Santa Barbara Triathlon participants won’t have to deal with a mass start to the swim leg this year. The event is going virtual, where participants can do their individual legs on their own time during a two-week window. (Noozhawk file photo)

Endurance athletes are known for pushing through challenging conditions. In keeping with that practice, the Santa Barbara Triathlon is going to carry on, but in a safer format as the community continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The in-person events scheduled for Aug. 22-23 are being replaced by the first Santa Barbara Virtual Triathlon.

“We were determined to create a way for our participants and partners to continue to support each other and engage in the activities they love, despite the strange new circumstances we find ourselves in,” Santa Barbara Triathlon president Joe Coito said.

The Carpinteria Triathlon, scheduled for Oct. 11, has been canceled, event timer Paul Williams reported. He said there is a possibility that Carpinteria may go to a virtual format as well. 

The Santa Barbara Triathlon is one of the oldest triathlons in the country, going back to 1981. It draws more than 1,000 participants during its two-day competition.

Coito said he is expecting 500 entries for the virtual event.

He said athletic events contested in a virtual format have caught on all over the country

“Thousands across the country are pivoting to a virtual format, “Ironman” being one of them,” he said, referring to events by the worldwide triathlon brand.

In the Santa Barbara Virtual Triathlon, entrants complete their chosen events at any location during a two-week window (Aug. 9-23) and post their times on the Santa Barbara Triathlon website.

“The concept of a virtual triathlon is new to many of us, just as the concept of virtual learning was to millions of students and teachers around the world just a few months ago,” Coito said. “We have no choice but to adapt. The amazing thing about this new format is that it allows us to continue to provide inspiration, recognition and support to our hard working and dedicated athletes.” 

Registration is online at Athletes have a variety of events to choose from. They include:

» Long Course Triathlon (1-mile swim, 34-mile bike, 10-mile run — $40) 

» Long Course Aquabike (1-mile swim, 34 bike — $40)

» Long Course Triathlon 2-Member Relay ($60)

» Long Course Triathlon 3-Member Relay ($80)

» Sprint Course Triathlon (500-yard Swim, 6-mile bike, 2-mile run — $40)

» Sprint Course Triathlon 2-Member Relay ($60)

» Sprint Course Triathlon 3-Member Relay ($80)

» Duathlon Course (1-mile run, 6-mile bike, 2-mile run — $40)

» One-Mile Swim ($40)

» 10-Mile Run ($40)

» 34-Mile Bike ($40)

Participants can use a stationary bike or road bike; treadmill or trail; or a river, ocean, or swimming pool. They may complete all legs consecutively, one-per-day or at their convenience within the designated time period.

Finishers will receive a medal, swim cap and a T-shirt, courtesy of presenting sponsor Montecito Bank & Trust.

Athletes who registered before the conversion to a virtual event will receive a $20 gift certificate from Hazards Cyclesport.

“Our sponsors have stepped up in the most incredible ways,” Coito said. “Montecito Bank & Trust in particular has shown us over and over what a true partnership looks like. I’d say I’m surprised by their eagerness and generosity, but that would be a lie. In nearly 15 years as our presenting sponsor, their commitment has never wavered, even in the most difficult of times.”

Janet Garufis, chairman and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, was thrilled to see Coito move forward with the virtual event.

Two years ago, the triathlon was canceled because of the devastating debris flow through Montecito.

“We wanted to do anything we could to help make this longstanding tradition happen for Central Coast athletes,” she said. “Disaster had already stopped the triathlon from happening a couple years ago and making the decision to move forward in this new virtual way gives participants something fun and active to look forward to, despite all that has changed in our world.

“We are looking forward to being a part of this event and reconnecting with the local triathlete community that has become like family to us.”

Coito said the triathlon is continuing its tradition of raising funds and awareness for local nonprofit organizations. This year’s beneficiary is the Sansum Clinic and its front-line workers.

The fundraising campaign begins July 1 and runs through Aug. 31.

The Santa Barbara Triathlon has raised more than $500,000 for local charities.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.