Strong ties in the community
Three people wait in the chill waters of Cayuga Lake early in a summer morning. The youngest is Zach Myers, a sophomore business major at Ithaca College; the second is Alex Kleinerman, the current co-director of the Cayuga Lake Triathlon race; and the third is Adam Peruta, a professor of marketing communications at Ithaca College. The common thread between these three: the title of triathlete.
The Cayuga Lake Triathlon is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year. The event’s primary competition consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 24.3-mile bike ride and a 10-kilometer run in Taughannock Falls State Park, about eight miles north of Ithaca. The triathlon pits approximately 800 to 1,000 athletes against each other every year. According to the Ithaca Triathlon Club’s website: “The Ithaca Triathlon Club was formed in 2003 when a group of local enthusiastic athletes got together and decided to start a club where people of ranging abilities could find camaraderie and people with whom they could run, bike or swim.” That same year the club organized its first sprint distance triathlon event.
Only a mere 0.63 percent of the U.S. population can claim to be a triathlete, according to a 2012 study by Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Yet, more than 3 percent of Ithaca and the surrounding area’s population participate in the Cayuga Lake Triathlon each year.
The current race directors are Kleinerman and Shawn Toffolo. The two race directors have only recently replaced former director Jane Miller, who headed the competition for 10 years. The course is beginner friendly, well organized and in an amazing location, according to Kleinerman. She said that the well organized nature of the race, along with the extensive and supportive volunteer staff, help make the Cayuga Lake Triathlon a unique and enjoyable experience.
In 2009, Kleinerman participated in her first triathlon, which was also the Cayuga Lake Triathlon. “I was really scared when I first started training for my first triathlon in 2009… Somebody convinced me to go to one of the club [Ithaca Triathlon Club] meetings I was, and continue to be, blown away by how supportive and how welcoming everybody,” she said. “I’ve never been part of a community that is so welcoming and so awesome.” The primary concern of senior members was not the ability of new athletes, just by their enthusiasm to participate, according to Kleinerman.
Kleinerman was not the only triathlete with a positive impression of Ithaca Triathlon Club members. A local of Ithaca, Myers heard from other athletes about their experience with the Cayuga Lake Triathlon and the Ithaca Triathlon Club. After practice in other competitions, such as a half marathon, and plenty of advice from other athletes and club members, Myers finished his first Cayuga Lake Triathlon in 2013 among the top competitors of his age group.
Peruta joined the Ithaca triathlon community earlier than Myers and first participated in a triathlon competition in 2007. Peruta said: “It was what’s called a sprint triathlon. So it’s basically the shortest distances that you can do. About a half a mile swim, 15 mile biking, and running a 5-K.” He also said, his greatest challenge in preparing for the competition was the swimming. In the same year Peruta also participated in his first Cayuga Lake Triathlon.
Myers said his motivation for participating in his first triathlon came from being a goal-oriented person and saw a triathlon as a manageable challenge. “I started picking up swimming and biking, and I just got a rush out of doing all three of those sports [swimming, biking and running],” he said.
Peruta said he achieved the motivation to start his triathlon career in 2006. “I was just not happy in the place that I was in my life, and I was looking to make a change,” he said. “I put myself out there by trying something different.” The triathlon lifestyle perpetuated itself when Peruta found extreme enjoyment in the sport.
Myers found he enjoyed the inherent spirit of competition that came with triathlons and is seeking to conquer a new challenge: an Ironman. The Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run (or a marathon). Myers’s first Ironman competition will take place in Lake Placid, N.Y., this summer. “Everyone has their personal reasons, I just mainly want to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to,” Myers said about his motivation for doing an Ironman.
Following his first triathlons Peruta has moved on to compete in what some consider the hardest triathlon competition; the Ultraman. This triathlon consists of a 6.2-mile swim, a 261.4-mile bike ride and running 52.4 miles (or two marathons). He has participated in the Ultraman competition four times beginning in 2010. In order to prepare for such a competition, Peruta says he trains upwards of 20 hours a week.
For those interested in following the lead of Kleinerman, Myers and Peruta, all three athletes shared similar advice on triathlon competitions: seek advice from other more experienced athletes and “just do it”.
Jacob Ryan is a sophomore history major who is reconsidering his decision to train for an Ultraman. Email him at jryan3[at]ithaca.