Why try?

Triathlons becoming the new personal challenge for athletes

Triathlons have challenged elite athletes for decades, but now recreational athletes have joined the pursuit of this sport, as have sport-specific athletes looking to maintain their fitness level.

The sprint triathlon, now the popular choice of competitors, eliminates the mystique of its lengthy Iron Man forefathers. According to USA Triathlon, more than 1.5 million people started triathlon competitions last year.

Tracy Rivera, co-director of the Aukeman Sprint Triathlon along with John and Jamie Bursell, has operated Orca MultiSport, a triathlon training business, for the past seven years.

“Most folks that I train, the toughest part for them is learning to be a comfortable swimmer,” Rivera said. “You do have athletes that were high school or college swimmers, and they have no problem getting into it. They just have to figure out the bike and the run. But for most folks it is learning to be comfortable in the water.”

A triathlete can have a strength, but a sprint triathlon is too short to create a big lead in one event unless you are a strong biker.

“You have to be strong in all three,” Rivera said.

Sprint triathletes become addicted to the half-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run, as the training is not as intense but the results on the body can be more defined than those created by focusing on a single sport.

“Cycling makes you stronger which will make you a better runner,” Rivera said. “Swimming is good for core training and balance and really stretches you out.”

For Olympic distance triathlons, where drafting on the bike is legal, Olympic coaches recruit college runners and swimmers because they must be able to lead the group out of the water and into the bike portion, and to win a race at the end you need to be a fast runner.

“They can teach anybody to bike,” Rivera said.

An Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and a 10K run.

“The challenges of training here are getting over the weather,” Rivera said. “Waiting for Auke Lake to open is the big one, and you also spend a lot of the time in the winter on a bike trainer. Running is never a problem; everybody just gets out and does it. Last year, the lake never warmed up; this year it was pretty warm.”

According to Rivera and other professional trainers and athletes, the beauty of the triathlon is that it is much easier on your body, even for a runner.

“Most folks I coach come from a running background,” Rivera said. “Swimming and biking are new to them. So running is pretty easy, but then most folks discover they can cut their running back from 5-7 days a week to three days a week and still be just as fast and not get injured as often. That is the thing with triathlon training: You run less, thus the chances of getting injured are less and you maintain your fitness levels by swimming and biking.”

In the fall, Rivera holds a swim clinic to get the interest started and swim skills established before his camps begin.

“Getting started is a consistency thing,” Rivera said. “Set a race goal. Start small. There is no reason to jump right into a full Ironman. It is easy to run every day, but to train all three is tough. As long as you have consistency, as long as you are doing something, you will get there.”

Local athlete and doctor John Bursell will leave for his sixth Hawaiian Ironman World Championship in September. He trains year-round.

“My training volume and focus varies throughout the year depending on the season,” Bursell said. “But it always includes some component of swimming, biking and running.

“That is really what it takes to develop a comfort level with all three sports,” Bursell said.

For Bursell, most days include two workouts: one sport in the morning and a different sport in the afternoon.

“Some days a workout will be a brick,” Bursell said. “That is a combination of two of the three sports. As you get closer to a race, you start to put together all three.”

For Bursell, his three sports come together 2-3 months before an Iron Man. The last three to six weeks before the race, he likes to do a half-Ironman workout, and he will do that twice.

The Ironman distances are 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26-mile run.

“There are a lot of great reasons to do a triathlon,” Bursell said. “No. 1 is it is fun. Who doesn’t like to go ride bikes, and go for a swim and go for a run? Those are all just fun things to do, and then you get to do all three in one day, that is pretty fun. The biggest challenge for most new triathletes is the swim. That is what keeps most people from even starting because they are afraid of the swim. Once you get that down, the biggest challenge is finding balance in all three sports in a way that you can improve in all of them without working too hard … finding the balance of hard work and recovery in three different sports at the same time can be a little tricky.”

Most people don’t come from a swimming background and can swim recreationally across a pool but are not comfortable swimming in open water with 100 other competitors.

“That can be frightening,” Bursell said, “even if you are a good swimmer. That is why the sprint distance is what we have kept with in the Aukeman. It is accessible to more people than the longer triathlon. It is a lot easier to train for the sprint than a half Ironman or Ironman.”

Injury in another sport is another reason people become interested triathlons. When rehabilitation requires them to get into the pool or ride a bike, they find it enjoyable and beneficial and discover they can do a triathlon.

“They get hooked on it because it is a fun event,” Bursell said. “And for health benefits it is just a great combination of aerobic exercise with strengthening on the bike for legs and upper body strengthening through the swim.”

Out of the 60 participants in last week’s Aukeman, 30 train together consistently year around.

The entrance fee of the Aukeman is cheap enough to be a weekend outing for athletes, yet it has a volunteer base of established workers that provide a professional atmosphere to the event and make the experience enjoyable for both first timers and seasoned competitors.

This weekend, Nancy Jones and Sandra Woods will participate in the Olympic Distance Age Group Nationals Race in Madison, Wisconsin. They qualified for the race at last year’s Aukeman.

The following weekend, is the Half Ironman Lake Stevens in Washington. Kim Rivera, April Rezendes, Jennifer Watson, Melanie White, Jim Ustasiewski, Dan Robinson, Cathy Tide and Woods are attending.

“I have always enjoyed them because they mix things up,” Watson said. “My background is a runner and this is something new every day.”

The capital city also features the Juneau Triathlon Club on Facebook, a place where “Tris” can talk anything triathlon related.

Reed Stoopes, age 65, bikes, runs or swims every day. He competed in June in the Boise Half Ironman with John and Jamie Bursell and completed five triathlons last year.

“They are just really fun,” Stoopes said. “It is the diversity of the sports and it prolongs your athletic career. Triathlon kind of spreads that load over your whole body and you get the mental diversity of the different sports.”

Local athlete Cathy Tide, a former college springboard diver, finished third for women in the Auke Man this year. With triathlon training, her biking and running have improved.

“I like to swim and I like to bike and run,” Tide said. “It is a way to encompass all the sports I like in one. A lot of my friends do it too, so it is social as well as getting good exercise.”

Jamie Bursell also coaches triathlon training. She began in Rivera’s classes, and he encouraged her to be a triathlon coach.

“Triathlons are really popular,” Bursell said. “It seems like more and more people specifically want to train, not necessarily to enter races but they really like the training and the camaraderie.”

Her High Cadence Triathlon Training, which is listed on Active.com, is taught in July twice a week and again from mid-October to mid December, also twice weekly. Her fall camp signups begin Sept. 1. The camps are to improve endurance and triathlon transitions. Both her training camps have over 20 participants.

“It is fun to see the popularity in Juneau,” Bursell said. “Now we have a lot more people to work out with. When you start to see people reach their goals and have a change in attitude and then they have a new realization in their capabilities and a sense of pride, it is really fulfilling to me. It is exciting when you know how to swim and bike and run and can put it all together, it gives you a great sense of accomplishment.”

The July camp was to prepare competitors for the Aukeman.

“We had people registering for the Aukeman who had never been in the lake before the race,” Bursell said. “The lake can be dark and cold. We were a little worried about people with no experience jumping in there.”

The camp reaches out to participants and gets them into the lake as much as possible.

USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlons in the United States and the largest multi-sport organization in the world, sanctions the Aukeman.

Triathlon was invented in the early 1970s by the San Diego Track Club as an alternative workout to the rigors of track training and soon gained recognition worldwide. The International Triathlon Union was founded in 1989 in Avignon, France, where the first official world championships were held later that year.

The popularity of triathlon continues to grow yearly. It is generally acknowledged that the introduction of the sport into the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games began the first real push toward acceptance.

Two years ago, life long runner Jim Ustasiewski, a Juneau athlete, could barely swim. Now he has run faster as a master’s age athlete than he ever did at a younger age. He has competed in three Ironman-level events.

“It has really helped me lose some weight and that helped my running,” Ustasiewski said. “I have gone from running five or six times a week, basically just being a runner, to running maybe four or less times a week, but working out more.”

Triathletes discover that multi sport training does not mean they need to work at each sport in every workout session, but can develop into better fitness and be stronger at each sport by varying their training. The result is even more hours of beneficial production. More muscle work means more calories are burned. More calories burned means efficient use of fat storage. Even recreational athletes can see a flattering change in the mirror.

“The thing that triathlon allows me to do is to work out every day or any day that I want to,” Ustasiewski said. “When you are just a runner you can get tired and feel like you don’t want to run the next day. A triathlete can go swim the next day, or get on the bike and get great exercise. It allows you, or even requires you, to train a lot more. I went from maybe training five to 10 hours a week at the most, to 10 to 15 hours a week or maybe even more. And the weight just drops right off. You can’t eat enough.”


(Overall Finish, Name, Sex, Age Group, Final Time):

1. Zack Bursell (M, 20-24) 1:06:15

2. Justin Dorn (M, 30-34) 1:06:54

3. Daniel Strong (M, 30-34) 1:09:00

4. James Ustasiewski (M, 50-54) 1:11:07

5. Scott Watts (M, 45-49) 1:11:28

6. Aaron Morrison (M, 35-39) 1:12:21

7. Scott May (M, 50-54) 1:13:53

8. Susan York (F, 40-44) 1:13:56

9. Jonathan Hill (M, 35-39) 1:14:21

10. Mark Neidhold (M, 50-54) 1:15:26

11. April Rezendes (F, 30-34) 1:16:27

12. Cathy Tide (F, 40-44) 1:19:06

13. Jamie Bursell (F, 50-54) 1:19:37

14. Jennifer Watson (F, 40-44) 1:19:54

15. Annie Albrecht (F, 30-34) 1:20:24

16. Dan Robinson (M, 45-49) 1:21:10

17. Melanie White (F, 55-59) 1:22:02

18. Meghan DeSloover (F, 25-29) 1:22:19

19. Cody Carver (M, 25-29) 1:23:02

20. James Steeves (M, 18-19) 1:23:19

21. Andre Bunton (M, 20-24) 1:23:35

22. Amy Carroll (F, 45-49) 1:23:36

23. Reed Stoops (M, 65-69) 1:23:45

24. Jim Grammel (M, 50-54) 1:24:27

25. Tracy Morrison (F, 35-39) 1:25:29

26. Pete Schneider (M, 40-44) 1:25:40

27. Maren Haavig (F, 45-49) 1:27:01

28. Jim Calvin (M, 55-59) 1:27:43

29. Chuck Platt (M, 40-44) 1:28:03

30. Kim Rivera (F, 55-59) 1:28:14

31. Nick Bursell (M, 20-24) 1:28:32

32. Scott Gende (M, 40-44) 1:28:42

33. Katie Jones (F, 18-19) 1:28:53

34. Anne Weske (F, 30-34) 1:29:39

35. Duncan Warden (M, 55-59) 1:30:10

36. Daren Booton (M, 45-49) 1:30:58

37. Erin Hauch (F, 30-34) 1:33:08

38. Matthew Shaw (M, 40-44) 1:35:54

39. Elizabeth Smith (F, 30-34) 1:38:07

40. Sandra Woods (F, 55-59) 1:38:34

41. Darwin Macdonel (M, 35-39) 1:39:39

42. Nancy Jones (F, 60-64) 1:40:57

43. Melissa Goldstein (F, 40-44) 1:42:15

44. Katherine Lammersen (F, 30-34) 1:43:19

45. Robin Gilcrist (F, 50-54) 1:43:56

46. Jansy Hanesn (F, 55-59) 1:44:11

47. Lisa Kramer (F, 55-59) 1:45:23

48. Sheena Gauthier (F, 30-34) 1:45:56

49. Elisabeth Jones (F, 50-54) 1:46:56

50. Katherine Hauch (F, 25-29) 1:46:58

51. Gabrielle Aberle (F, 50-54) 1:47:35

52. Bo Melin (M, 65-69) 1:48:00

53. Erik Anderson (M, 30-34) 1:50:19

54. Susan Bell (F, 50-54) 1:57:09

55. Barb Mecum (F, 55-59) 1:57:45

56. Rebecca Farrell (F, 50-54) 1:59:53

57. Justine Bishop (F, 45-49) 2:00:52

58. Beth Weigel (F, 45-49) 2:14:18


1. Scott Watts 0:11:27

2. Amy Carroll 0:11:30

3. Jonathan Hill 0:11:57

4. Zack Bursell 0:12:12

5. Daniel Strong 0:12:16

6. Justin Dorn 0:12:23

7. Annie Albrecht 0:12:44

8. Duncan Warden 0:13:00

9. Scott May 0:13:06

10. Mark Neidhold 0:13:23

11. Melanie White 0:13:26

12. Cathy Tide 0:13:29

13. Elisabeth Jones 0:13:35

14. James Ustasiewski 0:13:37

15. Susan York 0:13:39

16. Jim Grammel 0:14:05

17. Maren Haavig 0:14:09

18. Jamie Bursell 0:14:22

19. Aaron Morrison 0:14:28

20. Jennifer Watson 0:14:31

21. April Rezendes 0:14:51

22. Erin Hauch 0:15:04

23. Cody Carver 0:15:21

24. Chuck Platt 0:15:35

25. Anne Weske 0:15:49

26. Dan Robinson 0:16:17

27. Pete Schneider 0:16:29

28. Tracy Morrison 0:16:41

29. Kim Rivera 0:16:44

30. Andre Bunton 0:16:50

31. Gabrielle Aberle 0:16:57

32. James Steeves 0:16:59

33. Elizabeth Smith 0:17:03

34. Matthew Shaw 0:17:04

35. Sandra Woods 0:17:08

36. Nick Bursell 0:17:13

37. Reed Stoops 0:17:19

38. Meghan DeSloover 0:17:26

39. Jansy Hanesn 0:17:39

40. Nancy Jones 0:17:46

41. Justine Bishop 0:18:07

42. Daren Booton 0:18:44

43. Melissa Goldstein 0:18:52

44. Katie Jones 0:19:33

45. Jim Calvin 0:19:34

46. Barb Mecum 0:19:56

47. Scott Gende 0:20:02

48. Bo Melin 0:20:12

49. Beth Weigel 0:20:56

50. Susan Bell 0:20:58

51. Lisa Kramer 0:21:41

52. Katherine Hauch 0:22:44

53. Sheena Gauthier 0:23:11

54. Robin Gilcrist 0:23:20

55. Katherine Lammersen 0:23:38

56. Rebecca Farrell 0:23:58

57. Darwin Macdonel 0:24:10

58. Erik Anderson 0:25:45


1. Daniel Strong 0:28:49

2. Justin Dorn 0:29:32

3. James Ustasiewski 0:29:44

4. Zack Bursell 0:30:09

5. Mark Neidhold 0:30:30

6. Aaron Morrison 0:31:00

7. Scott May 0:31:45

8. Jamie Bursell 0:31:53

9. Susan York 0:32:29

10. April Rezendes 0:32:35

11. Jonathan Hill 0:33:01

12. Melanie White 0:33:11

13. Reed Stoops 0:33:20

14. Dan Robinson 0:33:27

15. Tracy Morrison 0:33:52

16. Jennifer Watson 0:33:55

17. Cathy Tide 0:34:03

18. Jim Calvin 0:34:05

19. Scott Watts 0:34:17

20. Meghan DeSloover 0:35:08

21. Darwin Macdonel 0:35:46

22. Maren Haavig 0:36:17

23. James Steeves 0:36:21

24. Annie Albrecht 0:36:22

25. Daren Booton 0:36:55

26. Cody Carver 0:37:06

27. Jim Grammel 0:37:08

28. Nick Bursell 0:37:10

29. Scott Gende 0:37:11

30. Amy Carroll 0:37:14

31. Elizabeth Smith 0:37:31

32. Kim Rivera 0:37:51

33. Pete Schneider 0:37:54

34. Duncan Warden 0:37:58

35. Katie Jones 0:38:30

36. Nancy Jones 0:39:02

37. Matthew Shaw 0:39:09

38. Andre Bunton 0:39:18

39. Anne Weske 0:39:44

40. Chuck Platt 0:40:24

41. Sandra Woods 0:40:30

42. Erin Hauch 0:40:40

43. Erik Anderson 0:41:29

44. Jansy Hanesn 0:41:34

45. Katherine Hauch 0:41:53

46. Gabrielle Aberle 0:42:22

47. Bo Melin 0:42:43

48. Lisa Kramer 0:42:53

49. Susan Bell 0:43:10

50. Katherine Lammersen 0:43:11

51. Melissa Goldstein 0:43:23

52. Robin Gilcrist 0:43:26

53. Barb Mecum 0:43:38

54. Sheena Gauthier 0:43:54

55. Justine Bishop 0:46:20

56. Elisabeth Jones 0:46:30

57. Rebecca Farrell 0:48:50

58. Beth Weigel 0:52:39


1. Zack Bursell 0:19:00

2. Scott Watts 0:20:12

3. Justin Dorn 0:20:57

4. Andre Bunton 0:21:36

5. Aaron Morrison 0:22:16

6. James Ustasiewski 0:22:30

7. Susan York 0:23:27

8. Jonathan Hill 0:23:29

9. Daniel Strong 0:23:50

10. James Steeves 0:23:54

11. Scott May 0:24:00

12. April Rezendes 0:24:04

13. Cody Carver 0:24:04

14. Meghan DeSloover 0:24:17

15. Scott Gende 0:24:18

16. Pete Schneider 0:25:11

17. Dan Robinson 0:25:17

18. Katie Jones 0:25:19

19. Annie Albrecht 0:25:46

20. Chuck Platt 0:25:47

21. Mark Neidhold 0:26:08

22. Cathy Tide 0:26:32

23. Jim Calvin 0:26:39

24. Jennifer Watson 0:26:51

25. Reed Stoops 0:27:00

26. Jim Grammel 0:27:09

27. Nick Bursell 0:27:24

28. Kim Rivera 0:27:51

29. Katherine Lammersen 0:28:08

30. Daren Booton 0:28:25

31. Anne Weske 0:28:32

32. Jamie Bursell 0:28:42

33. Robin Gilcrist 0:28:54

34. Amy Carroll 0:29:00

35. Tracy Morrison 0:29:03

36. Melanie White 0:29:30

37. Darwin Macdonel 0:30:10

38. Erin Hauch 0:30:51

39. Maren Haavig 0:30:52

40. Melissa Goldstein 0:31:01

41. Matthew Shaw 0:31:23

42. Sheena Gauthier 0:31:53

43. Duncan Warden 0:32:10

44. Lisa Kramer 0:33:12

45. Erik Anderson 0:34:30

46. Sandra Woods 0:34:43

47. Jansy Hanesn 0:35:24

48. Elizabeth Smith 0:35:35

49. Katherine Hauch 0:35:49

50. Bo Melin 0:36:11

51. Nancy Jones 0:36:33

52. Elisabeth Jones 0:38:01

53. Rebecca Farrell 0:38:18

54. Gabrielle Aberle 0:39:42

55. Justine Bishop 0:43:50

56. Susan Bell 0:44:07

57. Barb Mecum 0:45:54

58. Beth Weigel 0:49:05


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