Mike Terry, Deseret News
Melanie McQuaid from Canada runs in the final stretch to win the XTERRA USA Championship off-road triathlon at Snowbasin Resort this afternoon on Saturday, Sept., 25, 2010.
I think triathlon has become a bucket list item, much like running a marathon used to be, and I think once they try it, they really enjoy it, and they are soliciting their families and friends to try it. —TriUtah co-owner Chris Bowerbank

For some people, running a marathon or biking a 100-miler isn't challenging enough.

For those people, swimming a couple of miles in open water completes the ultimate experience.

I've participated in a couple of triathlons and the one thing I noticed right off the bat was how much more organized I needed to be. In training, in preparing and in racing, this whole fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing just didn't cut it.

I couldn't just wake up and go for a run. I had to hire a coach just to ensure that what I thought was above average swimming wouldn't fail me in an actual race. And I had to acquire and, maybe more importantly, maintain a bike.

But the biggest reason I haven't participated in a triathlon in nearly two years is that every time I reached the running portion of the race (which is always last — after swimming and then cycling.) I was so relieved, so excited and so grateful, I just opted to go straight to the good part. At least, for me it was the good part.

That's not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy my triathlon experiences — especially the family triathlon that I did with my daughter.

And I can understand the affection for a sport that offers those of us who are easily distracted and more easily bored numerous workout options. I also felt that training for the triathlon gave me more complete fitness.

So I was not surprised when TriUtah co-owner Chris Bowerbank posted a blog on his website that indicated the sport continues to grow. More than half of those signing up for the company's events indicated it would be their first.

"I think triathlon has become a bucket list item, much like running a marathon used to be," said Bowerbank, who was in graduate school when he tired of running and decided to sign up for a triathlon in 1998. "And I think once they try it, they really enjoy it, and they are soliciting their families and friends to try it. "

One thing that deterred me from giving it a try was I thought the training would be overwhelming and the cost excessive. I hired a coach (first time since high school) and invested in a decent, but not expensive bike. I bought a new swim suit and goggles, and despite my desire to not look like something from outer space, I wore a swim cap because, yes, it does make swimming laps easier.

Bowerbank encourages would-be triathletes to compete with what they have.

"Try the sport first," he said. "Race it on a mountain bike, or whatever you currently have. See if you like the sport and (then) you can invest in equipment if you want to race faster or just be more comfortable."

Bowerbank and his partner John Anderson started TriUtah in 1999 because there weren't a lot of open-water triathlons at the time.

"I don't know why we thought it would be fun (to start a triathlon company)," he said with a slight laugh. "There just weren't a lot of opportunities."

Now there are many. Which may account for the increased number of people deciding to get out and swim, bike and run. It's impressive because triathlons provide the kind of complete challenge that not many sports offer.

TriUtah, online at www.triutah.com, will stage nine or 10 events this year, starting with the very popular Women of Steel Tri on May 19.

And maybe part of the attraction is that while challenging yourself, it's also an opportunity to connect with others.

"The social aspect of the triathlon has taken off as well," said Bowerbank. "I think it's the camaraderie in the transition area — it's a very positive atmosphere."

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