Triathletes Get An Education

ROCHESTER | Thursday, April 13, 2006

Before there was a "Dummies" book for virtually everything and before you could get lessons to learn how to do almost anything, most people went to the School of Hard Knocks. You may have attended a few classes there yourself. You probably survived riding a bike without a helmet or even skiing without a helmet. But you might have knocked yourself silly or worse on a few occasions. Triathlete Dennis Moriarty of Webster remembers those not-necessarily-good old days. "When I started, no one even knew anything about tri-marathons, tri-catholons or whatever it was called," says Moriarty, 49. "We looked for our leads from the experts in each sport at the time. (Local cyclists) Mike Carnahan and Bob Terbush offered a lot of help when I didn't have a clue about bike racing." Live and learn was the credo. Or, better yet, play and learn.

"Triathlon was a trial by fire experience for me," recalls Tim Howland, 28, of Pittsford. "For me, it was sink or swim, literally." For many, that sinking feeling of trying to swim at the start of a swim-bike-and-run triathlon is what has kept them out of the pool and the race.

That's one reason why Ellen and Dave Boutillier are starting the Triathlon Community College. Ellen Boutillier says Tri CC is "to help people who aren't sure what to do" to get ready for a sprint triathlon. The school is a 15-week, independent-study program, starting on or around Monday, which will offer workshops on swimming, biking, running and stretching, and culminating with an opportunity to participate in the Spring Classic Sprint Duathlon as a warm-up for the newly trained triathlete's summer events. "With so many people interested in getting involved with tris, but unsure how to get started, this will be such a huge help," says Molly Huff, 45, of Fairport, who joins Moriarty, Howland and several others as a "professor" at Tri Community College. Huff has been doing triathlons since 1982, when she lived out West. She says she knew she could do the swim and the running legs of the triathlon and figured she would "get through a bike ride." She survived her introduction to the sport a 1.2-mile swim, 36-mile bike ride and 14-mile run that started at an elevation of 5,000 feet and ended at 7,000 feet. "I personally feel that most new triathletes' biggest fear is the swimming," says Huff, who has completed six Half-Ironmans and numerous Olympic-distance triathlons the past six years. "Most people are not swimmers and find this the most difficult and scariest part of the race. "The swim part of the tri is the smallest piece of the entire race. I feel to just get through the swim is enough. I know people who have done the back float for most of their swim and finished strong." Huff and Moriarty are among those lined up to teach Swim 101.

"The one thing that can throw new people off is the mass start feet, hands and elbows are everywhere," Huff says. "People will swim over you, under you, into you, so you need to stay calm and just make your way through the crowd." Howland, who will be one of the profs for the Bike 101 and Run 101 workshops, hopes to teach future triathletes how to prepare and how to make the event fun. "Everyone has questions before they start a new sport, and with three events in the triathlon, you end up with at least three times the questions. So this is a great opportunity to get many of those questions answered and see things demonstrated." The Boutilliers, who own Fleet Feet Sports Rochester on Monroe Avenue in Brighton, already offer Learn-to-Run and Distance Training programs. Ellen Boutillier says the Learn to Run attracts about 70 participants and another 50 are in Distance Training. School is now open for triathlon students.

"The premise (of Tri CC) is to educate folks on all aspects of a triathlon from what to expect when you show up on race day, how to swim in open water, stroke review, how to run off a bike, bike etiquette, plus the essentials of sportsmanship and creating a healthier lifestyle," Ellen Boutillier says. "This is quite a unique opportunity for folks in our area." In other words, learn before you play. It might make the hard knocks a bit softer and the activity more fun.

"There is a lot to training and if you start off right, you can have many great years of triathlons and will enjoy them a whole lot more," Huff says. "I know my first tri I didn't eat or drink right and I did hit the wall. Not fun, and to avoid that is a good thing." The details Triathlon College Fleet Feet Sports Rochester is holding its first Triathlon Community College, a 15-week, independent-study program for anyone who has never done a triathlon or has completed one but wants to learn more. Tri CC can begin Monday. The program costs $95. A free introductory session is offered at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fleet Feet, 2210 Monroe Ave., Brighton. Among the studies: Orientation An overview of the triathlon and tips for starting.

Swim 101 Swim strokes, including side and back, and workout tips at the Downtown Fitness Club, 50 Chestnut St.

Bike 101 A simulated ride, tips about transition on and off the bike, and bike etiquette.

Run 101 Another workout reviewing the transition off the bike.

Stretching 101 How to stretch. These and other workshops will lead up to the Spring Classic Sprint Duathlon on May 20 at Mendon Ponds Park. The sprint consists of a two-mile run, 10-mile bike ride, and one-mile run.

Call (585) 697-3338 or visit

Wetsuit demo It's Wetsuit Demo Nite tonight from 6 to 9 at the Downtown Fitness Club. Learn more about wetsuits and try one in the pool. Register at (585) 697-3338.

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