Marcy chuckled at her computer screen. The wife was scouting upcoming runs, triathlons, bike rides — anything that might provide a carrot for getting out and training. “The Grueling Triathlon of Doom,” she said, letting me in on the joke.
Grueling Triathlon of Doom? Such truth in advertising, I thought. Triathletes are well-conditioned not to view what they do as “grueling,” nor to entertain notions of “doom.” My mind raced; shortly, my fingers followed, on my own keyboard to see what this Grueling Triathlon of Doom was all about.
It is, I soon discovered, about triathlons for the antitriathlete.
“This is a beginners practice triathlon designed for nontraditional athletes, couch potatoes, under dogs, fathletes, hard workers, grownups or you,” proclaims the event’s home page. “If you’ve completed a triathlon, can swim a 500, run a half marathon, or own some aerobars this is not for you. If you think you might have a shot at winning this race then this race is not for you. This race is for the rest of us normal folks who think that, given enough time, and the right kind of environment, that we could probably finish a triathlon. (Maybe. If we worked really hard.)”
It’s a triathlon, in short, about doing things you might enjoy — running, biking, swimming — in doses you would enjoy doing them: Five laps in the pool (as opposed to the 2.7-mile ocean swim required of an Ironman), a nice six-mile ride on the bike (not 112), a 1.5-mile run (not a marathon), just enough to get a good glow going but not enough to invite leg cramps, nausea, heat stroke or any of the other maladies associated with the last leg of a triathlon.
The Grueling Triathlon of Doom — which is June 6 at the Downtown Durham YMCA, fyi — is one of a growing number of events once reserved for hard bodies and folks with all the time in the world to train (meaning: no family, no social life, no fondness for the appetizer and desert menus). Triathlons, runs, bike rides — no longer do you have to have the intense resolve and commitment of a Dave Scott to pin a number-bearing bib on your chest.
Quick quiz to see how up you are on this trend: After a 100k training ride, how should you handle the “glycogen repletion window that follows four hours of vigorous exercise”? Would you “aim to drink or eat 3 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight,” probably in the form of some convoluted and none-too-tasty drink mix? Or would you have a giant ice cream sundae? If you were taking part in the 11-year-old Ice Cream Ride sponsored by the MSFITS Bike Club of the Triangle, you would be replenishing with Rocky Road slathered with Fluff, hot fudge, nuts and a maraschino cherry. (This year’s ride is June 19 and requires riding through RTP, Durham and parts of Chatham County before handling the ice cream scoop.)
Maybe you’re divided on the issue. Maybe you like the notion of competition, you just don’t have the time or inclination to train for the front of the pack. Rides such as the 44-mile Poker Ride give just as much of a chance of winning to folks who ride a 12 mph pace as those who ride at 21. Ride the course, pick up three random playing cards along the way, best hand wins up to $300.
Foot races have excelled at embracing this inclusive policy. Take the Thin Mint Sprint May 22 in Charlotte: There’s no sugar-coating a race dedicated to arguably the most addictive cookie ev-er. Yes, there’s a 5k that may involve heavy sweating. But there’s also a 1-mile Fun Run/Walk as a carrot for everyone to get out and move in support of financial assistance programs for girls who can’t afford to join the Girl Scouts.
Quick warning: Don’t judge the intensity of a race by its name. The inaugural 3 Little Pigs Triathlon June 19 in Smithfield is a legit sprint tri. Porkers be advised that when the starting gun goes off at 8 a.m. you’ll be expected to swim 250 meters, bike 12 miles and run 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).
The good news: Such information isn’t tucked away in the fine print; you’ll know upfront what you’re getting into. The better news: There are all sorts of Ice Cream Rides, Thin Mint Sprints and Grueling Triathlons of Doom to give everyone a chance to see if they might be a runner, a biker or, yes, even a triathlete.
Your training begins by finding one at this extensive rundown of regional events at SportOften.com.