Why Triathlon? By Jen Hamilton

In college, I was on the varsity cross country and track teams. However, I probably spent approximately 90% of my career on the injured list, battling nearly every lower limb problem you can imagine. From a stress fracture in my shin to knee problems to IT band ailments and chronic inflammation that seemed to have neither cause nor cure, I discovered that my body was much more breakable than I had ever imagined.

I battled back from my injuries as best as I could throughout the duration of my time at Michigan State. I was determined to finish my full tenure as a college athlete, though I knew I would not be able to train or compete at that intensity again after it was done. When I couldn’t run, I spent my practice times in the pool, on the elliptical, and occasionally, on a stationary bike to maintain my fitness. Through these activities, I quickly realized I had a new goal in mind for my post-collegiate self: triathlon.

Triathlon. Most people these days know what that word means. A race that consists of a swim, bike, and run, in that order, from short distances called sprints all the way up to the legendary Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. No sweat, right?). To me, that word meant something new and challenging to strive for.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I am no cyclist and certainly no swimmer. I’m not much of an athlete in general, one of those runners who became a runner because I was terrible at every other sport I tried. The last time I took swim lessons I was probably 8 (I don’t even know how to dive), and though I became an expert at maneuvering my mountain bike through campus, intense road cycling never really appealed to me. However, once the idea struck it stuck, and I decided that after college I would try a triathlon.

I am now in my second summer post-college, and I decided during the winter that it was now or never for triathlon training, and I would aim to do my first one this June. Because I am a runner first and foremost, in March I began trying to get myself into running shape, though only running five days a week at about half the mileage I did in college. That’s one of the aspects that appealed to me the most about triathlons—training has to be divided among three disciplines, thereby reducing the volume of training for each and decreasing the risk of injury. Around that time I also started adding in spinning class at the Y (road cycling being out of the question due to the weather) and swimming one or two times a week.

I’ve been training for a few months now, and still I don’t feel even close to prepared. I’m sure a lot of it is fear of the unknown, and my training most definitely has not been perfect. When you have to motivate yourself and work around a full-time job, it’s easy to slack more than you should. It’s equally easy to worry about things like not being able to unclip your pedals and swimming in a dark, seaweed-filled lake (more on those things in my next post).

But as of right now, I have set my sights on the Motor City Triathlon, which takes place June 12 at Belle Isle in Detroit. I plan on doing the sprint distance, which is a 500 meter swim (approximately 550 yards), 12.43 mile bike, and 3.4 mile run. I have only two weeks to go and I’m scared out of my mind, but I know it will be worth it in the end.