By: Olivia Perrine
I got into triathlon by accident, all because of a twisted ankle. It was my aunt’s twisted ankle. She was signed up to race the Tri Goddess Triathlon with my mom in August of 2022, but after a training session that was a little too intense, she was left with a sprained ankle and unable to race. When my mom explained to me my aunt’s situation, she went on to say that, “I didn’t want to race alone, so I just signed you up.” That was on Monday, and the race was on Saturday. It wasn’t much of a heads up, but I didn’t really mind. Earlier in the month I had debated joining my mom and aunt anyways, but I never brought myself around to doing it. Now the decision was made for me. Despite being somewhat unprepared (I had done plenty of running over the summer but little to no swimming or biking), I was excited for the race. I am competitive by nature, I like to challenge myself, and it makes me happy to be active outside, so I knew I would have fun.
I did have fun, and though I was sad my aunt couldn’t be there, I was glad that I got to participate. I was proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone to try something new and challenging. The whole racing experience was unlike anything I had ever done before, and it was thrilling. From the hectic transition periods, to running with jello-legs after biking, to running through the woods before the finish, I loved every second. I enjoyed the race, and knew it was something I would do again next summer, but I didn’t think about it beyond that. So when I was asked if I wanted to be part of Athletic Mentor’s triathlon team, I responded mainly with surprise. My only experience with triathlon was from the one race I did with my mom. I didn’t know that there were competitive teams for kids my age. But as I learned more about it and talked with my parents about what it would look like, I could feel myself getting excited. Being part of a team would mean that I would be more exposed to the world of triathlon, a world into which I had only a glimpse. Ultimately, I decided to become an Athletic Mentors triathlete to challenge myself, to supplement cross country, and because I want to do an Ironman some day.
First, I decided to become a triathlete to challenge myself. It is easy for me to stay in my comfort zone and avoid situations that are new because they are uncomfortable. But when I avoid those new situations, I stay stagnant. I want to grow, learn, and improve, and no one can do that when they are avoiding change. Becoming a triathlete, though exciting, would be a challenge. Like any sport, it takes hard work to be good. For me, it would take hard work to get better at swimming. The process of improving will be uncomfortable at times. I knew this, and it initially was a cause for apprehension, but I soon realized it was actually a perfect opportunity to get better.
Another reason I wanted to become a triathlete was because I knew it would help me be a better cross country runner by making me stronger and giving me more race experience. There have been countless studies that show how cross training improves an athlete’s overall strength and prevents injury. This is because when you use your body in different ways you use different muscles. So instead of getting all my training from running (which is hard on the body and could lead to injury), I will get endurance work and strength from swimming and biking that will prevent injury. In addition to cross training, racing triathlons will benefit my cross country season by getting me more familiar with competing. Though the environment at a triathlon is different from a cross country race, it is still a race and will therefore help me become more comfortable with a race-atmosphere. The more competitions you do, the better a competitor you will be in terms of strategy and mental toughness.
Finally, I chose triathlon because I want to do an Ironman some day. An Ironman consists consecutively of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Endurance sports are my strength, and I think an Ironman would be a great test of that strength. By starting triathlon training now, I will gain experience and build a training base that will prepare me for the Ironman training and race.
Whether by action or by choice, no matter what your goals are, I have found that choosing triathlon is a fun way to challenge yourself.