Bob Thome, shown here competing in 2016, will participate in his 20th Whidbey Island Triathlon this weekend. (Submitted photo)

Bob Thome, shown here competing in 2016, will participate in his 20th Whidbey Island Triathlon this weekend. (Submitted photo)

Thome to compete in 20th consecutive Whidbey Island Triathlon

“I can do that.”

Those were Bob Thome’s thoughts when he first watched the Whidbey Island Triathlon.

And he proved it — 19 times.

This Saturday, July 27, Thome will compete in his 20th consecutive Whidbey Island Triathlon as the event works its way through South Whidbey beginning at 9:30 a.m. with a half-mile swim in Goss Lake. A 19.5-mile bike ride will follow, and a 3.8-mile run will wrap up the day.

The initial Whidbey Island Triathlon was in 1997, and Thome first got involved as a volunteer in 2000 to help good friend Linda Kast Meehan, who was programs director for the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District.

Although he believed he could compete in the event, Thome “didn’t have the confidence to sign up.”

Meehan did it for him. A couple of weeks before the race, she replaced Brian Bartlett, who had dropped out, with Thome.

At that time, Thome realized he “best start training.”

“I bought a cheap helmet, used my daughter’s bike and wore old gym shorts,” he said. “Needless to say, it was not my best time, but was so much fun I was hooked. The thrill of competition lasts a long time.”

He’s had some minor strains and anomalies but has “had the good fortune to be healthy” to keep the streak alive.

“I kept coming back because I felt a huge sense of community and satisfaction when I volunteered and raced,” Thome said. “What a great sport, and it’s fun.”

That fun led to other distance events. Thome raced and placed in the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in 2007 and 2008 and placed in three Whidbey Island half marathons.

Not only will this year mark the his 20th consecutive Whidbey Island Triathlon, but he will get to share the experience with his daughter, Joanna.

“She told me on Father’s Day that she will compete in the Whidbey Triathlon this year with me,” he said. “I’m guessing she wants to experience what I mean when I say ‘it’s fun.’ This will be her first triathlon, and her sister, husband and sons will be there supporting us.”

In addition to competing each year, Thome remained a volunteer, helping stage the event.

“Bob has been an integral part of the triathlon organization and is a wonderful volunteer,” SWPRD Recreational Supervisor Carrie Monforte said. “He’s put a lot of time and effort into making this a great race for other athletes.”

Thome, who recently moved off island to be closer to family, volunteers because of his passion for the sport and the enjoyment of being involved.

“Many of the other athletes volunteered also, and it felt good to be part of a group of such gracious and friendly athletes who unselfishly volunteered their time to promote the sport.

“The race directors, especially Carrie Monforte, were and are always very helpful and supportive, not to mention very grateful. Again, it was sometimes hard work, but rewarding and fun.”

Help? He can do that, too.