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Paul Contino {August 2007}

To tell you the truth, when I am out there racing, especially on the longer races, I have a hard time finding a good answer to that. Much of the time (all of the time when I am running) I keep asking myself "What was going through your head when you decided to sign up for this?! You have to be crazy to put yourself through this!"

And I have only competed in a handful of triathlons, a few being half-Ironman races. Still I have yet to compete in a full Ironman distance race. As brutal as I find the halves to be, do I still consider signing up for an Ironman? Actually, I do. Will I have the same thoughts going through my mind during the race? Probably. But that really doesn't tell you why I tri. I suppose that kinda alludes more to the why I would not tri, though, huh?

So why do I do triathlons? Well, the first part of it comes from my background in swimming. Jealous? I have found many triathletes are. With swimming comes my competitive nature. I swam competitively from ages 7-20, and then took a break until getting myself involved with DC Tri a bit over a year ago. The competitive spirit is just ingrained in me. During my hiatus between swimming and triathlons, I didn't really do much as far as being physically active, which is also another reason I tri. I hated being out of shape and my body not being as efficient or strong or toned as it used to be. So I needed to find something to get me back into some sort of physical shape. A few friends of mine from work would run a couple of times a week, and they eventually persuaded me to come out with them. It was a great way to break up the day. But it definitely showed me how much of a runner I am not. And a good friend of mine a few months later convinced me to buy a road bike. Riding a bike was something that I thought I could definitely parallel with swimming as far as exercise goes -- I could parallel my approach to working hard, but having continually varying scenery (except for Hains Point mornings, as I would soon find out) and the ability to talk to other people. This was back two winters ago. I had been running for a couple of months, and I had just picked up a bike. The only logical thing was to put all three together, right? And that's when I decided to take a look into this sport, or what I now understand to be lifestyle, that is triathlon.

But that still doesn't completely tell you why I tri. At the time that I had all three basic elements for getting into triathlon, there were other things in my life that attributed to seeking out tris. I needed a bit of a lifestyle change. It had been a year and a half that I had been in DC, and I was looking for something different from what my previous experiences here have been. In fact, I'd have to say that since I started triathlons, and became a part of the DC Triathlon Club, I consider this to be my third "life" in DC. With my three individual base modes of transportation, my desire for change in lifestyle, and my consideration of triathlons, I set out to find that last little bit of motivation to start doing triathlons.

Which brings me more to why it is that I actually do tri. And it comes down to the DC Triathlon Club. Really. I tri because of the people that I have met. Because of the relationships that I have developed. Because of the introduction to the sport that the Club offered. Because of the continuing presence of the Club in both my triathlon-related life and outside of it.

I tri because of days like this past Sunday at Eagleman. Because of how friendly all of the competitors regardless of where they are from or which club they represent, whether they are racking their bike next to you or encouraging you to keep going on a run, or a professional triathlete just about to break a course record but still have time to smile. Because of the support that fellow club members offer, whether on the course during the race when they see your jersey or recognize your face, or friends and family that have come to watch. Because of the accomplishment that not only you feel yourself after a race, but of those that have just finished something they thought they would never, or could never have done, and you were there with them when they did. Because of other races that I have done in the past, where I may not have recognized my accomplishments, but my club teammates and friends recognized, and helped me realize. Because of the excuse triathlons give you to miss work and take a vacation (read "training trip" or "triathlon race") to places I may never have otherwise gone, like Lake Placid or St. Croix. Because it gives you a goal, something to work towards, a reason to be healthy and stay in shape. But mostly because of the people. If I had gotten involved with another club, I cannot say that I would still be doing them today.

And there are other reasons - the overall balance it forces you to keep in your life. The personal limits that it tests physically and mentally. The ability to allow you to eat anything you want and almost as much of it and not have to worry about it. But when I take a step back and really think about "why I tri", it comes down to the people that are involved in this sport - those that I have met, that I now know, and those that I have yet to meet.