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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Tri, tri again: taking the first steps

Like most good ideas at the Allen house, this one came from my wife.

“You should try a triathlon – it’ll be fun,” said Dannette, who did two of them last year while I schlepped her gear, took pictures and shouted encouragement until she was out of earshot.

Then I sat down and took a nap. She thanked me later at the finish line.

“No sweat,” I said.

Which is the whole problem: I hate to sweat. At my local gym, I like to step on the elliptical and configure it to sloooowly burn a few calories while I simultaneously watch ESPN and play Words with Friends on my iPhone.

And they say men can’t multitask.

So why even try to “tri”? To improve my blood pressure and relieve stress? No, I could do that simply by having someone else do my taxes and telling Dannette to stop buying toys for our grandson that involve “some assembly required.”

No, I’m going to do it because it’s there, because I’m competitive. And because I’m 57 years old – my bucket list is becoming less theoretical and more relevant every day.

And as Dannette says, it’ll be fun, a voyage of discovery. For half a million Americans, life isn’t a marathon; it’s a series of triathlons. Doing what we loved to do as kids: swimming, biking and running until it hurts.

My voyage began in January when my doctor checked me over and said, “Yes, you can do this.” It will end, hopefully, on May 30 in Medical Lake, at the finish line of the Troika Triathlon.

That would be the sprint version of the Troika – a quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike ride and 3-mile run. I would go farther, but I have an Ironman deficiency. Bada-boom!

To get to the finish line, I’ll be leaning on friends, acquaintances, books, YouTube videos and triathlon experts from far and near. And I’ll try to pass on their wisdom in these pages.

Am I worried? Yes. According to, only about 4 percent of American triathletes are my age or older. That means if I don’t ramp up my training, I’ll probably finish last. Or not at all.

I have 12 weeks. That’s time enough to find some decent running shoes, tune up my old bike and ditch the cargo-pants swimwear. The experts say I need to train about 8 hours a week, and I’ll have to sweat.

Fair enough.

I found inspiration Tuesday morning in the form of a telephone call to 39-year-old Tobin Small of Spokane, who began training for his first triathlon 8 years ago in Missoula. Just for something to do, he said.

Then he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and triathlons became not only a way of life, but a way to sustain it.

“Talking with the neurologist, I found out that the best thing you could do is exercise,” said Small, who’s training 16 hours a week for a half-marathon in Victoria, British Columbia. He’s a member of Team Blaze, one of several triathlon training support groups in the Inland Northwest.

They provide help for beginning triathletes like myself.

See you at the finish line.

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