Barb’s Race, the women’s triathlon fundraiser for cancer patients, has returned in a new form.
The popular race, dropped when the behemoth Ironman-brand triathlon machine bought the locally run Vineman in 2015, has been reconfigured into Barb’s Tri, an event that gives female triathletes three race options to choose from.
While the name and route specifics have changed, the original goal remains: raising money to help local cancer patients get through treatment with compassion and comfort.
Registration runs through July 19 for the July 22 race near Healdsburg and in the Russian River. Early registration ends Saturday.
Race namesake Barbara Recchia, 69, a longtime Healdsburg resident and two-time cancer survivor, worked with Skip Brand of Healdsburg Running Co. and Adam Ray of Emeryville-based Scena Performance to revive the event.
The triathlon had run in conjunction with the Vineman triathlon and over 15 years raised almost $1 million for the Sutter Institute for Health and Healing, a local cancer patient-services group.
But after the sale of the Vineman brand two years ago to Ironman, Barb’s Race was among the events the new owners eliminated.
Organizers said at the time: “We wanted to focus on our core brand. Those just didn’t fit into the model.”
“It was so disappointing to have it end because it was such a wonderful way to give back to the Institute for Health and Healing that helped so many cancer patients,” Recchia said. “I certainly understand the services they provide and I’m so happy we’ll be able to contribute again.”
Ironman even prohibited Recchia from using the name “Barb’s Race” and from staging a triathlon last year. The company also wouldn’t give her the list of past race participants, a key component of race registration.
Ultimately, Ironman allowed Recchia the use of “Barb’s Race,” but only for shorter-distance triathlons and not too close to the Vineman, lest it diminish Ironman participation.
Nevertheless, she persisted. And with the help of Brand and Ray, the trio revived the race in modified form.
Brand, of the Healdsburg Running Co., “America’s Wineiest Running Store,” didn’t want to let the event die.
“Skip is such a cheerleader,” Recchia said. “He was instrumental in making this happen.”
He introduced Recchia to Ray, who produces a number of smaller cause-based events in the Bay Area.
“I’d been talking to a lot of people about how events like Barb’s were being kind of scootched out of the way by Ironman coming in,” Ray said. “Some of the smaller, grassroots races for causes were being squeezed out.”
Initially, the trio had hoped to organize a race last summer, but there wasn’t enough time, especially since Ironman wasn’t fully cooperating.
Still, the group met at Memorial Beach and made a promise that “Next year we’ll be back with a full event.”
It was as much work as a first-time event, but it’s a good start, Ray said. As organizers rebuild the race, they expect it to grow from a couple hundred racers this year. At its peak years ago, the race attracted as many as 500.
Bellwether Farms of Petaluma stepped up as a primary sponsor, easing some of the financial pressures of staging such a large-scale event.
Recchia, Ray and Brand modified the event’s distances. Instead of half-marathons like when it was Barb’s Race, Barb’s Tri offers three choices: