Thursday, July 18, 2013

Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon & Duathlon

The Litchfield Hills Triathlon is a summer highlight for the HMF staff and hundreds of loyal triathletes. The beauty of the quiet corner of Connecticut, the crystal clear waters of West Hill Lake (link) and the hundreds of enthusiastic athletes make the annual event very special. The energy before the race is quieter than other events, athletes getting into their zone. After the race, the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment is evident - lots of high fives all around for a job very well done. 

Planning, coordinating and producing a tri is a huge undertaking. Safety and risk management are paramount: 500 people in the water, 500 high-speed bikes – you can see what I mean.  We plan for the highest level of safety for our participants, and we have great help there. The Mount Southington Ski Patrol members have worked with us for eight years to provide safety and security on the bike course. We employ one lifeguard for every 35 swimmers and have boats and kayaks out on the water to help swimmers in need. We use 45 course monitors and a dozen police officers out on the bike course and we have medical staff at the water, in transition, on the course and at the finish line. Our hope is that we never use any of them. 

Training for an Olympic distance event is a serious endeavor. A 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 10K run is a huge accomplishment to complete. People stress the most over the swim portion but really, the swim is less than 20% of the entire race. The majority of an athlete’s time during a triathlon is on the bike.  I’ve completed over 100 triathlons and found it was most beneficial to train in bricks- a bike ride immediately followed by a run, or a swim immediately followed by a bike ride. Your body needs to adjust to the sensation of moving from one sport to the next. Your muscles are like “What are you doing to me?”.   

Before HMF was born, I directed the Bud Light Triathlon in 1991 and 1992. I had 1500 athletes using urban Hartford for the bike and run course and the Connecticut River for the swim.  We had thunder, lightening and torrential rains on race morning. It was so dark that volunteer check-in was done by car headlight and the current so strong that athletes were swimming beyond the swim exit.  Beyond those minor (!) issues, the event was a piece of cake and I was hooked!  HMF’s first triathlon was the Niantic Bay Triathlon in 1999 and we’ve since added the Women's Triathlon, Litchfield Hills and Ocean Beach.  

I often run or bike in areas around CT that are so beautiful and think to myself  ‘I have to share this amazing place.’  Have an idea for a great location to host a triathlon or duathlon? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. 

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