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Ben Lookner {February 2013}

Trying to determine the main thing that I like about triathlon or the biggest reason as to why I do it is extremely difficult and indeed goes against the very nature of the sport itself- we triathletes can’t even pick one sport to do, so why not do three? I’d even wager that single-sport runners, cyclists, and swimmers have the same issue, so take that into consideration and the problem I have when sitting down to write this is 3x as difficult! So, I have decided to focus on just one reason as a way to introduce myself in this every-so-often rambling “diary” that you, DC Triathlon Club member, will receive, and that reason/thing I love about triathlon is SPANDEX.

I have always viewed French fries, when I actually eat them (rare), as a socially acceptable way to consume copious amounts of condiments in a socially acceptable manner. Triathlon is similar in that it allows me to wear copious amounts of (often obnoxious hot pink) spandex in a socially acceptable manner.

By no means is this my first introduction to the material, though. Having swam most of my life and rowed for four years in college, I was well-versed in the comfort that spandex affords, though I wasn’t always comfortable in it. In fact, if you had told my 7th-grade self that I would be parading around in tights for most of my free time as an “adult,” he’d probably laugh and then go back to his French fries. But just as my focus in multisport would evolve (shorter to longer distances), so has my comfort with the material that serves as our uniform.

By my senior year at George Washington, I was totally in my element walking around regattas in my uni because, well, that was what we rowers did. So when graduating and leaving that world behind me- because despite my love for the way a well-trained crew can move a boat, there was NO way I was continuing that sport- my main concern wasn’t what the future had in store for me, it was whether or not that future had spandex in it.

And then, half-way through my first year of teaching, like an angel sent to deliver Fate’s good word, my friend, having heard of my swimming background, asked me the simple question after a 5k: “Have you ever thought about doing a triathlon?” [Insert clichéd saying about a quantity being something in the past]

At my first race, a sprint down in North Carolina, I had no idea what to do, what to wear. I had my spandex, but it was rowing trou, which was by no means made for handling a triathlon. I’m not going to go into much detail here, but let’s just say: chafing. As my knowledge of multisport evolved, so did my attire, trading unis for Zoot bottoms, and tank tops for tri-tops. Things culminated when I bought a tri-kit from my friend’s team up in Philly, Schuylkill Navy Racing as means to support him and his team (but also because it was the aforementioned hot pink gear). Now that I had made myself stand out as much as I could, I had to get back to what was really important: going fast.

So, as I enter my fourth season of competing in triathlon, I find myself examining my SNR gear. I notice that the brilliance of the pink has somewhat faded, that the white racing stripes don’t really hide the grease left behind from a dirty chain, and that some smells just can’t be washed away. But just as each past season has led to changes- from improvements in speed, changes in diet, intactness of collarbones, new friends and travels, and of course, new kits- so will this one. And while I may not know what spandex is going to show when I come out of the water and unzip my wetsuit at Peasantman this year, I do know that I will be excited to be doing so for the first time as a member of DC Tri.