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Janice Kupiec {August 2007}

One might say my first brush with triathlon came in the tenth grade. We were required to take two elective gym classes to graduate and since I already had first-aid certification, I signed up for bicycling. The first part of the course focused on bike mechanics. I had a relatively new road bike so all I was required to do was take my stem off and play around with the parts. Unfortunately I was clumsy and spent two full class periods digging in a tub of some lubricating ointment searching for two of my ball bearings. I did eventually find them.

Once we finished our bike work we moved to the road. We would ride anywhere from 2-12 miles, depending on our start time, in the neighborhoods around the school. Mr. Hiller, our teacher, wasn’t too hard on anyone but did expect top effort. Towards the end of the class we participated in a 65-mile bike ride together around the Connecticut River Valley. We even got to miss an entire day of school to do it! Our final exam was a mini triathlon, a 200m swim, 10m bike and a 2m run. We started in the pool and moved to the road. My years on the swim team helped me out and I managed to finish third out of the girls, competing against two of the school’s top runners. For a girl who reached her full height of 5’9 in the eighth grade and always felt awkward about her size, this was quite a feat.

I continued to ride a lot on my own on the rolling hills around my house. I tried desperately to get my best friend Mari to join me but was never successful. I rowed competitively throughout high school and college, a sport I excelled in and loved from the moment I first went out on the Connecticut River at age 13. Rowing took me lots of places when I was younger but in the back of my mind I always wanted to complete a triathlon. I have watched NBC’s Ironman special each year and periodically purchase triathlon magazines. Secretly I pictured myself competing. But me? Could I really do one?

Due to a number of personal commitments I decided to try something new this year outside of the boat club. I hesitated because I had not been in a pool in a long time or spent much time on my bike. In fact, it was collecting dust in my basement since my husband and I moved into our house last September. But I had been running throughout the winter and decided to go for it. I must admit I was intimidated when walking into the Mt Pleasant library for the first NTP meeting. Everyone looked intense. The postings on the DC Tri club forum intimidated me. Four hour rides? I read postings from NTP participants who were already completing distances outlined half way through the training program and we had not even officially started. Was this really for me?

I persevered through the first few weeks of the program. I bought myself passes to Chinquapin and quickly remembered what I didn’t like about swimming, being alone in the pool and being wet. I have had to deal with both of those because it is physically impossible not to get wet. Last weekend we completed our first brick workout and though it was hard, I survived. It was only day two for me with clipless pedals but I managed to stay on course.

It gave me the confidence I needed to keep myself motivated through the remainder of the training program. I am looking forward to the race in July and what may follow. Why do I tri? I tri because I love the feeling of completing a hard workout and interacting with new people. I tri because in the back of my mind I think back to high school and how far I have come in my athletic pursuits. Triathlon is a sport that requires discipline and dedication to training. Merely crossing the finish line is a feat in itself. Even though I may never win first place in a race, the sense of accomplishment is enough to keep me on a high for days. After this who knows? Maybe my secret desire to complete a half ironman is a goal for next year. Wouldn’t that be an amazing accomplishment for the girl who trailed behind in gym class back in the day?