For sophomore Joe Weber, competing in a triathlon is all about the challenge. It’s the breathlessness and complete physical exhaustion that drive Weber through the grueling rounds of swimming, biking and running.
“You do it for the pain,” Weber said. “You’re sucking wind and everything burns, but it’s something that not many people do, so when you finish, it’s something special.”
Weber hopes to provide an opportunity for other students to get involved in triathlon, whether it’s just for the challenge, to stay in shape or to have fun. Weber has already taken the first steps to achieve this by founding the Ithaca College Triathlon Organization last semester.
Weber, a physical therapy and athletic training double major, was inspired to begin training for a triathlon after reading the book “One Man’s Leg,” the story of Paul Martin. Martin, an amputee from Weber’s hometown of Gardner, Mass., is a 10-time Ironman finisher and the leg amputee world record holder.
“After I read that, that was it,” Weber said. “I said, ‘I’m doing the Ironman before I die.’”
Weber competed in his first triathlon in the summer of 2009 and has competed in three more since then.
“I absolutely loved it,” Weber said. “I had a smile on my face from start to finish. It’s like getting a runner’s high, but multiplied, with all the adrenaline going.”
The distances for triathlon vary depending on the level of ability. The standard course and olympic distance for triathlon is a .93 mile swim, a 24.8 mile bike portion and a 6.2 mile run.
Despite his love for triathlon, Weber didn’t plan to begin a formal group on campus until meeting Adam Peruta, assistant professor of strategic communication, while swimming at the Hill Center Pool last spring.
In 2008, Peruta competed in the Ironman Triathlon, a punishing competition made up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Weber said he noticed the Ironman water bottle Peruta had with him.
“We just started talking about triathlon and how cool it would be to get a group started on campus,” Weber said.
Soon after, Weber began filling out the paperwork to officially register with the college and started contacting schools in the Northeast with triathlon clubs. Peruta’s knowledge of the sport and enthusiasm helped fuel the development of the organization.
“I was really excited about it,” Peruta said. “In upstate New York, there’s a huge triathlon community.”
Weber found that coordinating an organization — even with only six initial members — involving three sports was more challenging than he first thought.
“There’s so much more that goes into triathlon beyond just running, biking and swimming,” Weber said.
Weber said he hopes a new semester will attract more members and allow the formation of several training groups based on each participant’s ability. That way, everyone can train together once a week and then break off into smaller training groups for other workout sessions. Weber is in the process of formally shifting the organization to an official club, but the college requires that all clubs have a minimum of 10 members.
In addition to the triathlon group, Weber said he also hopes to offer more than training opportunities. Weber said he plans to tap into the resources of the triathlon community of upstate New York to bring in speakers and experts to run clinics and help with training. Peruta said those connections will be a key asset in the organization’s development.
“[Triathlon] fits in really well,” Peruta said. “There’s a triathlon club in the city of Ithaca and Cornell also has one, so I’m hoping that we can work with some of these clubs that already exist to get some ideas from them.”
To create more opportunities for members, the organization plans to train with the 72-member Cornell Triathlon Club.
“Combining the groups would give us a bigger base of people on the same ability level,” Bethanie Wallace, president of the Cornell Triathlon Club, said.
Peruta and Weber said the organization complements Ithaca’s fitness-minded atmosphere and will help members stay motivated about working out.
“Training really keeps it fresh and helps you avoid burnout,” Weber said. “You wake up and can go, ‘I don’t feel like running, so I’ll bike or swim.’”
One of the biggest challenges Weber said the organization faces is striking a comfortable balance between training and creating a non-intimidating atmosphere for new members.
Senior Josh Vorensky, a member of the organization, said the triathlon provides an environment for any level of athlete.
“A lot of people can get into it because it utilizes a lot of different sports,” he said. “Besides having a great time, it’s a great way to meet some great people. Our members, are from a variety of majors and years, and it’s all about making everyone feel comfortable.”
Despite the fact that the majority of the triathlon season occurs in the summer, the organization plans to participate in a race in September — duathlon in April and the Tri-for-the-Y Triathlon at the YMCA in May. However, Weber insists the overarching theme of the group is not to train for competition but to have fun.
“One thing that we stress is that it should just be fun, and we welcome everybody,” Weber said. “It’s just a good time to get everyone together, get away from school work and have fun.”