Breaking the mold: Triathlons now starring the aquabike
No, it’s not Aquaman’s preferred mode of commuting; nor the latest urban workout trend or new-fangled underwater gym equipment.
The aquabike is yet another off-shoot of the classic triathlon now popping up on race calendars — including its first debut at the upcoming Lake Logan Multisport Festival this weekend.
“Swim, bike and done — no run,” sums up Robert Vigorito, chair of the USA Triathlon Mid-Atlantic Regional Council.
The aquabike is the brainchild of race directors to attract competitors who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t like to run.
“A lot of people love to swim and ride their bikes,” Vigorito said. “But they just can’t run long distance.”
The aquabike is a sister to the aquathlon — another triathlon spin-off. The aquathlon foregoes the bike and keeps the run. Both have their own following tailored to a narrower skill set than the full triathlon. And if it’s the swim leg you don’t like? Try the duathlon on for size, which sports running and biking only. No matter what your weak link is, there’s a combo for you.
The aquabike is the newest on the scene, however. The discipline first appeared in a handful of USAT sanctioned events in 2006 and has been growing since. This year, 100 or more races across the country are sporting the aquabike. Lake Logan’s version this weekend will have a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 24-mile cycling course.
“Aquabike lets us with lingering injuries or those who want to limit the amount of wear and tear to still compete,” said Dr. David Ward, a preventative medicine specialist in Brevard who signed up for the aquabike at Lake Logan this weekend.
A traumatic motor vehicle accident in the 1980s left Ward with multitude of broken bones. He fractured his hip, had to undergo knee surgery and have his elbow reconstructed. With a long road of rehabilitation ahead of him, it was swimming and biking that got him back into form. Running for the most part was out of the question for him.
Promoting the aquabike is also a demographics game for race organizers. Triathlons are populated by men 40 years and older and women 35 and older. It’s only a matter of time before they begin to look for an alternative that is gentler on their aging bodies — and running is usually the cause or the aggravation of most racers’ bodily aches and pains.
The strains on the body from swimming and biking are negligent compared to the pounding effects of a run.
When running, a person’s foot strikes the ground up to 80 times per minute, Ward said. If an athlete is running for hours each week, the number of foot strikes are exponential. And every time the body weight lands on the foot, it’s not just the foot that absorbs the impact — it goes thorough foot, the ankle, knee and back and into the skeleton.
Those impacts can further deteriorate joints and aggravate injuries.
“Anybody who has had knee surgery or hip, ankle, knee problems will tell you running is not their ideal sport,” Ward said. “Every impact has an impact.”
Ward can run again now — he is actually tackling the aquathlon this weekend as well — but still limits the duration to avoid inflamed joints.
“As I get older, I have to limit the amount of running I do,” Ward said. “Those injuries are still with me.”
Waynesville resident Debbie Wilson will turn 60 years old in January. Nagging lower back pain caused her to give up running, and triathlons, 15 years ago. But the swimming and biking events at the Lake Logan Multisport Festival give her another chance to compete.
It will be her first aquabike, ever, but the assistant high school swim coach is already excited.
“It’s just kind of a fun combination,” she said. “I’m looking forward to trying it and seeing what it’s all about.”
Greg Duff, the race organizer whose company Glory Hound Events puts on the Lake Logan Multisport Festival, is excited to see it take off as well. He thought the aquabike would be a good match for Western North Carolina which is home to a large retiree population that enjoys an active lifestyle.
It also isn’t much extra work to add a swim and bike event when you already have an event set up to accommodate a swim, bike and run triathlon. In total, four races will be offered at Lake Logan for the multisport festival.
“It’s good that I got four events because it’s a little bit for everybody,” Duff said.
“We recognized that running hurts some people and is tough on joints.”
Lake Logan Multi Sport event still on upward climb
Up to 600 athletes will converge for the Lake Logan Multisport Festival this weekend on Aug. 3-4, testing their strength and stamina in one of four different races sporting various combinations of swimming, running, and biking.
The swimming legs of the race will traverse the pristine and picturesque Lake Logan, the namesake of the event. The bike course is unusually flat and fast for the mountains, surging along the Pigeon River Valley through Bethel and up to the outskirts of Canton before heading back up to Lake Logan. Runners will follow N.C. 215 on an out-and-back leg.
The race has been growing every year since its inception in 2006 and is put on by Glory Hound Events based in Waynesville. Here’s a look at the line-up:
• The Olympic-distance triathlon: a 1,500-meter swim, 24-mile bike and 10-kilometer run. Starts at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, The Lake Logan triathlon is also the Triathlon Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, and winners of this race will qualify for the national championships later this year in Wisconsin.
• The aquabike: a 1,500-meter swim and 24-mile bike. Also starts at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3. This is the first year this two-sport discipline is being showcased at Lake Logan.
• The sprint-distance triathlon: a 500-meter swim, 12-mile bike and 5-kilometer run. Starts at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 4.
• The aquathlon: a 1,500-meter swim and a 5-kilometer run. Starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4. This year, Lake Logan is hosting the Aquathlon National Championships. It is the second time the lake has been home to the championship.
To increase the competitive allure of the race and give spectators a chance to view top triathletes, race organizers have invited winners of other regional triathlons to compete at Lake Logan in their own heat. The elite racers will set out in the first wave of each triathlon, setting the pace for the rest of the pack.
More than 600 participants in total are expected throughout the weekend, some traveling as far away as the West Coast to Western North Carolina to compete in the aquathlon national championships.