March 2016 - Triathlon & Duathlon
Ready, Set, Sprint!
By Christine McKnight
Spring season triathlons and duathlons offer early tests of fitness for newbies and veterans alike, all in family-friendly settings.
Karen Martin Swift of Saratoga Springs has a special place in her heart for the Saratoga Lions Club Memorial Day Duathlon. That’s because the race (saratogalionsduathlon.com), which is Sunday, May 29, at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, is a family affair for her.
Not only have Karen and her husband, Randy, participated in the duathlon every year, but her father, Randy Martin, helped found the event 12 years ago. Karen’s sister, Lisa Eriksson, and her family always come down to the race from Richmond, Vt., and a brother, David Martin, has also participated.
“I like it because it’s a good way to get the triathlon season started, more than anything,” said Karen, a veteran of more than 50 triathlons, including four Ironman finishes. “It’s a great first race for someone just getting into the sport, but it’s also a good opportunity for some of the more serious athletes to get into their race season. It’s spectator-friendly, and enjoys a lot of community support.”
The duathlon features a 5K, two-loop run, followed by an 18-mile, three-loop “lollipop”-configured bike course, and then another 5K run. Always a highlight of the area’s early-season multisport calendar, the Lions Club Duathlon will be sanctioned for the first time this year by USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlon and duathlon, according to race co-director Bill Gibeault. He added that the 2016 event will honor the nation’s military, with veterans serving as honorary race marshals and registration fees for veterans sliced in half.
“It’s more than just a race to us,” Bill said. “It’s an experience, and we wanted to make it even more memorable, an event that would make it worthwhile both for athletes and families.” He said that, while the Lions Club planned to work hard to nurture the duathlon’s local flavor, members wanted to grow attendance by seeking USAT certification. Attendance last year was about 350. Two of the major beneficiaries of the duathlon are the Lions Eye Institute in Albany and the Saratoga Springs Community Health Center, an initiative with Saratoga Hospital.
Delmar Duathlon – The earliest duathlon in the region is the Delmar Duathlon (delmardu.com) on Sunday, April 24. A collaboration of the Town of Bethlehem’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation and the Bethlehem YMCA, this race features a two-mile run, ten-mile bike, and two-mile run.
Like the Lions Club Du, it attracts an interesting mix, from weekend warriors to elite athletes who want to test their fitness. “All shapes, sizes and abilities are welcome,” said coordinator Randal Thomas. Now in its fifth year, the Delmar Duathlon added a team category in 2014. It now attracts more 200 athletes, who compete from the Bethlehem Elm Avenue Town Park.
Anyone Can Tri Triathlon – The oldest triathlon in the Capital Region, the 22nd annual Anyone Can Tri Triathlon (cdymca.org/spring-has-sprung-distance-festival), highlights a series of races billed as the Spring Has Sprung Distance Festival, and staged from the Southern Saratoga YMCA in Clifton Park on Sunday, May 1. The triathlon, which is designed for beginners, features an unusual, 350-yard “snake” pool swim, a bike of just under 11 miles, and a 5K run through the flat neighborhoods around the YMCA.
The triathlon gets under way at 8am, followed by 10-mile and 5K road races, and a 3K walk at 8:30am. A shorter kids’ triathlon at 11am wraps up the day’s events. Registrations in this family-friendly setting typically total about 100 adults and 100 youngsters.
Schenectady County Pedal-Paddle-Run Triathlon – Looking to compete in something a little different? In an event that organizers describe as “Not Your Typical Triathlon,” the Schenectady County Pedal-Paddle-Run (schenectadycounty.com/ppr) on Saturday, May 7, features a seven-mile bike on the Mohawk Bike Path, a two-mile kayak or canoe on the Mohawk River, and a 3.5-mile run on the bike path.
Staged from the Aqueduct Park Boathouse in Niskayuna, this race is now in its sixth year and typically attracts 125 to 150 athletes, including teams. “Our goal is to both promote wellness and showcase some of the lifestyle assets we have, especially the bike path and the numerous boat launch points on the Mohawk River,” said Jason LeCuyer, director of special events for the county.
Cooperstown Triathlon – The Cooperstown Triathlon (atcendurance.com) on Saturday, June 4 offers triathletes their first opportunity of the season to compete in open water. In this case, it’s an 800-meter swim in crystal clear Otsego Lake at Glimmerglass State Park, seven miles north of the village of Cooperstown.
The water temp last year, when the race was pushed back one week, was a comfortable 72 degrees – what many triathletes would consider perfect wetsuit weather. The swim is followed by an 18-mile bike through the countryside, and a three-mile run within the boundaries of this beautiful park. Race director Mike Byrch expects a field of 200 to 300 athletes for the event, which has been moved this year from Sunday to Saturday at the request of competitors.
Hudson Crossing Triathlon – The Hudson Crossing Triathlon (hudsoncrossingtri.com) on Sunday, June 12, is a sprint race that just keeps working on all cylinders. Race director Chris Bowcutt once again expects to have a full field of 325 athletes. The race features a 500-yard, point-to-point swim in the clean, still waters of the Champlain Canal, a 12-mile loop course in the rural Northumberland countryside, and a 5K run through the historic village of Schuylerville.
“We seem to have a system and a race that works, but we’re always looking for ways to improve the experience for the athletes,” said Chris. He said the race has developed a bit of a niche reputation among swimmers on local school teams who are looking to branch out into triathlon, and last year drew about 30 to 35 competitors under the age of 18. The triathlon is the biggest fundraiser for the Hudson Crossing Park, with a total of $14,250 going to support its projects and activities over the last six years.
Great Sacandaga Challenge Triathlon – Race director Stephen Tomlinson started this race (sacandagatriclub.com), with two of his buddies in 2015 to give back to the community, and spur both young competitors and adults to lead a healthy lifestyle. Staged on Saturday, June 18, at the Sacandaga Bible Conference near Broadalbin, the adult triathlon features a 750-meter, out-and-back shoreline swim in Sacandaga Lake, followed by a 12-mile bike loop north of the village, and a relatively flat out-and-back 5K run.
The kids’ race offers a 100-yard swim, 3.1-mile bike, and a one-mile run. “Our goal is to get as many families involved as possible,” said Stephen. “It’s a family-friendly course, especially a kid-friendly course.” The race last year drew a total of about 200. As for water temps? Be sure to pack your wetsuit. Last year the temps were in the low to mid-60s, but should be warmer this year with the mild winter.
Christine McKnight (email@example.com) is a veteran triathlete who competes in the 65-69 age group. She lives in Gansevoort.