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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Future triathletes get their start in Grinnell class, earn one credit

While their peers try to juggle homework, sleep and a social life, some Grinnell students are learning to tackle a very different type of triathlon. Erin Hurley, Associate Professor of Physical Education and Swimming Coach, teaches a weekly training class which culminates in the Grinnell College Triathlon at the end of the semester.

“The triathlon training class is open to any student–there’s no prerequisite,” Hurley said. “It’s learning the disciplines in the three areas of the triathlon at a basic level, with the goal being [that on] May 7th they’ll be able to complete the triathlon.”

According to Hurley, Triathlon Training, which meets twice a week and is worth one credit, was first conceived five years ago when triathlons were becoming more popular among college students.

“[We] got a really good turnout,” she said. “We’ve had about twelve students in the class each year.”

The class focuses on training and technique for all three legs of a triathlon as well as other considerations such as training methodology and bike maintenance.

Based on weather, students are encouraged to work out either indoors or outdoors, explained Pat Stuchlik ’11, a participant in the class.

“It’s very weather dependent,” Stuchlik said. “Every rainy day that we’ve had, we’ve always been in the pool. Generally speaking, before spring break if there was a nice day [Hurley] would encourage us to get out and run, [and] since then we’ve been encouraged to bike on the nice days.”

Every semester, a wide variety of students have signed up for the class, including staff and faculty. While many of the students are very athletic or may excel in one certain discipline, Hurley welcomes anyone who can swim from one side of a pool to the other.

Eva Metz ’14 has done a few triathlons of similar length in the past, but signed up for this class just to help enforce a weekly workout schedule.

“There’s a big range [of people],” Metz said. “There’s one person in the class who hasn’t ridden a bike since she was a little kid, and then there are people who do RAGBRAI.”

While Hurley has found it challenging to balance the different skill levels of participants as well as spending time on each event, she seems to have found equilibrium.

“I would say [the workouts] are manageable for all skill levels, without really wasting anyone’s time,” Stuchlik said. “[They] are something everyone can do.”

Besides just training in the three separate athletic events involved in a triathlon, the class also needs to consider the process of shifting from one discipline to another.

“It’s the only athletic event that has the weird transitions,” Stuchlik said.

Students have discussed the transitions and will soon get a chance to put their bodies to the test when Hurley organizes a shorter, trial run focused on doing a little bit of each event before switching to the next. It can be hard for people to get used to, the instructor explained.

“What does it feel like with your legs, getting off the bike and starting to run?” Hurley posed. “What does it feel like trying to get your helmet and shoes on and get dried off and get on your bike when you’re sopping wet after swimming for fifteen minutes?”

Despite being a well-liked class, Triathlon Training is unable to provide equipment to participants. Not all students own a bike or the required helmet, forcing many participants to be creative in getting what they need.

“We don’t care what kind of a bike it is,” Hurley explained. “[One day,] someone borrowed Steve Briscoe’s bike–with his permission, of course.”

The “sprint distance” triathlon that students must participate in to pass the class consists of a 750-yard swim, a 12.5-mile bike ride, and a five-kilometer run. Students in the class look forward to the event as a symbol of their hard work and progress.

“I think it’ll be fun and bring together the work of the class,” Metz said. “It will feel really good to complete it.”

The race is organized by the swim team and is open to anyone wishing to participate. The team will be tabling for registration at the end of April, and any proceeds from the event will be donated to the Ted Mullin Fund for Pediatric Sarcoma Research.

“If anyone wants to try [a triathlon] for the first time, it’s not too late to start training, but I would recommend some training,” Hurley said. “The transition areas will be right out in front of the natatorium, so it should be spectator-friendly.”

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