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Bucks County Triathlon Club: Bringing camaraderie and sportsmanship to a multisport community

by June Portnoy

There’s nothing like that sense of accomplishment of crossing the finish line at a triathlon, regardless of whether or not you come in first place. A triathlon is a physical competition consisting of swimming, cycling and running in succession without breaks.

If you always wanted to compete in one, but have no idea how to train, or you want the camaraderie of training with like-minded athletes, the Bucks County Triathlon Club offers a supportive group of members who will guide you through your training, helping you achieve success in your first and subsequent races. Anthony Accardo from Washington Crossing founded this non-profit organization in 2012.

“In 2009 for my 40th birthday, my wife registered me for a triathlon training camp for beginners at Mohonk Mountain House in New York,” explained Anthony. “While there, I met guys like me who aspired to participate in a triathlon. I also met professional triathlon athletes who inspired me to get involved in this activity.”

After returning home, Anthony began informal training for his first triathlon. While meeting other athletes training on their own for triathlons, he quickly discovered that there was a need in this area for group training.

As a result, he decided to establish a triathlon club. He promoted the club, recruited members, formed a charter, and now five years later the Bucks County Triathlon Club has grown to 225 members throughout the county and beyond.

“Our goal is to bring camaraderie and sportsmanship to this multisport community,” said Anthony. “The amount of training you need largely depends on the length of the triathlon in which you plan to complete.”

He explained that there are four common triathlon distances. A sprint triathlon is a short-distance triathlon, ideal for those competitors who are new to this sport. It usually consists of a 750-meter swim, 20K-bike ride and a 5K-run.

The sprint is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon, which is includes a 1.5K swim, 40K bike ride and a 10K run. Next is the “half iron,” requiring a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13-mile run. The greatest challenge to a triathlon athlete is the ironman, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim; a 111.8-mile bike ride; and a 26.2-mile run, the length of a marathon.

According to Anthony, a sprint takes a little over an hour to complete, while an ironman takes 12 to 16 hours to finish! Approximately 15% to 20% of club members participate in full ironman competitions, but the majority of members compete in the shorter races.

“We are lucky to have so many local triathlons within an hour of Bucks County,” said Anthony.

Club members train year-round. To get started, Anthony encourages new members to come to the club’s beginner sessions where they are given shorter runs.

“We strive to train together and tailor your workouts to your ability,” described Anthony.

Because this is group training, nobody gets left behind or forced to go farther than they can handle. A leader is assigned to each training session to look out for each member, while ensuring they are training properly.

According to Anthony, what scares members most is the swimming portion of triathlons, which generally takes place in open water, such as lakes and rivers. The club provides practical experience by offering group open swimming in the Delaware River near the Virginia Forrest Recreation Area, north of New Hope.

Lifeguards on paddleboards with rescue buoys are always nearby so swimmers feel more comfortable. Members can also practice their swimming weekly at George School’s pool in Newtown.

Leading up to a big signature race, members are given time trials where their running, biking and swimming is set up like a real race, helping them increase their speed.

“It’s easy to make excuses not to train when you’re on your own, but when you know there [is] a group of people waiting on you to be a part of a group activity, that gives you that extra motivation to train,” said Nelson Dunham, a board member from Yardley who started competing in triathlons 15 years ago when he was 50.

The Bucks County Triathlon Club attracts participants in all fitness levels, in all sizes and shapes and in all age categories.

“Triathlons help people defy age because when you move up in age, you move up in age category,” explained Tom Dillon, a founding member from Yardley who recently turned 60. “Age categories move in five-year increments, so I will now move to the 60-to-64 category.”

Tom added, “In terms of heath, it’s hard not to be healthy when you’re a multisport athlete, because you have to remain disciplined about your training and about all the healthy choices you make in life.”

“Participating in triathlons puts less wear and tear on your body because you’re using different muscles for each of the three activities,” said Anthony.

He added that participating in triathlons is more about being able to finish your race than about winning. “I compete to surpass my previous best time, as opposed to beating my opponents.”

According to Tom, who has been competing for 33 years, “the huge accomplishment of completing a triathlon gives you the confidence that you can achieve any goal you set in life.” For information about joining the Bucks County Triathlon Club and for a listing of their upcoming events, visit www.buckscotriclub.com.

PHOTO CAP: Anthony Accardo, of Washington Crossing, at the Princeton Ironman.