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Look Who's Trying Triathlons

Tri-Umph

The Maturity Factor

According to USA Triathlon, the number of triathlon participants aged 60-69 is fully twice that of athletes in their late teens (16-19), and triathletes in their 40s easily outnumber those in their 20s. More people seem to take up triathlon later in life and stay with it longer (one elite example: Sister Madonna Buder, a 71-year-old nun who's completed more than a dozen Ironman races). "I'd call it maturity. You recognize that you don't have to go out and kill yourself in the first five miles of a 10-mile race. You learn to understand your body better and recognize what it can endure," says Apple.

"A lot of people want to complete a race with their time for the second half better than their time in the first, even if it's just by one second," he adds, talking about what racers call a "negative split." "That's becoming quite common in all these races: to pace yourself and understand what your body can endure, to not push yourself to the edge all the time," Apple notes. "The mature competitor understands that approach."

"This particular demographic is very in tune with their bodies. They have the wisdom to pace themselves and to think more about what they're doing," says Hawkins of the Tri-Umph competitors. "Rather than risking things physically to come in first, they're going to pace themselves so they can finish."

Time for Training

Just because you don't need to look like Lance Armstrong or Marion Jones to complete a triathlon doesn't mean you can skip its tough training requirements, however. "People assume that training doesn't have to be as rigorous and you don't have to be as prepared to train for a shorter-distance biathlon or triathlon," Apple notes. "But if you don't appropriately train, you end up not finishing or getting injured. People sometimes view it as an easier way to the goal, but after the first try they take it more seriously."

Group training sessions available in many areas enhance the camaraderie of triathlon prep. Local triathlon clubs often organize training classes and coaching sessions for participants of all athletic levels -- as well as social events where participants can connect with other triathletes.

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