I excitedly await the television broadcast of the triathlon Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii every year. Nothing tugs on my heartstrings like the triumph of the human spirit over the limits of the human body.
As expected from events like Kona or even the Olympics, the back stories of the athletes add to the emotional impact felt from watching them accomplish their goals. The triathletes who compete at Kona consist of everyone from top athletes to cancer survivors to paraplegics and even the Iron Nun, Sister Madonna Buder.
Many people believe that “bragging rights” drives many of these athletes to push their bodies to the brink of collapse, but the truth is that once the sport grabs you, it is hard to let it go. My own path to triathlons started during a four-day hike on the Appalachian Trail. After traversing mountain ranges with a 50-pound pack on my back for four days, I realized that the mountains had beaten me as I barely made my way into Harpers Ferry. My wish to “redeem” myself and get in the best shape of my life led me to the sport of triathlon.
With about 1,200 members, Washington is home to one of the largest triathlon clubs in the United States, the D.C. Triathlon Club. The club welcomes triathletes of all ages, both veteran and novice. The club’s mission is to foster camaraderie among local triathletes and build interest in the sport of triathlon throughout the D.C. region. The club’s tagline is “We are Tri-Partisan,” welcoming athletes of all athletic goals, backgrounds and skills.
Annual membership is $50 and gives members access to a wide range of member-only programming, benefits and discounts.
The group training opportunities include over a dozen regularly scheduled weekly workouts. The members regularly post notices looking for groups or partners to swim, bike and run. The swimming might be a pool workout or open water swim, the biking might be an open road ride or a spinning session and the running might be a track workout or an open road run.
The group also offers a Club Training Race Series that’s only open to members and includes swim meets, duathlons, triathlons, 5K/10Ks and a Splash-N-Dash. These training races give members a chance to experience racing before their big race day.
Members compete locally, nationally and internationally and offer a number of club training programs to prepare the members for race day. Skills clinics are offered in all three sports within the club training programs, which include the New Athlete Program, the Half Ironman Program, the Ironman Training Program, the Masters Swim Program, the Off Season Spin Program, the Olympic Distance Speed Program and the DCTri Snapple Elite Team.
In 2011, the D.C. Triathlon Club began a loosely organized effort to reach out to the huge number of LGBT athletes in the D.C. area. This year, the club began a more formal outreach spearheaded by club member David Lutz. The club hosts happy hours every second Thursday of the month for the LGBT contingent of DCTri and their friends. They are also new members of Team D.C., the local LGBT sports clearinghouse and will have representation at Capital Pride in June. Next year the Club will be sending a team of athletes to the Gay Games in Cleveland to compete in the triathlon event.
Lutz is a former swimmer who has also competed in 5K/10Ks and a few Century rides in cycling. Competing in the triathlon seemed like the next natural step.
“When I signed up for my first Olympic-length triathlon in 2010, I thought I would be satisfied with just completing it once,” Lutz says. “Three years later after completing 12 triathlons including a full ironman, I still have much more I want to accomplish.”
For Lutz, competing in triathlons satisfies his strong desire to challenge and better himself. The results, he says, are felt personally and at the workplace where he feels more structured and focused.
“Another one of the reasons that this has been such a great experience is because of the welcoming nature of the club members and the triathlon community in general,” Lutz says. “Even if you don’t know the person personally, they are always there to help, whether it is a swimming tip or a bike malfunction.”
Lutz will be competing in his second Ironman in Copenhagen in August followed a week later by an Olympic-length triathlon in Stockholm.
More information on the club is at dctriclub.org. There’s an online membership registration discount of $5 using the code JOINDCT2013.