May 2019 - MULTISPORT
This Year, Try a Tri or Do a Du
By Tom Denham
As a runner, swimmer or cyclist you may have crossed paths with people who tell you, “You should do a triathlon!” If you’re like me, your gut reaction is, “I ain’t doing that! And I suck at swimming.” Then you have gateway athletes like my running friend, Larry Salvagni of Voorheesville, who pushed the envelope and emphatically told me, “This year we should do Crystal Lake.” I replied, “Do you have any idea of what is really involved in a tri? I mean like training for swimming and biking? What the hell happens in this transition area that people keep talking about? I don’t think we have a clue with what we’re doing.” He responded, “No, but we should just do it anyway.” I answered back, “Ok, fine.” Then, we impulsively registered.
A triathlon is usually a swim, bike, run, but in some events swimming can be substituted for paddling or skydiving (not serious about that last one). Most individuals can handle the run and bike of a duathlon. However, the vast majority of people hold themselves back from registering for a triathlon because of the swim. Larry and I came into the sport as runners and then we bought bikes. Our swim preparation consisted of a few laps at the YMCA pool. We decided that would just float your way through the swim portion. However, there is a HUGE difference between doing laps at the Y and open water swimming. Had Larry and I joined Bethlehem Triathlon Club in the first place, which we did the following year, we would have saved ourselves a lot of grief and been much more successful.
So, your first step is to join a triathlon club! It costs money, I get that, but the investment will pay off. Trust me on this one. Nicest bunch of people you will ever meet. In addition to BTC, check out Capital District Triathlon Club, Saratoga Triathlon Club, Adirondack Triathlon Club, Hudson Valley Triathlon Club or a club in your area. Members and officers will teach you what you need to know. At my very first swim practice with BTC, I met Sarah Vogel of Albany. She is not only my triathlon mentor, but also has become one of my closest friends. Triathlons require adult supervision. Plus, your tri friends will help you reach your goals and hold you accountable. Rid your ignorance of triathlons and get a tri club membership!
When it comes to triathlons, focus on progress, not perfection. Take this one step at a time. Don’t go crazy by making a half or full Ironman distance your very first triathlon. Newbies who register for these serious levels tend to undertrain, show up without the right gear, and not do well. Sadly, they often never compete again. To get started, stick to a sprint or Olympic distance. Please. You can learn from it and then build toward more advanced distances.
In addition, half fees start around $175, and fulls can begin at $500. This does not include travel, lodging, meals, gear, fuel, etc. Let’s slow down here and be more deliberate. Since sprints and Olympics are shorter distances and easier to organize, you will find more opportunities than the longer distance events. Sprint and Olympics cost more than your typical 5K, but similar to a half or full marathon, they usually run in the $60 to $120 range, and duathlon fees go between $55 to $75.
Sprints and Olympics are friendly for spectators, families, and often have kids’ races. They are easier to train for and less intimidating to compete in than a half or full. Swim distances can range from 350 yards to 1500 yards. Just remember, the swim is the warm-up for the bike and run. A very small percentage of triathletes come into the sport as swimmers. The bike can range in length from 12 to 25 miles. The run is normally a 5K or 10K. With my first triathlon, I told everyone, “All I want to do is just finish.” With my second triathlon, my goal was to do better than “just finish.” Here’s a list of triathlons and duathlons to get on your calendar now…
Mark Wilson of Wilson Endurance Sports is the race director for several USAT sanctioned events. The 9th annual Cooperstown Triathlon on Saturday, June 1 at beautiful Glimmerglass State Park – Sprint triathlon and aquabike, sprint for relay teams of two or three people, and a kids’ triathlon. Mark promises great weather and a sweet finisher’s medal!
I am looking forward to competing in the inaugural Ticonderoga Triathlon Festival on Saturday, June 22 – this first annual race (formerly Hague) is now only five miles north in Ticonderoga. An athlete-friendly, safe and beautiful course with swim in Lake George and bike and run hugging the shoreline! Sprint/Olympic triathlons, sprint/Olympic aquabike, and kids’ triathlons on Saturday – and Duathlon on Sunday, June 23. For overachievers who like to have fun, racers can also do sprint/du and Olympic/du combos, and Double Ti (sprint/Olympic) and Triple Ti (sprint/Olympic/du) combos!
Please join me for the Stissing Triathlon on Sunday, June 30 in Pine Plains (just one-hour south from Albany) – Sprint, aquabike and kids’ triathlons in a small town with arguably the most challenging hills of any sprint in our area.
The 10th annual Delta Lake Triathlon is on Saturday, July 20 in Rome – Sprint, Olympic and Delta Double (sprint/Olympic) at Delta Lake State Park (near Utica). For more info and to register, visit coachmarkwilson.com.
Not ready for the swim portion of the triathlon, or want a super run-bike-run race, then I will see you at the 15th anniversary of the Memorial Duathlon & 5K on Sunday, May 26 in Saratoga Springs. New name, same great race, and benefits Saratoga Lions Club causes! For non-bikers, there’s a separate 5K run/walk. Register at thememorialduathlon5k.com.
I hope to see you at the 10th anniversary of the Hudson Crossing Triathlon on Sunday, June 9 in Schuylerville. A classic sprint race in a fun, relaxed environment for newbies and competitive athletes. Register at hudsoncrossingtri.com.
I competed in last year’s Great Sacandaga Challenge Triathlon and will do it again this summer on Saturday, June 15 in Broadalbin. Now in its fifth year, this triathlon is family-friendly with adult sprint races and youth and kids’ race distances for new people and veteran triathletes. Register at greatsacandagachallenge.com.
Check out the Vermont Sun Triathlon Series at Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, Vt. The Hare family and staff have been directing these six great races for 34 years! The series features the Vermont Sun Sprint Triathlon on June 22, and July 14 (USAT Vermont State Championships (open to all)), and August 11. The Lake Dunmore Olympic Triathlon is on June 22 and Aug. 11. In addition, the Branbury Classic Triathlon (paddle, bike, run) is on July 14 – non-swimmers welcome! Register at vermontsun.com.
In my humble opinion, it’s just kind of badass to say that you’re a triathlete. Embellish your performance when you get to the office. Everyone will be impressed, unless, of course, they are seasoned triathletes! Seriously though, triathlons and duathlons have given me some of the best memories of my athletic career. Even more importantly than the memories, you get a finisher’s medal, a banana, and a wicking T-shirt! The hardest part is having the courage to register. This year, just go for it. I promise you won’t regret it – hopefully, you’ll be back for more.
I think that’s enough to keep you busy this season. Thank you for reading my first article. I hope you found it entertaining and instructive. Remember, life’s a playground, so play on it every day and make it happen!
Dr. Tom Denham (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a career counselor, motivational speaker, and enthusiastic high adventurer. He shares his passion for high altitude mountaineering, kayaking, curling, and especially ice and rock climbing with others, but only when he is not trying to win his age group in running, duathlon and triathlon.