When Anu Mattegunta first thought about doing the Columbus Challenge Triathlon in 2012, she didn’t know how to swim.

But thanks to individual training sessions with race director Jen Shaver, Mattegunta overcame her fear of the open water. She competed in the triathlon that year, then participated in group training sessions in 2013 before doing the event again.

This year’s Columbus Challenge Triathlon and Duathlon — the 20th Annual — is nearly five months away, but competitors will have a chance to participate in training sessions beginning next month.

“Jen has always taken the novice swimmers and the new triathletes and had amazing training sessions,” Mattegunta said. “They’ve been extremely helpful. They’re organized. They have lifeguards out there for the swim sessions. I would encourage anybody to make use of these training sessions.”

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The Columbus Challenge will take place at 8 a.m. Aug. 8 at the Tipton Lakes Marina and will feature three events:

A sprint distance triathlon, which consists of an 800-meter swim, 17.5-mile bike and 5K (3.1-mile) run.

Olympic distance triathlon, which features a 1,500-meter swim, 25-mile bike and 10K (6.2-mile) run.

Duathlon, which includes a 5K run, 17.5-mile bike and another 5K run.

Training sessions begin at 6:30 p.m. April 23 at Tipton Lakes Marina and are free to participants. The Thursday evening sessions will focus on triathlon basics, including what to expect on race day, clothing, transitions, lake swimming and sighting, swim technique and efficiency and a gradual introduction of the course over a three-month period.

Danny Fisher, the 2013 Mill Race Marathon winner, is a guest speaker for one of the training sessions. Veteran triathlete Tim Proctor helps lead the bike rides.

“Our goal is to prepare triathletes for the race to ensure they are prepared for the sport and to ensure that each athlete has a positive and empowering race experience,” said Shaver, the community health and fitness director at Foundation For Youth.

The Columbus Challenge raises money to provide scholarships for youth for programs including Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Columbus Youth Camp, Girls on the Run and Trailblazers. The programs serve more than 14,000 youth annually, and more than $160,000 were raised in scholarships in 2014.

“The athletes that come out and participate each year not only sets the example of living a healthy and active lifestyle to our youth, but also ensures that youth are able to attend programs throughout the entire year,” Shaver said.

At a glance

The schedule for Columbus Challenge Triathlon and Duathlon training sessions at Tipton Lakes Marina. All sessions begin at 6:30 p.m.

Apr 23: Bike — Triathlon Basics

May 7: Bike/Run — Transitions

May 21: Run — guest Danny Fisher

June 4: Swim — Intro to lake swimming

June 18: Swim — Swim Exit/Transitions

July 9: Swim — Full Course Swim

July 23: Swim/Bike/Run (tri simulation)

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.