Twenty laps in a pool, 20 kilometers on a bike and 5 kilometers on foot. Add it all together, and what do you get? The Grizzly Triathlon.

The 27th annual Grizzly Triathlon will take place this Saturday, April 21, at the University of Montana campus.

The event has grown in popularity each year since 1987, when 140 racers signed up for what would become a prized spring tradition at UM. The Grizzly Triathlon is now the largest pool swim triathlon in North America, and the biggest multisport event in Montana. This year, more than 550 competitors will swim, bike and run their way through Missoula in an ultimate test of fitness.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that weather conditions could change at the drop of a hat — it’s spring in Montana, after all. Over the years, racers have dealt with everything from hot and dry, to wet and windy.

The race will go off in heats starting at 8 a.m. at the Grizzly Pool, which is located just south of the Adams Center. Competitors will then pedal toward Bonner on Highway 10, turning around just past the Milltown Garage. The final leg of the race is a 5K run along Campus Drive and the Kim Williams Trail.

If you’re like me, you are getting tired just thinking about this grueling combination of endurance events — which is exactly why the competitors need your support! If you don’t have plans Saturday, consider showing up to cheer or volunteer. With entries ranging from elite athletes to beginners, and ages spanning 11 to 77, it’s shaping up to be a very entertaining day on the course.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.