A Race for the Average Joe
Mix one part community bonding, one part environmental awareness, three parts “exercise”, some costumes, hilarity, add a dash of junk food for good measure—and what do you get?
If that recipe sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Combine all ingredients, bake on a hot day in July and you’ll get one of the wackiest events to ever grace summertime in Glenwood Springs: the Cruise-A-Thong.
“There isn’t anything else quite like Cruise-A-Thong,” says co-founder Tamra Allen. “It’s definitely the most unusual race of its kind around here.”
Now in its fourth year, Cruise-A-Thong is not only a self-professed antidote to the Western Slope’s culture of extreme athleticism, it is also an unabashed celebration of the average Joe. Approaching the elements of a traditional triathlon with a wink and a nod, this “don’t-try-athlon” challenges participants to exert as little energy as possible while biking, floating and walking the race course in flip-flops or thong sandals (hence the event name).
“And if the people do start to go too fast and get a little over-eager,” Allen adds, “we’ll sit them down and feed them Cheetos.”
Allen recalls that the idea for Cruise-A-Thong was born several years ago while she and a group of friends were living in southwest Colorado’s tiny town of Pagosa Springs.
“We were all younger then and just wanted to do something fun, because there wasn’t much available for twenty-somethings,” she says. “It started small, as this hare-brained idea with maybe 12 people, but then it just grew and grew.”
After moving to the valley a few years ago, Allen was encouraged to create a sister event in Glenwood Springs.
“I took some friends down to Cruise-A-Thong in Pagosa Springs,” Allen recalls. “They loved it so much that they said, ‘You’ve got to bring this to Glenwood.’”
Katy Joy Knapp is one local who jumped onboard to assist when Allen reached out for volunteers.
“Tamra asked if I could help out, and I’ve been doing this every year since,” she says. “It’s an event that attracts all walks of life, where anyone can have a great time. The goal is to be average—not ‘the best’.”
Indeed, “average” is king at Cruise-A-Thong. Participants must check inflated egos and lofty ambitions at the registration table because at the end of the day it is the participant with the most average time—literally—who will claim top honors and take home a cruiser bike to prove it.
“This is why you don’t want to be the first one to cross the finish line,” Allen says. “People have devised all sorts of strategies to achieve the most average finishing time, intentionally slowing themselves down before completing the race.”
Although the 2016 course will take an altered route due to ongoing downtown bridge construction, Cruise-A-Thongers can expect all the silly thrills of years past. On July 23, the event will commence in Veltus Park and participants will compete in each leg of the race at a decidedly relaxed pace, stopping at comfort stations along the way for fun refreshments and snacks of the high-caloric variety.
“We’ve done bacon before, Little Debbies, fries, ice cream,” Knapp notes. “Plus, at some stations you’ll get squirted with water or hit with a wet sponge—we try to mix it up.”
As if the revelry of the don’t-try-athlon wasn’t enough, the event continues with a post-race bash after the last Thonger has crossed the finish line. Festivities include live music, costume contests, announcement of the coveted award for Most Average Time and, of course, food. For those who have simply not yet had enough to eat, the Glenwood Springs Rotary Club will be serving hotdogs with over-the-top toppings to curb any lingering hunger pangs.
“The after-party is always a ton of fun,” Allen says. “Definitely not to be missed.”
With Cruise-A-Thong’s popularity growing steadily, the race has been capped at 350 participants this year. Early registration at CruiseAThongGlenwood.com is recommended.
“Funds raised during the event go toward projects that help enhance the community’s outdoor experience and encourage good river stewardship,” Allen notes, adding that Cruise-A-Thong is a project of 501(c)3 non-profit Friends of the Upper San Juan River. “This year the money will help build changing stations at Two Rivers Park and the Glenwood Wave.”
Food, friends, charitable fundraising, and good old-fashioned fun in the sun: what’s not to love about Cruise-A-Thong? As long as there are average Joes in the valley, it seems this event will be here to stay.