By Will Murray
Twenty-six intrepid youth dared to swim with the fishes, find out that asphalt bites and run, run, run at yesterday’s annual Boulder Triathlon Club kids’ tri clinic at Boulder Reservoir. BTC member Russell Herbert, organizer of the event, said, “I grew up in London in a big triathlon club and want to see if we can get something like that in Boulder.” Russell also happens to be a childhood friend of three-time Olympian and three-time world champion Tim Don, who delivered a brief talk and Q&A to wrap up the session.
The athletes began with a lively warmup session that local pro Steve Zawaski led. Wearing his aero helmet backwards in imitation of a giant toucan, Steve led stretches, strength moves and short running stints to get the athletes ready for their open water swim training. Steve asked the group to shout out the name of their favorite superhero. Ironman won in a convincing voice vote.
With one coach for every three youth, the kids got a lot of personal attention.
Many of the kids, from age 4-12, had never been in Boulder Reservoir or any big water before. But they took to the water eagerly, eventually. Before Carli put her face in the water, she wanted to know if there were fish in the reservoir. “Yes!!!, “ responded the coach. “And they are really cute and friendly, but all this splashing has scared them away.” Bam, instantly Carli is all the way underwater and swimming like, well, a fish.
The athletes practiced swim starts and exits and got to mix it up in mass starts. “What do you do if you bump into someone on the sidewalk?” asked the coach. The athletes replied, “You say, ‘pardon me’.” “Okay, so now say ‘pardon me’ to each other, and now we are going to swim in a group and you don’t have to worry about saying that anymore.” Off they went, like a school of tuna. Thrashing tuna. When it came time to transition to their other disciplines, many of the first-timers left the water only reluctantly. But they had more excitement awaiting them.
Moving in three groups according to age, the youth practiced bike-to-run transitions, bike handling skills and running drills. The groups were creatively named Group 1, Group 2 and—wait for it—Group 3. Group 2 adopted its own group cheer: “We’re number two!”
Three of the youngest kids managed to survive one-mile-per-hour unplanned dismounts from their bikes, whether they (the bikes, not the kids) had pedals or were Fred Flintstone bikes. Two of them received band-aids which they proudly displayed to all their colleagues and as many adults as they could corral. The third athlete said, “I fell off my bike but I don’t even need a band aid.” Tough kid. The older groups weaved their bikes through an obstacle course of cones and practiced dismounts. Some of the kids had the chance to lay out the watts on short hill sprints to get the feel for their emerging power.
One of the athletes, straddling her bike, asked, “Can we race?” The coach surveyed the scene: 30 yards of asphalt terminating in a wall of white, metal transition area barricades. “Well, we don’t have a lot of room and this clinic is focused on skills, so maybe no racing right now,” says coach. After the next drill, the same athlete asks, “Can we race?” “No,” says coach. “But how about let’s practice—dismounts!” And they did, coming up to a yellow chalk line then gracefully floating off the bike ready to run to the bike racks.
Alison Freeman, a certified triathlon coach in the www.D3multisport.com group, paced the groups through a series of running drills to demonstrate and practice proper lean, foot strike and cadence. Working with seven or eight athletes per group, Coach Alison held court on the grassy slopes near the beach house. Alison’s daughter had her picture taken with Tim Don, who wrapped up the session
The kids kept Tim and his fantastically impressive credentials in perspective, not falling for the star power as their parents were. Tim talked about growing up in a rival triathlon club to organizer Russell Herbert’s and how he started his career at age 14. Then Tim asked for questions. One of the younger athletes raised his hand and lifting his finisher’s medal shouted, “I got a medal!” And so did they all, supplied by LifeTime Fitness, who donated goody bags, finisher medals and the space even as they were setting up for 25th Boulder Peak Triathlon scheduled for the next day.
Race Director Gladys Cueto said, “We are happy to do it. It’s such a fun thing to get these kids involved and we want to support that.” Gladys’ evening, as you know if you were registered to race the Peak the next day, would soon become complicated by a wildfire in Nederland that prompted county officials to cancel the race. In her debut as race director, Gladys was about to undergo trial by fire.
But no one knew that during the wrap up session with Tim Don. One of the younger kids asked Tim if he has to pay money to do all these races. Tim replied, “I think you are going to be fine. You won’t have to pay a penny. Your parents will have to shell out a lot of cash, but you are just fine.” That answer pleased the questioner greatly, while precipitating quiet, nervous laughter from the parents.
Russell Herbert sent out these links to the parents, who asked what other opportunities are coming up for their kids:
Colorado Athletic Club Kids camp
Facebook page for CAC kids tri camp
Coal Creek Triathlon club have a kids section with weekly training
“The Boulder Tri Club and all these groups are collaborating to give our kids more options to try the sport and get supported,” Russell says. “Keep a look out for events coming up.”