Morgan’s Little Miami Triathlon
By Emma Jarman
There are many things one can get done in three and a half hours: Clean an apartment, count to 126,000, watch a James Cameron movie or compete in and complete the biannual Morgan’s Little Miami Triathlon. On Sunday, June 1 at 8 a.m., the gun will sound, signaling the start of the spring installment of the oldest triathlon in the continental United States at Morgan’s Canoe and Outdoor Center in Fort Ancient, Ohio.
Now in its 36th year, the Little Miami Triathlon originated in 1979, developed by a fresh-out-of-college Gary Morgan, who serves as race coordinator to this day. He started the event, which consists of a six-mile canoe course down the Little Miami River, a 5.5-mile run and an 18-mile bike course, as a promotional tactic to create business awareness for the outdoor adventure company.
“[Since then,] it’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Morgan said.
People come from more than 25 states in this country; they come to compete from Europe, South America and Canada. Because Cincinnati is home to major international corporations such as P&G, many American employees working overseas use the triathlon as an excuse to return home and visit family and friends still in the area. The event is also broadly appealing because of the multiple competitor divisions available in which to register.
Teams are welcomed in male/male pairs, male/female pairs, there is a division for couples whose ages total 80 years or more, a division for people interested in using their own equipment and a division for singles and walkers. While the male/male-paired division is by far the most competitive, and usually where the winning teams come from, there are many degrees of ability among competitors, and everyone is welcome – to an extent.
“You have to be in fairly decent shape, but we do get quite a few people who do it just to say they did it and don’t care about their time,” Morgan said. “They just want to say they did the triathlon. We do recommend you’re in decent shape and if you have a question about that you should go to your physician and have them OK it.”
While Morgan does point to the six-mile-runner level as an adequate gauge of preparedness (can you run six miles at one time and do you do so at least a few times a week?), he acknowledges not all participants are at that level.
“If you can run six miles, it’s doable,” he said. “The running is the toughest thing because once you get on the bike you don’t have to pedal fast and you’re still going pretty fast.”
It’s particularly important to be a conditioned runner on the Little Miami Triathlon course due to the inclusion of a one “Killer Hill” on the racecourse, at the end of the running portion just before the transition to bike. Killer Hill is approximately 200 yards of a 45-degree uphill climb that comes out of the Little Miami River Valley.
“The order of this event was put together with the help and advice of an orthopedic surgeon who knows how the body works,” Morgan said. “[He] put all the information together, seeing what muscle groups would be used and when. This was judged professionally to be in the correct order – as correct as you can have it.”
There are many ways to guarantee success on a triathlon course aside from being in peak physical condition and having a surgically planned racecourse. Nickie Luce, manager at Up and Running in Centerville, recommended a few extras that can make the three-hour haul a little bit more bearable.
“A good pair of running shoes would be one of the most important things,” Luce said, enthusiastically.
A good pair of triathlon shorts, which are similar to bike shorts, but with a lighter seat pad so they can go for the run as well; Body Glide, a popular anti-chafing stick that can be applied liberally “anywhere you feel like you would get rubbing or chafing”; a properly fitting bike helmet and sunglasses are all what Nickie would consider “bare necessities” to getting through the race comfortably. And ladies, a perfectly fitting, high-impact sports bra is just as important as good running shoes when it comes to this sort of thing.
While running shoes can sometimes cost an arm and the actual leg they are meant to cushion, the average pair will run between $100-$150. Triathlon shorts can be found in the $50 range and most other gear, such as nutrition gels, Body Glide and a helmet, can be found for as low as $10. Throw on top of that the $145 registration fee for a two-person team (plus $10 extra if you want t-shirts), and the cost can rise quickly, but is not necessarily prohibitively expensive.
Behaviors like not wearing a helmet, or plucking ear buds in while on the course are grounds for disqualification, as they are a safety hazard. Full rules and regulations can be found on the triathlon’s official website, littlemiamitriathlon.com. But Morgan points out there are many ways to increase your course-specific preparedness. Not only is the course map available, so are Morgan’s employees at any time to help those training to compete.
“We specialize in helping [participants],” Morgan said.
If you are interested in registering for the Morgan’s Little Miami Triathlon (and can run six miles in a row a few times a week), registration is open until the day of the race and can be found on the website. Proceeds from the race go towards a number of charities, including CancerFree KIDS, and benefits local Boy Scout troops who are paid for their helpful services on race day.
“A triathlon is very good for your mental health, too,” Morgan pointed out. “It’s a natural stress reliever and confidence builder and, of course, it’s good for your body. It’s a win-win situation.”
The Morgan’s Spring Little Miami Triathlon begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 1. For registration or more information, please visit littlemiamitriathlon.com or morganscanoe.com.
Contact DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@DaytonCityPaper.com.