Robyn Wangberg put in laps at the Winona Senior High School pool on Monday as part of her training for the Trinona triathlon in June.
by CHRIS ROGERS
Anna Kelner had watched Trinona from the sidelines for years. While she volunteered, panting racers burst out of the lake. “The last time I was down there and everyone was getting out of the water and onto their bikes, it seemed really exciting,” Kelner recalled. So when her employer offered free entries in the triathlon and her children miraculously didn’t have a soccer tournament on race day, Kelner decided this was her year to go for it. There was just one problem.
“At first my biggest fear was the open water and what would be lurking under the water,” Kelner said of the race’s Lake Winona swimming leg. “But now I’ve realized that I can’t swim either.” Kelner explained, “I did what they call the Tarzan swim.” She was trying to hold her head above water the entire time, instead of dropping her head and turning to the side to breathe — a very inefficient way to swim a quarter-mile.
Thankfully, as part of the preparation for her first triathlon, Kelner signed up for Winona Masters Swim Club. The name sounds intimidating, Kelner acknowledged, but she said it is a very welcoming group with an instructor, Ali Mayer, who coached Kelner on straightening out her Tarzan paddle into a proper front crawl. “The third day [of swim club] I was really suffering,” Kelner stated. “I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’” Then Mayer had her try swimming with fins. Something about the extra kick helped Kelner feel comfortable lowering her head. “It made me feel like I got my equilibrium in the water, and that really helped,” she said. “Now I’m feeling much more confident … I actually really, really like swimming now,” she added. Kelner said of the experience, “You have to be willing to be bad at something in order to get good at it.”
Robyn Wangberg also trains with Mayer as part of the Winona Area Public Schools Community Education fitness class. Wangberg took a breath between reps to glance at the poolside whiteboard where Mayer’s workout for the day was printed, while her classmates gave Mayer a hard time. Did they really have to do so many pool lengths? “It’s good for you,” Mayer replied.
Wangberg is a veteran triathlete who has completed the Hawaii Iron Man and usually does one or two triathlons a year. It used to be more. “Now I have three kids. Life is just different,” she said.
“I like triathlons because of the multi-sport aspect. I like doing the variety of different exercises,” Wangberg said. “I’m pretty competitive, so I like that part, but even if it’s not against other people, I like to see how I can better myself,” she continued. “In triathlons there are lots of opportunities. You can have a swim goal and a bike goal and a run goal.”
One of the most challenging parts of a triathlon is the transition from biking to running. Racers’ legs are jelly from the grueling bike ride, and then they have to take off running. To get used to it, Kelner and Wangberg have been practicing what they call “brick runs,” in which they go for a run immediately after a bike ride. “Once you get off the bike, your legs feel like bricks,” Kelner explained. “It never seems to get easier. Maybe I’m just getting old,” Wangberg joked. “It’s really good to practice that feeling. For me, my legs feel really bad for the first mile, but then they get used to it.”
As a competitor in Trinona’s international distance race (0.93-mile swim, 24.85-mile bike, 6.2-mile run), Wangberg will get to bike up Garvin Heights Road. “That hill is so hard,” Wangberg said. It is nice because it spreads out the field during the biking leg, but the hill is a serious challenge and there is still a lot of biking left to go, she stated. “There’s often this challenging headwind once you get to the top. You think, ‘Oh, I’m done,’ once you get up there, but no, you have like eight miles before you get to go down.”
Kelner is competing in the shorter, sprint-distance race: a 0.25-mile swim, 11-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run. “Man, that’s a lot,” Kelner said of the swim distance. She is still working her way up to swimming a quarter-mile during practices. “And that’s with fins,” she added. However, she is feeling confident about the race and hopes to meet her goals for finishing time. Whatever happens, Kelner said, “I love the atmosphere of people just cheering you on and being excited for you no matter where you are.”
Trinona will be held on June 8 and 9 in Winona. Registration for the race is open. More information is available at www.trinona.com.