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Rochester Triathlon off to fast start

700 participants expected for Sunday’s event

By Pat Ruff

pruff@postbulletin.com

Bill Nevala’s strong hunch was that this would work out.

Well, one day shy of putting on his second-annual triathlon in Rochester, Nevala can remove that word "hunch."

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The evidence that triathlons — a three-pronged sport of swimming, biking and running — are a good fit in Rochester is overwhelming. Just look at the numbers. Nevala went from hosting a group of 500 triathletes last summer in the Rochester Triathlon, to bringing in nearly 700 this year in an event that starts 8 a.m. Sunday with a swim at Foster Arend Park and finishes at the same site about four-and-a-half hours later.

"That it went up to 700 in just its second year tells me that the multi-sports fire is burning in Rochester," said Nevala, whose company Win Multisports puts on the event, one of nine endurance events it will host this year. "Triathletes are coming out of the woodwork. The thing that has me the most excited is that 240 of our competitors will be doing a triathlon for the first time. The interest level in this has definitely gained a lot of ground."

Rochester’s Renee Saxman is one of those first-timers.

Saxman can attribute her taking the triathlon plunge Sunday to two things: Nevala’s relentless encouragement, and her own willingness — finally — to REALLY learn how to swim.

"It’s not like I was going to drown," Saxman said. "But I’d just never swam for exercise before."

Saxman knew that the other two prongs of the triathlon would be no problem. The 48-year-old has done multiple marathons, and she’s also comfortable on a bike.

But getting proficient in the water was another matter. Frankly, it was a prospect had her scared.

In the end, though, Nevala’s pestering and her own desire for a new challenge won out.

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"I finally had a willingness to make a little bit of a swimmer of myself," she said. "I did it for the challenge of it, and to get outside of my comfort zone a little bit."

Since February, Saxman has dug in, going as far as finding an instructor to teach her to swim competitively.

Literally and figuratively, she has come miles, getting her training in at the YMCA pool under the guidance of Shaun Palmer.

"When I first started, I’d swim one length of the pool, and I’d be out of breath," she said. "Now, I’m swimming for an hour straight with no breaks."

Not only that, but she’s liking it, eagerly anticipating each of her thrice-weekly swim workouts.

Now comes the moment of truth. Sunday, when she competes in her first triathlon, she’ll perform a sprint course that includes a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bike ride, and a 5 kilometer run.

The event starts with that swim, in the chilly waters of Foster Arend Park.

Saxman is eager to take the plunge.

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"It will be fun to have a chance to put it all together," Saxman said of the triathlon. "And it will be fun to see if this something I want to continue with. Right now, I think I’m going to want to do more of it."

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