Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
We’re going to ask you to do something bold: Turn off Zwift (you can do it!). Untether your bike from the trainer (we believe in you!). Now go outside. You know, that nice place with sunlight and birds and fresh air? (Your eyes will adjust, we promise!)
“Triathlon is awesome. Going into your garage and sitting in the dark all alone is not awesome. It’s something you have to do, not something you want to do,” says Oregon-based pro triathlete Eric Lagerstrom.
Lagerstrom wants you to cancel your weekend sufferfest and replace it with an overland triathlon. What’s that? It’s whatever you want it to be, really—so long as it’s fun.
If you haven’t yet seen it, Lagerstrom has a video up on his website featuring an all-day adventure of swimming, biking, and running under the shadow of Mount Hood. “I just kept thinking, what’s the most epic triathlon route you could ever do?” says Lagerstrom. He dug out some trail maps and called friends. “My ultimate goal with this project is that people will make it halfway through and they’ll close their laptop because they want to go out and ride themselves,” he says in the video.
While Lagerstrom’s adventure may have been rooted in a thirst for doing something new, science backs him up. “Doing an event for fun is a great way to reset mentally,” says Riley Cropper, a sports psychologist at Stanford, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. “You are able to pick every aspect of the adventure, from distance to order of events and location. This can be refreshing, not only providing a break from your typical training but also perhaps reminding you why you got involved in your sport in the first place.”
Plus, “There are a few well-documented benefits of exercising outside, including positive effects on your mood, perhaps as a result of increased exposure to sunlight and Vitamin D, or simply being more connected to nature,” says Cropper. And a 2015 study in the Journal Menopause found women who exercised outside stuck to their routines better than those who opted for the treadmill or stationary bike. “There are also studies that suggest that exercising outdoors in a natural terrain works your muscles differently and is often more strenuous,” Cropper adds. Watch Lagerstrom and his friends navigate singletrack on their bikes, and you’ll see what Cropper means. Pushing bikes over roots and rocks takes some serious full-body strength.
Lagerstrom chose not to make his overland tri a race, instead encouraging everyone to stick together. “I thought that would be more relatable to the person who wanted to do this on a Saturday,” he says. And really, everything is more fun with friends.
Other than a suggestion not to put the swim last (cramps), Lagerstrom mostly wants folks to go out, have a blast, and not sweat the details too much. Find a route that looks fun, pack plenty of snacks, and go. “It doesn’t matter the order or the distances. It’s all about finding something epic and doing it.”
Get It Right
An overland tri is a considerable departure from a supported race. Here’s what you need to know.
- Check Out The Local Rules
- It’s important to make sure trails are open to bikes, and check whether lakes or rivers welcome open-water swimmers.
- Don’t Forget to Eat
- Lagerstrom says that because the scenery was so beautiful during the Mount Hood adventure, everyone kept forgetting to take in nutrition.
- Create a Story
- Since this isn’t a race, there’s the opportunity to take pics, shoot video, and tell your own adventure tale. We can’t promise it’ll be as cinematic as the video featuring Lagerstrom and his buddies, but it’s worth a shot.
- Let Landmarks Dictate Your Route
- Mileage shouldn’t matter. Find a lake to swim across, a mountain to climb, or a swath of unexplored open space.
- Have a Support Crew
- A few hands on the ground can be a big help if someone gets in trouble. If possible, find a friend who’s willing to hang and can drive a sag vehicle if needed. Thank them with pizza and beer.