Todd Reiger was 33 years old when he had his first heart attack. Within three years, he had a second and then a third.
“I had a pretty hectic schedule,” Reiger said. “I wasn’t exercising and I wasn’t eating right. After the third heart attack, my cardiologist told me if I didn’t start taking care of myself, I was going to run out of lives, even if I had nine of them.”
Encouraged by his wife, he joined a health club and began working out regularly. But it wasn’t long before he became bored with the routine. When a trainer at the gym suggested he participate in a local triathlon, Reiger decided to give it a shot.
He signed up for the Go Tri Sports Triathlon at Hilton Head Island, a sprint race that includes a 500-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride and 5k run. Some 400 athletes, representing 15 to 20 states, participate in the Lowcountry race each spring.
“I didn’t think I would make it out of the water,” recalled Reiger, who competed in the event last May. “My goal was just to finish the race.” Meeting that goal motivated him to try it again. He bought a book to learn more about the sport and began training with several local groups.
Before he knew it, he was hooked.
“It’s incredibly satisfying — that’s the big draw,” said Alfred Olivetti, owner of Go Tri Sports, a Hilton Head Island store specializing in swimming, biking and running gear. “You get caught up in challenging yourself. When you meet your goals, it makes you feel good about yourself. You want more of that, so you keep doing it.”
The sport, which made its debut in the Olympics at the Sydney Games in 2000, has gained popularity in recent years as more people are incorporating regular exercise into their daily lives.
“It’s almost mainstream now, where before it was a fringe sport,” Olivetti said. “I’m always amazed at the different people who do it. We get every demographic and every age. A couple of our regular racers are in their 70s.”
Earlier this year, Reiger and a group of fellow triathlon enthusiasts held a meeting to determine if there was enough interest in the community to start a club. More than 50 people showed up. The Hilton Head Island Triathlon Club now meets the first Wednesday of every month. The club also hosts a Web site — hhitri.com — featuring a “member connect” page that helps participating athletes find training partners.
“There’s a huge variation in what people do to train,” said Olivetti, a 12-year veteran of the sport. “If you’re just getting started, you want to work your way up. You might start with a 50-meter swim. After two weeks, you can bump it up to 100 meters. Increase your training incrementally until you get to 500 meters.”
The same method should be used for biking and running, he said. Once you’ve progressed to a comfortable training level in each of the individual disciplines, you should begin incorporating two disciplines in each training session to prepare for the rigors of transitioning from one event to another.
“The first time you do it, your legs will feel like tree trunks,” Olivetti cautioned. “It takes about a half of a mile before your legs realize you’re running now, not biking.”
Go Tri Sports Beach Bum Triathlon at Hilton Head Island
When: 8 a.m. June 13 and Aug. 1 at Coligny Beach
Packet Pick Up: From 2 to 6 p.m. June 12 at Go Tri Sports or from 6:45-7:30 a.m. on race day at race site
Cost: Early registration is $35 for individuals, $55 for teams; late registration (within seven days of the race) is $45 for individuals, $65 for teams
More information: Register online at gotrisports.com or by phone at (843) 842-4786 All three segments of the races take place on the beach.
Run-Bike-Run and 5K of the Lowcountry
When: Kids Duathalon, 8 a.m. June 20; the 5K Run & Health Walk and the Run Bike Run Duathalon, 9 a.m. June 20
Where: Tradition Hilton Head in Hardeeville
Packet Pick Up: From 4 to 7 p.m. June 19 at Sports Addiction, which is located in Sheridan Park behind Sonic. Call (843) 815-8281 for more information. From 7 to 8:30 a.m. June 20 at Tradition Hilton Head. Visit traditionhh.com for more information.
Cost: $25 for for kids’ early registration and $30 for late registration; $40 for adult’s early registration and $45 for late registration; $60 for team relay’s early registration and $70 for late registration; $25 for the 5K Run and Health Walk early registration and $30 for the late registration
More information: Register at bearfootsports.com.
The event will feature a Run Bike Run, 5K run, a Duathalon (5K-20K-5K) for adults and a Duathalon for kids (1-mile run, 3-mile bike, 1-mile run). Proceeds benefit Mental Health America of Beaufort and Jasper counties.
24th Annual Hilton Head Island Firecracker 5000 Road Race and Fun Walk
When: 8 a.m. July 4
Where: The Mall at Shelter Cove
Fees: $30 for early registration until June 26, $35 thereafter, $40 on race day
Registration Closing Date: 9 p.m. July 1
More information: Visit bearfootsports.com.
The Firecracker 5000 is one of the largest and oldest road races in Beaufort County. More than 1,000 runners and walkers from across the United States are expected to participate.The 5K (3.1 miles) Hilton Head Firecracker 5000 course starts and finishes behind the Mall at Shelter Cove and takes participants through the fast and flat roads around Shelter Cove Harbour. The event includes live music, fresh fruit, ice cold refreshments, door prizes and more. A percentage of proceeds from the event benefits the Hilton Head Runners Club and H2A Hilton Head Aquatics Team.
12 Hours of Head
When: Before 6 a.m. until after 6 p.m. July 11
Where: Go Tri Sports on Hilton Head
More information: Visit gotrisports.com or e-mail email@example.com.
This is an endurance event with biking from 6 a.m. to noon and running from noon to 6 p.m. Food and beverages are available for everyone. Awards will be given to “the fittest male and female on earth.”
Hawkfest 5K Run
When: 8 a.m. Aug. 22
Where: Hilton Head Island High School, 70 Wilborn Road
Registration closing: 11:59 p.m. Aug. 20.
More information: Contact Strive to Excel at (843) 689-4982 or visit strive2excel.org.
Run for RET: 5K Run and Walk
When: 8 a.m. Sept. 5
Packet Pick Up: From 2 to 6 p.m. Sept. 4 at Go Tri Sports and from 7 to 7:45a.m. on race day at race site
Where: Hilton Head Preparatory School, 8 Fox Grape Road
Cost: $25 for early registration and $30 for late registration, after Aug. 29
More information: Call (843) 842-4786.
The course is flat and fast and almost all trails are on hard-packed dirt. Standard award categories will be recognized. The race benefits the RET (Richard E. Thomas III) Pediatric Cancer Foundation. For more information on the RET Foundation, visit retfoundation.com
Hilton Head Island Bridge Run
When: 8 a.m. Nov. 7
Where: Crossings Park on Palmetto Bay Road.
Registration cost and times: Early registration is $25 before Nov. 3; $30 at packet pick-up from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at The Mall at Shelter Cove and on race day from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. Nov. 8
More information: Register online at bearfootsports.com
Since 1992, the Hilton Head Bridge Run has hosted more than 8,500 runners and walkers and has raised more than $2,800 for area charities. The 10K Road Race and 5K Fun Run & Health Walk will start and finish at Crossings Park and take participants over the Cross Island Expressway. The 10K Road Race will feature all standard race divisions. The 5K run will feature limited divisions. All participants will receive a colorful Bridge Run T-shirt. An award ceremony featuring refreshments, live music and door prizes will be held following the race.
17th Annual Hilton Head Regional Medical Center’s Jingle Jingle 5K Road Race and Health Walk
When: 9 a.m. Dec. 20
Packet Pick Up: From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at The Bike Doctor in Triangle Square
Where: Hilton Head Regional Medical Center and Main Street
Cost: $25 for early registration before Dec. 18 and $30 at race packet pick-up.
More information: Visit bearfootsports.com.
The Hilton Head Medical Center’s Jingle Jingle 5K Run provides participants a chance to burn off those extra holiday calories. The race features all standard male and female running divisions. Holiday prizes are presented to the top three overall male and female finishers, plus the top three in each age category will receive unique holiday awards.
Participants are asked to bring new, unwrapped toys, gift cards or phone cards for donations to benefit Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse. People who donate toys will qualify to win a Holiday Gift Package valued at more than $150. The first 400 participants will receive a long sleeve Jingle Jingle T-shirt, jingle bells and a candy cane. An award ceremony featuring refreshments and door prizes will be held following the race.