By Vicky TonnApril 11, 2008
Triathlon athletes have long had a reputation as the super-fit few, but in recent years, athletes of all ages and abilities have caught the "tri bug." Its emphasis on cross-training and balanced workouts, triathlons have caught on as a great way to get fit and increase interest in exercise according to www.Active.com.
Avid triathlon advocate and flight school student Ethan Miller and Fort Rucker's Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff are organizing the first Sgt. First Class Audie Murphy Fort Rucker Triathlon scheduled for June 21 at Lake Tholocco.
Miller said, "This will be the first sprint-length triathlon in the history of Fort Rucker." With only 11 weeks to go, athletes across the Wiregrass are already gearing up for the big event.
A triathlon is an endurance sports event consisting of swimming, bicycling and running over various distances. Unlike the MWR Outdoor Expo bicycle race, which also made its debut on post earlier this year, a triathlon is about physical and mental endurance, not just speed.
Miller has been involved in sports his entire life and has made fitness a top priority. He has competed in several triathlons before, but this will be the first race he has ever managed.
"It has always been my goal to put one on . . . so I created a mission for myself," he said.
Miller is still recovering from an injury he sustained while training for the All-Army Team so he will not be participating, but he said he is living vicariously through other athletes.
"What is the next step up from watching a race' Putting one on," he said.
Miller began his mission by speaking to other Soldiers in the Andrews Avenue Physical Fitness Center pool through what he calls "forum training." He spoke to them about ways to improve his technique and participation in triathlons. After listening to Miller, the MWR chain-of-command determined that Fort Rucker would host the inaugural event.
The triathlon will be open to the public and pre-registration will continue through June 6. The cost will be $40 for individuals during pre-registration and $50 after June 6 and until race day. Relay teams, with a maximum of three competitors, may register for $70 by June 6 or $80 after June 6 until the day of the race. All competitors who register before June 6 will receive a T-shirt. Registration will be at West Beach from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. on June 21 and the event will begin at 7 a.m.
Those interested in participating may sign up at Fortenberry-Colten or Andrews Avenue Physical Fitness Center. Participants don't have to be professional athletes to compete. Miller encourages new athletes to sign up.
"Triathlons are for everybody," said flight school student Nikolai Wedekind. "If you go down to Ironman (in Hawaii) you will notice there will be every type of body imaginable racing and it is really encouraging to see people take a hold of something they thought they couldn't do and go out and do it."
Wedekind was the first place winner in the male division at the first MWR bicycle race here Feb. 23 and he plans to compete in the triathlon this summer.
The competition will begin at Lake Tholocco with a rectangular, one-quarter mile swim along West Beach. Then Participants will bike 10.6 miles out to Fort Rucker's Faulkner Gate and back, and run 3.1 miles to the finish line at West Beach.
The course will total 13.95 miles, which is 126 miles shorter than a full-distance Ironman triathlon. An Ironman triathlon consists of athletes swimming 2.36 miles, biking 111.8 miles and running 26.22 miles.
"The reason for the shorter course is so (we) can cater to newer athletes as well as seasoned ones," said Miller.
Whether, beginner or expert, it is important to begin training now for the event.
"Twelve weeks ahead of a triathlon is a good benchmark if you haven't been doing anything," said Wedekind.
Training for a triathlon can be overwhelming. There are three sports to train for and trainees may only have a limited amount of time. Finding a good program is the best way to start a training regime, said www.Active.com.
"The biggest thing in preparing for the triathlon is consistency. It doesn't do you a whole lot of good to go out and ride 100 miles over the weekend and not do anything else during the week. Even if your workouts are shorter, you have to be deliberate with your workouts and the time you put into them," said Wedekind.
According to www.Active.com, a daily training calendar can help athletes stay on track with set goals. Calendars can also help organize a training program that doesn't interfere with a participant's regular schedule. The calendar should have a variety of levels that best suits the individual.
It added, flexibility is also a key factor when training. Families, jobs, commitments and busy schedules can take up a lot of time. It is important to choose a program that allows realistic integration into a daily schedule. For Soldiers, especially flight school students, scheduling can be difficult because of training and assignment demands.
"You are under a time crunch, but it is just a matter of deciding to get off the bus and go work out for 30 to 45 minutes even if it is the last thing that you want to do," Wedekind said.
He added nutrition is a significant part of training for any athletic event. It is important to replenish the nutrients and energy that has been lost during workouts.
"It is a common misconception that people want to starve themselves while they are training. You want your body to replenish itself instead of shutting downs its metabolism (in order) to conserve all of its energy," said Wedekind.
For the body to heal after each intense workout, plenty of rest is essential.
According flight school student Brandy Fields, the most important part of a triathlon, is the psychological aspect. She said athletes must prepare themselves mentally, even before beginning to train.
Wedekind said participants shouldn't focus too much on winning their first triathlon, but should focus on what is important - the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment after completing something they thought they might never be able to do.
"The heart and soul of a triathlon isn't in the professionals, it is in the everyday people," he said.
For more information about the upcoming event, call Miller at 860-558-4619 or visit MWR online at www.ftruckermwr.com. For spring-training tips visit www.beginnertriathlete.com.