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Jones Center's indoor triathlon provides accessible athletic opportunities

The Jones Center pool will house 1/3 of the triathlon's competition.
Jack Travis
The Jones Center pool will house 1/3 of the triathlon's competition.

Rain or shine, sleet or snow- it won’t matter for athletes at the Jones Center in Springdale on Saturday, March 2. The center is hosting a triathlon, which will take place entirely indoors.

The competition will take participants on a tour through the facility.

The event begins in the indoor pool, where athletes will swim as many laps as they can for 10 minutes. Then, they will have another 10 minutes to dry off, change, and take a water break before heading to the stationary bikes to try and ride their maximum distance in 20 minutes. Finally, athletes will find the treadmills and have 15 minutes to run as far as they can.

Jones Center Director of Marketing and Communications Jill Suel took me through the facility to show off the different areas of competition. We first visited the pool, which was warm despite the cool February temperatures outside. She said that the swimming portion of a triathlon is usually the most daunting aspect of the competition for beginners:

“If you're doing an outdoor, open-water swim, it’s a different thing that might be intimidating, like, whether it's a lake or in the ocean, because you have waves or things that are not maintained or contained the way a pool is,” Suel said. “So this is a great triathlon for beginners in that way. Also, we are open. A woman called and was like, ‘I'm not the best swimmer,’ and we're like, ‘If you need we could give you a kickboard, and you could go do your laps on the kickboard, just as long as you're giving it a shot.’ You know, it does not matter if you are competitive, or if you're just wanting to try it. It's for everyone.”

Suel is a triathlete herself. She said she used to race semi-frequently in her native state of Florida, where open-water swims usually took place in the ocean.

“I had an experience where my mom was spectating, and I was doing a triathlon, and the person on the microphone, while we're doing this swim, is like, ‘Well, there's no shark sightings this morning, everyone,’” she said. “So you know, of course, the swimmers we don't hear, but the spectators were all cracking up because they're like, ‘They're out there in the water.’"

For non-cyclist triathletes, biking can also present barriers to entry. A good bike might run someone a few thousand dollars. Plus, you might need a different type of bike depending on the style of riding the competition includes.

“Because if you don't have the right equipment, you get nervous about that,” Suel said. “And here again, you don't have to worry about it because we're doing it on stationary bikes inside. So, it's like an easy access point because it's all provided to you and you don't have to invest money or research to try to figure out ‘Do I need a mountain bike? Do I need a road bike? What do I do? What is all this?’”

During our trek through the Jones Center, we ran into Guest Services Manager Hunter Rogers. He had participated in the indoor triathlon before and said he especially enjoyed the experience because it was a time trial rather than a distance-based competition.

“I didn't have to meet a certain distance,” Rogers said. “So if I needed to go slower in the pool, because I am not a good swimmer, I could, whereas if I wanted to just speed it up on the bike, I could do really, really well on the bike and then not even gonna lie, I walked mostly on the treadmill because I, you know, am a large person and not a big runner, but it was a lot, a lot of fun.”

Rogers said he had previously tried an outdoor triathlon but preferred the Jones Center’s indoor version:

“[It] wasn't the most enjoyable just because I didn't like- having that safety and security of knowing I was in a safe place with a pool- swimming in open water,” Rogers said. “It's just absolutely terrifying. And so this one was at the lake- absolutely terrifying. But swimming in a pool where especially as an employee, I know how safe everything is. I know how the equipment is kept up. I know everything that's going on here. Just made me feel a whole lot better about that.”

Suel said the triathlon is indicative of the Jones Center’s mission which is:

“All are welcome,” Suel said. “So we are a place for everyone. And we want everyone to learn, play and thrive and so we have this indoor and outdoor facility that offers a bunch of different sports and health amenities. But then on top of that we layer on programming that will be beneficial and enticing to a wide range of people. Do you want to take salsa classes? Do you wanna do martial arts? Do you want to learn more about biking? We have the runway bike park outside. You know, we have basketball courts and we have drop-in hockey, we have just everything so it's really just- the Jones Center vision was a place for people- for the whole community- to come together and find some outlet for a healthy life.”

More information about the Jones Center, their Indoor Triathlon and all upcoming events.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Jack Travis is a reporter for <i>Ozarks at Large</i>.<br/>
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