CAZENOVIA — On the weekend of Aug. 6 and 7, Cazenovia resident Chary Griffin was in the thick of competition in Milwaukee competing against a field of other top atheltes in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.
Griffin competed in two events that weekend, the Olympic Distance and the Super Sprint distance with 6,000 other athletes where she qualified to compete in the world championships which will be held next year in Spain and Germany.
“If you are wondering about my age, I’ll be racing in Europe as a 75 year old,” Griffin said.
For Griffin earning the chance to compete in Spain and Germany are achievements she is proud of and one she has worked hard to earn.
“I was pleased to do so well,” Griffin said. “I have consistently trained six days a week since Easter for these races. I have been training the distances both in the pool and open water as well as on the bike trainer and open roads and trail running as well as on the Caz high school track. So, I have a very good sense of where I am, and what I am capable of. There are many variables – heat, hills, bad weather, stress etc. I wear a heart rate monitor when I compete – so I know what range to stay in so I can anticipate my finishing time and not burn out early – my philosophy is a steady output of energy throughout the event saving some ‘gas in the tank’ for the finish. I have to tell you though, I train all year – dividing the seasons up – starting in October.”
This latest competition is one in a long series of competitions Griffin has taken part in dating back to the 1980s.
Griffin began with marathons.
“My family, at first, was amazed that I trained for a marathon by myself and finished it,” Griffin said. “It was the 1991 New York City Marathon and my extended family all came to watch. I completed nine more marathons and had some age group awards before I decided I like the training method of using snowshoe races and triathlons better than the marathons themselves. Triathlons broke up the monotony of just doing long runs for three to four hours. Similar aerobic output but different skill sets for the same timeframe.”
As Griffin said, she began taking an interest in triathlons both from a competitive point of view as well as to change the way she was training.
“I have been running and doing triathlons since the late 1980s,” she said. “I had been doing marathons and found that mixing up the training helped ease the wear and tear and boredom that came with marathon training runs. Triathlons for me lasted about the same time as doing a marathon. When I first started there were perhaps three women total in the event. Entry fees were $10-$25, and you wore a bathing suit, shorts and a shorty wetsuit. Since those days, triathlon has grown – I have attended many Age Group National Championships and in 2009 qualified for my first World Championship in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia. My family was amazed.”
Since getting started in triathlons and competing in Australia, Griffin has had the opportunity to travel the world in competitions.
“I have competed in Budapest, London, New Zealand, Chicago, Edmonton, and qualified for Bermuda and a second trip to Edmonton – both canceled due to COVID,” Griffin said. “This past weekend I competed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in both the Olympic distance (1 mile swim, 24 mile bike, and 6.3 mile run) and the Super Sprint (1/4 mile swim, 6 mile bike and 2 mile run). I placed high enough to qualify to race an Olympic distance next year in Pontevedra, Spain and a Sprint distance in Frankfort, Germany.”
Along the way Griffin has earned an impressive series of accomplishments.
“Some personal highlights are finishing in the top 10 of the age group,” Griffin said. “I did this in Budapest after an injury and also last year in Milwaukee. I have been top 10 in a few Snowshoe National Championships, enjoyed Snowshoe World’s in Italy and Quebec and also have been an All American twice. I am going to put in a plug for training on snow – it’s free, a soft landing if you fall and an excellent aerobic conditioning tool.”
While Griffin is dedicated to her training she said equally important is her support system.
“I’ve had great support from my family and my coach, Kristen Roe,” Griffin said. “I find Cazenovia a great place to train both in the fair weather for triathlon and in the winter for snowshoe racing. The Cazenovia Triathlon has become a big summer highlight. So many trails and scenic spots. I am also grateful we have such a supportive athletic community in the Syracuse area, and so many venues and races nearby.”
Right now is a time to get a little rest but it won’t be long before Griffin is back in training mode.
“I will begin training again for the snowshoe racing season, which is my winter sport,” Griffin said. “Having two sports with a month or two in between the seasons keeps training fresh and more interesting. So, barring any unforeseen accidents, staying on track with consistent training is the key to performance.”
With what some might consider a fairly intensive training schedule Griffin said for her it helps her to stay motivated and inspired knowing she has something to work toward.
“Having a goal is also key to motivation,” she said. “So I sign up for key races so I have something to work towards and plan for. I enjoy the camaraderie of other athletes which makes going to races fun, as well as showing my 7 year old granddaughter that hard work brings opportunities. While we are on the subject of opportunity, Title 9 plays a big role in athletics. There is a huge gap in performance times and numbers of female athletes prior to the enactment of Title 9. In a perverse way, that has helped older women like myself excel, as our numbers are fewer, but we are thrilled to see all girls have sports, coaching and the use of athletic facilities. When I went to high school there were two sports for women, modern dancing and cheerleading. The athletic field was for the boys. Girls weren’t supposed to run.”
Griffin is an example of how that old mindset no longer applies.
She has also been a longtime supporter of the Cazenovia Triathlon which was held Aug. 21.
“I have been a supporter and competitor in almost every Cazenovia Triathlon since its inception,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have this opportunity in my backyard and love to see more competition with young athletes getting a taste of the sport. That is our future. My plan is to use it to qualify for next year’s Triathlon National Championship.”
The Pontevedra, Spain World Championship will be on September of 2023 and Griffin is already planning how she will prepare.
“I will start training again in Easter, after I’m done with snowshoe season this winter,” Griffin said. “I have a wonderful coach, Kristen Roe, who is an outstanding endurance athlete herself. She sets up a graduated training plan and I follow it. We tweak it a bit as we go along due to injury or timing constraints, but knowing the ‘hay is in the barn’ is confidence building on race day while you are waiting to start.”
In her 70s, training regularly, competing on the world stage and locally, Griffin said she has a simple philosophy that helps keep her moving forward.
“My goal to achieve is very simple. I enjoy doing sports to be healthy,” she said. “All things in moderation leaving time to enjoy life’s many pleasures. I also enjoy encouraging athletes new to the sport. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s good to have someone to ask for help.”