarly bodies of water.

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  • K February 2, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    One of the riverside restaurants in john’s landing still holds wake board tournaments every week during the summer in the Willamette. I think the area directly around downtown and further up the river is even nastier though– a true test of athletic dedication.
    I’m gonna have to agree with Dabby on the open cuts scenario- staff infection’s not so fun.

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  • Jeff Henderson February 2, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    I thank you all for your thoughts and comments. Yes, I am excited about this race and yes, I am concerned with the health of our participants. It is untrue to say I am “not very concerned with the health of others,” as someone mentioned above. The first thing I did when pondering this event was to determine if it is safe to do so, and indeed it is. You can read more about my findings here:


    It is up to you whether you participate or not. But please don’t decide based on rumors or reputation – the river is getting cleaner all the time and regular monitoring occurs. There’s a ways to go, but hopefully this race will increase exposure for the problems and spur action.

    I look forward to the challenges of this race. I look forward to bringing a first-class event to Portland that reflects its (and my) values. And I welcome you to join us, whether it be racing or spectating.

    kind regards,
    Jeff Henderson
    race director

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  • Thom February 2, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    A: I’m doin’ it.

    B: The river cleanliness worries me, too, and the first thing I looked for was that the race organizer had thought about it. He had, and he has a plan in case there’s rain and run off (which causes much of the problems). I’m not *unworried* now, but I’m considerably less worried.

    C: Jeff, my hat’s off to you for pulling this off. The details must be mind-boggling. Congrats and good luck.

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  • Dabby February 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    That is wonderful and all, your statement above.
    I still feel, as I did with the past Red Bull Flutag event, that recomending anyone to jump into the Willamette River, even for a second, let alone encourage a long swim, is a very irresponsible act, and I will continue to speak out loudly against any such action.
    I also must say that even though the river may be stated as “clean” by diffrent sources, we all know that many sources downplay the dangers due to alterior motives, and the levels of bacteria and waste, while low enough to be “sutiable” for some, are unacceptable for such a supposedly “health concious city”. And certainly nothing a fine triathlete, or especially a child ( I am referencing the kids race mentioned above) should be put in the position to enter.
    We also know that a even a short rain storm can send raw sewage through the sewer outflows straight into the river.
    It does not send out a note saying it is coming, it just flows out.
    I also know that there are a number of alternative sites where this race could occur within the Portland region.
    Thank you for your time.

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  • Cecil February 2, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    To say that “the river is getting cleaner all the time and monitoring regularly occurs” offers very cold comfort. The fact that a very dirty river is perhaps a little less dirty these days just doesn’t make me all giddy with excitement.

    I stand by my statement that I would never swim in the Willamette, or at least the Portland metro stretches of the Willamette. I especially wouldn’t do it as part of a swimming race. When I am swimming all out, I invariably end up sucking some water, and Willamette water is very, very low on the list of water I would want to suck up. As a dragonboater for 8 years, I have suffered any number of rashes and infections that I relate directly to my Willamette water contact, and that contact is minimal and I am wearing protective layers of clothing. The idea of immersing myself in that water and risking swallowing it is, to put it mildly, not my cup of PCBs.

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  • Dabby February 2, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    It appears, to put this in a relative light, that the organizers of this event are not from Portland, and have been checking online or making calls about river quality.
    I recommend going on down there with a test kit and checking it hands on, yourself.

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  • Scott Mizee February 3, 2007 at 3:33 am

    I’m not entirely sure of my own opinion on this yet, but does it have to be in the Willamette? Why not one of the other nearby bodies of water? I mean, I know it is probably more sexy for the organizer to say it is in “Downtown Portland,” but really…. what about one of the many other bodies of water. Did anyone stop to think that there is probably a reason we have not had a triathlon downtown thus far?

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  • Jeff February 3, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Despite its status as the third most endangered river, the Willamette doesn’t test strongly for most chemicals. “The biggest risk to swimming in the Willamette is drowning, and it always will be,” said David Stone, a public health toxicologist with Oregon State Public Health. The second greatest risk, he said, is bacterial. “If you were to sample the water of the Willamette, you would not find high levels of harmful chemicals at all — there would be trace amounts.”


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  • Jeff Henderson February 3, 2007 at 9:04 am

    I think this discussion is healthy and worthwhile, and I thank you all for engaging in it. Only in this way will meaningful change ever take place within the river.

    I am from Portland. I live on N. Haight Ave, in case you’re curious. Yes, I find data via email, the internet, and over the phone, because I lack the testing equipment to properly monitor the river myself. Thankfully, local groups do have that equipment and it helps educate all of us.

    Incidentally, there is currently a swimming event that takes place in the Willamette called the Portland Challenge. Last year it was Aug. 20, with nearly 200 participants. It has also been going on for several years, with Coast Guard and Multnomah County involvement.

    kind regards,
    Jeff Henderson

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  • Dabby February 3, 2007 at 11:22 am

    I am glad to hear you are from Portland, although this confuses me even more in the decision as to where to throw this race.

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  • Sasha February 3, 2007 at 2:07 pm


    Thanks for putting this on, I am considering it!

    I’ve been a Dragonboater and Outrigger for several years and have never once had a single problem from the river. Neither has any other paddler I know. We’re on this river in every condition, regardless of CSO or not. I even went so far as to talk to my doctor directly about it, and he absolutely seconded the “your biggest worry should be drowning” comment.

    I’ve swum across this river on several occasions, and have to say that it is much maligned. While there are certainly risks on a CSO day after rain, they’re pretty minimal on the whole.

    Riding a bike without a helmet (something I often do) is way more likely to hurt you than getting in the Willamette.

    So to each their own, this is a voluntary thing. But fear-mongering about the quality of the river is not useful. Thanks for the info Jeff!


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  • Cecil February 3, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    “Riding a bike without a helmet (something I often do)”

    Clearly we have different levels of comfort. I’ll continue to wear a helmet when I ride my bike and I will continue to avoid contact with the Willamette 🙂

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  • Scott Hughes February 3, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I hope I can go to this eco-friendly triathlon. It sounds like it’ll be a good time.

    Scott Hughes
    Triathlon Forums

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  • Brad February 5, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Good luck to you Jeff. Why is it when I hear things like eco-, organic, naturopathic I start to feel that will also mean poorly measured, corners cut, timing and results screwed up, untrained course marshalls, rules not enforced, etc. because the “message” takes precedence over the quality of the event for athletes?

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  • trike March 2, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    because Brad most of the time the stiff stick in the ass races get all those things wrong and it is only natural to think that folks who are laid back must be less attentive.

    fact is the folks who are laid back normally have there collective shit together and dont have a bunch of stuff to worrie about.

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