What Makes Tinman Tick

A Q and A with Race Director Wendy Peroza

Shaun Kittle

It takes a lot of coordinating to make the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon happen, and Race Director Wendy Peroza is at the center of it all. This is the event’s 38th year, but Wendy hasn’t been involved for quite that long. Her first time volunteering was in 2002, when she provided support to the athletes during the swimming portion of the race. It was an exhilarating experience, being in a kayak while hundreds of competitors swam past her, and Wendy was hooked.

Nearly two decades have passed since Wendy’s first Tinman, and even though she’s never competed in the race, her involvement has provided a lot of insight into the volunteers, competitors, and community that make it all happen. If you’ve ever wondered what makes Tinman tick, or if you’re thinking about competing or volunteering for the race, read on!

Wendy Peroza volunteering for the swim portion of the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon.

The Q&A

1. What was something new and inspiring for the 2019 Tinman? 

We were pretty excited to have a triathlon club from the Washington, D.C. area (Team Z) reach out to us. They decided as a group that they’d like to make this their travel triathlon. Team Tri Huracan (from the Bronx) were back on board; they love it up here.

The Tri Huracan race team have become Tinman regulars.

2. Is it exciting to see clubs from outside the area come to Tupper Lake to compete?

Yes. It’s such an individual sport, but there’s so much camaraderie and teamwork among the athletes. If something happens to somebody on the course, if someone needs help fixing their bike, some of them will just hop off their bike and help out. And these teams, they don’t even know who you are, but they’re going to cheer for you as you cross the finish line. It’s really cool.

3. How are the numbers looking for 2020?

Numbers are looking good; not a lot of change from previous years. Currently, 413 people have register for the 2020 Tinman. At this time in 2019, we were up 48% compared to this time in 2018. We were set to have more athletes than previous years. In 2018, we closed out at 557.

A volunteer oversees the swim portion of the Tinman.

4. What is your favorite thing about the event?

Interacting with the athletes. I really like that. Coming out on Friday, answering their questions, and just talking to them and hearing their stories. I’m available to them, anything they need.

5. Do you have a favorite Tinman story?

I think that would be a few years ago with Colleen Alexander (Colleen nearly died in October 2011 when a freight truck driver blew through a stop sign and hit her while she was cycling. Her amazing story is here). Despite that injury and that accident that she was a part of, she was spreading the joy to everyone. It isn’t about coming in first place; it’s about finding the joy in that moment that you’re in and being able to find that positive when your world comes crashing down around you. You take those things with you for the rest of the year.

Triathlete Colleen Alexander, right, didn't let a near-fatal accident stop her from competing.

6. Things don’t always go as planned, especially when those things involve running, swimming, and biking in the mountains. Do you have any Tinman related stories about how things didn’t go as planned?

There are always stories about someone helping someone else finish the swim portion of the race, or about someone popping a flat on the bike portion and getting help fixing it from another racer. We hear those year after year. It’s really a family setting, a community setting. Maybe you’re training for something bigger, or maybe this is your big event, but everybody kind of helps everybody else out the best they can.

One year, someone’s brakes seized up and I was walking by and she asked, “Does anybody know how to fix this?” Somebody who had pulled out of the swim came down and said, “Yeah, I’ll help you!” She just ran over and said “My day might be done, but yours isn’t.”

7. Is there any advice you can give someone who’s competing in the Tinman for the first time?

We’re putting out a lot of videos on social media to give people little snippets of what the race looks like and what volunteering looks like. There are so many first-time racers at this event; they can reach out and ask questions and somebody will hop online and answer.

I think the opportunity to get into open water is helpful too. If you’re pool swimming all winter long, you’ll get into the lake and realize you don’t have that nice line underneath for you to track.

Wendy Peroza, right, has never competed in the Tinman, but she has competed in other races.

8. Any advice for people volunteering?

On race day, everybody is invited to come back to the pavilion where the athletes are eating and we will feed you right alongside the athletes. It’s kind of cool to not be helping them and to just sit right alongside them and ask how their day went. It also give athletes a chance to thank the volunteers face to face. We’re always looking for volunteers, so get in touch with us if you’re interested!

9. What is the best thing about volunteering?

It’s a chance to be a part of the community in a different way. We all go out to our restaurants and see our friends and people we know in town, but here you’re working right alongside everybody and showing these athletes the best of Tupper Lake.

Volunteers provide support to Tinman athletes before, during, and after the race.

Tinman details

Now that you know all about Tinman, you want to be part of the action, right? The basic details are below, and you can find forms, maps, and more on the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon page. Be sure to check out our dining, lodging, and attractions pages so you can start planning your stay. See you in June!

The basics

  • Date: June 27, 2020
  • Race start: 8 a.m.
  • Race headquarters and transition area: Tupper Lake Muncipal Park
  • Athlete check-in: June 26, 2020 at the Tupper Lake Civic Center

Note: This story was originally published in 2019 but was updated on March 23, 2020 to reflect current registration and dates.