Swimming, cycling and running are all difficult sports, but it takes a special breed of athlete to compete in all three at the same time.
The UCSB triathlon team consists of over 60 undergraduate and graduate students competing for the purest of reasons. Rather than worrying about accolades or fame, the athletes focus on fitness and friendship.
“It helps us work out a lot and stay healthy,” junior club co-president Sara Cohen said. “Doing triathlons is not as intimidating as it seems and it’s a great place to make friends. You find out a lot about a person during a four hour bike ride”
Competing in a sport that combines long swims with even longer bike rides and runs, the Gauchos train harder than the average athlete. Bicycle training can last anywhere from two to eight hours, with most rides starting at 7 a.m. The athletes have been known to bike as far north as Solvang and as far south as Ventura.
In addition to the biking, the Gauchos also participate in masters swimming and night runs to train for competitions. All the hard work is necessary as typical triathlons consist of a one-mile swim, followed by a 24 mile bike ride and a six mile run.
“We do double days during the season which usually start pretty early,” Cohen said. “People who have never done sports before join the team and get to a point where they’re running and biking for hours.”
The season, which features events up and down the West Coast, culminated in April’s national championships in Arizona. Led by Michael Sevier’s sixth place finish, the Gauchos finished 13th as a team.
Members of the team will be in action this Saturday when they compete in the Auburn International Half-Ironman Triathlon in northern California. A half-ironman is particularly difficult as it consists of a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and a 13 mile run.
The majority of the team is also currently training for the Vineman Triathlon, which will be held in Napa Valley in late July.
The Gauchos are sponsored by several local companies, including Clif Bar, in addition to holding their own triathlon to help raise funds. Last year, the UCSB Triathlon featured over 350 competitors and raised over $8,000 for the team.
The member dues are well worth it to a team that takes full advantage of one of the country’s best training grounds for triathlons. Professionals such as UCSB coach CJ Castle live and train in the area, and Lance Armstrong has been known to make trips to Santa Barbara to train on his bike.
The climate in Santa Barbara allows the team to train almost year round, a task that the Gauchos embrace.
“If you know you can train this hard, it shows you that you can do anything,” Cohen said. “It pushes you to your limit, but it’s worth it. Joining the team is the best decision we all ever made.”