Article and photo by Julie Lake

If you are bored with your regular fitness routine, a triathlon may be the answer for you.  Triathlons are multi-sport competitions involving three areas of fitness activity—swimming, biking, and running.  The activities are done as a continuous event, with no rest time between them.  Many people are becoming aware of the effect that cross-training, doing different types of physical activity, can have on their overall fitness level, which is the reason triathlons are becoming more and more popular.

I contacted Kenny Krell, owner of 3 Disciplines Racing, a company that hosts triathlon events all across the United States, and here is what he had to say about triathlons.

Julie Lake:  What is 3-Disciplines Racing?

Kenny Krell: 3-Disciplines Racing started out in 2000 without a name.  The first event hosted was actually at the end of 1998 for a high school cross-country and track team to help them raise money for new uniforms, travel, an awards banquet, and a team dinner.  There were plenty of volunteers with the kids from the teams, and I already had 12 years and 200 races under my belt, so the decision was made to host an event for the community.  Three trail-running events and six duathons (a 2 sport competition) later, the necessary funds were raised, and the school got their new uniforms.  Another high school saw the new uniforms and approached me to host an event.  One event turned into two events and eventually the city contacted me to host an event, and that was when 3-Disciplines Racing was born.

JL:  When did 3-Disciplines host first triathlon, and how many participants were there?

KK:  Our first triathlon wasn't held until our third year of hosting events, and we had about 250 athletes who participated.

JL:  How many participants are there now?

KK:  On average, our events range from 175 to 1,000 athletes in the Michigan area.  We time many larger events than that because owning our own timing equipment, we are able to time many other events around the country.

JL:  What is the age range of the participants?

KK:  Our youngest in the SuperKidsTry event is 6 years old.  Our oldest is 84.

JL:  What are the triathlon events, and what are the distances?

KK:  There are two categories of events.  The first is the Olympic event.  Participants swim 1500 meters, then bike 40 kilometers, then run 10 kilometers.  The other category is the Sprint event.  Participants in the Sprint event swim 500 meters, bike 20 kilometers, then run 5 kilometers.  The participants do not get a rest between each athletic event in either the Olympic or the Sprint distances; they immediately go from one thing to the next.

JL:  I understand that you also host an event in which there are only two areas of competition, called a duathlon.  What are the areas and what are the distances?

KK:  Most of the duathlons we host are a very doable 5 kilometer run, 20 kilometer bike, and then another 5 kilometer run.

JL: What do the athletes receive for the participation fee?

KK: All of our multi-sport events will include a race shirt, swim cap, partner supplied goodies, post-race food tent, race results chip (timed), and that highly coveted finisher's medal.

JL:  What kind of awards are given?

KK:  Award types vary with the event, but most of our events will have awards for the top three men and women overall and the top three in each age group.  Then there are special categories, like the relays, Clydesdale (200 lbs. plus) and Athena (160 lbs. plus), and masters awards (over 40).

JL:  What is a relay?

KK:  We offer relays for every event that we host.  Get a relay team together where someone is doing the swim, someone doing the bike, and someone doing the run.  It's a great way to come out, have fun, and give multi-sport a try.

JL:  What advice do you have for first-time participants?

KK: Don't get caught up in all the tech gear.  Come out and have fun the first few events and learn.  Also, make sure to attend our Multi-sport 101.  I take beginners through an entire event from start to finish, giving them tips along the way.  This is typically held the night before each multi-sport event.  I make sure they feel ready to rock and roll when they leave that evening for the race.

KK: Honestly, CHILL OUT and have fun.  These events are not the Budlight world championships; they are meant to be fun.  You have enough stress in your life to deal with during the 9-5 grind each week.  Don't add to it by taking these events to another stressed-out level.  If you are not having fun, you should not be doing them.

JL: Where can people get more information?


After getting all of this great information from Kenny Krell, I decided that I would be doing an injustice to readers if I didn't include a view of the triathlon from some actual participants.  I found Brian Hampshire, age 31 and a student, Connie Beson-Stegner, a high school teacher, and Ann Gasta, age 44, executive director of Studio 23/The Arts Center.  All participated in at least one triathlon event in 2009.  Here's what they had to say about their experiences.

Julie Lake:  How many triathlons have you participated in?

Ann Gasta: 7

Brian Hampshire: One so far.  More next year.

Connie Beson-Stegner:  This is my very first one!

JL:  Why did you decide to do triathlons?

AG: It was a lifetime goal of mine to participate in the Ironman someday.  I started training and entered my first sprint triathlon last summer.

BH: It was a motivator to exercise each and everyday leading up to race day.  I saw an advertisement in the magazine I got after running the St. Patrick's Day Race earlier this year.

CB-S:  Many of the women in my soccer league in Midland compete in triathlons and they talk about it a lot.  A few close friends on my team do them and love them.  It was their encouragement that really inspired me to sign up and try it.  Plus, I love a challenge!

JL:  How did/do you train?

AG:  Everyday.  Mixing up the different disciplines.  Alternating hard and easy days with long and short days.

BH:  I swam one time at Delta College and found out how difficult the swim was really going to be.  I bought a new bike in April and started biking from Midland to Bay City many times and biking the Railtrail/River Walk 10-mile loop numerous times.  I also ran the one-mile circle in my subdivision.

GB-S:  I had about 2 months to train after I registered.  I had already been running and weight training before signing up.  I started swimming laps in our local outdoor pool 2-3 days each week.  Then I added a weekly long bike ride.  The best training involved duo sports, when I would bike for 7-9 miles and then immediately run, so I would experience the heavy leg syndrome that emulates race day.  I would also bike immediately after getting out of the pool.

JL:  Which event is the hardest for you?

AG: Biking … I need to work on my speed.

BH: The swim.  I can stay above the water as long as I keep moving; otherwise I sink.  When I'm swimming, I'm not only swimming forward, but also swimming upward to stay afloat.  It seems like I swim twice as hard as those who float in the water.

CB-S:  Probably the bike.  I only have a mountain bike and usually I'm pedaling the bike with my burley 35 lb. two-year old in back;  so, I haven’t had as much time to really bike on my own for time/speed/distance.

JL:  What advice do you have for a first time competitor?

AG:  The goal is to finish; there are no time constraints.  Start slow and read about the training process, get a bike that fits, and swim in open water.

BH: Train in all three areas.  When running, change the speed.  Start slow; then change the speed.  Do that cycle for a few miles and this will really help in the transition areas of the triathlon.  Also, give yourself a few months of dedicated, intense training before you do your first triathlon, so that you can finish it.

CB-S:  Health is not simply a body condition; it's a lifestyle.  Learn all you can about good nutrition and healthy living.  Be active!  Don't just live; life-experience it!  I like the quote by Tommy Lizorda, "The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in one's determination."

© Julie Lake, 2009