At HITS triathlon, leave the horse at home

(Photo by ESI Photography)

Last weekend, on Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10, the Saugerties-based HITS Triathlon Series staged its first New York state race at Hunter Mountain. The course began at the historic North/South Lake State Park in Haines Falls and encompassed the entire highlands community. The closest multi-distance triathlon to New York City drew a field of more than 500 competitors. Even casual park passersby said they found it hard to resist the collective enthusiasm for training to participate in “the multisport lifestyle.”

Most competitors participated in shorter races. Twenty-eight athletes registered for the full triathlon – a three-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, capped by a 26.2-mile marathon. Race director Mark H. Wilson said that while there were only five racers who registered with an international address, he suspected that about ten percent of the racers hailed originally from other countries. “Triathlons are often like a miniature United Nations,” he said.

Jen Stephens, a climate scientist for the U.N., traveled from New York to support boyfriend William Gane, 37, who works on Wall Street.


“We came because we knew it was going to be a well-organized event,” said Stephens.

Not everyone who participated was in peak physical condition, which was encouraging to onlookers considering giving the endeavor a try.

Saugerties resident Jennifer Leigh, 47, said she signed up to compete in the beginner “open” category, which entails a 100-meter swim, a three-mile bike ride, and a mile run – “to get really motivated to make a lifestyle change,” she said. Leigh’s an accountant for HITS Inc., the event’s parent company.

When asked if HITS founder and CEO Tom Struzzieri had pressured horse-show and hotel employees to participate as triathletes, she laughed. “Absolutely not, nothing like that. I’m doing this purely on my own,” said Leigh, who finished 53rd out of 54 finishers.

Rockland County resident Sean Broderick, 38, also participated in the open, coming in 34th. “It’s my first triathlon,” said the student/maintenance worker. “I was attracted to this event for lots of reasons, including that it was free for me to participate at the starting level,” he said. Broderick said that over the weekend, he spent about $300 locally on food and lodging, and plans to return next year to compete at the next-longer “sprint” distance.

Saugerties resident Mike Halsted, 45, won Saturday’s sprint race overall, placing first in both the bike and run categories. To describe him as a fitness enthusiast is putting it mildly; Halsted came in third on Sunday’s half triathlon.

The last athlete to complete the full triathlon crossed the finish line at 11:57 p.m.; that race’s awards ceremony was necessarily held on Monday evening.