Athletes blessed with plenty of options for ‘Waco Fitness Weekend’ | Local

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If you’re really into fitness, Waco is the place to be this weekend.

The city will host three-different fitness-related events. So, if you’re into biking or weightlifting or Crossfit or skating or swimming, this should be paradise for you.

“It’s pretty exciting, with what we’re calling the ‘Waco Fitness Weekend,’” said Mike Vogelaar, executive director of the Greater Waco Sports Commission. “We have three different events that are taking place that weekend simultaneously, or at least they overlap on Sunday.”

The Waco Convention Center will host the HOT Strength and Fitness Expo (www.hotexpowaco.com) Friday through Sunday. The event features strongman and Crossfit competitions, as well as a heavy metal car show in the parking lot for the Convention Center.

Over at Baylor’s McLane Stadium, cyclists and skaters will descend on the stadium parking lot for the Waco City Crit (www.bikereg.com/56348) on Sunday. The event is sponsored by Bicycle World Waco and Skate Waco, and will feature bike and speed skating races of various distances on a closed course ranging from novice all the way up to the professional level. The deadline to register for the City Crit is Friday by 11:59 p.m.

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And then Indian Springs Park will welcome the third annual Beast of the Brazos (www.runsignup.com/race/events/tx/waco/beastofthebrazos) on Sunday. These are open-water swim races in the Brazos River designed to replicate the half and full-Ironman distances, as a de facto training session for the upcoming Ironman festival returning to Waco in October.

Vogelaar said that the first Beast of the Brazos was held in 2019 and drew 82 participants. No event was held in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it returned last year with around 200 participants, a number the GWSC is expecting to duplicate this year.

“It creates this training weekend for folks to be able to come, get familiar with the river, and get familiar with Waco a couple of weeks before the actual Ironman festival on Oct. 15 and 16,” Vogelaar said.

He said that the vast majority of the Beast of the Brazos participants are also scheduled to compete in one or both of next month’s Ironman races.

“That’s part of our survey,” Vogelaar said. “Probably 95 percent of folks are coming from out of town, from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, all over the place. We’re excited to be able to host them for this event.”

The athletes really are beasts, too. Considering that the race distances span 1.2 and 2.4 miles, this event isn’t for casual swimmers. Much training is required for these babies.

“With running if you get tired, you can at least walk,” Vogelaar said. “With swimming it doesn’t really work that way.”

If you swim that far, you’ve earned yourself a hearty meal or treat. That’s kind of the point of bringing events like this to Waco, Vogelaar said. The athletes aren’t just participants, they’re restaurant customers and hotel patrons. Not to mention their families and other spectators. Beast of the Brazos participants, for instance, will be able to enjoy a post-race after-party at Fuzzy’s Tacos.

“We’re trying to drive that traffic,” Vogelaar said. “There’s a lot of businesses with the road closures downtown that have seen a drop in their foot traffic, so to try to bring in these types of events that create the kind of travel for participants and spectatorship, it’s really helpful. … We’re trying to bring all that foot traffic over there to help support these locally-owned businesses and restaurants.

“The name of the game for the Sports Commission is that we’re trying to generate interest and help impact the local businesses, and help create these events for local athletes as well.”