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Triathlon Across the USA

By Terry VanderWert | May 25, 2018, 3:06 p.m. (ET)

Terry VanderWert

It’s an all too common story. Guy (or gal) becomes focused on raising a family and/or on building a career, stops or reduces physical activity (other than ‘running’ kids to activities or ‘racing’ through airports), skips meals, eats poorly, gains weight, and, if you are like me, sees his/her blood pressure and blood sugar climb over time.

Following my annual physical exam in 2010, my doctor expressed concern about the trajectory of my blood pressure and blood sugar. His solution was ‘simple’ — lose some weight.

I knew that I had become a little fuller around the middle. However, this was not enough motivation for me to be serious about exercising regularly. Even more so, it was not enough of a push for me to eat salads instead of burgers.

So, how was I going to lose the weight?

Let’s Do a Triathlon

Terry VanderWertThe plan emerged during a conversation with a friend and our sons. My friend, Jim, suggested that we do a sprint triathlon, the Buffalo Triathlon in Buffalo, Minnesota, a rural community about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis with a beautiful lake for the open water swim.

My daughter, Liza, also liked the idea of a triathlon considering this to be a good father-daughter adventure. On New Year’s Eve of 2010, we solidified the commitment by registering for the Buffalo Triathlon.

My daughter was right. Over the next five months, we compared our training progress. Occasionally, we would train together on a Saturday morning. We even performed a mock-triathlon in our neighborhood covering the actual distances of the Buffalo Sprint Triathlon.


Our First Triathlon

Before we knew, it was race day and time for our first triathlon.

I learned a lot from this race and the training leading up to it. In the training, I learned a new vocabulary — brick, HIIT and dolphin dive to name a few of the new words.

During the first triathlon, I learned that ‘old’ people could be impressively athletic, something of which I am constantly being reminded, even today.

I witnessed the benefits of a minimalist approach to transition. For example, I learned that it was not necessary to bring a water bucket and towel to wash and dry my feet after the swim. I also saw a triathlon bike for the first time. While my bike for this race, a Giant hybrid, was incredibly comfortable, it was definitely not as fast as the tri-bikes. And what was it about those strange looking bike helmets?

Of course, I will always remember and cherish the high-fives from my ultra-supportive wife and two of our grandchildren near the finish of the run leg.

While I did not take last place in this race, I was a long way from the podium. Nevertheless, the experience was awesome and launched a whole new set of training goals.

After Buffalo

Days after the race, my wife, Joy, and I were talking about the triathlon and ‘what if’ we combined triathlons with road trips that we had always enjoyed with our children. The idea gained momentum as we thought of all of the friends and relatives that we could visit along the way.


The result was a goal of completing a triathlon in each of the 50 states of the USA by the time I reached age 70. It seemed reasonable since this would give us 12 years.

Over the past seven years, I have completed sprint triathlons in 34 states. A majority of triathlons have been in states that have allowed us to visit family and friends. We have also visited off-the-beaten-path parts of this country that we would likely have never otherwise seen. Some of the family members we have introduced to triathlon, including my parents and Joy’s aunt, have passed away since the time they watched their first triathlon.

Terry VanderWertTwo years ago, at the urging of my daughter, I launched a website,, to chronicle our experiences in visiting various parts of the USA. The ‘Our Stories’ section of the website includes these and stories of other senior triathletes from the USA and UK.

The website also contains information about training and racing of special relevance to people aged 50 and over whom are either currently participating in triathlon or considering it. 15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons” lists a few of the benefits of triathlon, especially for masters and grandmasters.

Triathlon is a great sport. Many triathlons double as fundraisers for worthy causes. Triathlon can also inspire children and grandchildren to greater fitness. It certainly has changed my perspective of aging and the incredible accomplishments of people at every age.

Please join us at I would love for you to share your story about triathlon with our readers. Help us to inspire the next generations.

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