For the best & beginners
The triathlon spectrum welcomes all
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of pedaling 50 miles on my red one-speed bicycle from the north side of Milwaukee to Mauthe Lake in the northern Kettle Moraine. I knew I was programmed to marry some day, but it was adventure that my heart desired.
By the mid 1970s, I was married and each member of my family had a bicycle. We biked on roads and trails together.
I have since taken part in organized, group rides and even biked across the state - much farther than I first dreamed of going. But along the way, I became aware of another challenge: triathlon.
Although I have yet to tackle a triathlon, the history of this multi-disciplinary sport has fascinated me.
In the 1960s, triathlon had yet to be included at the Olympics. According to Marlon Quan, an expert on Greek history, the original reason for the games was to honor the Greek gods.
The modern triathlon got its start in the early '70s in California. A group of runners at the San Diego Track Club decided to break up their training by swimming and cycling. In its most common form, a triathlon event involves three disciplines; swimming, cycling and running in a sequential and continuous manner.
Fifteen men competed in Hawaii's first Ironman Triathlon in 1978. Today thousands of triathletes tackle Ironman triathlons in 27 different locations around the world, including in Madison, Wisconsin. Only 50 men and 30 women eventually qualify for the annual Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Ironman participant swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run 26.2 miles. At the Olympics Games, to be held this year in London, the top triathletes will swim just shy of a mile, bike 24 miles and run 6.2 miles.
Gwen Jorgenson of Waukesha, Wisconsin, will compete in her first Olympic triathlon this summer. When asked to describe her training process, "It's fun because you are able to mix up three different discipline," Jorgenson, 25, said of her attraction to triathlon. She encourages nonelites to give the sport a try and not be intimidated. "Training should fit around your schedule/life," Jorgenson said.
In preparation for London, Jorgenson is on leave from her job as a CPA in Milwaukee and residing in Florida where the weather is more conducive to outdoor training.
If I were living in Florida it would not be because I was an aspiring Ironman or Olympian. Not at my age, anyway. Still, there are introductory - shall I say, more gentle - triathlons available to the baby boomer set.
NYAT, which stands for "not your average triathlon," is an example of an event for beginners. The first annual NYAT will be held on Saturday, May 26, at the Barnum Bay Marina and The Lure Bar & Grill on Lake Petenwell near Nekoosa in central Wisconsin. It is a benefit for a local library.
The options are many. An individual may participate in one, two or all three events. Unlike the Ironman or Olympic triathlon, the NYAT events are not timed.
There will be a one mile walk on all blacktop surfaces or a three mile walk-run on multiple surfaces through the Barnum Bay area and alongside the shoreline of Lake Petenwell. A three or 10 mile bike route will take the cyclist on black top roads and rolling hills through low traffic wooded subdivisions.
Canoeing/kayaking will replace swimming at this triathlon. Paddlers will follow a marked route on Lake Petenwell, and the route will be dependent on wind and weather the day of the event.
Preregistration ensures participant receive a T-shirt, event button and a post event lunch. Registration forms and more details of the event are available at www.romepubliclibrary.org.
For me, completing NYAT will allow me to tell my grandchildren that grandma was in a triathlon.
Dianne Genz, of rural Nekoosa, Wisconsin, is the NYAT event director, a newspaper columnist and an avid hiker and biker.