Fundamentally, the sport of triathlon is an individual's game. Swim solo, bike solo, run solo.
But one local club is helping triathletes band together and motivate one another to tackle the challenges as one.
The Las Vegas Triathlon Club welcomes those at all levels of the sport, from sprint to Olympic and onward to half ironman and full ironman levels. Difficulty varies, but sprint triathlons usually culminate in a 5K run, and a full ironman includes a full marathon : a 26.2- mile course.
The group has about 400 members, children included, whose annual membership fee entitles them to four club triathlons a year, spokesman Frank Endellicate said .
Like many drawn to the sport, Endellicate used it as an opportunity to take his fitness to a new level, he said. He now has four sprint triathlons under his belt.
With the club, he participates in group trainings, such as bike rides and weekly group swims at Lake Mead.
"It is a very individual sport, but it's probably the friendliest sport I've participated in," he said, " even though everyone is going after their own times."
Club membership is $55 a year for an individual and $75 for a family. The club hosts races and social outings, which could range from happy hours to pasta parties to help racers carbo-load before an event, Endellicate said.
In a sprint triathlon, each competitor is trying to see how swiftly he can complete a 750-meter swim, a 10- to 13-mile bike leg and a 5K run, Endellicate said. With support of his club members, the adrenaline rush becomes a great propeller, he said.
"You do all this training and the race just happens in what feels like minutes," he said.
Club member Robert Baker returned to the sport after a 25-year absence. The sport wasn't as evolved then, he said. Now, it s popularity has refined it.
"I think it's the new black," he said. "Every kind of sport goes through cycles."
He said he couldn't pinpoint what brought him back to triathlons, but the Las Vegas weather and amenities contributes to his "tri" drive.
"We can have such an active lifestyle here," he said.
Triathlons range in length and many times, all ages and abilities are welcome in the water and on the road. Women-only and kid-centric events are hosted often, too.
Paul Duncan, a recruiter with the Nevada Army National Guard, trains heavily at the top level of triathlons but joined the Las Vegas Triathlon Club for the support and social aspects.
Although he has placed in the top 10 overall in three triathlons and often finishes first in his age group, Duncan considers himself an "advanced amateur."
He helps train other group members. He also encourages his recruits to join up.
"Now that I've been doing it for a while, I like being able to help teach people in the sport," he said. "It's cool to see the progress."
Duncan is gearing up for a half ironman, which involves a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a half marathon, at the end of the summer. He's hoping to complete it in about five hours. The average time is six to seven hours.
Although he competes at a higher level, Duncan said those considering joining the sport will find support in the Las Vegas Triathlon Club.
"Eighty percent (of the athletes) there are beginners," he said. "It doesn't have to be scary. In a triathlon, usually there are five serious guys and the rest are just having fun."
Baker echoed the sentiment.
"It's palpable and doable for the average citizen," Baker said. "The sense of achievement people have with the three disciplines versus one has a different cache. It's this internal feeling of success people can't help but share."
One recent group event led Baker to swim his personal farthest distance of four miles.
"It wasn't a race, and I didn't win a medal out of all that, but it was a feeling of personal accomplishment that wouldn't have happened if I wasn't part of the club," he said.
For more information, visit lvtriclub.com .
Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.