Putting the 'Try' in Triathlon

Coach Dario Tirado gets his cyclists ready to roll.
Coach Dario Tirado gets his cyclists ready to roll. (Sarah L. Voisin - The Washington Post)
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Editor's note: This story is from our KidsPost section, geared toward younger readers.

If someone told you that in six weeks you would be competing in a triathlon, would you even know what that was?

Triathlon is a sport that combines three competitive events: swimming, bicycling and running. So when James Coleman, 12, showed up for the new DC Triathlon Camp in June, he thought it was going to be like boot camp -- with kids forced to run until they dropped.

"It's waaaay different," James said before starting into a morning of training earlier this week. "It's fun, and at the same time we're getting in shape."

Each day for the past few weeks, James and 13 other District kids, most of them middle-schoolers, have spent their mornings getting tips from coaches and pushing themselves in three sports that most kids love. Who doesn't want to be a better swimmer? Who doesn't enjoy riding a bike?

"It's hard but it's relaxing after you've finished," said Asia Alston, 10, as she recovered from a seven-lap run around Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast Washington. "You feel good that you did a hard workout, and you're proud of yourself."

Elisabeth Dunn, 11, added: "It's taught me to push myself because you always want to improve."

The kids have improved -- dramatically. After they ran laps and took a water break Monday morning, one of the coaches told them to strap on their helmets, hop on their road bikes and do 10 laps around the 1/3 -mile track, alternating between fast and medium paces.

The kids groaned but did as they were told. When camp began back in June, not one camper could do five laps -- at any speed.

"They are not the same kids they were six weeks ago," said camp director Daniel Brafman, a certified triathlon coach.

At 11:30 Friday morning, the campers will compete in Washington's first triathlon for kids, at Turkey Thicket, located at 1100 Michigan Avenue.

Triathlons for kids are becoming more popular nationwide, but few are held in cities. DC Triathlon Camp is a pilot program that organizers hope will spread.

The camp was started by DC Achieve, a group that promotes youth fitness, and is supported by various triathlon organizations and the mayor of Washington.

Christopher Seyoun, 10, is hooked. After Monday's training session, some kids were wiped out, but Christopher looked ready to keep going. When he grows up, he will.

"I know I want to do some triathlons," he said.

-- Margaret Webb Pressler

© 2007 The Washington Post Company