You can build the endurance you need. They swim, bike and run all in one day.The most notorious is the Ironman, a gruesome day at the beach featuring a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and then a full 26-mile marathon.But that is a triathlon at its most extreme.Ease into it here in New Hampshire with races that are less fearsome and finish lines readily attainable with perseverance and training. Through personal gutsiness and club camaraderie, the podium is a possibility after navigating mountains, roads, lakes and valleys.“The most important thing about doing a triathlon is to have fun,” says Andrea Masters, a North Conway elite triathlete who trains in the White Mountains away from her job as a librarian. “I personally love the variety. When you train you do something different every day so it never gets boring and the cross training is healthy and less stressful for your body.”The multi-sport endurance event will certainly lead to bragging rights. It has its challenges but personal glory is often the reward.As Masters says, “Go and give it a tri.”Impressive FactThe first triathlon in the United States was held September 25, 1974, in Mission Bay in San Diego, Calif., and featured a 6-mile run, 5-mile pedal and 500-yard swim.Gear Box(See photo above)Plunge into triathlons in Blue Seventy’s Sprint wetsuit ($229, www.blueseventy.com) for those chilly Granite State waters. The lightweight Felt Z100 ($799, www.feltbicycles.com) racing bike features a 24-speed Shimano components and dual pivot brakes for those hills and straight-aways. Run away from the pack in the Zoot Ultra Tempo+3.0 ($140, www.zootsports.com).Expert AdviceAndrea Masters, 44, has been physically active her whole life. Growing up in Germany, she started out in track and field. Later, as a board-certified physician at a teaching hospital, she didn’t have much time to train, but when she retired from medicine at 35 and moved to the U.S., she was able to focus her energy on the outdoors and soon became an elite triathlete in New England. Now, her job as library director in North Conway allows her to train daily in the White Mountains, where she also trains and motivates women of all ages to do triathlons.What are the disciplines in a triathlon? A triathlon is an event that combines swimming, biking and running, always in this sequence.What are the distances? A sprint triathlon is a short one and perfectly suited for beginners. The swim leg is about 600-800 yards (a third to a half mile), the bike leg is 12-14 miles long and the run is 3.1 miles or 5k. The grand daddy is the “Ironman.” The swim is 2.4 miles, you bike for 112 miles and run a full marathon of 26.2 miles. The Olympic distance and a Half-Ironman are in between.What are the essential pieces of gear I need? For a race, you need a swim suit, a bike, a bike helmet and running shoes. A wet suit is great, particularly for swims in cold water, but not necessary. Quick drying triathlon-specific shorts with a small chamois are also helpful since you can swim, bike, and run in them; but they are certainly not crucial.How do you train and doesn’t it take up a lot time? You can train for a triathlon even if you have only very little time available. I would recommend four to six days a week with a minimum of 20 minutes each day. On weekends you should definitely go longer and then have a rest day on Monday.If someone isn’t much of a swimmer, can they still do this? Even if you are not a great swimmer, you can still do a triathlon and have a lot of fun doing it. Remember, the swim is the shortest part of the race.Some people talk about “bonking” during a race. What’s that mean? Another expression for “bonking” is “hitting the wall.” That happens when you are depleted of all your energy and feel you can’t go any farther. Luckily that doesn’t happen often. You can prevent it by eating energy bars and drinking energy drinks during long training units or races.What’s the best way to figure out which triathlon is right for me? I would always start with a sprint. If you like it and feel you want to go longer and have time and energy to train more, you can try the Olympic distance or eventually an Ironman.
This article appears in the May 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine