Michigan’s women-focused multisport event will celebrate USA Triathlon Hall of Famer Karen McKeachie
A long, skinny panorama picture hangs above the bookshelf in Eva Solomon’s office. In the photo, the founder and CEO of Epic Races stands on top of a picnic table near a beach as women surround her. The women are prepping for Tri Goddess Tri, and Solomon is their wise counsel and cheerleader.
“The start line is my favorite time,” she says of the all-women multisport event held near Ann Arbor, Michigan. “They're so nervous, so excited.”
The race, now in its 10th year, has become a perennial initiation for women who seek to earn the title of triathlete.
“When we first started, I expected all these women who were these experienced triathletes,” Solomon says. “I was so humbled to see the range of women who came out to participate in this event.”
Solomon says that first-timers represent about half of the participant field every year, so she and her team began extending their support. Swim clinics. Multisport clinics. Informative seminars that the team streams on Facebook Live. That guidance escalates on race weekend.
“I’m out there one to two hours walking them through everything they're going to do the next day,” Solomon says of the pre-race instructions. Hence the picnic table, an impromptu pulpit for a woman who worked for two decades as an elementary school teacher before she switched to full-time event management.
“You don’t feel that rush that everybody knows something and you don’t,” says Trudy Crandall, a race participant. “Eva will go over it and over it until everyone goes, ‘I got it.’”
Crandall approached multisport with zeal after turning 60 years old, even though she didn’t have any experience.
“I couldn’t even get my water bottle out from the bike,” Crandall says, laughing. “That was too much coordination.”
Tri Goddess Tri caters to newbies like Crandall, many of whom opt to test their open-water skills when Solomon sets up the buoys a week in advance.
“When we're kids, so much is new,” Solomon says. “There's something about learning something new and achieving something new as an adult. We don't have that feeling as often as kids do.”
Laura Fluke, another novice at the time she initially entered the race, signed up after rehabbing through a knee replacement and hip aches. The all-women’s format appealed to her.
“I had one less variable to be aware of when I was participating in something brand new,” she says. “It was a different type of freedom than I expected. Was I self-conscious of running, being a heavier person? Yeah.”
Fluke weighed 208 pounds when she completed her first Tri Goddess Tri. She lost 70 pounds while training for her second.
“I crossed this imaginary line on the ground and somebody says you’re done,” Fluke says. “You’re like, you know what, I can do anything. It’s this jolt of empowerment. That’s what this race has the capability of doing, creating this space where women feel like they’re on a level field to empower one another.”
This summer’s event begins June 22, and as part of the celebration, Solomon has expanded the schedule of race distances. The celebration of a decade of goddesses even features something of a throwback to the early days: camping.
“Karen used to make me pitch a tent in transition area overnight to guard it,” Solomon says. She started the race company along with USA Triathlon Hall of Fame members Sheila Taormina and Karen McKeachie.
McKeachie was hit on her bike and killed in 2016 by a man driving on a two-lane road.
“It's where we ride all the time,” Solomon says. “All the time.”
McKeachie’s influence extended from local to international spheres. She secured world-champion victories six times and received USA Triathlon’s Overall Triathlete of the Year honors in 1999. She is also credited with creating the first bike saddle specifically designed for women.
“We are dedicating this year to Karen's legacy,” Solomon says, “and all she's done for the sport and women in the sport.”
Learn more about the Tri Goddess Tri Weekend on epicraces.com.