The Coveted #1 Bib...


Sometimes to be #1, you need to know what it’s like to be last.

By Doobie Kurus

Wow, has it been 5 years already for the Hopkins Royal Triathlon (HoRT)? It seems like just yesterday, I was sending out our first swimmer on a flooded beach, creating signage out of yellow cloth napkins, and forgetting to order the post race fruit. Flash forward to last Saturday, and although I constantly get positive feedback about my attention to details, and my endless energy, rest assure, there are still plenty of things going on behind the scenes I feel I missed, and I slept really well Saturday night after the race.

People have often noticed we do some things a little differently for the HoRT. For starters, we offer a true mini-sprint, with 2 entry level swim distances (50 and 100 yards), and a chance for newbies to pick the long or the short distances for each the swim, bike, and run. We have a special place in our hearts for Clydesdales and Athenas, by which they get the middle row in Transition, chairs to sit down upon, and the chance to start off our race. We also assign starting positions mainly by the order in which people register, not by age, gender, or ability. In other words, we reward those who take a chance on us, sometimes 9 months in advance. Some race directors have shaken their heads when we describe the things we do. Other (current and former) race directors, like Bill Copenhagen, Ross Rogney, Kris Swarthout, Scott Tripps, Kevin Christenson, and Tony Schiller, have not only liked what we do, but have come out to either volunteer, or even participate in the HoRT. ...


One of the biggest things people wondered is how certain people get the coveted #1 bib, as usually it’s reserved for elite athletes in most races. Not the HoRT, and it doesn’t seem to matter. Nearly every one of our overall winners have started out last in the water. And this way, nearly every participant can say they were ahead of the winner, if even for a brief moment.

This year (2018), I received an email from Jordan Bergeman, asking if he and his son, Jeffrey, could participate in the HoRT. Jeffrey (age 12), is physically unable to participate himself, but that does not prevent Jordan from swimming, biking, and running with Jeffrey (aka: “Ironman”) in tow. Due to the extra time it sometimes takes to navigate the course for 2, Jordan said some races allow him to be near the beginning. I asked if they’d like to start off our event. They humbly and graciously accepted.

Terri McConnell (nee Dauplaise), one of original founding participants, did her first triathlon ever at the HoRT our first year, questioning what her boyfriend, (now husband) Pete, had gotten her into. She has been hooked ever since, gradually doing other triathlons, increasing the distances to a long course (70.3) next weekend, and eyeing up an IronMan race in 2019. Not bad for someone who just over a year ago found herself (right before Christmas) in the hospital battling cancer, while at the same time dealing with the death of a parent, and looming loss of a job. When Pete thought of something to lift her spirits, he contacted me to see if he could get a race entry certificate to present to Terri. Flattered, we not only gave him a certificate to present her, we offered the #1 bib to her in 2017. Not necessary we found out, as she was actually the first person to register at 12:01 a.m. January 1st. Guess she wasn’t taking any chances anymore.

One of the first people I ever met that was into triathlons was Bud McJilton, a great guy from my church on the U of M campus. He often mentioned about training for an IronMan with his family, whom I hadn’t yet met. I’m not sure what I thought was cooler; Bud doing an IronMan with his family, or Bud doing an IronMan in his 80s. He was the inspiration for me to try the sport. Eventually I would meet his daughters at various races, and would ask how Bud was doing. In our first year, all 4 of Bud’s daughters participated in it, including one daughter that came out from Washington. Bud, and his wife, MaryKay, sat near the finish line, as each of his daughters passed by. When the last daughter came near, the 3 sisters ran out to meet her, walked over to Bud and gave him a kiss, then proceeded to run across the finish line hand in hand. Bud’s no longer with us, but his inspiration lives on. Two of his daughters, Kathleen and Genevieve, each have gotten to be #1 in 2015 and 2016, respectively, simply by registering as the clock struck midnight. Rumor has it that Genevieve had another sister distract Kathleen when registration opened by calling her to wish her a happy new year, so Genevieve could register first that year. Talk about sibling rivalry!

In 2014, the #1 bib was granted to a very special person to me…my wife, Joyce. The romantic version of the story was that Joyce is one of the most influential people in my life, someone who has made me a better person, which in turn allows me to be better for others, and was truly deserving to be #1. The reality version was that our 15th wedding anniversary was the night before the race, and I needed something really awesome for her as a gift, before I asked her to help me set up the transition area; plus I needed to try out the registration software for the first time, and I knew all of Joyce’s info. Even though she handles our volunteers on race day, she’ll always be #1 in my heart!

hopkinsfinishers.pngPast #1 (race bib) recipients:
2014-Joyce Kurus (my wife, no brainer there)
2015-Kathleen Pengelly (daughter of Bud McJilton, my triathlon hero)
2016-Genevieve McJilton (daughter of Bud, who’s still my hero)
2017-Terri McConnell (has participated in all 5 HoRTs)
2018-Jeffrey Bergeman (aka IronMan)

Who will be the next #1? Will it be Mike Anderson, a participant who did one of our original triathlons, and fought back from prostrate cancer. When the doctors okayed him for competition, they recommended a late summer triathlon. That’s when he recalled the Hopkins Royal Triathlon, and knew it was a sign, when he saw the race date was on his birthday this year. Will it be Elsa Peterson, an up and coming junior triathlete overcoming a devastating ACL injury, and gained clearance to participate just days before the race. Then there’s Josh Sell, a 5 time participant, that uses multisport events to race raise money for St. Baldrick’s (children’s cancer research) and Grace Sharp, a woman whom hadn’t done a triathlon in 19 years until Saturday. Following the encouragement of her friends that also do HoRT, she came to realize that it’s a lot more fun when you “race your own race”.
We’ll find out August 31st, 2019. Register early, because your starting order depends on it (plus we sell out every year!)


0 #2 Ray Jarosik aka RayJ 2018-10-04 12:54
Doobie...you never cease to amaze me and I totally love what you are doing with this race. Keep up the great work and know that your heart for people is what makes this race special. See you next year "at the finish line" RayJ
0 #1 Bill Copenhagen 2018-09-13 12:30
Kudos on another great race. As always it was impeccably orchestrated and as far as I could tell flawless. I'll be back again next year. - Bill

Add comment

Security code

Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.