Houston Kids Triathlon & YMCA Triathlon Training Clinic
“TRI” TRENDS, SAFETY AND LIFE-LONG FITNESS BENEFITS
by Bernadette Verzosa
Kate Binau is envisioning her first triathlon race day. She will have a protein shake, fruit and crackers for breakfast. She will put baby powder in her sneakers to hasten the transition from swimming to biking. She will relax and enjoy.
“I’m excited and a little bit nervous,” says the 11-year-old girl from Bellaire who is one of more than 1,700 athletes registered for the 2013 Houston Kids Triathlon this Sunday, April 14, at the University of Houston campus.
“I wanted to sign up and see what it was like because my mom did a lot of tris,” she says. Mom Sara Binau is a former fitness instructor who has done more than 50 triathlons over Kate’s lifetime.
Binau says this Houston event is the perfect first triathlon for her daughter, “It’s exactly what we were looking for – a friendly, safe, supported and non-profit triathlon,” she says. “What I love about tris is it doesn’t have to be competitive. It’s about your own cross-training in three different sports, fitness and nutrition.”
YMCA & PROPER TRAINING
Binau volunteered to help run the Kids Triathlon Training Clinic at the Weekley Family YMCA on Stella Link Boulevard. For the seven weeks leading up to the Houston Kids Triathlon, YMCA Centers around Houston offered free clinics so participants condition properly and families know what to expect on race day.
“I got involved to share my love of tri training and tris with my daughter and kids,” says Binau. “There’s so much take away from this. I hope Kate experiences this organized chaos with an open mind and learns to quiet her mind in the storm, stay focused and trust her training.”
Sixteen YMCA Centers from Katy to Fort Bend to Cypress Creek offered the clinics. About 570 kids and their families committed to the weekly program. “Practice and training allow kids to develop physically, socially and emotionally while learning new skills. It clarifies expectations and walks them through what to specifically expect during the triathlon,” says Dione Booker, Community Associate Director at the South Montgomery County YMCA. “When families participate in this sport there is the opportunity to come together around a common goal. It gives them memories to share and an experience that unifies them toward an accomplishment.”
KIDS TRIATHLONS & HEALTHY FAMILY LIFESTYLE
According to USA Triathlon, more than 63,000 kids participated in triathlons in 2012. The popularity boom among families is leading to a growing number of triathlons for youth. Kids Triathlon, the non-profit organization presenting the Houston Kids Triathlon, is hosting events in nine other cities this year from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado.
“Our mission is to help build a generation of healthy, active and responsible kids,” says Kids Triathlon founder Tom Gildersleeve. “We are one of very few endurance events that is designed exclusively for kids. We want to motivate them to take responsibility for their own health and wellness, and we have found that once the kids are motivated, the parents will follow.”
Gildersleeve’s group is working with schools and communities to emphasize the fitness and discipline benefits of triathlons. “We love the sport of triathlon for many reasons. It provides a different sense of accomplishment than any single sport does on its own. You can see it in the faces of the kids as they cross the finish line.” he says. “We are firm believers in the connection between daily exercise and success in school. If we can encourage kids to be active every day, their school performance will improve.”
COURSE LENGTHS, TRANSITIONS & TIMING
The Houston Kids Triathlon is divided into two groups: the Juniors and Seniors. The younger kids, ages 6 to 10, are in the Junior Session which requires a 100-yard swim, 3-mile bike ride and a half-mile run. The distances double for the older children, ages 11 to 15, in the Senior Session. They must do a 200-yard swim, 6-mile bike ride and one mile run. Computerized timing chips are used to track each participant through four components: swimming, biking, running and transitions.
More than 1,000 children participated in the inaugural Houston Kids Triathlon in 2012. About 700 of those kid triathletes are returning for this year’s event including 11-year-old Madison Dodson of Bellaire. “I feel less scared because I know how it’s gonna go. I know I’m going to finish. I feel ready,” she says.
She has been training with her friends and her triathlete mom Christine Dodson. They bike and run along Braes Bayou, swim at the YMCA and practice transitions between the courses at home. “We practice putting on helmets and mounting bikes. Transitions can throw your entire race,” Dodson says. “It can take 30 seconds if they know what to do to get their bikes out. Kids who don’t have that training can take five to ten minutes to transition.”
At the Houston Kids Triathlon 2013, Dodson is a volunteer at the bike course and will again watch her daughter cross the finish line. Afterwards the Dodsons will join other triathlon families for a celebration brunch. Madison already knows what she will be ordering for a post-race meal: eggs benedict and a chocolate malt shake.