Chris Pucella's lungs burn, his heart races and sweat drips from his body.
But the race is far from over. It's only the first leg of the race for this triathlete, who pushes through the pain to complete running, cycling and water portions of the event.
"You're definitely using different muscle groups for each leg of the race," said Pucella, 36, of Marietta. "In the past, the run, which is the shortest leg, has been the most painful. I come in from the run and my heart rate is definitely the highest it gets in the race and my lungs are burning."
He's just one of several local residents who regularly take on the challenge of participating in the sport, which challenges the mind and body.
Local residents have a chance Sept. 25 to do the same, with the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club's annual First City Triathlon being held in Marietta.
Pucella said it's his favorite because he always had an interest in triathlons but is not a fan of swimming, which is part of most triathlons but is not included in the First City Triathlon. Instead there is a kayaking/canoing leg.
If you go
What: Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club's First City Triathlon.
When: Registration begins at 7 a.m. Sept. 25 in the park next to the Marietta College Boathouse on Gilman Street in Marietta; the race starts at 10 a.m.
Cost: $20 per person.
All participants must supply their own bicycles and canoes or kayaks.
Contact Dan Jones at 350-6418 or email@example.com for information.
Tips for preparing for a triathlon
Follow a strength training and stretching program. Triathletes should include resistance training workouts with stretching exercises at least three times a week during the training season.
Use proper sun protection. Extended sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.
Eat a low fat, high carb diet. A high carbohydrate diet helps the body recuperate from the training regimen.
Warm-up properly. A 20 to 30 minutes warm-up routine is appropriate for young athletes but for those older than 60, a 40 to 45 minute warm-up is necessary.
Take one day off from training. This will allow your body to recuperate to improve performance.
Pucella said the races are always a challenge but the reward is reaching the finish line.
"You've got the endorphins and adrenaline going even after being tired and more so than a lot of other races, because of the length of time, it does feel like an accomplishment," he said.
The pain and the glory doesn't start and end with race day.
There's plenty of preparation for the lengthy event ahead of time as well.
Kevin Laughery, of Marietta, who has participated in the First City Triathlon since it began as well as about 50 triathlons in several different states, including Michigan, North Carolina and Maryland, said he makes the "training" a lifestyle.
"I try to get some form of exercise almost every day," said Laughery, 52.
He also maps out a triathlon course before competing on it.
"I like knowing exactly where I am on the race course," Laughery said. "I always pre-run it, pre-ride it and paddle it and have landmarks to know if I'm a quarter of the way or halfway."
In addition to mapping out the course, Laughery also tries to eat right in preparing for a triathlon.
"The two days before, you want to do some carb loading so you have carbohydrates within your system and have plenty of protein and hydrate well," he said.
Laughery said on the morning of the race, he eats a high protein breakfast, as well as GU Energy Gel, which contains fast-acting fruit sugar and antioxidant vitamins C and E, among other ingredients.
He said those who are participating in the triathlon for the first time should remember not to take it too seriously and practice on the same bike and same kayak or canoe that will be used during the race.
"You get amped up (and) excited and want to do well and it's easy to take off too fast," he added. "One of the main issues is to not completely exhaust yourself on any one of the legs."
"I don't try to kill myself - I try to stay within what's reasonable for me," Laughery said. "There are some people I can catch and some people I can't. There are some people faster than you and in better condition."
While the cycling leg of the race is the most painful for Pucella, he said the paddling leg is the biggest challenge for him.
Although he's the head coach of Marietta College's men's crew, he said he doesn't have much experience using a kayak.
"The first year I did the event my arms were tired in the first mile of the kayak (leg) so I learned I need to use more of my core than my arms" he said. "I'm not a good enough kayaker to push my limits. As soon as I try to kayak faster, I get sloppier and go slower."
In an effort to better prepare himself for that leg of the race, Pucella recently went out on a kayak with Dan Jones, president of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club, who gave him some instruction.
In addition to running about 30 to 40 miles each week, going a distance of six to 12 miles each time he runs, Pucella also rides his bike about 20 miles once or twice a week.
"I'm coming off my training from the Parkersburg (News and Sentinel) Half Marathon (in August), so my running has been going pretty well," Pucella said. "The run has never been my strong leg but I think it will be this year."
Pucella said he competes the best in the biking leg, which makes it easier for him to push through the pain and sweat during that portion.
"A lot of times on the bike, that's where I've passed people and that's where the motivation is," he said.
As opposed to a marathon, the variety of activities in a triathlon can help participants "push though," Pucella said.
"Because it's such a long race...it's a gradual increase of pain - you get more and more tired," he added. "The switching of the legs makes it easy to say 'This is how I'm going to break down the race.'"
This will be the sixth year in a row that the club has held the First City Triathlon, with registration for the event beginning at 7 a.m. Sept. 25 in the park next to the Marietta College Boathouse on Gilman Street. The race is slated to begin at 10 a.m.
The event begins with a 4.2-mile run on a flat course in Marietta that begins and ends at the Marietta College Boathouse. The second leg is a 19.5-mile bicycle ride up the west side of the Muskingum River to Lowell, where participants will turn south and ride down Ohio 60 to Devola, then to Devol's Dam.
Participants will then get into their boats at the beach just below the lock at Devola and paddle down the Muskingum River back to Marietta. The race ends at the Marietta College docks.
Jones said about 50 people usually participate in the triathlon each year. He said last year's winner completed the course in two hours and 15 minutes, while the slowest time last year was three hours and 45 minutes.
"Last year the average age was 44.7 and the youngest athlete was 22 and the oldest athlete was 74," Jones said. "It's fun (and) it's obviously hard."