NORWALK, Conn. – For many Fairfield County triathletes, the racing does not begin until next month. But Rowayton’s Gus Ellison can’t wait that long.
Ellison, 37, will compete this weekend at the St. Croix International Triathlon in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If history is any indication, he’ll be up at the front of the pack.
He finished 53rd in last year’s event, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. He finished seventh in his age group last year against a field that is one of the most competitive in the world.
“I was thrilled to finish seventh last year,’’ said Ellison, who has been competing in triathlons for nearly 10 years. “It’s a big pro event. It’s super-competitive.”
Former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will be among Ellison’s rivals in Sunday’s race. What makes it more challenging for Ellison is that he has yet to bike or swim outside this year. He bikes in the basement of his home, spending up to five hours on the indoor trainer. His wife, Jennifer, frequently joins him.
“Sometimes I’ll put in movies, sometimes it will be software that mimics elevation changes,’’ Ellison said. “You get a good movie in there and you can watch the entire thing.”
Ellison swims at the Darien YMCA and competed in the winter in the Boston Buildup Series, where he won his age group in two events. “The run has always been my strongest event,’’ he said. “That’s how I got started in the sport.”
He got hooked on triathlons when friends from marathons encouraged him to try them. Ellison works with personal trainer Eric Hodska of Monroe and has been one of the region’s top triathletes ever since. In 2002, he competed in five triathlons and was in the Top 10 in his age group three times.
He won the Mossman Sprint Triathlon in Norwalk in 2010 and was second last year at the Sherwood Island Sprint Triathlon in Westport. He finished in the top seven in his age group in all five triathlons he entered last year. He also ran the New York City Marathon in 2:57:38, an average of 6:46 per mile. It was his best time in the eight marathons he has run.
“I like the variety of the triathlon,’’ he said. “I love the sport in general. There’s a little more adventure to it.”
Triathlons were far from Ellison’s mind when he attended Greens Farms Academy in Westport and played on the lacrosse team. He stayed fit throughout college and found out quickly he had the talent to compete in triathlons. Now he’s hooked for good.
“Eric always told me I could be good at the triathlons,’’ Ellison said. “It’s about how much you want to get out of it. To be able to be competitive in the local and national races, that’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Here is a complete list of triathlons in Fairfield County.