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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Tricats swim, bike, run to nationals”

    When the Arizona Tricats board their plane tomorrow for Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Saturday’s USA Triathlon National Championships, they will enter the last and most grueling leg of a season-long race.

    “”The last eight months of my life have been focused on this coming Saturday,”” said team president Cameron Green.

    At nationals, the Tricats – a team of Arizona students who compete in triathlons – will participate in an Olympic distance race. One thousand athletes from 62 different schools will swim 1.4 kilometers in Alabama’s Black Warrior River, followed by a 40K bike and 10K run through the Alabama campus.

    Long-distance swimming, biking and running – the triathlon – is always held in that order. The sport requires an athlete to be a jack-of-all-trades.

    “”The hardest part is the first mile of the run. When you go from the bike to run, all the blood (gets) in the wrong place in your
    muscles and it hurts.””

    – Alex Reigert-Waters, Tricats vice president

    “”The hardest part is the first mile of the run,”” said team vice president Alex Reigert-Waters. “”When you go from the bike to run, all the blood (gets) in the wrong place in your muscles and it hurts.””

    Preparation for nationals has been intense, as first-year coach Brian Grasky designed a training program encompassing 10-11 workouts per week, base training in the fall by training at progressively greater distances and increasing the intensity of workouts in the spring.

    It’s a tough regimen to be sure, but the Tricats aren’t superhuman, or at least they weren’t. Grasky said the team didn’t begin the season as natural triathletes; rather, it’s been a process.

    “”A bunch of people came together (at the beginning of the season) as individuals, many of whom didn’t know how to do triathlon, didn’t know what a triathlon was,”” he said.

    Now, most of the club’s 50 members have participated in at least one triathlon, and half are preparing to test their skills against triathletes across the country. Grasky noted that every member of the team has improved their race times and their fitness.

    “”A lot of people look at it,”” Grasky said, “”and their thought is ‘I could never do that,’ and they don’t even try.””

    Added Green, “”Try-athlon.””

    Reigert-Waters, who was a cross-country athlete in high school, pointed out that Tricats members include beginners as well as participants in the Ironman World Championships, one of the most renowned triathlons.

    “”We have people who have never ran, biked or swam a day in their life before they came to us,”” Reigert-Waters said.

    In addition to 13 hours per week of training, the Tricats have faced the equally exhausting challenge of funding a successful athletic club. The triathlon is an expensive sport, essentially covering the financial ground of three separate sports.

    Money is needed for bicycles, bike repairs, wet suits, triathlon uniforms, running shoes, race entry fees and travel expenses, among other things.

    To counter the costs, the club has mounted bake sales and car washes, held races and conducted letter-writing campaigns for donations. It also camps out sometimes while traveling instead of paying for motels.

    This year the team has also attained sponsorships from local businesses Trisports and Bargain Basement Bikes, as well as the Athlete in You Web site, www.athleteinyou.com, which Green describes as “”MySpace for athletes.””

    As a result of their intensive fundraising, the Tricats will send all 25 athletes to nationals fully funded for the first time in their history. The club will cover airfare, lodging and some meals.

    Still, the sport requires a certain amount of personal financial dedication. All personal equipment is the responsibility of each athlete.

    Green, who also pays his own school expenses, worked 13 hours a week during the summer selling books door-to-door in Virginia. He earned $18,000 on commission, but endured his share of rejection as a salesman.

    “”That’s probably the hardest thing you can do in the summer,”” he said. “”But I feel like the challenges in the summer help me get mentally tougher as an athlete.””

    Reigert-Waters cautions potential triathletes not to get scared away by the potential costs.

    “”The nice thing about Tricats is that it’s structured so that you don’t have to pay everything up front,”” he said, explaining that beginners often start on running and swimming before tackling the more financially demanding bicycle races. “”We structure it so you can get into the sport and realize you like it before you have to start paying a lot of money.””

    Reigert-Waters started out without any of the essentials. For his first race, a triathlon on campus, he borrowed a “”beater”” bike from the school and was able to race in the Student Recreation Center pool, so no wet suit was necessary.

    He now has his own bike and wetsuit and has since become hooked on the triathlon.

    “”It’s really easy to let triathlon become your sole focus once you get into it,”” he said. “”It’s a lot of fun.””

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