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Triathlon Across the USA: State #3 – Massachusetts

Triathlon Across the USA: State #3 – Massachusetts

Douglas, Massachusetts, September 17, 2011 – TDD Triathlon, Douglas State Forest.

It had been nearly one year to the day since my friend, Jim Philipsek, had talked me into doing my first triathlon.  Now, I found myself in the fourth one.

Two had been in Minnesota – Buffalo (my first) and Maple Grove – and one had been done in South Dakota.

In my experience, this triathlon was unique in that it was the first that doubled as a fundraiser.  However, it turns out that this would be more common than not – see Reason #2 of 15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons.

triathlon fundraiser

Logo for the TDD Triathlon held in rural Massachusetts

Getting to the Massachusetts Triathlon

During this period, I was working half-time in Chicopee (Springfield), Massachusetts.  This meant that Joy and I were living around one hour from Douglas State Forest.  We made the short trip east from Chicopee on Friday afternoon for packet pickup and a pre-race training session on open water swimming.

Bright and early – well, it was not so bright when we started out – the next morning we made the same trip for the race.

TDD Triathlon

The TDD Triathlon is managed by FIRM (Fiske Independent Race Management).  The race is a memorial for Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio, triplet sons of local racers, Don and Elaine Vescio.   The logo pictured above is in their memory.

The race serves as a fundraiser for the University of Massachusetts Memorial Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Worcester, MA.

Memorial balloons at the Massachusetts triathlon

Balloons launched in honor of Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio rise above the trees in Douglas State Forest just before the swim start at the TDD Triathlon in Massachusetts.


Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 0.25 mile (400 m)
  • Bike: 11 mile (17.7 km)
  • Run: 3.2 mile (5.1 km)

The temperature on arriving at the race site was a brisk and sunny 42ºF.   Even though the water was considerably warmer than the air temperature, I was grateful for the wetsuit I had recently purchased.


The triathlon began with a hail of cheers for the first swimmer, a man who towed a green and yellow rubber raft carrying his disabled son.  I remember later, in the final stretch for shore in my swim leg, passing the raft and thinking about the kindness of this man.


Since this was the last triathlon of the season, I used the hybrid bike that I kept at our house in Chicopee rather than ship my Trek SpeedConcept tri-bike for a single race.  While the hybrid bike, a three-year-old Giant Cypress DX, is comfortable and fit me very well, it is not a tri-bike and clearly not as fast as my Trek.

The bike course followed rolling roads within the State Forest and on public roads with a few hairpin turns to make sure we were paying attention.

While the bike leg took me longer than I had wished because of the bike used, I finished the bike portion with legs that were ‘ready to run’, unlike the experience of my first triathlon.


I had learned earlier that one way to reduce the transition time is to take care of certain tasks while on the way out of the transition area.  One of these is putting on the race number belt.

This time, the fourth time I used this race number belt, one end of the belt came out of the loop of one of its clasps.   As a result, I could not secure the belt, a race requirement.   This also meant that I could not proceed out of the transition area.

So, before starting the run, I wasted time re-threading the belt through the clasp and securing it.  Since this experience, I have used a small safety pin to secure the belt (see picture below) to prevent it from coming loose.

Race number belt with safety pin

Pinning the race number belt has prevented it from coming loose in future triathlons.

The ‘out-and-back’ run course took us on a combination of a dirt trail, complete with tree roots and rocks, and a road within the forest.

Another New Experience – Volunteering

What would a triathlon without volunteers be? Chaos. Impossible. A ‘free-for-all’.  All of the above!

It was during this race that Joy decided that she would become a triathlon volunteer.

Well, it was actually more like she was drafted into being a triathlon volunteer due to a shortage of volunteers.  Joy’s job? The very important role of directing runners to make an important right-angle turn a short distance from the finish line.

She did very well, taking charge and shouting out instructions as she is more than capable.


Race Firsts

  • First triathlon that doubled as a fundraiser
  • Joy’s first experience as a race volunteer
  • First triathlon attended from our house in Chicopee, Massachusetts
  • First triathlon held in a state forest


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Triathlon Across the USA: State #16 – Pennsylvania

Triathlon Across the USA: State #16 – Pennsylvania

The Independence Triathlon outside Quakertown, Pennsylvania allowed us to explore new areas of central and western Pennsylvania. I just wish we had more time to explore places such as Johnstown Pennsylvania, as I have heard a lot of good things about this city, especially when it comes to romantic things to do. Maybe next time, especially considering we were here for the Triathlon. It also provided an opportunity to set new personal triathlon records.

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Triathlon Across the USA: State #12–Arizona

Triathlon Across the USA: State #12–Arizona

Mesa, Arizona; February 9, 2013–2nd Annual Tri Catching Cupid Reverse Sprint Triathlon

There is no shortage of reasons to do a triathlon. Among them are ones in “15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons“. And, in some cases, the race itself becomes secondary to other, more important goals. Read on to see how the Arizona triathlon fit the latter

Why this Arizona Triathlon?

In the case of the Arizona triathlon, escaping the cold and ice of Minnesota during February could have been enough incentive for this race. However, there were other benefits to this triathlon.

Arizona has been home to many family members. In 2013, these included Joy’s aunt Evelyn who lived in Mesa and attended the triathlon with us. We also visited Joy’s aunt Delores and uncle Bob in Vail, Arizona, south of Tucson.

The trip also provided opportunity to get in some outdoor activity in February not involving snow or ice, namely hiking to the top of Flatiron in the Lost Dutchmen State Park.

Flatiron Mountain from the Lost Dutchmen State Park outside Phoeniz, Arizona

The top of Flatiron (upper right side of the picture) is reached after a 3-mile hike. This walk in Lost Dutchmen State Park provides good aerobic training. At the top is an awesome view of the desert and downtown Phoenix.

Getting to the Arizona Triathlon

With plans to meet family members, enjoy the warmer outdoors, and compete in the triathlon, we left Minneapolis on Thursday evening with bike in tow. The partially disassembled bike was packed neatly and securely in the Thule bike case and checked as luggage on Delta flight 999.

Upon arriving in Phoenix and picking up our luggage (including the oversized black bike case – traveling with a bike is another story for a later time), we drove to Mesa to Aunt Evelyn’s house and proceeded directly to bed. We were originally looking into an RV Rental Phoenix but decided to stay with my Aunt instead. It was nice to spend so much time with her but I think an RV would’ve made the whole trip much more enjoyable. It’s something to bare in mind for next time though!

After breakfast the next morning, Aunt Evelyn and Joy got in a few hands of the card game Golf. Meanwhile, I reassembled and test rode my bike. I was now ready for the triathlon.

2nd Annual Tri Catching Cupid Reverse Sprint Triathlon

What is a reverse triathlon? As the name implies, it is a triathlon in which the order of the events is reversed. In other words, instead of the swim-bike-run order of a traditional triathlon, the order of events in a reverse triathlon is run-bike-swim.

logo from the t-shirt of the 2013 Tri Catching Cupid Reverse Sprint and Youth Triathlon

Logo for the Tri Catching Cupid Reverse Triathlon from the race T-shirt.

The triathlon was held on and around Skyline High School, making use of the school’s track and aquatic facility.

Distances for the individual legs of the Tri Catching Cupid reverse sprint triathlon were:

  • Run: 3 mile (4.8 km)
  • Bike: 12 mile (19.3 km)
  • Swim: 400 yards (366 m)


This was the first race of the season and a test of the training that I followed since the last race in Clearwater, Florida the previous November. Since that race, the run training plan I followed involved three runs per week:

  1. A ‘long, slow’ run of 6 miles during which the goal was to keep my heart rate within the aerobic zone,
  2. One session of interval training involving 5-7 repeats of short (0.25 to 1 mile) bursts of high intensity followed by a recovery period aimed at reducing my heart rate to within the aerobic zone, and
  3. A ‘brick’ (bike followed by run) session involving a 3 mile run after a cycling class.

For the Arizona triathlon, the run course started on a quarter mile track inside an outdoor track and field center. True to the name of the event, a young man dressed in a Cupid costume led the runners on the run course.

After one lap of the track, the course continued outside the facility on sidewalks and running paths north of the transition area. The loop eventually led back to the transition area next to the pool and track.

The good news was that I met the time goal I had set as the beginning of the previous three month’s training.


The 12-mile bike leg consisted of three loops of a one mile square section (four miles per loop) of public road. This leg was uneventful, except for the time I ran off the road and through tall grass that lined the road.

Let me explain. Since the course was relatively flat and boring, I started fidgeting with the cover on the water bottle clamped between the aerobars. Apparently, I was paying too close attention to that process and road off the side of the course into knee-high tall grass.

During the few seconds of riding in the tall grass, I fully expected to ride into a large rock and fall, or worse yet, damage my wheel.

None of these doomsday scenarios played out, however. I edged the bike back onto the road. The only evidence of this near-disaster was a few pieces of long grass caught in crevices of my bike frame. Eventually, even these was fell out. No one would know of my irresponsible, distracted riding.

At the end of the third lap, I entered the parking lot a short distance from the transition area. While coasting toward the transition, I slipped my feet out of the bike shoes while they remained leaving the shoes clipped to the pedals.

A quick transition allowed me to pass one guy in my age group. While he had finished the bike leg ahead of me, I beat him into the pool.


Arriving into the transition area following the bike leg of the triathlon. Note that my feet are out of the shoes that remain clipped into the bike pedals.


The glory was short lived. During the first of the 16 lengths of the 25 yard pool he zoomed by me.

I finished the swim and exited the pool to cross the finish line, clean and refreshed from the run and bike legs.

Lessons from the Arizona Triathlon

The triathlon results were also, in some ways, reversed.

With less than 100 participants, this race was small relative to most triathlons. Within my age group – males 60 years and older – there were four participants.

Ironically, the oldest competitor in our age group, a man of over 70 years, took first place within our age group. On the other hand, the youngest competitor, me, placed fourth.

A bright spot is that all of us finished well within the top half of all participants.

Once again, I was taught humility and respect for the mental and physical ability of the community of Senior Triathletes.

Race Firsts

  • First reverse triathlon.
  • The Arizona triathlon was the first with part of the run course on a track.
  • This was my first triathlon with the swim in an outdoor pool.
  • First race that served as a fundraiser for a Synchronized Swim Team.

Arizona Triathlon as a Fundraiser

Tri Catching Cupid doubled as a fundraiser for the Arizona Desert Dolphins Synchronized Swim Team (Reason #2 of ‘15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons‘).

Following the race, all participants and spectators were treated – and it truly was a treat – to a demonstration by the Arizona Desert Dolphins Synchronized Swim Team. The athletes made synchronized swimming look easy even though it is far from easy. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, significant strength, endurance, and flexibility. It also requires exceptional grace and precision timing.

Triathlon as a Family Reunion

Joy and I have been rewarded by prioritizing triathlons based on the location of family and friends. While we did eventually see these aunts and uncle again, this long weekend was among the last times we were with them before they passed away. We now look back with deep fondness at the time we had with them around this triathlon.

Joy and Terry with Aunt Evelyn at the Tri Catching Cupid Reverse Triathlon

A highlight of the Arizona Triathlon was being with Aunt Evelyn Schock during her last winter in Arizona.

Leave Your Questions and Comments Below

What are your thoughts about reverse triathlon? Do you like them or not? Why?

Please share your comments below.

This post was first published on January 1, 2017. At the latest update on May 11, 2020, it appears that this triathlon was last competed in February 2016.


What If I Want to Do An Ironman Triathlon? – Tom Lipp’s Story

What If I Want to Do An Ironman Triathlon? – Tom Lipp’s Story

Senior Triathlete Tom Lipp took the plunge and competed in his first full Ironman triathlon.  Is an Ironman triathlon on your ‘bucket list’?

Its Starts With Inspiration

Track anyone’s start in triathlon or ask them about it. I am sure you will find ‘inspiration’ or some form of the word among the reasons they took part in their first race.  Someone inspired them.

For new Senior Triathlete, Tom Lipp of Aberdeen, South Dakota, the inspiration came when he first watched his daughter complete the Fargo, North Dakota half marathon.  The next year he ran the Fargo half marathon with his daughter and “was hooked”.

His first triathlon, one completed in 2012 with his uncle Kirby Martz, was the Sprint distance Bismarck Triathlon in Bismarck, North Dakota.   Later that year, he completed his second triathlon, an Olympic distance event, at the Young Life Triathlon in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Exiting the water at Ironman Wisconsin

There are many stories of those for whom triathlon has become part of an active lifestyle.  Training for the first race leads to more training.   A second triathlon leads to a goal of improving performance “just a little”.   For many, these early triathlons lead to longer distance races.

While I have only completed sprint distance triathlons until now, I have certainly wondered about completing what I consider the ultimate triathlon – the Ironman 140.6 consisting of a 2.4 mile (3.9 km) swim, 112 miles (180 km) bike, and 26.2 miles (42 km) run.  I am sure that I am not alone.

So when I learned that Tom was planning to complete Ironman Wisconsin, I asked him to record and share his experience with other Senior Triathletes.

The rest of the post is based on Tom’s comments about his experience in preparing for and competing in his first Ironman 140.6.

As a preface to his comments, it is worth noting that Ironman Wisconsin consistently ranks as one of the most difficult.  In 2016, Ironman Wisconsin ranked 9th in difficulty according to Ironindex™.

My point? Tom did not only take on a longer distance but he did so in one of the more difficult triathlons.

Why Did You Choose An Ironman?

“The inspiration for Ironman came almost immediately after I completed my first triathlon.  I set the goal in 2012 after becoming aware of the sport and its history.  There are so many motivating and inspirational stories, and I enjoy the lifestyle it requires and the challenges it offers.”

A flat piece of the bike course at Ironman Wisconsin

How Did You Train For Ironman Wisconsin?

“I started training about one year before the race when a co-worker (a 2X Ironman) asked me to join a group of three others in training for Ironman Wisconsin (IMWI).

I really enjoyed training with the others in the group.  Training with one of the guys, in particular, made the hard workouts not only easier but enjoyable.  Unfortunately, our schedules made training as a group difficult.  In fact, about 90% of my training was alone.

Training plan

In hindsight, I am sure that a coach would have been a great asset.  However, I used a free 36-week training program that I found at trifuel.com.

I didn’t follow it perfectly—I did not do all the speed workouts—though think I should have followed the plan more closely.

Dealing with injuries

Full of motivation, I quickly and dramatically increased my running and biking.  Within two weeks, I acquired a sore left knee that would ‘pop’ and sore Achilles tendons. I spent the next few weeks stretching, icing and working out at a reduced level.

After my initial burst, I was careful with injuries. It is hard to know if the pain was something to push through or something that needed rest. If I felt a strain, I leaned on the side of caution.

I used a foam roller and cups of ice to massage the sore or strained areas.”

Tom’s Tip: To apply ice to sore areas, fill a frozen Styrofoam cup with water and freeze the water.  Cut the bottom one inch (25 mm) of the cup to expose the ice.  Rub the ice on sore or strained areas.

Tom Lipp, Ironman Senior Triathlete

What Was Your Experience From Ironman Wisconsin?

“I was first struck by the number of participants, nearly 3,000.  Compare this to the hundred or so for the shorter distance events I had previously done.

Then there was the course.  The hills in Wisconsin are VERY different from the hills in northern South Dakota.  I was not prepared for them and the bike course took a little more out of me than I had planned, which increased my run time.

The other thing that struck me was the support that the spectators gave us.  Ironman events aren’t like the normal triathlon. The crowds are huge and fan support along the bike and run make the race something to remember.”

The ‘home stretch’ at Ironman Wisconsin. The spectators, especially family members, make a huge difference.

What Have You Learned From Triathlon?

“Triathlon is the same as work or life. You need a goal, you need a plan, you need a reward, and most of all you need family support.”

It’s a family affair

“My family support was awesome and my wife Kami was incredible over the year of training.  She had more than enough reasons to be upset with my lack of participation in chores, my going to bed early on a beautiful summer night, and my general absence.  Instead, she picked up my slack.

Having my kid’s support throughout the summer and having them at the event meant a great deal to me.  It would not have been the same without them.”

Our bodies and mind adapt

“This experience has taught me I should never stop challenging myself.   Our bodies and mind are incredible and able to adapt to whatever we throw at them.”

Advice For Other Senior Triathletes

“What advice do you have for Senior Triathletes who have completed a shorter distance triathlon and are thinking about the Ironman distance?

  • Discuss it with the important people in your life who will be affected by your training.   Their support and understanding will be vital.
  • Complete at least one half Ironman distance race.
  • Commit, commit, commit!
  • Find a plan or coach to guide you through the training.
  • Increase slowly and take care of anything that seems like an injury.
  • Enjoy the journey—-It is worth it!”

Are You Ready To Tri?

A common misperception about triathlon is that Ironman = triathlon.  This probably comes from the world-famous Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii covered on national TV.

In fact, there are triathlon distances and events for nearly everyone – from Super Sprint to full Ironman.  There are triathlons in which kayaking replaces swimming.  There are even winter triathlons consisting of running, biking, and cross-country skiing.

Many events also make relay teams an option in which you can participate in one or two of the legs if you are not ready to compete in all three.

What Have You Learned From Training for an Ironman Triathlon?

I know of many readers who have completed Ironman or long course triathlons. What is the one piece of advice you can offer prospective Senior Ironman triathletes?


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