Clinic Offered to help prepare triathlon participants

Clinic Offered to help prepare triathlon participants

The countdown is on for the 6th Annual Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlon, and, to help kids prepare for the experience, the organizers are hosting a Learn to Tri clinic.

The clinic will be held, beginning at 3 p.m., at Lake Lurleen State Park on Sunday, April 29. Kids who have never competed in a triathlon will learn what to expect and experience what it will be like. Kids who have competed in a triathlon will get a chance to train on the course of the event. The 2018 Tuscaloosa Kids Triathlon is May 19, at 9 a.m. at Lake Lurleen State Park.

The venue is ideal for the three phases of the triathlon: swimming, biking, and running. The swimming is done, under close supervision by lifeguards, in the shallow portion of the lake. For ages 5-7, the swimming segment is 25 yards. It is followed by a 1-mile bike ride then ends with a quarter-mile run. For ages 8-10, the swim is 50 yards, biking is two miles and running is a half mile. For ages 11-13, it’s a 100-yard swim, 4-mile bike ride and a three-quarter mile run. And for the oldest division, ages 14-16, they’ll swim 150 yards, bike 6 miles and run three-quarters of a mile.

“It is the most beginner-friendly kids’ triathlon that I’m aware of, and my kids have done over thirty,” said race director David Williams, whose family came up with the idea for Tuscaloosa to hold a kids triathlon and helped make it happen. “I think one of the reasons is the swim. We have a short swim compared to other kids’ triathlons. And we allow training wheels for some of the young kids’ bikes. A lot of triathlons don’t.” The clinic is designed to help answer any questions and walk -- or, in this case, swim, bike and run -- kids through the experience.

“We’re doing the triathlon clinic three weeks before the race,” said Williams. “We’re going to let them do a walk-through at Lake Lurleen. We’re going to let them see exactly what to expect. We get a lot of questions from first-time participant’s parents: ‘What order is it? What do they wear?’ We’re going to walk them through everything like that. “We will do the entire course with them, if they want to. We’ll walk them through, show them how to put their shoes and their towel and their helmet on their bicycle real quick. We’ll walk them through everything. We’re prepared to swim, bike and run with them.” Williams said clinic participants can go through all the steps or they can pick and chose. “The water is probably still going to be a little cold in April. I doubt we’ll have a lot of swimmers,” Williams said.

The first triathlons were held on the University of Alabama campus with the swimming portion in an outdoor pool. Now kids swim in the lake. “The water is still kind of cool in May. It’s a little cooler than your normal pool. But it’s shallower than the pool they were swimming in at the university. It’s much safer. If they get tired, they can stand up at any time.”

So far, more than two dozen kids have already signed up to participate in 2018. Last year’s field included five kids who had competed in all five triathlons. The kids’ triathlon was the result of Williams’ own children’s wish to be able to compete close to home. Not only did that become reality, but the event is bettering life for other children. The triathlon benefits Secret Meals for Hungry Children which places food in backpacks for kids who don’t have access to healthy meals on weekends. “It’s been more than I ever imagined,” Williams said. “The money we’ve been able to raise for Secret Meals, the friends, the co-workers that I’ve got that have come and volunteered all five years who never even knew what a triathlon was - - it’s been much more than I ever dreamed it would be.”

The plan is to spend about 30 minutes at each station at the Learn to Tri clinic. Cost for the clinic is $10 and it includes a required one-year membership to USA Triathlon which covers insurance for participating in the clinic and the race. There will be an admission charged at the gate to enter Lake Lurleen State Park the day of the clinic.Kids should bring their helmet, running shoes, bicycle and towel, and, if they plan to swim, wear swim-ready clothing.

Cost to participate in the triathlon is $40 through April 30 and $45 to register between May 1-18. All participants must be registered by May 18. The registration cost includes the required USA Triathlon membership. Check-in on race day is recommended to be done around 8 a.m. Admission into the park on race day is free for participants and their families. Williams said kids planning to participate in the triathlon should start training now, though the beauty of this event is that it will accommodate all skill levels, from beginner to experienced. Training can start as simply as hopping on a bicycle and riding around the neighborhood. “If it’s a pretty weekend, they should definitely be riding their bikes and getting ready for it.”

By Becky Hopf / Special to The Tuscaloosa News