Travel & Tri

author : trvw
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Q&A with a triathlete who decided to compete last minute while vacationing overseas in Croatia.

If you compete in triathlons on a regular basis, then you are probably quick with packing up your gear. Maybe you even have a staging area in at your house just so you can grab the good gear at a moment’s notice. And if you are really serious about your training, you don’t travel too far without at least your running shoes. So what do you do when you’ve left the country to get a little R&R, only to find a tri race yankin’ your bicycle chain...but you only brought your shoes?

Triathlete Tonya and her husband Marin decided that a trip to Croatia would be the perfect way to end their summer of hard multisport training. The couple planned to spend most of the time visiting with Marin’s family and catching up with friends. When they realized that the Croatia Championship was going to take place while they were there, they couldn’t resist. Traveling with only basic fitness necessities, they managed to beg, borrow, and buy additional gear without going broke. Tonya shares her insight on how they pulled off a last minute maneuver to make a once in a lifetime opportunity a fantastic reality.

Q. What was the name and distance of the triathlon?
A. The Croatia Championship and Sprint Tri. The distances were 750m/20k/5k

Q. How do you find out about events in other countries?
A. Pretty much via the internet, today’s lifeline of information (my favorite fallback is to just “Google it”). However, if you know of your area’s clubs (multisport clubs, running clubs, friends, etc.), contact the club and they can help you out...or get you in the right direction, at least. Lots of times you can also find out by word of mouth.

Q. What helped you the most?
A. Probably simply having done some tris before, knowing the routine and procedures. Having someone there who knows the language helped too! Granted, I still get nervous, as with any competition, but that will always happen no matter what. I think the fact that I was with my husband in his native country helped ease the tension!

Q. What would you have done differently if you would have planned the event instead of doing it spur of the moment? Would you change your flight time, or changed sightseeing days?
A. We actually did it at a good time: about two weeks into vacation. I wouldn't do it immediately upon arrival due to jet lag. I would have made my mind up sooner so I could prepare and get used to the elements, terrain, etc.

Q. How do you find equipment if you can’t travel with gear?
A. Well, again, if you plan ahead and know you will need it, start searching and contact the event coordinator. They really want to grow the sport and will be happy to help get you setup. I mean, here we are, perfect strangers, and the guy just says, “Sure, I can hook you up with some helmets.” He also gave us the name of a guy that rented bikes, so we contacted him and were set up.


We used mountain bikes, which was OK, because when you are biking up a mountain, it comes in handy! We just kind of roughed it with the rest: no bike shoes or anything, and it was fine. I had to do some last minute shopping because I only packed a tri bra top with me, no bottoms. The stores we went to had nothing that really fit, only bikini bottoms (yeah, right: between drag, and sliding around, I would be lucky to get out of the water with that thing still on!). So I ended up with a boys’ Speedo bottom. It fit, and it was functional. So if you ever think there is a shade of a chance, just pack it.

Q. How did the overseas race differ from the ones you’ve done in the states?
A. Ha ha! Well, I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but I love Croatian sporting events! To start, the course was so amazingly well-marked, Saturn could have seen where to go. Secondly, after the event they provided a huge pasta dinner with beer--that's right, BEER. And people sat around and ate, drank, and shared stories with one another. The Croats love to enjoy. The event began in the afternoon, mostly because it was the Croatia Championship (I got owned), there were people traveling from all over Europe, and it began on an island. My husband and I received medals for participation in the event, and were recognized. It was great!

Q. What would you change for next time?
A. Probably extend my training. We thought we were done with our season having done the 70.3 and an Olympic distance tri, and staying busy with other things, so we just jumped into vacation mode! If I have the money for next time, I would get a bike box to pack and ship my bike, have my shoes, helmet, everything...there's a lot of gear.

There you have it. Preparation is important, but it shouldn’t get in the way of having some good fun. Situations are not always perfect; even if you plan obsessively, things can still change. The important thing to know is that there is always a plan B or C to fall back on, if you want. It is up to you if you decide to swim with the current or against it. Whatever the case, enjoy it. The opportunity might not come along again, and if it does, then you’ve got prior experience to work with. It goes to show that if you want to get something done badly enough you will find a way to get to the finish line. Good luck and GO FOR IT!

Trina VerSteeg Wilcox

Trina is a two-time Boston Marathon finisher and has a Bachelors of Science in Computer Information Systems from Missouri State University. She is a writer, columnist, and certified Fitness Professional through FiTour. Although she has battled rheumatoid arthritis from childhood into adulthood, Trina has stayed active in a variety of ways. She has completed six marathons, participated in multiple races, is a former aerobics instructor and is the director of the JRA 5K. You can E-mail Trina at [email protected] and visit her Web site at


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date: October 7, 2008