By any standards, just completing a marathon is an incredible feat. But imagine swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles, and then — to top it all off — running 26.2 miles, with no breaks between events. Though even contemplating this kind of athletic achievement would exhaust a Yalie, it is all in a day’s work for Peter Chiu ’08, a second-semester freshman, who completed the Ironman in 14 hours, 38 minutes and 47 seconds in August 2003.
Chiu is one of an emerging and dedicated group of Yalies who have either participated in or are training for triathlons in the near future. These students train excessively during the peak triathlon season — spring to early fall — and continue to stay in top shape during the fall and winter off-season months.
“I don’t watch TV or do other procrastinating things,” said Lenore Estrada ’05, who is training for her first triathlon this spring. “Instead, I train. It takes up a lot of time.”
Estrada wakes up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. most days. Like many of the other triathletes, she does cardio workouts, alternating between running, cycling and swimming, five to six times a week, and lifts weights three times a week.
Bobby Kennedy ’05, a member of the lightweight crew team who has participated in “a dozen” triathlons, explained the perks of triathlon training.
“Because [triathlons] are made up of three different sports, three different disciplines, it breaks up the monotony of the training — you never get burnt out,” he said.
Kennedy also noted that triathletes are “the nicest people in the world. When you’re passing people [in a race], they encourage you. It’s unlike any other competitive sport I’ve done.”
There is a definite camaraderie among Yale triathletes, as well.
“You tend to be aware of who is a triathlete [at Yale],” said Jake Gramlich GRD ’09, who finished his first triathlon three years ago. “They’ll show up to a cycling race, you’ll see them training in the pool. It’s nice to meet people,”
Chiu and Chris Connelly ’06, who started running triathlons this past summer, are actually in the early stages of forming a triathlon club team at Yale and have begun talking to the club sports office, Connelly said. He added that six or seven Yale undergraduates have expressed interest.
Many at Yale have recently caught the triathlon bug. Estrada, who said she was “never an athlete,” started running frequently last spring at the encouragement of a friend. She ran her first event, the New Haven Road Race, this Labor Day. She now hopes to increase her training regimen, enter a triathlon in the spring and perhaps even run the Boston Marathon in April.
Kate Siskel ’06 and three of her friends at Yale are planning to compete in the 20th annual Central Park Biathlon (a 12-mile bike ride bookended by two-mile runs) Oct. 10. Siskel said she has never done anything like this, and like Estrada, she has not done any other athletic activities at Yale.
“I wanted to do something feasible,” Siskel said. “It might be tough doing it, but afterwards, it’s a great payoff.”
She hopes to work her way up to triathlons in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are many accomplished and experienced triathletes here at Yale as well. Chiu finished first in his age group, 19 and under, and Connelly finished second in his, ages 20-24, at the Hammerfest Triathlon in Branford, Conn. on Sept. 19. Kennedy, Gramlich and many of the other triathletes at Yale consistently finish in the top of their age groups. Catherine Sterling GRD ’05 was the sixth overall female at the USA Age Group National Championship in Shreveport, La. last week. Sterling also qualified for the World Championships last year and hopes to qualify again this year.
Triathlons are still a niche sport, with roughly 50,000 athletes, coaches, officials and other members, according to the National Governing Body, but the sport’s popularity is growing every year.
Yale triathletes named a variety of positive features of the sport. Chiu called it “something different, more hardcore than just running a [road race].”
Estrada said she thinks about the rest of the day when she is running, and her training helps her to release stress.
Kennedy referred to the rush and raw speed of cycling, as triathletes can get “up to 30 miles per hour” on their bikes.
And, Brendon Hill ’05, a lightweight rower who completed his first triathlon this past summer, said “there are three different sports to buy cool gear for.”