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On the Run: Bucks triathletes put Delaware River to good use

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Those who venture into triathlons will tell you training for the run and bike segments often wind up being the easy parts.

It’s finding a clean, safe, convenient venue for swim preparation that has these athletes holding their breath.

Sure, there are plenty of lakes and such in Bucks County but all stillwater locales seem to come with an issue, be it algae growth or droughts (remember the ones in recent years that dried up local waterways?).

Then one day someone was driving along the Delaware River and thought, why not spend the hot summer training months making some waves in cool, somewhat fresh moving water?

And so local athletes, most affiliated with the Bucks County Triathlon Club, began doing weekly swims originating near the junction of Cuttalossa and River roads and finishing at Virginia Forrest Recreation Area just north of Center (or Centre, depending on your preference) Bridge.

Each Wednesday from April to October, conditions pending, it’s time to get wet. Most training workouts go at least a mile, which is the basic distance for your average triathlon.

With summer winding down and the year’s triathlon schedule coming to a close, there’s still a chance to have some fun, as was the case during a recent workout in late August.

“The Delaware is by far our best and most enticing group training activity for our members,’’ said BCTC President Anthony Accardo. “There are so few opportunities in our area to get an open water swimming. We are blessed to have the Virginia Forrest Recreation Area right in our backyard.”

The aforementioned gentleman driving past the river was local triathlete Tom Dillon, who started an informal training group back in 2010.

That was just the impetus BCTC needed to complete its schedule for three-sport preparation.

Veteran club member Kevin McKale says you can’t find a better place to practice at this time of year. It certainly beats doing endless laps in a heavily chlorinated swimming pool.

“This gives us a chance to all get together, train together and help each other improve as a group – so it’s safer,” McKale said. “We ask everyone to have a swim buoy so if they get fatigued, they have something to grab onto.”

Other safety measures are taken.

“The paddleboarders that we have out there keep an eye on everybody,” McKale said. “That way the jetskiers know where all the swimmers are. We try to stay together as a group and keep an eye out for each other. It helps us all feel a little more comfortable. The river is moving a little quick today. We walk up (from VFRA) and swim down. Other times of the year, we’ll put buoys out there, jump in and swim circles.

“It’s really good to get together with everybody at all different levels. It gets us some good practice for racing in open water. If you’re in the pool and just going back and forth, then you’re not ready. You learn to swim with others rather than being quarantined in a lane in a pool.”

In the cold weather months, BCTC switches to the George School pool for indoor training.

“We’ve had some good coaches, such as Todd Wiley and Ken Holland come in and look at our technique,” McKale said. “They also have given us some drills.”

Swimming in the Delaware also reminds participants to be alert at all times.

“Yeah, especially like today,” McKale pointed out. “It rained this afternoon so we were watching the height and the flow rate so we would be safe out there. When it rains, it washes some stuff into the river so we have to watch out.”

McKale also gives credit to club member Russell McCleskey for coordinating the paddleboard safety crew while athletes are swimming.

One of BCTC’s rising stars, Abby Silberman, indicates she has Wednesdays circled on her calendar.

“I really like open water swimming, especially in the river,” she said. “When you get that really fast current, you’re taking 40 seconds off for every 100 you’re doing. It’s like, OK, I can swim that fast. Now I have to implement it.

“Same thing with things like being comfortable with not being able to touch the bottom. Being able to see what’s around you. Everywhere you swim in open water, you learn from it.”

The William Tennent High School graduate, currently attending Penn State-Abington, said she got into swimming at the age of 11. Her first race was a Girl Scouts event. She’s done at least 50 races since then.

She was into swimming and cross country at Tennent, with a little soccer thrown in on the side. Now she has bigger aspirations, including the ultimate challenge, the full Ironman. She’s already done a sprint event at nationals in Milwaukee, so the experience factor is taking hold.

Meanwhile, veterans Linda and Floyd Carl of Yardley find the Delaware River both useful and pleasurable.

“We’ve been doing the Wednesday river swim for probably 10 years,” Floyd said. “It’s a great evening out with a bunch of wonderful people and the swim is excellent. It’s refreshing in the water. Has a little current which makes it nice. Great workout.”

Originally a recreational golfer, he reached his 50th birthday and decided he needed more of a physical challenge. The Yardley resident by way of Connecticut thought back to his younger years of basketball, baseball and track and thought, why not triathlon?

Recently he completed the Happy Valley Half-Ironman and finished top half in his age group.

Linda, a Yardley native, says she’s not an “official” triathlete but has completed three triathlons. Swimming is her thing.

“I love to swim and I can beat him (Floyd),” she said with a smile. “He’s been improving greatly over the years when he listens to my feedback.

“The river is just beautiful. We never have run into any real problems. You get a little extra jump when you go down the river.”

To learn more about the Bucks County Triathlon Club, visit buckscotriclub.com and follow the prompts.

Race calendar

Saturday – Dow Bristol-Croydon Operations 5K for United Way 5K, 9 a.m., Silver Lake Nature Center, Bristol Township. Contact www.runsignup.com


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