LANGLEY—More than 220 athletes converged Saturday morning at Langley Pond to compete in a challenging sport that’s not for the timorous.

The Aiken County Parks and Recreation Department hosted the South Carolina Triathlon Series presented by the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and the sport that features three phases, provided a test for those participating in the various divisions.

The open competition was composed of athletes participating in the international and sprint divisions; those who were novices, and another section for para-athletes, with each division broken down by age in five year increments.

The triathlon featured two different distances, international and sprint. The competition itself started with the swimming phase, graduated to biking and finished with running.

The international distance for the swimming phase is 1,500 meters, just short of one mile, and the sprint event was half that distance at 750 meters. The bike distance for the international phase was 25 miles, and 12 miles for the sprint division. The running portion was 10 kilometers for the international division and five kilometers for the sprint section.

Teams composed of two or three athletes also participated in the triathlon, where there were different participants for each phase, or one athlete competing in two of the three phases, while the additional member of the team directed their energies toward a specialty.

Each athlete has a different mental approach to the competition, said Jeremey Davis, the event’s organizer.

“It all depends on what your goals are,” said Davis. “The elite athletes aren’t going to be happy unless they win. They train seven days a week. For some, their goal is just to finish. They have the mindset to just keep chugging and plugging along until they get to the finish line, and they don’t care how long it takes them.”

Nutrition and diet are also variables that have to be factored into the competition, said Davis.

“When you’re competing at the longer distances, like the international runners, those guys are going to be out here for two or three hours,” said Davis. “They’ll have to eat some on the bike course and the run course. The top guys have trained, so they don’t need to eat. They’ll take a little water on the bike, but they’re not going to eat much, maybe a gel here or there. Some people are going to eat quite a bit.”

The sport, although in its nascent stages, is some three decades old and has been an Olympic sport for the past 12 years, said Davis. Many of the participants, do the same course on an annual basis, with the objective of improving on their personal best.

“I think a lot of people who are getting into the sport, are looking for more of a challenge than just a typical 5K,” said Davis.

Peter Kotlind, a Moore resident, has been participating in triathlons for the past 15 years, and likes the challenge associated with the three phases composing the sport.

“You have to work on all three phases individually, if you want to improve,” said Kotlind.

Kristin Hernandez, loves to work out, but began participating in triathlons after recovering from a pulmonary embolism.

“I like to bike and run,” said Hernandez. “I enjoy swimming, but I’m not the fastest swimmer.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.