In 1987 the Burley Lions Club Spudman Triathlon attracted 87 participants who swam 1.5K, biked 40K or ran a 10K. Some did it all. Ron Ploger, Burley Recreation Director, wanted to see if he could organize an event with three races going on at one time. “I also wanted to do a triathlon myself,” he says. With no experience with triathlon organization, Ploger watched one Ironman on TV, another in Sun Valley. He approached Scott Bloxham of the Burley Lions with the idea. The organization would provide manpower and gather race proceeds.
“On (the first) race day I was so confident the race would succeed I jumped in and raced. I’ve been hooked ever since,” Ploger says.
Randy Stone of Declo and Alan Hunter of Burley have participated in every Spudman since it began. Prior to racing, Randy played tennis and biked just to stay in shape. After his first Spudman, “I liked it so much, I gave up tennis,” Stone says. “It’s a lifestyle choice. More than just the training, it’s the friends you make along the way, the camaraderie and the shared experiences.”
A lawyer by profession, Stone offers free racing advice to fellow competitors.
“Develop the swim, it’s the only ‘skill’ sport,” he says, adding that one year he remembers a participant swam tethered by a rope to a floating air mattress. No one objected, as few people could really swim. Most considered it highly dangerous.
Six years into triathlons Stone did a half Ironman.
“I hadn’t run 13 miles at one time until race day,” says Stone, who went on to finish four Ironman competitions (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run).
Randy’s times reflect consistent improvement. Last year he placed ninth among the locals in 2:23.57. Even at 60 years old, he’s still a strong force to be reckoned with.
Hunter grew up near the Burley pool and basically “lived there as a kid.” He swam on a team for the first year of Spudman; now he mixes it up.
One year Hunter was biking on a team. His runner asked what took him so long.
“I had two flat tires,” he replied. He didn’t, really, but it was the first thing that came to his mind.
Amazed, people told him: “You sure had a good bike time for having two flat tires out there!”
“It’s unbelievable how much it’s grown,” Hunter says. “I can’t say enough about the Lions Club and all the work that goes into this event.”
In 1990 the Burley Spudman was recognized by Triathlete Magazine as one of the Top 10 Must-Do Small Town Triathlons in the USA.
Last year, the top local male was Preston Goodrich (2:00.17), originally from Burley and now a senior at the Air Force Academy. Stephanie Johnson, originally from Burley and currently studying at BYU, was the top local female (2:19.12).
Scott Bloxham has been the race director for 20 years. A triathlete himself, he participated in the Spudman until the time commitment required to fulfill his Director responsibilities made it impossible. He’s ready to retire from the position, but the Lions voted, and they told him he can only retire when he dies. Behind the scenes, there is an incredible amount of planning. Besides getting the course ready and coordinating an army of volunteers, there’s a dinner at the boat docks the evening before with mounds of spaghetti, green beans and baked potatoes.
The race is as popular as ever. Online registration for this year’s Spudman opened at noon on January 7. Those who clicked fast enough were entered. At 12:03 p.m. the race was full.
“My phone started ringing off the hook,” Bloxham says. “I’d say, ‘Try again, it can’t be full.’ When I called to check entry status, I was shocked. We answered the phone the rest of the day stating, ‘The race is full, please try again next year.’”
Bloxham is quick to thank the community and city of Burley, noting that without everyone’s support this event couldn’t happen.
The Spudman is a fundraising event with a large portion earmarked for the Lions Eyesight Foundation, support for the Eye Bank in Boise for cornea transplants, eye screening (with the Sage Lions) for first and third graders in Cassia County and other contributions for local projects.
Planning to go?
What: Spudman Triathlon
Where: Burley (Golf Course Marina)
When: Last Saturday in July – 7 a.m.
To volunteer: Call Scott Bloxham, 436-9016 (daytime), 678-9274 (after 6 p.m.)