Triathlons are a multisport event that involve swimming, cycling, and running. Ask any triathlete what their least-favorite part is. Most will tell you it’s the swim.
Why Triathletes Have a Love-Hate Relationship with the Swim
When swimming in open water, you can expect to get kicked, pushed, and sometimes swam over. You’ll have to jut your neck up like a tortoise to see where you’re going. You may panic, but you’ll try to deny it, because that will only make matters worse. You’ll swallow a gallon of feet fungus lake water, a gift from your neighbor’s flutter kick, as you try to catch a breath. When I say “you,” I speak experientially. That is (an exaggeration of) what happened to me. The swim was the determining factor that had me swearing off triathlons. I covered this story for Texas Lifestyle Magazine in 2021. “Never again,” I said through tears, moments after crossing the finish line.
But the whole race wasn’t panic-ridden. Just the swim. (A lake seemed to me to be a better ecosystem for fish and snakes than people). There had to be a way to get this without that. There is: swimming pool triathlons.
What is a Pool Triathlon
A pool triathlon is just as it sounds. Athletes veer down lap lanes of a swimming pool (usually 25-50 meters) with crystal clear water. They go in order of their expected swim finish time, from fastest to slowest, for a seamless start with space to move. To duck under the rope lane partition, athletes can flip turn, bob under, or hold on to the wall and think about it for a bit.
This, I decided, was my kind of multisport event. I have since completed many pool triathlons. I’m still not the world’s best swimmer (or even the race’s best swimmer- in my last race, I finished 1st in the run, 4th in the bike, and 55th in the swim!), but I know if ever I feel threatened, I can see where I’m going, put my feet down to the bottom of the pool, and aqua walk if I have to. I’ve never actually done that, but it’s comforting to know I could.
This approachable type of swim could spread the joy of multisport participation, even if you have no interest in the type of experience this article started with. As an exercise physiologist, my mission is to move millions to well-being. This article is written with the aspiration of moving you to multisport participation– by means of a pool triathlon. With no further adieu, here at the Top Pool Tris in Texas.
Life Time McKinney at Craig Ranch Triathlon
Top for Organization
Life Time, A Healthy Way of Life Company, puts on some of the most coordinated sporting events in the country. When you sign up for a Life Time Athletic Event, you can be sure you’ll know where and when to pick up your packet, when transition areas open and close, where to put your equipment, which direction to go on topsy turvy routes that make the bike and run fun, and you’ll get swag- really cool swag. Host sites are consistently top notch, but Craig Ranch in McKinney is hard to beat.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Father of Aerobics, built Cooper Craig Ranch nearly two decades ago. The property has since been sold and it was acquired by Life Time on Dec. 5, 2022. I had the privilege of touring Cooper Craig Ranch when the facility opened. Returning now, I was aghast at how Life Time took a facility that was already a diamond among pearls and made it shine even brighter.
Life Time McKinney at Craig Ranch Athletic Club includes 12 outdoor pickleball courts, a 50 meter Olympic-sized pool (the optimal size for a pool triathlon), group fitness classes, a state-of-the-art workout floor, a Kids Academy, ARORA fitness programming and coffee club meetups for active agers (55+), a LifeSpa and fast-casual LifeCafe.
The 350 meter swim through the temperature-controlled pool was peaceful. The 12-mile bike ride was safe and welcoming to those new to road biking. The 5K run wound through multimillion dollar homes with beautifully landscaped yards and welcome mats with expressions like “Welcome Y’all.” In that way, this north Dallas suburb is like Dallas’s Highland Park without the la-di-da air. Life Time McKinney at Craig Ranch Triathlon is organized by Dallas Athletes Racing (DAR). It is a USAT sanctioned Triathlon.
The event typically takes place on the last Sunday in June.
Where to stay:
You’ll have a twenty-five minute drive on the morning of the event to work out your pre-race jitters, but I highly recommend The Las Colinas Resort, Dallas. This property is in the completion stage of a $55 million transformation to rebrand to The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Las Colinas.
The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Las Colinas is expected to open in December 2023.
Triathletes become very familiar with DOMS (pronounced dawms). It stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS usually kicks in 48-hours after a challenging workout.
Post-race, you’ll want to return to The Ritz-Carlton Dallas for a spa treatment. The amenities at the spa include a hot tub and cold plunge. Known as “contrast therapy,” taking a dip in cold-hot-cold-hot water can aid in recovery after tough workouts and decrease the severity of muscle soreness.
Dam 09 Triathlon
San Antonio, TX
Top for Scenic Views
The quirky-titled Dam 09 Triathlon gets its namesake for the 9-miles that participants ride past the beautiful Olmos Park Dam in the Alamo Heights district of San Antonio. Alamo Heights zip code also ends in 09.
The homes you’ll pass on this bike ride are opulent, the uphills are challenging, and the downhills are gloriously fast (unless you’re scared, in which case, you can have far less fun and ride the brakes).
Author and triathlon coach, Jen Rulon, echoes our opinion of the Dam 09 Triathlon, calling the event “The Best Little Triathlon in Texas.”
The event typically takes place on the third Saturday in August.
Where to stay:
The Hotel Emma is a 5-minute drive from The Dam 09 Triathlon. Part of why Dam 09 makes my list is its proximity to The Hotel Emma. Traveling to cool places is, in no small part, one of the appeals of doing triathlons. There may be nowhere cooler- in an elegant, classic, luxurious sort of way- than The Hotel Emma. The Hotel Emma, at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl District, is the only AAA Five Diamond hotel in Texas.
Supper, the approachable fine dining restaurant at The Hotel Emma, recently welcomed highly acclaimed Executive Chef Ned Elliott to curate a fresh new menu. His redfish was the best I have ever had. That’s saying a lot, because I eat fish as the animal protein with my dinner nearly every night.
Knowing that I’d be burning through any carbohydrates and fat consumed in the race the next day, I splurged on mascarpone cheesecake for dessert. Paired with a decaffeinated Americano, it was the perfect nightcap before a multisport morning.
Spa Girl Tri
Lost Pines, TX
Top for FUN
Spa Girl Tri is an annual womens-only event hosted at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines in Lost Pines, TX. This is the only athletic event that I’ve ever attended where the fellow race participants cheer each other on louder and harder than the spectators.
One family brought four generations of matriarchs to participate (a child, her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother). The swim is in the resort’s lazy river with the jets turned on, gently pushing you along. The bike route meanders through an old country road behind property with a few gentle hills (and one not-so-gentle). The run follows along the golf course with a finish on the banks of the Colorado River.
The husband-wife couple behind Spa Girl Tri are a fascinating duo. He was in the Guinness book of World Records for his record-breaking Ironman triathlon performance years ago. The couple set out to host an event more appealing to all women. His wife calls Spa Girl Tri “the antithesis of an Ironman.” More info on the two of them, who just go by Michael and Janelle, on this walking + kickboxing podcast.
The event typically takes place on the last Saturday in August.
Stay for the celebration of epic proportions. The post-race party includes a feast of quiche, fresh fruit, sweets, and mimosas. Champion the successes of women young and old, competitive and leisurely recreational! (The celebration can commemorate a triathlon finish or a “Splash and Dash” walk in the lazy river followed by a walk on the golf course. Relay options are available, too).
Keep the party going all weekend by planning ahead. Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort has set up a sweet discounted block of rooms for Spa Girl Tri 2024 at the same price as 2023. It’s a very limited room block that will fill up quickly. At just $269 per night, you’d better book your room pronto for the night before the event or the entire weekend here.
Cover photo courtesy Life Time McKinney at Craig Ranch Athletic Club.
👋 I am Brook Benten. I am a recovered triathlaphobic (made-up name for one who fears triathlons). I love pool triathlons, and do a DIY version every Saturday morning when I am not competing in an organized race. Follow along my fitness adventures on Instagram at @BrookBenten.