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CdA triathlon puts children in the race

Life jackets are allowed at the triathlon planned Sept. 8 in Coeur d’Alene, as are training wheels. You can even bring your mom or dad onto the course with you.

The Kootenai Health Triathlon for Kids is all about “being rewarded for being active, whether you’re first or fifth or 12th,” said Paula Taylor, a co-director of the event.

Organizers are encouraging parents to register their children early for the race, which is limited to 200 children ages 4 to 11. There’s no geographic requirement – kids from everywhere are welcome.

“It fills up pretty quick,” said Andrea Kalas-Nagel, a Kootenai Health spokeswoman.

Held at the McGrane Center for Rehabilitation, the event aims to tap into the region’s growing interest in triathlons – races that combine swimming, biking and running – to promote health and fitness.

But this one is all about the kids, including kids who use wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs and those whose disabilities are harder to see.

While special awards will go to top finishers in each heat, everybody gets a medal as they cross the finish line, said Taylor, the rehab center’s outpatient supervisor for physical therapy.

The swim, bike and running courses are all on the center’s campus, cordoned off for safety. Four- and 5-year-olds will swim about 95 feet (one lap in the rehab center’s therapeutic pool), bike 2 miles and run a quarter-mile, with longer distances for older children.

In the past, the triathlon has been rewarding for kids and emotional for adults, Taylor said.

“You just see these little 4-year-olds swimming with their goggles and their swim caps,” then making the race transitions to the biking and running portions, she said. “They’re totally serious. This is their moment. I don’t know that we give them many opportunities like that.”