Athlete ready to take bite out of 20th BLT

August 13, 2013

By Neil Pierson

Sammamish resident Jon Carlson, 58, has competed in the Beaver Lake Triathlon every year since its rebirth in 1994. By Neil Pierson

Sammamish resident Jon Carlson, 58, has competed in the Beaver Lake Triathlon every year since its rebirth in 1994. By Neil Pierson

The Beaver Lake Triathlon — which will kick off its 20th go-round Aug. 17 — has a lot of repeat participants, but it seems only one man has done it every year.

Jon Carlson moved to his home on Beaver Lake in 1993, a year before a neighbor, Mark Stendal, resuscitated the triathlon following its disappearance in the 1980s. Carlson was one of about 200 people who did the quarter-mile swim, 13.8-mile bike ride and 4.3-mile run in 1994, and he hasn’t stopped since.

Stendal founded the popular event, but Carlson said he missed a year of competitive action.

“He claims I’m the only known guy that’s done them all,” Carlson said.

The 58-year-old Carlson is one of the weekend warriors who comprise a large chunk of the triathlon’s participants. Beaver Lake is the only triathlon Carlson has ever done, and his training is relatively minimal. He keeps in shape by playing in adult soccer and softball leagues.

Beaver Lake is a sprint Aevent — the shortest distance in the world of competitive triathlons — and it suits Carlson perfectly.

“Swim is something I survive,” he quipped. “I’m strong enough to do a quarter-mile, but if it was a half-mile, I might not be here. Most of the sprints include a half-mile swim, so I really like this one because of its short swim.”

Race Director Debbie Dodd said organizers are thinking of expanding the event next year by offering a shorter distance for kids and a duathlon consisting of only running and biking. The event attracted about 435 participants in 2012.

“I’m hoping we hit that again, but you never know,” Dodd said. “I’d really like to get it up to 600.”

Race fees go to the Beaver Lake Community Club, which distributes most of the money to local youth lacrosse and cross country clubs. The rest is used for lake preservation efforts.

The BLT has numerous longtime participants, Carlson said, some from other states. The scenery may be one distinguishing characteristic that brings people back, Dodd noted.

“It’s just a beautiful setting on a beautiful lake,” she said. “The water is calmer and warmer than a lot of other lakes.”

The Carlson family has all been involved in the BLT through the years. Jon’s wife Donna is a longtime volunteer coordinator on race day, and each of their three children — sons Brandyn and Devan, and daughter Keshia — have competed.

In his first year of competition, Carlson’s goal was to break 100 minutes, which he did by a few seconds. He eventually got into the 91-minute range. Wear and tear has taken its toll on his body, but Carlson refuses to give in. He finished in about 1 hour, 41 minutes last year and is aiming for that mark again. He also wants to beat his old friend Stendal, something he accomplished for the first time in 2012.

His preparation this year has consisted most of biking, and he’s only done three quarter-mile swims to this point. Some knee trouble has limited his running, and he may not do the full 4.3 miles until race day.

Carlson is representative of the typical triathlete. There are no gold medals, no endorsement checks. He’s competing solely for personal pride and to add to his haul of race T-shirts.

“My goal is to do as well as I did last year,” he said.


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One Response to “Athlete ready to take bite out of 20th BLT”

  1. Ed Bullock on August 16th, 2013 8:06 am

    Way to go, Jon! Thanks to Mark and Debbie et. al. for keeping this great event running for 20 years. I hope that more local triathletes will consider this a must-do race every year so that we can continue to support the local community and the health of Beaver Lake, our local treasure. Thanks to our dedicated local sponsors and volunteers too!

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