SMCM hosts triathlon event Satur­day

600 ath­letes sched­uled to com­pete

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By MICHAEL REID mreid@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SOMDhab­s­fan

St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land will be bustling Satur­day as the Vir­ginia-Mary­land Triathlon Se­ries comes to south­ern St. Mary’s County for the first time.

The event will fea­ture 600 ath­letes tak­ing part in a 1 1/2-kilo­me­ter swim fol­lowed by a 24.5mile bike race and con­clud­ing with a 5-kilo­me­ter run.

The event, which be­gins at 8:30 a.m., was filled to ca­pac­ity three weeks ago.

“Oh we’re re­ally ex­cited,” Vir­ginia-Mary­land Triathlon Se­ries owner Greg Hawkins said. “To have 600 ath­letes in our first year is just an amaz­ing tes­ta­ment to the lo­cal area and the scenic beauty of it all. I would have been thrilled with 300, 400 ath­letes, I re­ally would have. We pur­posely limited it to this num­ber just be­cause be­ing a first-year race you don’t know. There’s just so many un­knowns, but with [this num­ber] it’s still very man­age­able, so we’re just thrilled.”

Hawkins said the beauty of the area is what drew the VMTS to His­toric St. Mary’s City.

“The bike venue and the swim venue are just amaz­ing,” Hawkins said. “The St. Mary’s River is a nice cir­cu­lar bay, so you’re never go­ing to get any re­ally bad chop and the roads are all pretty much freshly-paved with wide shoul­ders and the run course is flat. And there’s lodg­ing, oh my gosh, there’s ho­tels just 15 min­utes up the road from the venue and it’s beau­ti­ful, it re­ally is.”

There are nu­mer­ous age groups be­gin­ning with 15-and-Un­der and then 16 to 19, 20 to 24 and all way up to 75-plus. There are also spe­cial cat­e­gories for novices or first timers, as­sisted ath­letes and par­a­lympic ath­letes. There will be more than 120 awards given out.

The event is the 12th of 26 this sea­son. The sea­son started with the Smith­field Sprint in Smith­field, Va., and will con­clude Oct. 14 with the Lib­erty Univer­sity In­vi­ta­tional. Charles County hosted the VMTS Gen­eral Smallwood In­vi­ta­tional and Sprint May 20 and 21 in In­dian Head.

St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land head cross coun­try coach Tom Fisher, a triath­lete him­self, reached out to Hawkins in 2015 to use the area as a race venue. Though there was no open­ing in the sched­ule un­til this year, Hawkins is hop­ing the St. Mary’s Col­lege venue will be a yearly event.

“I was look­ing to ex­plore some fundrais­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the team and cen­ter it around a fit­ness re­lated ac­tiv­ity,” said Fisher, who com­petes in up to four triathlons a year and set a per­sonal record of 2 hours 59 se­conds at the MVTS Lake Anna event in May. “And ob­vi­ously we have a top sail­ing pro­gram, so the wa­ter’s a big draw and due to the fact I also bike and train­ing down by col­lege there’s some good cour­ses with shade and roads make it com­fort­able for other ath­letes. I thought the area had a lot to of­fer.”

The 47-year-old Fisher, who is hop­ing to fin­ish Satur­day’s event in un­der three hours, said the course is a chal­leng­ing one.

“A lot will de­pend on the heat, so it will be im­por­tant to save some of your en­ergy com­ing off the swim and don’t go too hard on the bike,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be all about staying fo­cused and not go­ing out too hard on any one leg be­cause you still have the other legs to go. It all de­pends on the weather and how you deal with those con­di­tions.”

And he said the wind — Satur­day’s fore­cast is call­ing for a high of 84-de­grees, 7 mph south south­east winds and a pos­si­bil­ity of morn­ing thun­der­storms — will also play a role in the race.

“With the chop on the wa­ter and the na­ture of the bike course [if the wind is] in your face in one di­rec­tion,” Fisher said, “once you make the loop, it’ll be on your back in the other di­rec­tion so you have to take ad­van­tage of the wind when it’s at your back and deal with it when it’s in your face.”

“I think the way you’ll at­tack it is the way you’d at­tack it with any race, which is you never want to go out too hard on the swim, and the cy­cling por­tion with it be­ing a fairly flat course peo­ple can re­ally get up a good head of steam and get some good power go­ing through­out the course,” said Hawkins, who hasn’t com­peted in a triathlon in two years, though he still trains as hard. “There’s just a cou­ple hills that you’re up and out of [quickly]. I think the swim will be the most chal­leng­ing be­cause it’s an in-wa­ter start, and there’s been some sea net­tles re­ported so that could present some chal­lenges for some peo­ple. I would say it’s a pretty hard course.”

Hawkins said the re­sponse from the col­lege, mu­seum, po­lice, EMS and State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which came in to re­pair some pot­holes, has been fan­tas­tic.

Hawkins and his team ar­rived in South­ern Mary­land on Thurs­day and to­day they will set up the swim course, sweep the bike course, in­stall mile mark­ers for the run­ning por­tion and set up bike racks as well as the fin­ish line.

“We make it look like the cir­cus came to town,” Hawkins said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land will host its first-ever Vir­ginia-Mary­land Triathlon Se­ries event on Satur­day, which in­cludes a swim in the Po­tomac River.

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