DANIEL CLIFTON • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — It’s been more than a few years since Mario Gonzales crested the hill on U.S. 281 south of Marble Falls, revealing to him Lake Marble Falls, the 281 bridge and Lakeside Park.
At that moment, Gonzales, an Austin firefighter and triathlete, knew he’d found a perfect place to stage a triathlon. Fifteen years ago, he did just that with the inaugural Marble Falls Triathlon.
“Yeah, I can’t believe it’s lasted this this long,” he said before adding with a laugh, “I can’t believe I’ve been doing it that long.”
Gonzales witnessed the triathlon peak in competitors several years ago at about 500 before settling back to a much more manageable 300. Though it’s not as big as it had been, Gonzales feels the number is where it should be for the enjoyment of the competitors, spectators and community
“A lot of times, I think we go unnoticed or just fly under the radar because it has run so smoothly over the years,” Gonzales said. “We get it going and have it done pretty much in three hours. There’s a lot of people who probably don’t even know we’re here.”
The Marble Falls Triathlon gets rolling at 7 a.m. July 19 and wraps up by about 11 a.m.
One of the things that makes this possible — and a reason for the triathlon’s success and longevity — is the volunteers. Each year, people step up and give their time to help Gonzales keep the wheels rolling on the event.
“We have people who volunteer but have probably never entered a triathlon,” he said. “They just love doing it and helping out.”
While the event is still more than a week away, Gonzales is looking for people who want to help. No experience is necessary, and he won’t make you run, swim or bike. Volunteers can help in a number of ways including checking in athletes, monitoring the transition area or aid stations along the course, watching swimmers from kayaks and stand-up paddleboards and more.
People can volunteer by going to marblefallstri.com and clicking on the “Volunteer” button at the top of the page.
The Marble Falls event has drawn its loyal competitors over the years as well. Though he isn’t aware of anyone competing all 15 years, Gonzales knows of a handful who have entered it 10 or more years.
“I know there are people who put this one on their calendar every year,” he said. “But since adding the sprint a few years ago, I’m also seeing new faces every year.”
The Marble Falls Triathlon features a full triathlon with a one-kilometer swim, a 23-mile bike ride and a 4.4-mile run as well as a sprint with a 500-meter swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a two-mile run.
“People still really love this race,” Gonzales added.
Go to marblefallstri.com for more information.