By: David Kloss
A triathlon is a fun way to stay active and meet people. It can be a great excuse to travel places you might never go to otherwise, and it gives you an excuse to eat a little bit healthier, to get more sleep at night (a definite health bonus!) and to stay active!
Do I have you hooked in yet? No? Well I was (and still am) a skinny, nonathletic computer science nerd, who began running tiny little races in medical school in order to socialize with my classmates. Years later a friend “suckered” me in to doing a short “mini” triathlon in a tiny muddy local lake in Connecticut. IT WAS FUN! Sound crazy? No it isn’t! The people at the little local triathlons are fun people, they are full of life, they are happy people to hang around with and the more races you do, the more you learn and the better you get! You feel more alive just like the other people at these races! You can’t help yourself, but feel better about life and about yourself, even if you come in dead last at every race you enter!
“How can it be fun if I come in last?” you ask? I can promise you the crowds will cheer WAY LOUDER for you, the last racer to cross the finish line, than they do for the first person who wins! Everyone at these small races respects you for being there and “just doin’ it”!!!
My first race was 20 years ago now. I still remember running (a 3-mile run at the end of ¼ mile swim and 12-mile bike ride) as hard as I could towards the last mile. I could hear the 10,000 people in the Olympic stadium chanting my name and shouting “USA!” at the top of their voices. The runner from Russia was only 10 yards in front of me…… I could pass him…. The Gold medal within my grasp! He and I fought neck and neck sprinting as hard as we could the last half mile into the finish chute. In the end, he beat me by about 10 feet. The ordinary guy (the “Russian” who I was competing against) who had beat me, turned around and shook my hand. “Thanks for pushing me” he said. Our little mental imaginary Olympics were over for this week. But we had such great fun competing against each other that last mile!
So why is a triathlon (and today I am speaking mostly about the mini-triathlons) so much fun?
This is a sport that doesn’t require super hard training. It doesn’t require super expensive equipment. This is a sport that doesn’t “beat you up” so badly you can’t work the next day! It is fun because you are outside being active and hanging around like-minded people!
What is the training like?
Triathlon combines swimming, biking and running in a variety of different distances. The distances depend upon the race type. A mini-tri is usually a quarter mile swim, 10-15 mile bike ride and 2-5 mile run. Each town will have their own special “flavor” of this race.
An Olympic distance race is 0.9 mile swim (about 68 lengths of the standard pool), a 25-mile bike ride and a six-mile run. Longer distance races include the Half Iron Man race and the “Full Iron”. The Iron Man race is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon. You can tell an Iron Man vehicle by the “140.6” bumper sticker on their cars! Look for it, honk at them and give a “thumbs up” as you pass!
Of course, the training for a full Iron Man is more intense. But for a mini triathlon, you can spend a little bit of time in your local pool or lake practice gentle swimming. You can practice perhaps once or twice a week (depending upon how good of a natural swimmer you are). A quarter mile swim is 16 lengths of the standard pool. Can’t swim even two lengths? Well, with gentle, slow, persistent practice YOU WILL GET THERE! I did! The 10-mile bike ride can be done in an hour or so. For the first timer, be sure you know your bike is in good working order! Check the tires! Check the brakes!! Make sure your seat is comfortable. Remember, the idea is NOT TO WIN, but to FINISH!
The hardest part of triathlon is called “T2” (the transition from the bike to the run). It takes a few tries on a Saturday morning, or a Thursday night, to practice getting off the bike (your legs are a little bit tired) and then to take off jogging! It is OK to walk! But you will find as you practice this once or twice, your body will respond! That is known as conditioning! YOU ARE NOW AN ATHLETE! Keep practicing! Don’t give up! You will slowly get better and stronger (like the bionic man from the 70’s TV show!)
Here in Wadena, on June 18, starting at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center (aka The Mas) you will have your chance to take home the GOLD medal! “TRIWADENA, No Spandex Necessary” is our extra small, mini-triathlon geared especially for beginners! Check out our website, triwadena.org and then call the MAS to register! Your kids and family will be impressed! And most importantly you will have fun!
I’ll see you at the starting line on June 18, at 8:30 a.m. at the Maslowski Wellness & Research Center in Wadena!