As a young child I innately loved to run. Because I was raised on an isolated ranch in Wyoming I was blessed with an abundance of trails and dirt roads to run on. Running has always been an out for me. I remember well, cursing professors while I would sprint till I had exhausted myself. My husband was the one who introduced me to triathlons. He was an avid swimmer and runner, had participated in triathlons and helped direct a triathlon while he was in graduate school. I did not know then that triathlon would be an integral part of my life.
Eleven years ago my husband and our good friend Chris Bowerbank directed the Jordanelle Triathlon. From that humble beginning TriUtah was born. I learned two important lessons from that race. Don’t eat energy bars for 5 meals and don’t race on a brand new bike from one of those “cheap” stores without first checking to make sure it is properly assembled. I will never forget the look on the athlete’s face as she threw her broken bike off a cliff cursing it as it bounced to the bottom.
I have witnessed several thousands of athletes over the past eleven years, new athletes, seasoned athletes, young athletes and disabled athletes. They all seem to have one thing in common as they cross the finish line, a look of accomplishment in their eyes. Some are filled with tears, some with joy but all wear a look of accomplishment.
About six years ago Trisha Bowerbank and I started receiving requests for an all woman event. As we spoke with athletes and came to know them, each had a story to tell. They had a reason for “tri-ing”. Triathlon was a means to overcoming hardships in their lives and we felt that we wanted to somehow recognize athletes for not only winning a race but winning life through triathlon. The result was the Woman of Steel Triathlon and the Woman of Steel award, given to an athlete nominated by their peers who is an example of using exercise and triathlon to overcome difficult circumstances and obstacles in their life. The event is a sprint distance, pool triathlon and attracts many beginners. The amazing thing is many of them have overcome HUGE obstacles in their lives such as the loss of loved ones, obesity, and cancer, the loss of a job, injuries and other health problems. I view each and every athlete as a true champion.
I made a commitment to my race partners that I would participate in the Woman of Steel Triathlon this year. Even though I have helped direct over 55 events and recently attended the USAT Race Director Certification Course, it will be my first time competing in the sport. After several years of health problems and surgeries I am sure I will have tears in my eyes as I cross the finish line with my look of accomplishment.
I am joining the 27% of athletes as a ‘newbie” this year. However, I do know a few things that some “newbies” may not be aware of. The following suggestions may be of some help for those of you who plan to do your first tri this year:
1. Explore USAT on the web at: www.usatriathlon.com. All TriUtah events and 2500 across the nation are USAT sanctioned events. USAT provides insurance coverage for the event. That extra $10.00 fee is for your protection. The number one mistake of athletes who incur a minor injury during an event is not informing the race director.
2. Don’t be intimidated by seasoned athletes. The triathlon community is one of acceptance and support.
3. We live in the technology era, READ YOUR E-MAILS!! The answers to most of your questions are found in pre race information sent via e-mail. If the event offers clinics or a pre-race walk through take advantage of this opportunity, make sure to attend these services and ask questions.
4. Don’t forget to use common sense while racing. Event organizers and race directors do all they can to keep you safe but you have a responsibility to know your body, your ability levels and to be aware of other athletes.
5. Remember your loved ones that are coming to support you. Inform them of what to expect including where to park, what a transition area is and inform them that they most likely will be unable to see you for most of the event. Again refer to pre-race e-mails for spectator pertinent information and pass that information on to your friends and family.
I look forward to finishing my first triathlon in May. I may never finish an iron man distance event. I may not place in my age group or over all. But, I will continue to be healthy mentally, socially, and physically through continued goals beginning with this triathlon experience. I will join thousands of athletes this year in accomplishing greatness by finishing a goal that has taken sacrifice and diligence to achieve.