Triathlon's are a combination of swimming, biking and running. The distance can vary from what is called a sprint to the iconic Ironman distance of 2.5 mile swim, 125 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.
For those participating in the Unofficial Triathlon series at Sports*Com, with a 6 a.m. start each Tuesday during June and July, it was all about the experience. From the novice to the seasoned triathlete, Jennifer Joines, Wellness and Fitness Coordinator at Sports*Com, provided an opportunity for the beginner to test themselves and the experienced triathlete to hone their skills.
"We already had some triathletes training here but we did not have a good place for them to do their transition, " said Joines referring to the transition from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run. "There was not a safe place for them to leave their equipment. So we decided to provide that place and at the same time get more people involved."
The first four weeks of the series the distance was 150 meter swim, eight mile bike ride and a two mile run. The second four weeks, the distance increased to a 300 meter swim, 14-mile bike ride and a 5k run.
"We offered several things that is a draw for those training for a triathlon or just wanting to have a good workout using the swim, bike and run," explained Joines. "We have a fifty meter length pool which is very rare, bike racks and volunteers on the bike and run courses for support and aid for each athletic. There is not a lot of traffic on the bike course and the run is all within McKnight Park. A triathlete couldn't ask for more."
Joines and her staff took a close look at the program that began in 2013 and came up with a plan to make improvements for 2014. The first year the triathletes leaned their bicycles against chairs in the make shift transition area. Volunteers and Sports*Com staff were scattered throughout the bike and run course.
"Not only did we add bike racks this year we streamlined our volunteers and staff," said Joines. "We took them and moved them into better spots on the bike and run course to aid those participants so there would be less confusion.
"And we timed each athlete this year but it was an overall time. We started the swimmers every fifteen seconds so each person had to remember where they started in the swim and calculate their time subtracting the number of people in front of them on the swim. That can be really confusing."
More improvements are on the horizon for the Unofficial Triathlon series in 2015. "The first year we had this the participation was spotty at best," said Joines. "This year we have had a more consistent group and when the distance increases we get a more serious clientele. The word is getting out on what we have to offer so it is growing."
"Next year we hope to give split times, transition times along with the overall time. That is our goal which would give the participants a better experience and a better way of evaluating their training," said Jonies. "We want to improve this every year and make this into something really special for those that want to be involved. It is getting better and will get even better."
Lindsey Rose and Ellen Riggins, both Oakland High graduates, had been training over the summer to do their first triathlon. The last Unofficial Triathlon of the year was their first effort in putting all three events together as one.
"We found out that Sports*com was doing this the night before we did it," said Rose. "We had decided to do a sprint triathlon this summer as something fun to do together. And we had been doing some training for about a month but no training like we got when we did this. This really gave us an idea what to expect and how it works."
Rose attends Samford University and Riggins is an MTSU student. They both played multiple sports while in high school.
"We had been biking on the greenway but we got to get out on the highway with what Sports*Com had and that made a real big different in our training," said Riggins. "We thought our legs would be a little dead from the bike because of the distance and hills but we actually ran pretty fast. The program was very good for us even though we only got to do it once. I wish we have found out about it sooner. It would have made a big difference in our training for our first triathlon."
Hugh Jones is a veteran triathlete. He has raced at all distances including the Canadian Ironman. He participated in most all the 2014 Unofficial Triathlon series.
"It is great that the Murfreesboro Parks and Rec. Department gives people a chance to learn about and practice a multi sport event," said Jones. "The tone of the event is to improve your fitness and performance in a fun, safe atmosphere. As participants passed or saw each other on the course, everyone encouraged each other. You got a wave or a 'way to go' when seeing another athletic so the series had great camaraderie.
"And the best part of all of all of this," added Jones. "Anyone can participate for the price of admission to Sports*Com."