It was 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, 2007. As the horn signaled to start the race, I excitedly realized that I was finally becoming a triathlete! This was the moment I had been anticipating for the past five years! "Five years?” you wonder. "How could it possibly have taken five years to train for a triathlon?" Let me back up a minute. Ever since I was 11 years old and first heard the word "triathlon" mentioned, I have made it my vow to do one. I was completely astounded with the level of dedication and endurance these athletes possessed to become masters of three entirely different sports: swimming, bicycling, and running. Yet, I held off on the idea of actually doing a triathlon for so long because I thought I was too young to do one. "What 11 year old does triathlons?” I thought. Plus, I assumed that the distances were impossible. "A half-mile swim, 10-15 mile bike, AND a 5K run," I thought. "And that is the shortest distance available? How will I ever do that?" Even through all of this, I could not give up on my dream of finishing a triathlon. For the next several years, my thoughts would always drift back to doing a triathlon. I would often pick up triathlon books and magazines, reading them for hours. I would look at the pictures of smiling, exhausted athletes crossing the finish line and think to myself, "That could be me." The longing never went away. The dream finally surfaced into a reality when I was on the internet looking up bicycle races. My parents and I had just finished an amazing bicycle race. I wanted to do another bicycle race with them and was on the internet looking for others. I was on a website that had events listed for every sport. Of course, the longing came back and I had to check which triathlon events were available. Amidst all the notices for extremely long and intimidating (at least to me at the time) events, I found a link that provided information about a race taking place three weeks from the time I was looking at the computer. It was in a town only an hour away from where I live. Best of all, the race was at 4:30 in the afternoon, meaning I could sleep in! This race was a Super-Sprint triathlon. "What is a Super-Sprint triathlon?" you may ask. A Super-Sprint triathlon is one of the shortest and least intimidating distances of triathlon available. It was a distance I had never heard about, up until this point. The distance was a 300m (about 12 lengths of a pool) swim, six mile bike, and a 3K run (just under two miles). This, I realized, was a perfectly feasible distance. Maybe my dream of becoming a triathlon finisher could finally become a reality! I quickly thought of whether I would be able to cover these distances with only three weeks of training. I suddenly realized that it was a definite possibility. I was on a summer swim team at that point, and was swimming about an hour a day. Twelve lengths of a pool was merely a warm-up to me! I had also run a small amount in the past, and had even joined the track team two years ago in middle school. Running the 3K race would be doable with a few weeks of training. I could already comfortably run a mile! The biking would be relatively easy as well. The bike ride I completed with my parents was 12 miles, double the distance of the bike leg in the Super-Sprint. Three weeks later, I was able to comfortably run 2 miles. I was also becoming more familiar with the gears on my bike. And, of course, I was going to swim practice. I felt very confident that I could complete the distances of the triathlon. After five years of longing to do a triathlon and three weeks of training and anticipation so strong I could barely sleep, I was finally ready to start my first triathlon. The first thing I remember about the triathlon was that the lake was very warm. As I stood engulfed in the pleasant water waiting for the signal to start, I thought about the race ahead. The whole experience was surreal. The dream I had fantasized about for the past five years was now about to come true! The horn sounded. I could not believe the race was actually happening! I dove into the comfortable lake to begin my swim. "This is just like every day at swim practice," I kept telling myself. Eventually my body obeyed by slowing down my breathing and allowing me to become more comfortable in the water. The swim quickly ended and I ran out of the water to grab my bike and helmet. I turned my head around, and saw my parents waving at me and encouraging me. I smiled back. They also told me I was one of the first people out of the water. I could not believe my parents until I looked behind me and saw almost everybody was still in the water. Now filled with even more energy, I hastily grabbed my helmet (carelessly putting it on backwards, almost choking myself, and having to have a whole team of people help me turn it around) and was off to the bike course. The bike course was astoundingly beautiful. The race took place in Ohio country, and the summer landscape and trees were the most beautiful shades of olive green. The course was also extremely hilly and on one tremendously steep hill I actually had to stop, get off my bike, and walk it up. The lead I created from the swim did not last very long. All the people I passed on the swim (and some people from the longer triathlon that started about half an hour after the Super-Sprint) blitzed passed me on their high-tech carbon fiber bikes. I plodded slowly along on my completely out of gear, too small Schwinn, and I couldn't have cared less. Towards the end of the bike ride, I was starting to get tired. I was also incredibly thirsty! As I rolled into the transition area to get my running gear and put away my bicycle and helmet, I gulped down two full cups of water like I was stranded in the Sahara Dessert. Then it was time to start the run. The run took place in another beautiful location. It was a bike trail with several tall trees hanging above, providing shade on this hot summer day. The run went by relatively easily, and by this point, I was confident that I would finish. The only pain I felt was a slight tiredness and a heavy feeling in my legs, which came from transferring from bicycling immediately to running. This heavy feeling even had me walking for part of the run! As the run drew to an end, I could not believe what I was about to accomplish. As I saw the finish line, I used every last reserve of strength and sprinted toward the finish line. I saw my time on the clock. 1 hour and 12 minutes. I finished second to last; however, my final standing in the race did not matter to me. I was so thrilled that I finally became the thing I was dreaming about for so long. I finally became the smiling triathlete I saw crossing the finish lines in all those glossy triathlon magazines. I suddenly realized I was starving! I walked to the snack table to grab a couple of Rice Krispie bars, and to my dad's truck to grab a sandwich and soda. I ate this food ravenously. After I finished my dinner, I walked from my dad's truck over to the site of the race to watch the organizers announce the results. I was shocked to found I had won a first place trophy in my age group. Even though I was the only one in my age group at the triathlon, that trophy made me feel very proud. I was overjoyed to complete this once-thought impossible feat and realized that not many people my age are doing triathlons. I suddenly felt very special and made a promise to myself to do more triathlons! As I rode home, I thought about where my next triathlon would be. I decided to do a triathlon in the same city, a month away. This triathlon would be a sprint; one of the distances that I used to believe was daunting. Just to let you know, I finished that triathlon, and one additional triathlon before that summer ended. I am also planning to do many more triathlons this summer. I now either swim, bike, or run every day to keep in shape for my next triathlon. I have run distances up to eight miles, shattered personal best times in swim meets, and also have gotten a better bike. I plan do triathlons for the rest of my life and now realize that limits are only in the mind. This is true for triathlon as well as every other aspect of your life. Becoming a triathlon finisher has made me confident in many other facets of my life. One example is that it has made me more determined in my school work, helping me study harder and get the best grades I have ever received. I strongly believe that becoming a triathlete is not as hard as it sounds. Finishing a triathlon is feasible for every person that has a desire to do so and is willing to work hard.
Triathlon of course!