1988 and I was a lost college kid, searching for some direction. I was a business economics major although I wasn't really into it. As I was walking to one of my classes, I noticed an advertisement for the Southern Triathlon on a bulletin board in Engleman Hall. Sign-up for the race was in the Exercise Physiology lab in Moore Field House. I remember thinking "Exercise Physiology? That sounds pretty cool!" That day, I signed up for my first triathlon and switched my major.
The Southern Triathlon was a .5 mile pool swim, a 10 mile bike, and a 5 mile run including a killer hill at the 3 mile mark. I had three months to prepare. I had some decent swim ability from swimming in high school and a season in college, so I figured I wouldn't have to swim much. Man, thinking back now, I have always had the terrible habit of blowing off my swim training, relying on my limited youth swim experience. I began running in the field house on the indoor 200 meter track. I'd run 3 miles, 3 times per week. I was also hitting the weight room hard. I went through high school a small, insecure kid weighing only 145 lbs at 5'9" my senior year. The ironic cruelty of this was that I began growing the summer after my senior year! By the end of my freshman year in college, I was 6'1", 185 lbs. At the beginning of my training for this triathlon, I had bulked up to 210 lbs and I was able to bench press 315 lbs a few times. Man, how times have changed.
I began riding twice per week, riding the 10 mile bike course. It was a rolling course through the westwoods section of New Haven into Hamden. I kept this routine rolling until the week before the race. That week, I went out and ran the run course to make sure I could do it. Then, the day before the race, I rode the bike course twice! Yes, that's right, I did 20 miles, my longest ride ever at the time.
Race morning, I was nervous but excited. There were maybe 100 people racing, and we started in waves with about five per lane. I led my lane and came out of the water in 5th place behind some swim team members and my friend Tim Sweigart who I trained for this event with. I rinsed off in the shower, through on my running shoes, a heavy cotton sweatshirt, my Vaurnet sunglasses and my skid lid, and took off on the course. Pat Duggan, an All American swimmer and very good triathlete had a big lead, but I reeled in everyone else, and Tim and I came into t2 together in second place.
I experienced my first dead-leg run feeling in this race. At the top of the big hill, Tom Hromas, another experienced triathlete, came by Tim and I, but we managed to hang tough and place third together. We celebrated that afternoon by drinking a few to many beers back in the dorm.
I had seen the Hawaii Ironman on ABC's Wide World of Sports, and like so many others out there, I was intrigued. The thought of doing a triathlon stayed with me, especially considering my father was also a nut and began training towards something. At the time, he didn't know what. At a time in college when I was acting quite irresponsibly and immature and enjoying the social aspects that an undergraduate program offers, the training for and racing in this small triathlon really turned my focus around. To say this event came along in a timely fashion would be a significant understatement.
I continued to train after this race, but found that without a worm dangling out there I'd become complacent. I'd still train but I'd do the same things instead of reaching. This showed to be quite a metaphor. I next raced the Milford Triathlon with my father. They had cancelled the swim because of the weather and made it a biathlon. I raced fairly well, placing in my age group and then went on to race the Southern Triathlon again the next year and won it.
Then in the early 90's, I started racing more frequently, competing in the CT series sprint races and some olympic distance races. This was a time in my life where I certainly enjoyed the training, but I was all about competing. How I raced and placed was my primary focus. I guess this is quite reminiscent of youth and athletics.
20 years later and I'm still racing and still driven to excel, yet my focus certainly has changed. Well, maybe it's only changed just a bit.