No Rest for the Ironman

    The sport has expanded tremendously since its start, debuting in the 2000 Olympic Games. UCSD’s team benefited from this exposure; it now has over 60 members, almost doubling in size over the last two years.

    UCSD competes in the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference, which operates under USA Triathlon, the sport’s national governing body. Despite its popularity, triathlon is not a NCAA-sanctioned sport, and very few colleges around the country fund their teams. Nevertheless, about 100 universities compete nationwide; many teams support themselves by organizing their own triathlon annually. UCSD holds an event called the Tritonman, which takes place at the same location of the historic first triathlon in Mission Bay.

    ‘We get much, much less funding than NCAA teams do,’ vice president of the triathlon club Frank Uyeda said. ‘Typically, people put on triathlons both as a fundraiser and also as a competition.’

    Head coach Mac Brown emphasized the importance of student leadership on the team.

    ‘I give the student athletes their workouts and basically act as a mentor,’ he said. ‘I’m always available to help the athletes with their training, but most of the administrative stuff and organizing for races is done by the students.’

    The collegiate triathlon season culminates in the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships, which were held in Lubbock, Texas, this year. The race is a standard Olympic distance triathlon, consisting of a 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run.

    At this year’s event on April 18, the UCSD women placed four athletes in the top 25 to win a second consecutive national championship. The Tritons were led by graduate student Darlene Hunt, who placed fourth with a time of 02:20:49.00, and senior Lauren Chiodini, who had the fastest split on the race’s bike section. The men’s team placed seventh overall, led by graduate student Tim Ray’s 22nd place finish.

    At nationals, UCSD scored 191 points, finishing fifth in the country out of 95 teams that competed.

    During the Tritons’ short history, they have raised the competition, battling with the nation’s best squads every year. UCSD athletes have also accomplished great feats individually, with top charges qualifying for the prestigious Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. The Ironman is the triathlon to the extreme ‘mdash; athletes complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and run a marathon. The race can take up to 24 hours.

    Of course, results never come without hard work and practice, and triathletes do plenty of both. Despite being a club sport, the team trains and competes as much as any of UCSD’s sports teams.

    ‘The top tier of athletes who compete for us are working out at least once a day, sometimes twice a day,’ Uyeda said.

    Brown, a local pro triathlete, was the sixth-fastest American at Ironman Hawaii in 2007. This is his first year as head coach of the team; assistant coach Marcus Catano leads strength training for the athletes.

    ‘Our coach does everything he can to train us for our individual goals,’ Kotturi said. ‘He reminds us to train smarter, not harder, in that more workouts are not always the best thing.’

    The team meets for official practice Sunday through Thursday; the location varies according to the activity. On Saturdays, the squad also convenes for an unofficial team bike ride ‘mdash; a 40-mile cycle through Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe.

    With three sports to master, the focus of practices varies from one exercise to working on a combination of the three. Team members can often be seen swimming laps at Canyonview Pool or doing a track workout.

    During races, however, there is no time for rest between sports. First-time triathletes are often shocked at how hard it is to transition from biking to running, or how weak their muscles feel as they begin to run. The team prepares for this with ‘bricks,’ a workout where athletes use stationary bikes and alternate between biking and running.

    ‘Our success really comes from the passion behind it,’ Kotturi said. ‘That passion leads to dedication and hard work, and that’s really key for us.’

    Several of the members, including Uyeda, emphasized that the team is not just for elite athletes. The triathlon club is open to all UCSD students and does not make any cuts.

    ‘The nice thing about being a club is that people can come in and put in as much time and effort as they want to,’ he said. ‘If someone is just starting out, we can’t kill them with several workouts a week. They need to build a good base first.’

    Brown echoed the sentiment that the sport is open to anyone who is willing to work for it.

    ‘The team welcomes every student with open arms, regardless of athletic ability,’ Brown said. ‘We encourage everyone to come out, and the only thing we expect is to show up on time and give 100 percent.’

    Many athletes compete in their first triathlon while on the team, including some top finishers. Most triathletes have a more extensive background in one of the sports; during that section of the race, they make up for time lost in other sections.

    Sophomore Reina Kawazoe, a first-year team member, joined the team looking for a new challenge after swimming competitively for 10 years.

    ‘I was so burnt from swimming, I needed something new and fresh,’ she said. ‘Tri gave me a chance to explore how far my body was willing to go.’

    Some of the team members competed in other sports on the collegiate level. Unlike NCAA sports, there is no limit on years of eligibility and, as a result, the team has several athletes that previously competed for the Tritons in swimming and track. The triathlon club provides a way for them to keep competing for UCSD while continuing their education.

    While the team holds back-to-back national champion titles on the women’s side, its members represent a vast range of skill and experience levels. Receiving little, if any, recognition, the triathlon club is quietly progressing as one of UCSD’s most prominent teams.

    Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].

    ” />#1.1750644:247238473.JPG:051409tri2:Graduate student Darlene Hunt bikes in this year

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