Paul Bunyan Challenge Triathlon drew participants from across the country

OSCODA – Over 100 individuals kicked off the month of August by participating in the Paul Bunyan Challenge at Lakewood Shores on Sunday. 


SWIMMING – Swimmers come out of Cedar Lake, Sunday, during the Paul Bunyan Challenge triathlon.

Weekend warriors and athletes could choose from a wide variety of events. The Super Sprint included a 200-meter swim, six-mile bike ride and one mile run. The Sprint Triathlon included a 500-meter swim, 14 miles on the bike and a 5k run. The Olympic Triathlon included a 1.5 km swim, 28 miles on the bike and a 10k run. 

Participants could also choose the Sprint or Olympic AquaBike, that included a swimming and biking portion, the Sprint Duathlon, limited to running and biking and the Kaya Tri which included a 2.3-mile Kayak/Stand up board, 14mi bike, and 5k run.

According to Kenny Krell the president, founder and national event director for 3 Disciplines , the first Paul Bunyon Challenge was held in 2020 but was limited to 80 participants due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Krell said that many of this year’s participants had under-trained for the event. He attributed this to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent pool closures. For some participants, the event was their first swim of the year. Two lifeguards, who were on hand at the event, assisted a participant who was struggling with the swim portion of the event.  

There are no qualifying events to participate in the Paul Bunyon Challenge. For many, this was their first triathlon. Krell, a former All American triathlete and duathlete who has completed 350 events, suggested that for those interested in participating in future years, the Super Sprint would be a good event to start with. To prepare for the Super Sprint, he recommended a training period of 3-4 weeks for athletes, for non-athletes he suggested that period be extended to two months. 

Krell reported that over 100 individuals, ranging in age from 11 to 78 participated. Participants came from across the state, as well as Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Washington D.C., Columbia and Spain. He expects that the event will continue to grow. 

Matt Albin, No. 135, from South Branch took first place in the Olympic Triathlon. Albin, age 50, has been participating in triathlons for over 20 years and won the triathlon in Tawas a few years ago. According to his wife the couple spends winters in Cozumel where he is able to continue his training during the winter months. Patricia Eilers from Grayling was the first woman to cross the finish line in the Olympic Triathlon. Eilers estimated that she had participated in over 100 triathlons over the past 20 years. 

Neil Garg, No. 403, a senior at the University of Michigan from Saline, took first place in the Super Sprint event. Garg reported that it was his first event and that he had been training for it on and off since March. Margaret Wilk, No. 416, from Northville, was the first woman super sprinter to cross the line. Wilk usually mountain bikes, and said she had spent the past three weeks training for the biking and running portions of the event. She plans to bring more friends and family with her to participate in next year’s event.

The event was a family affair for many of the participants. Brian Hamel attended to support his son and his son’s two friends. The three young men, who were competing in the Super Sprinter for the first time, attended high school together in Madison Heights. Diana Redford had a large cheering section that included her husband and children. Three brothers from the Lovely family-Mark, Paul and Tim all participated. The Grooms family from Ames, Iowa included dad Dan and his three daughters. 

Given its name, The Paul Bunyan Challenge, prizes included Paul Bunyan-themed items. First prize winners received an ax and winners in individual age categories took home a hatchet. 

Krell kept a close eye on the weather throughout the event. The morning started out sunny with temperatures in the low 60s. As the morning wore on Krell told the crowd about a front from Alpena that was making its way to the area. As the even wrapped, dark clouds loomed in the skies overhead. 

Krell has been organizing triathlons in the Midwest region and locally in East Tawas for the past 22 years. The next local triathlon will be held in East Tawas on Saturday, Sept. 11.  The event is expected to draw 300-400 participants, registration is still available at