By COLBY COTTER
MIDDLETOWN – Rhode Island is becoming a hotbed for great triathlon events, and it's a local company that's behind the recent surge in endurance racing.
On Your Left Racing has hosted events all over New England since its inception this year, and their upcoming race at Middletown's Second Beach could be their biggest yet. The upcoming Newport Sprint Aquabike Sprint & Olympic Distance Triathlon will be recognized as the Rhode Island state championship for 2019.
“On Your Left Racing was developed by Derek Savas, myself and Jay DeLeon,” said Amy Rice, a seasoned triathlon coach. “Derek's a great triathlete, and I am a triathlon coach. We came together – I was his coach. Derek is an entrepreneur, a great investor.”
DeLeon is a Bryant graduate with a deep background in small business. Savas lives in Portsmouth, and is a self-employed real estate investor. Both Savas and Rice have a lifelong love of competing in athletic events, and it's that bond that brought them together to form On Your Left.
“We both decided that there was room for a company in this area to fulfill a slot that other race directors had [vacated] by leaving or retiring,” Rice said. “I've been involved in triathlons for over 30 years. We really wanted to bring back good races that support the athlete, that were about the athlete. It's become a big business through the Ironman brand. We wanted to give back as much as we could to the athletes.”
Including the state championship, the company has two events left on the docket for 2019. They've already made a splash in the area by hosting triathlons at Goddard Park in Warwick, Voluntown, Conn., and East Freetown, Mass.
Flexibility is the name of the game for these triathlons. The event in Connecticut gave competitors the option to paddleboard, canoe or kayak in lieu of the normal 800 yard swim. There was even a kids race and an off-road mountain bike portion of the track.
“A lot of our venues have quiet lake or pond swims,” Savas said. “Very secluded. Newport is a little more challenging, with an ocean swim. I say challenging, really it's a mental challenge. The swim is the area that tends to draw the most concern. That's what creates a lot of apprehension in people looking to get started.”
“We're lucky enough that swimming is one of my specialities,” Rice added. “We always like to offer clinics before the races. We want to make people feel comfortable in the sport.”
Rice typically runs the pre-race clinics, allowing first-timers and experienced veterans alike a chance to acclimate to the course. Competitors come from all sorts of different personal and athletic backgrounds, but Rice has seen a profile develop over her 30 years of involvement with the sport.
“Usually the people that come into it are runners who have had multiple injuries,” she said. “Decided that cross-training is a better fit. The average age group is between 35 and 55. Women are generally the majority of racers right now.
“Women looking to get into something, do something. Realizing, yeah I can have a family, but I can also participate in a sport. Really feel good about themselves. That's one of the reasons I got into coaching, to let women know you can do this and still have a family.”
“Fitness has become such a priority for a lot of people,” Savas said. “People who've never had fitness as a priority, who are trying to get started. We try to cater to those people just as much as the seasoned veterans.”
That steadfast commitment to fitness has led to a natural partnership with TB12, Tom Brady's Sports Therapy Center that is headquartered in Foxborough, Mass.
“I had a knee injury a few years ago that I just couldn't get over,” Savas recalled. “A good friend of mine had recommended that I see one of his friends over at TB12. He had good results there. I took him up on it – I'm actually on my way there now – and I've been going there for three years now. They're all about healthy lifestyle and pliability, soft tissue work. Everything that triathletes look for in the sport, TB12 provides.
“We needed someone on site. I approached TB12 and they were all about it, they jumped on. They've been a valuable part of us creating this race.”
The Rhode Island state championship will be run by On Your Left at Second Beach in Middletown on September 8. There will be three categories for competitors to choose from: Aquabike (0.9-mile swim and 21.2-mile bike ride), Olympic (a 10K run added on to the swim and bike portion), or Sprint (0.5-mile swim, 10.6 mile ride and 5K run).
“We just want to spotlight that this is the Rhode Island state championship,” Rice said. “What better venue to have than Second Beach. It's gonna be a picturesque race, a great party.”
Interested athletes can register for the event at onyourleftracing.com. Portions of the race proceeds with go to Clean Ocean Access, a local Middletown charity.