Midtown: Sports

Novices welcomed at sprint triathlon in the Triangle

Max Schweizer wants to compete in triathlons for the rest of his life.

“My grandfather did them until his late 80s,” said Schweizer, who is preparing for a graduate computer science program at N.C. State. “I thought it was kind of cool, and so I was like, ‘If he’s doing it in his late 80s, I can do it in my 20s.’

“It’s good exercise, it keeps you in good shape, it’s fun to do.”

Before Saturday, however, the mountain bike enthusiast had only entered one triathlon.

That made him the perfect candidate to run in the Triangle Triathlon, a North Carolina Triathlon Series event held at Harris Lake County Park on Saturday in southwestern Wake County. As a sprint triathlon, the event featured shorter distances for all three components of the race – the swim is 750 meters, the bike leg is 17.5 miles and the finishing run is 5 kilometers.

By comparison, the half-Ironman triathlon that was held in Raleigh in June featured a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a half-marathon (13.1 miles) at the end.

“It’s kind of a perfect distance for beginners,” said Benji Jones, the Triangle Triathlon race director who works for Setup, the organization that hosts about 30 triathlons in North Carolina as part of the North Carolina Triathlon Series. “We probably had 200 first-time racers here today.”

Schweizer finished the race in 1:37:06.

The wide range of finishing times for the 600 entrants speaks to the race’s emphasis on novices.

While the overall winners took a little more than 70 minutes to finish, the bulk of the competitors came in at just under two hours. There were still a number of runners still on the course as the red numbers on the clock at the finish line counted above 2 hours and 45 minutes. All the while, race volunteers exhorted everyone forward, emphasizing how close to the end they were.

That’s not to say there weren’t people whose first concern was finishing fast as opposed to just finishing.

Dwayne Dixon won the men’s race in 1:13:26. The Raleigh resident has been running in triathlons for three years and usually competes in about 10 events per year. This year, he’s gearing toward nationals in Milwaukee in August and then the world championships in London in September.

“The event is great – I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about the event,” Dixon said. “Everyone always says the bike course is extremely fast, which it is – it didn’t feel like 17.5 miles.”

Mary Robbins, a Durham native, won the women’s race in 1:23:55.

“It’s a great event,” Robbins said. “I love the bike course. Biking is my strength, which helps. But it’s a longer bike course, but it’s hilly and challenging. And the swim is a little longer, which is nice for a sprint.”

Yet nothing is too arduous to discourage novice triathletes.

“It’s not overwhelming – anybody can do it; you just have to train a little bit, you don’t have to train a long time,” Jones said.