Undoubtedly, it takes equal parts nerves and adrenaline to swim a quarter mile, bike nearly 14 miles then run 3 1/2 miles — doing all consecutively and after waking up early in the morning. While four local triathletes admit competing in a triathlon is a grueling test of physical ability and endurance, it is also a competition each looks forward to year after year.
While many people excel at one of the sports, preparing for all three can be a challenge. One of the most popular local triathlons is just ahead: the 19th annual Mideast Sprint Optimist Triathlon June 23 in Winona Lake.
“The Optimist Triatholon is a good introductory triathlon. It’s an ideal race to whet your whistle and see how much fun it is,” said the race’s director, Ron Donkers.
That is not to say this race draws only first timers. The Optimist Triathlon is the 2012 Best of the U.S. Indiana State Qualifier. The fastest male and female head to the Best of the U.S. National Championship in late summer 2012.
Although this race attracts dozens of newcomers each year, there are many individuals who make completing the competition their yearly goal.
Tonya Douglass, program director at the Kosciusko County YMCA, is one of them. Before taking a fitness class and swimming at Y’s pool, Douglass did not consider herself a triathlete, but this summer’s Optimist Triathlon will be her sixth.
“Competing in a triathlon works all parts of your body,” said Douglass. “Training for the triathlon gets me active, eating right and healthy. It’s a little scary if it’s your first time, but once you plan it out and do it, it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Winona Lake Town Manager Craig Allebach has been running in marathons for the past 20 years and competing in triathlons for the past several.
“I enjoy the competition,” he said. “I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of doing a triathlon, do the Optimist Triathlon. It’s good for starters.”
Allebach said many people admit their weakest sport is swimming (he includes himself in this category), and it is this event that leads to their apprehension in doing a triathlon. “I always let first timers know there are people out there watching you swim and there is a rope to hold on to all the way out in case you get tired and need to regroup while swimming.”
Donkers adds the Optimist Triathlon has several swim waves, including a wave for those who may be wary of swimming. “It’s a group that goes last that does half of the normal distance (one-eighth-mile). This group can also choose to wear a life belt,” he explained.
Although he admits he no longer has as much time to train as he would like as mayor of Warsaw, Joe Thallemer has also been a competitor in the Optimist Triathlon for the past 13 years.
“It keeps me in shape and honest. It motivates me to stay fit,” he said. “The Optimists have a well run triathlon and the course is beautiful.”
As a swimmer in high school, Thallemer was drawn to the swimming portion of the triathlon at first, but has since taken to enjoying biking the most. Throughout the year, he can be found running three to four times a week, biking 28 miles to Larwill and back as well as swimming either in the lake or at the pool.
“Besides being a fun day, it’s a means to motivate me. At 56-years-old, it becomes a good way to stay healthy,” he said.
For those who may shy away from completing an entire triathlon themselves, another option exists. Mark Skibowski, a Warsaw realtor, has competed in the Optimist Triathlon for the past six years as one member in a team of three. Each member competes in one leg of the triathlon.
Skibowski, who has also completed the Chicago Marathon, is the runner on the team.
“It allows me to contribute without having to do the whole triathlon. I am not much of a swimmer,” he admitted. “It allows us to work as a team and bring money into the community by helping the Optimists raise funds to help kids in the community. It’s just personally rewarding and makes the race doable.”
More information about the 19th annual Mideast Sprint Optimist Triathlon in Winona Lake June 23 can be found at www.warsawoptimist.org.
The Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon will take place Aug. 11 in Syracuse. More information can be found at www.wawaseekiwanis.org/triathlon.html.