TRI, the award-winning, feel-good triathlon film of the year, gets our sport right. You don’t want to miss it.
After stumbling upon what is possibly, probably the most terrible tri-related movie ever, we went in search of a film that gets it. A fictional movie where triathlon isn’t stereotyped as a sport full of personality-less, non-wine drinking swim-bike-run bots. We didn’t expect to find much since we’d never come across such a film in decades. But a holiday miracle occurred! A brand-new movie called TRI was just released on iTunes, Amazon video, Google Play, and in-demand on Dec. 13 and it is our sport’s feel-good movie of the year.
The premise is simple: Ultrasound tech Natalie never finishes anything. But when a cancer patient tells her about a triathlon, she’s intrigued. Like many of us have, she checks out the iconic ABC footage of Julie Moss (an associate producer on TRI) collapsing at Ironman Hawaii in 1982 and is inspired to sign up for her first race, the Olympic-distance Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. She joins a Team in Training-like organization to help her achieve her goal.
What follows is a proper, genuine triathlon education that newbies and old pros alike will appreciate. “We wanted to make something that if someone was about to do a tri for the first time, they could play this and show their family: this is why I’m getting up at 5 a.m. to swim and do long bike rides on the weekend,” says director Jai Jamison, 31. “You can put it in and help them understand. It’s also inspiring.”
The movie covers everything from how to pronounce triathlon—it’s three syllables!—to training for an open water swim, the importance of finishers medals, the terms DNS, DNF, and DFL, clipping into your bike, and racing for a charity and more. It excels in capturing the humor and the fun, beautiful sense of community triathlon fosters.
“Funny things happen in the process of training,” Jamison says. Like putting on a body-hugging tri suit for the first time. “Different types of people from different segments of life come together to do this. It often lends itself to a sense of humor.” Then he adds, “We were able to capture how positive the community is and that’s something I’m proud of.”
This film gets the sport right largely because writer, producer and TRI’s financier, Ted Adams III, is a triathlete himself whose own Team in Training experiences inspired him to create the movie. Since the 52-year old raced his first triathlon in 2011, he’s completed two Ironmans and earned his USAT Level 1 coaching certification. Sharing the stories of the people he met training—including those affected by cancer—became a passion project for him; the mechanical engineer says his day job is running an engineering company that does calibration for a deadly weapons program.
“It’s not just a movie about triathlon,” Adams says. “It’s about overcoming challenges and honoring people who are survivors.”
None of the cast had done a tri before—“You can find solid actors and teach them about triathlon, but you can’t teach a triathlete to be an actor,” Adams says. But he did insist anyone being considered for a part take a swim test at the casting director’s condo complex. “We’d say, ‘OK, let’s go across the street,’” Adams says. “Then you’d see their faces drop. But this was no joke—they had to jump into the Potomac River and we didn’t want them to drown.”
Several scenes were shot at the actual Nation’s Triathlon race in 2015, while much of the movie was filmed in northern Virginia against some stunning outdoor scenery. The movie has racked up more than a dozen accolades at film festivals across the country, including awards for best feature, actress and storyline.
Even if you’re an old pro, TRI has the power to bring your back to your first days in the sport, when everything was new and confusing and strange. It might even make you cry. It’ll definitely remind you that the people who dedicate time to this sport are inspiring. “The community,” Jamison says, “is so amazingly positive and supportive at helping each other accomplish goals and finish things.”