Club leaders Scott Burt and Robert Cross after finishing an Ironman in Cozumel in 2021. (Photo by Jen Cross)

If you’ve ever wanted to try a triathlon, Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation Department has a training program for you. It includes spin classes, swim sessions, group runs and bike rides. The two leading the club, Robert Cross and Scott Burt, have competed in the three-sport endurance events. Some of the longest can include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run. But not all triathlons are that long or grueling. Cross and Burt are hoping to hold a shorter competition in Petersburg sometime this summer. KFSK’s Katherine Monahan spoke with them about what it’s like to complete such a race.

Monahan: What does it take mentally to complete a triathlon?

Cross: I think you’re just constantly telling yourself to slow down and run your own race. And you know, that’s my mantra when I’m running and somebody passes me and, sometimes I’ll look at them and say like, man, I feel like I should be faster than them. And I just say like, run your own race, run your own race, run your own race.

It’s very difficult and it’s mentally strenuous, but by the time you run the race, you’ve done hundreds and hundreds of hours of training. So you know exactly how fast you’re supposed to run. You just don’t want to get tricked into trying to chase people down and run faster than you should or swim faster than you should.

Burt: I would echo everything that Rob just said. It’s completely individualized. And I know personally for me on the Ironman distance events, when you start getting into the end of the bike ride, or like right around mile 20 or 21 on the run, you know, and you’ve been out there for hours and hours and hours, and you enter into really dark places.

And nobody makes you do this, right? You’re like, I’m here, I’ve trained. This is what I’m here to do. And, the environment of these triathlons is so energizing and the other athletes will cheer you on, you know, and there are usually spectators and they will pull you into it and help kind of pull you out of the, the funk of, I just wanna stop, you know, and then, you know, that finish line is at the end and you just keep going.

Monahan: What do you do when you’re done? Do you just fall down? Do you have a beer? What happens?

Cross: Yeah, I just celebrate and walk around and it’s just such a feeling of euphoria because you did it and you don’t have any more steps to take and you finally finished and yeah, usually they’ll hand you a beer at the end. And you just kind of find your family and celebrate and, and you’re done. You get to take months off from training until you start it all over again. And then you’re like, I’m never gonna race again. And then you sign up for another triathlon the next day. So that’s usually the way it goes.

Monahan: And finally, any advice for somebody looking to get into triathlons?

Burt: You know, it doesn’t matter if you are short or tall, it doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re slow or fast. It does not matter. You know, it’s a celebration of a life. It’s a, it’s a lifestyle, right? It has its ups and downs. It can be challenging. It can be very rewarding. And the end, when you go to that end and you have all these people cheering you and you celebrate all of the work that you did to put you in that position, it’s one of the most gratifying and satisfying moments.

I’ll never forget the first Ironman I finished. It was incredible. You know, it’s, it’s a memory that will always be with me. And so that motivation keeps you coming back and I always get people saying, you know, I don’t know how you guys do that. And it’s like, it’s not as daunting and as hard as you may think.

In setting up a triathlon club here, we just want to tell people, if you don’t know how to swim, that’s okay. We’ll teach you how to swim. If you don’t have a good bike, it’s okay. You don’t need a fancy bike to do a triathlon. You just need something with two wheels and brakes, right? You need a helmet. You need a swimsuit with goggles, you need good running shoes and that’s really all you need. You know, you don’t have to go all out. You don’t have to be the fastest on the planet. You can be the last finisher of a triathlon finished. Right. And that is victory. And I always try to encourage all age groups, everybody to try it. And if you like it, which you probably will, you’ll come back for more. And if you don’t, you tried.

Anybody can join the triathlon club through Petersburg Parks and Recreation. It’s $50 annually or $100 for a family.