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Globe North Sports

Triathlon win a step in the right direction

Brown is aiming for Olympic team

Ethan Brown of Lowell finished first at the third annual Gloucester Fisherman Triathlon last weekend, beating the second-place finisher by two minutes. Ethan Brown of Lowell finished first at the third annual Gloucester Fisherman Triathlon last weekend, beating the second-place finisher by two minutes. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
By Cat Calsolaro
Globe Correspondent / August 11, 2011

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Lowell native Ethan Brown cruised past the competition to win his third straight Gloucester Fisherman Triathlon on Sunday, his time of 56:51 more than two minutes ahead of runner-up Peter Mallett. The next night he was back in the pool, taking no time off from his 25-hour per week training schedule.

When your sights are set on the 2012 Olympics, days off are few and far between.

Brown’s opportunity to make the US Olympic Triathlon team is in six months at the next World Championship Series race. He must finish in the top nine in the international field and either first or second among the Americans.

The 26-year-old Brown ran cross-country and track at the University of Michigan, but spent so much time in the pool rehabbing injuries that he stumbled upon his true calling.

“The track coach took me into [former University of Michigan swim coach] Bob Bowman’s office and asked if I could practice with the swim team,’’ recalled Brown. “I would go there at 6 a.m. and be in the same pool at the same time as Olympians like Peter Vanderkaay and Michael Phelps.’’

As a 500-yard freestyler at Lowell High, Brown also had a background in swimming. It was the biking that was new to him, but as he considers himself “naturally an endurance athlete,’’ he knew he could make the adjustment.

“The summer before my junior year I contacted a local development triathlon club and they provided me with a bike and a coach,’’ said Brown.

With the Northeast Select Camp, Brown found his niche. “I picked it up very quickly and improved a lot that first year,’’ he said.

After graduating in 2007, Brown joined the U23 national team. “They gave me funding to race overseas and gain experience and provided me with a lot of equipment,’’ he said.

Triathlons began to take Brown all over the country and the world. He spent a few months right after college training at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and has since been to Mexico, Germany, and France, among other countries.

“My favorite place has been Australia,’’ said Brown. “Triathlons are really big over there and they have great areas for training. I was there last year for a race in Sydney and I stayed on the Sunshine Coast for two weeks to train. It was beautiful.’’

In 2009, Brown decided to make a coaching change, swapping Tim Crowley for Jesse Kropelnicki. “I had been with Tim since the beginning; there is no ill will or anything,’’ said Brown. “I just had a subpar year and I didn’t really improve with my results and I wanted to try something new.’’

The move has paid off.

On June 26, Brown won the International Triathlon Union Coteau-du-Lac Pan-American Cup in Montreal in 1 hour, 54 minutes, and 45 seconds. The performance helped improve his ranking among American triathletes to his current rank of 8th.

Rankings are based on a fairly complicated point system. There are three levels of racing for which competitors can receive points: the Continental Circuit, the World Cup Circuit, and the most elite World Championship Series.

“Essentially the more competitive the race, the more points you can accumulate,’’ said Brown.

The Gloucester Fisherman Triathlon does not count toward Brown’s point total but he enjoys the opportunity to race so close to home. “I like to do about two or three local races every year. I also have a lot of local sponsors, like Team Psycho and Parlee Cycles, that like it when I race locally so I can represent them where they are located,’’ Brown said.

He often trains with other triathletes, swimmers, and cyclists from the area, including the Minutemen Masters Swim Club, and goes on group cycling rides in the area on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.

Brown’s weekly workouts roughly break down to 25,000 yards swimming, 240 miles cycling, and about 60 miles of running per week. “You have to try to be consistent with your training in a sport like triathlon because you don’t hit your peak until your early 30s.

“Right now I’m training to peak for those races in late September and October,’’ he said. “I’m trying to do a World Cup Circuit race in South Korea in October and also one in Colombia in November. Those should solidify my spot in the Olympic qualifier in the spring.’’

Sudbury native Jarrod Shoemaker represented the United States at the 2008 Games in Beijing, finishing 18th overall.

Brown will head out to California for the Alcatraz Triathlon on Aug. 21, which takes off from Alcatraz Island and continues onto the streets of San Francisco.

“At this point I’m solid across the board. As long as I’m in good position going into the run, I’m very confident that I’ll do well.’’

Cat Calsolaro can be reached at catcalso@bu.edu.