Trying Out the Finger Lakes

The weekend before Memorial Day, I successfully completed a triathlon that had me swimming, biking, and running in continual succession. Afterwards, my wife and two sons greeting me with enthusiastic acknowledgement, to which I responded that the whole family was going to do the Finger Lakes triathlon the following weekend. They seemed less than thrilled.

What I was secretly referring to was not a traditional triathlon like the one I had just trained months for, but the catchy name (TRYathlon) of a program the New York Finger Lakes Visitors Connection is promoting to highlight the region’s impressive array of outdoor activities. Eventually, I told them they wouldn’t actually be competing in a race, but rather just sampling each activity at a relaxed pace. They were quite relieved.

Truth be told, a key motivator in choosing to drive northwest from our New York City suburban home for the Memorial Day weekend was to avoid the inevitable traffic we would have hit had we headed south along I-95 instead. This was a wise move. Not only was there very little traffic (or tolls) to deal with, but the scenery was wonderful. Passing rivers filled with fly fisherman, fields being plowed by the Amish, and an expansive network of vineyards prompted my youngest son to ask how we could still be in New York State.

We eventually arrived at The Inn On The Lake in Canandaigua which, to use triathlon terminology, proved to be an ideal “transition area” between events. Overlooking the lake, it was a great location for getting out on the water — and for getting married, which apparently is also a popular activity at the inn this time of year.

For the first leg of our TRYathlon, we planned to rent kayaks from Canandaigua Sailboarding. My 12-year-old insisted on getting one of those stand-up paddle boards, which was all fine until he realized that paddling back to shore into a brisk wind wouldn’t be nearly as easy as going out. So dad learned how to paddleboard in a hurry while Stefan safely joined his mom in the double kayak. The next day, we got back out on the water, this time on nearby Seneca Lake. We rented a pontoon boat from Stiver’s Seneca Marine and spent most of the hot and humid day fishing on the lake and cruising the channel that empties into the Erie Canal.

Day two also fulfilled the biking portion of the weekend. After getting equipped at RV&E Bike and Skate, we took off on a 12-mile loop that had us exploring the picturesque town of Canandaigua and its rural environs. Fortunately the route was pretty flat, but the rest of the family was pretty quick to remind me that they don’t regularly cycle 25 miles like I do. If we had had a bike rack, another option would have been to ride the multi-use trails in the town of Victor, which is where we went for the final leg of our Finger Lakes TRYathlon.

Instead of going for a run, we opted to hike the trails that led from the Dryer Road Park through Fort Hill and into the historic site of Ganondagan — where thousands of Seneca lived 300 years ago (you can tour a full-size replica of a 17th-century Seneca Bark Longhouse and learn about the destruction of Ganondagan in 1687). We took a self-guided tour that worked our bodies, while getting a low-impact workout for our minds by reading the signs as we hiked along.

Most triathletes replenish themselves with Gatorade and plenty of water at the end of a race. In our case, we visited the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, were we treated the kids to milkshakes while my wife and I sampled wines from the vineyards along the Canandaigua Wine Trail. As we gave a toast to a fun and adventurous weekend, I reminded the crew that we had only successfully trained for the Finger Lakes TRYathlon, and that the official event wasn’t until June 9th.

Try it yourself this weekend. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Follow Rainer on Twitter at @JenssTravel

All photos: Rainer Jenss


  1. Pacific Dreams
    June 6, 2012, 3:54 am

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