Originally created 10/17/00

Test of endurance



Aren't Saturdays for sleeping in? Not for Andy Cassity and his 14-year-old daughter, Elaine, of Greenville, S.C., two of the more than 100 athletes who competed in the Windmill Lake Sprint Triathlon in Evans on Oct. 7.

By 10 a.m., the father-daughter athletes were warmed up and ready to start paddling, pedaling and panting through the Windmill Plantation neighborhood.

"We just kind of started this year," Mr. Cassity said. "Our objective was just to finish."

Mr. Cassity and his daughter are part of a growing group of athletes who are taking on the young sport of triathlon. The first triathlon was held in San Diego in 1974 as an outgrowth of California's jogging craze, according to Triathlete magazine. The sport's popularity has grown since: It became an Olympic event at the Summer Games in Sydney this year.

A triathlon is an endurance test. It requires athletes to race in three sports: swimming, biking and running.

After a mass start, or several mass starts in waves, the race has no breaks. With the clock ticking, athletes must change clothes and gear between each leg of the race.

There are four levels in triathlons: Sprint, Olympic, 1/2 Iron Man and Iron Man. At each level, the distance covered increases.

The Windmill race was a Sprint-distance race, which includes a five-kilometer swim, a 20-kilometer bike and a five-kilometer run.

Mr. Cassity stayed side by side with his daughter through the race. They completed the event in 1 hour, 45 minutes. Elaine finished third in the 18-and-under category.

John Stratton of Augusta raced as part of a two-man team. As a former swimmer, his area of expertise was the first leg - the five-kilometer swim.

Mr. Stratton said the start is always a little dangerous because everyone is racing to get in front. "Everybody is on top of each other," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that I probably broke somebody's nose, out of all the races I've done."

Pepper Gay of Avondale Estates, Ga., began competing in triathlons two years ago, at age 7. At the Windmill race, she and her brother Bradley, 11, agreed that the swim was the easiest leg of the race.

"The running was the hardest," Pepper said. "It was harder at the beginning, but then I got used to it."

Both Gay children train about three days a week, riding their bikes and running around the Stone Mountain area. They enjoy the challenge of triathlons and the exercise involved.

"All three of my kids are competitors," Mary Gay said of her family. "I think it's wonderful for them. They know if they work hard they can accomplish things and they can see the results for themselves."

Mike Caudell and David Ledrick, the Windmill triathlon race directors, run together regularly and thought the area needed its own triathlon.

The first race was such a success that they plan to expand it next year.

"The Windmill Lake Sprint Triathlon strives to be a success for serious Augusta-area triathletes, as well as the novice who is curious as to what all the fuss is about," Mr. Caudell said. "The triathlon is growing in participants, especially in Georgia, and it seems only natural that we have a great one in our back yard."

Upcoming events

Oct. 21, Great Floridian Triathlon, Clermont, Fla.

Oct. 21, Pant, Paddle and Pedal, Nashville, Tenn., Long Hunter State Park

Oct. 29, Halloween Splash & Dash, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 8 a.m., Snyder Park

Nov. 4, Dannon Fall Chill Duathlon*, Hiawassee, Ga., Chatuge Dam

Nov. 4, Bandits Challenge Triathlon and Duathlon, Wilkesboro, N.C., Bandits Roost Park

For more information about these races or to find other triathlons all over the nation, visit www.active.com.

* Duathlons, often held in cooler months, omit the swimming leg of the race.

The next triathlon in Augusta will be the Publix Family Fitness Triathlon in May. Call the Greater Augusta Sports Council, 722-8326, for more information.

Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or lisalohr@augustachronicle.com.