by CHRIS ROGERS
It was just a flash drive, but the USB stick Dave Schutz handed to Lindsay and Scott Sherman contained the holy grail of race planning. Volunteers, contractors, participants, swim caps, medals, stage rentals, promotional photos — it was 60 gigabytes of emails, invoices, and records on everything from how much sponsors contributed last year to how many tables the race rented for its finish line feast in 2011. It was everything the Shermans needed to know.
“Yeah, maybe too much,” Schutz reflected.
With that flash drive, Schutz handed off the future of the Winona triathlon to the Shermans. This year is Trinona’s 10th anniversary, and it will be the first under the Shermans’ ownership. Schutz, a Winona native, and his wife founded Trinona back in 2009. “We kind of scraped it together on a shoe string, and it was really just a passion play for me,” he said. “I was a big cyclist, big triathlete. I just loved everything Winona had to offer, and I always kind of hoped there would be a triathlon in Winona, and since no one had started one yet, I just started one myself.” The race took off, earning awards and accolades — particularly for its cycling course, which is considered to be among the best in the country — and attracting hundreds of racers of all ages and abilities. In 2011, the fitness company Life Time bought Trinona, and little old Winona was added to the company’s list of big-city races across the U.S. However, in late 2016, Life Time turned its focus more exclusively toward those larger races and away from the “World’s Biggest Little Triathlon” in Winona. Schultz bought Trinona back. “I was really sort of intent on making sure I got it back on solid footing and in good hands,” he said.
Schutz knew this couple. They were both outdoor recreation lovers. The husband owned a mountain bike sales representative agency and had helped organize mountain bike races. The wife worked for Trek Bikes, including as a liaison to Trek-sponsored triathlons. She competed in 10 of them, too, including one at Disney World that involved running through the Cinderella Castle. That couple was the Shermans, of course, and Schutz broached the subject by asking them if they knew anyone who might be interested in taking over Trinona. “Secretly I really didn’t have anyone else on my list, and I was hoping that they would be interested,” Schutz explained. Lindsay Sherman laughed a little when she recalled the story. She knew what Schutz was getting at.
“It was exciting for both of us,” Scott Sherman said. “Usually when you get a request like that, it goes one of two ways. Either you get excited butterflies in your stomach, or you think, ‘Way too much work.’” For the Shermans, it was the former.
But the logistical details that go into hosting an event like Trinona are myriad. Once a year, the triathlon takes over Lake Park with over 1,000 racers, spectators, and volunteers. Before any of that happens, the race organizers must secure the sponsorships that fund the majority of the race’s budget. “Without Fastenal, we wouldn’t have a race,” Lindsay Sherman said. Then, the race organizers must work out license agreements with the city of Winona for use of the park, the Winona Police Department for traffic control on city streets, the Minnesota State Patrol for traffic control on Highway 61, the Winona County Sheriff’s Office for traffic control on county roads, the Winona Ambulance Service for medics, the Winona County Dive and Rescue Team, Wenonah Canoe, and Winona Park and Recreation for lifeguards and rescue boats, and Saint Mary’s University to host the kids’ triathlon. Someone needs to go out in a boat with a GPS unit and mark the swimming course so the city can come through and mow the lake weeds. Someone needs to recruit, train, and coordinate 309 volunteers.
Someone needs to send notes about the road closures to every house along the race route. Someone needs to order Sharpies. “For seven hours of actual event, [it takes] months and months of planning,” Scott Sherman said.
What the Shermans did not know until after they took over Trinona is that they would be welcoming a baby boy, Harrison Sherman, into the world. They worked their day jobs, planned the race, and rushed to renovate the house before he was born. “It was literally down to the wire getting the house done,” Scott Sherman recalled. “The day before I was sanding floors,” Lindsay Sherman explained. Scott Sherman was up until 4:30 a.m. brushing on polyurethane. A friend finished the job while he sped off to the hospital.
Scott Sherman said it has been the busiest year of their lives. “It’s been interesting to say the least — lots of crying,” Lindsay Sherman said. “And not just by Harrison,” Scott Sherman added.
It will be easier next year, Lindsay Sherman continued. “The learning curve is the struggle. Trying to find all the contact information and everything that needs to be in place for sponsorships, and figuring out all the laws and rules,” she explained.
The Shermans are not alone, however. In addition to Dave Schutz’s help and advice, the Shermans are bringing in former race director Kelly Donahue to lead race day coordination. “She knows it all,” Scott Sherman said. Then there are all the Winonans who volunteer, some of them becoming the go-to person for their task year after year. Some of those volunteers are coming to them. “We’ve had people come up to us and say, ‘Oh, I always do this,’” Scott Sherman explained. The Shermans respond, “Awesome. Give us your phone number.”
“That’s a big part of the race, is just people who love volunteering,” Scott Sherman added.
For his part, Schutz is happy the race is in good, local hands, and that he will actually get to participate in it this year. “I think Trinona has the ability to be a marquee signature event for the city of Winona, but I really think that’s more possible when you can do all the little things in terms of community engagement, sponsor engagement, and volunteer engagement. You can only do that if you have that strong community tie … when you really look at the production of a race through the lens of a community member — finding ways to not just come in and charge a fee and have people run a race and give them a medal. It’s all the little things that really made this event different,” he said.
This year, a woman donated money so that six children can participate in the kids’ triathlon for free. “She said Trinona changed her life, and she wanted to give back,” Lindsay Sherman explained. People interested in inquiring about the free entries may contact the Shermans at firstname.lastname@example.org. Trinona itself contributes to the Morrie Miller Athletic Foundation.
Trinona will be held on June 9-10. For more information visit www.trinona.com.