Triathlon 101: beginners only

To those who have never participated before, a triathlon might seem an imposing event -- dominated by hardcore distance runners, road-racing cyclists and endurance swimmers.

Luckily for the first-timer, there’s now something akin to Triathlon Lite.

The “My First Triathlon” series, an event that originated in Canada five years ago, has made its way across the border to Lake Chelan.

And Meaghan Mounger and Christin Gordanier -- both born and raised on Bainbridge Island – are heading there this weekend to see what it’s all about.

“She was kind of egging me into doing it,” admits Mounger of her friend Gordanier’s persistence.

“I don’t have a lot of discipline to just go out and run, but it blossomed out of a desire to get involved. And Christin’s constant harassing,” laughed Mounger.

Joining the pair is Gordanier’s future mother-in-law and island local, Penny Lamping.

“Christin dragged me into it,” Lamping said. “She kept saying ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’”

According to Brent Kamenka of World Endurance Sport, the creator of the “My First Triathlon” series, was intended to get people “up and moving” and “give them confidence that they can do something they never thought they could.”

Athletes are only eligible to participate in the event if they have never competed in a triathlon before. More than 2,000 first-timers, ages 7 to 69, took that

challenge last year, prompting organizers to put together the Lake Chelan event. Similar competitions will be held later in the year in California and Florida.

The event has been so popular that organizers are adding “My Next Triathlon” in 2004, for “My First” alumni.

Normally, a triathlon features a 1 1/2 mile swim, a 25-mile bicycle ride and a six-mile run. The ‘My First’ event distances are less than half of their Olympic counterparts. The swim is 1/4 mile, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and a three-mile run.

“They guarantee the run and bike ride are ‘pancake flat,’” said Mounger.

“I wonder exactly what they mean by that,” Gordanier mused.

Mounger has participated in three organized running races since signing up for the event, and Gordanier just completed the Grand Old Fourth Fun Run.

Training, though they are hesitant to officially call it that, consists of running, cycling and swimming when their work schedules permit -- usually about three times a week.

“I just haven’t done any two things in the same day yet,” Gordanier said. “It’ll be a matter of doing them all right in a row.”

They use the Green Lake trail in Seattle, which provides a suitable three-mile course for running. Swimming is usually done at public pools, and cycling takes place in various locales -- sometimes more out of necessity than training effort.

“I ride my bike to the university because there’s no parking,” Mounger said.

“And I’ve started to really incorporate biking into my daily activities.”

Lamping, who will turn 53 next week, has been working up to the event as well.

“I’d been running a bit. I started riding the bike and swimming up at the pool,” she said.

And while they’re already looking beyond this weekend to future triathlon events -- citing the possibility of participating in the next Danskin Women’s Triathlon Series and the Seattle half-marathon -- all insist it’s not about competition, but about having fun.

Mounger pulls on her flowered swim cap, purchased just for the event, and she and Gordanier break into laughter.

“We’re going to have a great time,” Gordanier said. “How can you not have fun in a swim cap like that?”

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