Changing course

Swimmers embark on the first leg of the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon during a past year’s event. The triathlon, set for July 21, will move to downtown Green Lake this year. Jonathan Bailey photo

by Joe Schulz

Athletes competing in the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon Sunday, July 21 will have some new scenary to enjoy.

After taking place at the Green Lake Conference Center for around the last decade, the race, which will begin at 7:30 a.m., will move to downtown Green Lake this year.

It was moved because the Green Lake Conference Center ran out of parking for the 500 plus tri-athletes competing in the event.

The move also increases participant safety, as the race no longer will be using Highway 23. Moving the event downtown also is designed to boost the local economy.

“With where we were in the past, nobody benefitted from us. Being downtown will hopefully improve not only the day for racers and spectators, but also increase business downtown,” race director Chris Schattschneider said. “We’re going to have 550 people, plus whatever spectators they bring.”

Participants will receive a free T-shirt, a finishers’ medal and a $700 credit towards a new Subaru, provided by Janesville Subaru. Race Day Events, a company that provides equipment and services to multi-sport events, will provide catering for the event.

Money from the event will be donated to the Ripon Medical Center Foundation, which helps pay for baseline concussion testing for local athletes.

Participants dismount their bikes at a past Ripon Medical Center Triathlon. submitted photo

“Usually it costs the school  a few hundred dollars to have all of those tests for those kids,” Schattschneider said. “And so, we’ve been able to keep grants coming through the foundation because of that.”

The event began in 1998 and has been organized by the rehab department at Ripon Medical Center since the beginning.

Originally, Schattschneider was only supposed to help volunteer, until his boss made the last-minute decision to participate in the inaugural race.

“He’s like, ‘You’re in charge.’ I’m like, ‘OK, I guess I’ll be in charge,’” said Schattschneider, who’s been the race director for the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon ever since.

Schattschneider described his job as race director as, “low-pain project management,” requiring him to ensure there are enough volunteers and lifeguards.

Before the triathlon partnered with Race Day Events, Schattschneider was even in charge of making sure there were enough T-shirts for each participant.

Schattschneider noted the partnership has made his job significantly easier, as Race Day attracts sponsorships such as Janesville Subaru.

“A couple of years ago, they [Race Day Events] took over basically all the race stuff,” he said. “We just now provide, me as the race director and then the volunteers.”

The race brings people from outside of the area on race day, which in turn benefits the local economy, Schattschneider noted.

“We’ve had racers from France, California; there’s a lot of people who will come back home to Green Lake to participate in it,” he said. “And then, because of the Race Day Events connection, we get a significant number of athletes from Madison now.”

While the partnership with Race Day Events has made running the event easier, each year something unexpected happens causing the event staff to scramble at the last minute.

“The goal is to not allow the racers to know that something went wrong, and we’ve been pretty lucky to be able to do that,” Schattschneider said. “There’s been years where the week before the race, one of the roads we’re going to use is tore up.”

He noted in 20 years of organizing the event it’s only rained once, and rain or shine the race will go on.

“As long as there’s not lightning, we will continue to go and if there’s lightning we just delay until it’s safe,” Schattschneider said. “In the worst-case scenario, we would just get rid of the swim portion of the event and then just go to a bike/run.”

Schattschneider noted seeing some of the same people participate year after year and seeing the event expand over the years has been rewarding.

“We’ve gone from 96 racers when we started to this last year 500 [racers],” he said.

Preparing for a triathlon is more elaborate than preparing for a running event, because there’s much more planning involved in a triathlon.

“You need your swim goggles, and your swim cap, and you need to know which wave you’re in, and then you have to make sure your bike is working and then you have to make sure you still have the running shoes,” Schattschneider said. “They usually talk about runners as being high strung; tri-athletes are even yet another level of that.”

Schattschneider hopes moving the race to downtown Green Lake brings more attention to the event and helps to boost the local economy.

“We usually have 80 some people that would stay overnight, all those people will go out to dinner,” he said. “So, the economic impact hopefully will be more significant than it was in the past.”

Anyone interested in participating in the event may sign up at