Coronado's Superfrog Triathlon has hosted some standouts in the field, from Heather Fuhr to Jordan Rapp, but never a superstar.
That will all change this weekend, when cycling legend Lance Armstrong arrives, his legacy tarnished, but his competitive drive undiminished.
“We've had some pretty legit athletes roll through here, but we've never had an icon like Lance,” said race director Mitch Hall.
Hall is thrilled by Armstrong's participation, but more so by his willingness to headline a 7 p.m. fundraiser at the Hotel del Coronado following Sunday's race at Silver Strand State Beach.
As much as he relishes the spotlight being drawn to the 34th Superfrog Triathlon, Hall prefers that attention be directed to the beneficiaries of the event: the foundation, which aids active-duty and retired personnel from Naval Special Warfare, and local groups such as the Optimist Club of Coronado and the Islander Sports Foundation.
“Sure it's going to be a little more interesting event because there's a celebrity on the course, but that takes a backseat to what we're trying to do,” Hall said.
Admission to the fundraiser, which includes a Q & A with Armstrong, remains open; it costs $107 for individuals or those who want to sponsor a wounded veteran. VIP entry costs $1,000; paying the premium will get supporters in on a group photo with Armstrong.
The weekend Superfrog events include Saturday's youth race and the F1 Triathlon, a concentrated version of the competition that lasts up to 40 minutes.
Armstrong will take part in the main event at 7 a.m. Sunday, when racers face off in a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
There still are opportunities to see the star up close, by entering the race or serving as a volunteer, Hall said. He can accommodate up to 100 more volunteers and expects to have as many as 25 slots available for on-site registration Sunday.
For more information on volunteering, contact Superfrog's Callie Martin.
Armstrong's recent interest in endurance contests, from marathons to triathlons, was noted by the Wall Street Journal Thursday, as the outlet attempted to measure how race organizers account for his recent setbacks.
Armstrong gave up the fight last month to retain his seven Tour de France titles, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs during his championship runs. Once the star stopped challenging the accusations, he was stripped of the wins and banned from sanctioned competitions.
He recently noted though that he wasn't “banned from life,” explaining his desire to continue to push his physical boundaries to Triathlete, an online publication.
He will follow up the race in Coronado with another in Maryland next weekend, according to Triathlete.
Hall said once the star confirmed, Superfrog braced for criticism, but he estimates that positive emails have outweighed angry ones by a ratio of 20-1.
“I was ready for some negative stuff and I've gotten it, but it's not even been worth paying attention to,” the director said.
Todd Little, director of the Coronado Tourism District, which has supported the Superfrog events, said Armstrong's presence would “increase top-of-mind awareness” for the community. He also called the cancer survivor “so unselfish” for continuing to raise funds for research in spite of his critics.
Hall wonders if the relationship will expand beyond 2012, because Armstrong has embraced military events before and participated in some races in consecutive years.
“If he likes it, if he enjoys himself and the fundraising aspect is good for the foundations, there's even more reason for him to come back,” Hall said.