A triple threat

The order of triathlons is always the same: swim, bike, run. Miami, having great weather all year round, is a triathlon epicenter with many local events.

For the past 14 years, athletes from the University of Miami community have been coming together to test their physical capabilities and limits by competing in these challenging races. TriCanes is a student-led triathlon training organization that is open to UM undergraduates, graduates, alumni, faculty and staff. There are 10 practices a week offered to the 38 members, though they are only required to attend two in order to maintain active status in the club.

Although considered a team, every man or woman runs for themselves. Compiled team rankings from every race are accumulated to determine who their competitors will be at nationals. So far, there have been five opportunities to race, and there will be five more in the spring. In the race called “Escape to Miami” on Sept. 27, a record number of roughly 20 TriCanes competed.

“It was great to see so much green and orange on the course… For eight of our members, this was their first race ever. Not only was it their first race, many of them placed,” said Caitlin Burman, senior and president of the club.

In the male sprint two freshmen, Michael ‘Mo’ Oates and Brian VanCleave placed third and first respectively.

“I was really surprised. It was my first race and I did not anticipate coming anywhere near the podium. It was the sprint distance though, so there were fewer competitors my age, which probably played the biggest role in me walking away with a plaque. Definitely a big confidence booster for a new sport, though,” VanCleave said. For females, sophomore Amanda Zacharkiewicz took second place.

“I think it is a great way for the student to get some relief from the education portion of the school and social life and to enhance their overall college experience,” coach Ken Groce said.

Groce has been running triathlons since the early 1980s and working with the TriCanes since 2004. His advice to the TriCanes is, “When first starting in the sport if you don’t have a bike either borrow one or use a club bike to see if you truly like the sport before going out and spending a lot of money on the bike… Also for the running portion always buy a pair of shoes that fits your style of running and never use the shoes you run in to walk around since they wear differently.”

Burman said that her favorite thing about running triathlons is “the physical and mental challenge… I also love how friendly the people are. Unlike other sports, where it is purely about competition, because triathlons are split into age groups, everyone on the course is really supportive. It’s a really cool feeling to have complete strangers cheer you on.”

VanCleave, who attends four to five practices per week said, “Training is actually really fun for me. Everyone on the team is really friendly and easy to get along with, so it’s great to train alongside them. The endorphin rush sets it, though. There’s nothing like a good runner’s high.”

Rachel Ewy may be contacted at rewy@themiamihurricane.com.