It was big news in June 2019 when the IRONMAN triathlon competition announced it would launch a new series event in Tulsa.
“We were looking to expand ... We hadn’t had a new IRONMAN event in several years,” says Scott Langen, regional director for Tampa, Florida-based IRONMAN Group. “Throughout that year, IRONMAN underwent a rigorous process to identify a host venue in the central United States for a new IRONMAN triathlon. Tulsa was the first new full-distance IRONMAN triathlon added in the United States since 2014.”
He says the organization was drawn to Tulsa’s downtown footprint and the active participation in tri-clubs within Tulsa, the state and the region. Originally scheduled for May 31, 2020, the event was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 23, an anticipated 2,000-plus athletes will descend on Tulsa — many will be locals, but a lot will be from Oklahoma and its surrounding states. Visit Tulsa expects this one-day event to make a nearly $18 million impact on the community.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 volunteers are needed for the event, which begins with registration on Thursday, with numerous activities and preparation to be done Saturday.
Sunday’s race-day needs include “everything from parking to aid stations to swim, bike and run support, and finish line presence,” says Langen, who encourages interested volunteers to register by May 16 at ironman.com/im-tulsa.
This is a new event for Tulsa, and Langen knows many will want to see the spectacle. However, “Given that we’re going to be under COVID protocol, this is going to be considered an athlete-centric event,” he says.
IRONMAN has developed a series of operating principles prepared in accordance with industry standards for open-air, mass participation sporting events, Langen adds.
“These operating principles have been designed to allow for events like the 2021 Certified Piedmontese IRONMAN North America Championship Tulsa to be organized in a manner consistent with local community objectives and expectations set by public health entities as it relates to contagion risk mitigation of COVID-19,” he says, with details available at ironman.com/athlete-smart.
Usual spectator spots like the swim/bike transition and the finish line will have little to no viewing opportunities.
He encourages those wishing to see the action and cheer on athletes to do so along the bike or run course, whose maps can be found online.
IRONMAN is a triathlon competition consisting of swimming, cycling and running components. The Certified Piedmontese IRONMAN North American Championship Tulsa includes:
- The swim course is a 2.4-mile out-and-back in Keystone Harbor on Lake Keystone near Mannford. Typical water temperature this time of year is the low to mid 70s.
- The bike course is a 112-mile journey through the rolling Osage Hills, starting at Lake Keystone, traveling past Highway 20 up to Birch Lake and ending at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa.
- After disembarking their bicycle, competitors will start a 26.2-mile run through downtown, down Riverside Drive to East 66th Place and back, ending at Guthrie Green.
• Certified Piedmontese IRONMAN North American Championship Tulsa will offer 75 qualifying slots to the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii — what IRONMAN Group Regional Director Scott Langen equates to the Super Bowl of this sport.
• Langen says IRONMAN officials reviewed water quality, participated in other athletic competitions like Saint Francis Tulsa Tough and had their feet on the ground in Tulsa before finalizing the city as a new IRONMAN site.
• Challenges facing athletes vary depending on the level of athlete competing, Langen says. “Swim is always a challenge — they may or may not practice in open water,” he says, adding that the hills will be challenging on the bike.
• After May 23, the IRONMAN Foundation will make a donation to 501(c)3 groups that volunteered and participated in accompanying events.