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Thousands look to go distance this weekend in Pittsburgh Triathlon

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The North Shore will be full of activity this weekend as hundreds of multi-sport athletes take to the Allegheny River, Parkway North HOV lane and trail along the water for the Pittsburgh Triathlon.

The annual event, now in its 16th year, is the main fundraiser for Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit that is responsible for the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and works to increase awareness and usage of the city's waterways.

Like last year, three races will be held over two days. The sprint distance triathlon and adventure race will be Saturday morning, while the international distance triathlon will follow Sunday morning.

The sprint distance consists of a 600-meter swim followed by a 20K bike ride and 5K run. The adventure race has the same bike and run distances but substitutes a two-mile kayak or canoe for the swim portion. The international distance is a 1 12K swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run.

Breaking the races into two days made for a smoother experience in 2012, race director Neil Semmel said.

“It worked well because now everyone is doing the same distance on the bike and run portion,” he said.

Organizers fell shy of their 2013 goal of 1,000 competitors on each day, which is about the maximum the North Shore lawn can hold in a transition area where racers move from the water to the bike, then back again before setting off on the run. Semmel said about 1,500 competitors are expected this weekend.

A new feature is the First Timer's Competitor Clinic at Highmark Stadium in Station Square. The clinic is free to all registered triathletes and will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday. It features an overview of the course, rules and regulations and a discussion of mental training for triathlon.

“I think for beginners and first-timers, the biggest advice is to go out and enjoy the day,” said Chad Holderbaum, one of several area triathletes to turn pro in the past two years. “Don't rush. It's a long day, and you just want to take it one step at a time.”

Competitors should be prepared for a bike course that's more challenging as well as some current in the river, Holderbaum said.

“It's different from swimming in a pool,” Holderbaum said. “Whether it's a wake or just not being able to touch a wall or the bottom, it can sometimes create panic attacks. Just stay calm and take a deep breath.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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