2019 Member Spotlight – Sam Cretcher

September, 2019

How did you get involved in triathlons?

I did a triathlon relay with classmates during grad school. I did the swim leg. Our team’s results were nothing to write home about, but I had fun and got a taste of that sweet, sweet triathlon culture. A couple years later I moved to DC, selling my car in the process. Capital Bikeshare became my primary means of transportation, and I began to realize that biking was pretty fun. I eventually bought a bike and signed up for the club’s New Triathlete Program.

What was your first triathlon?

I was in the 2018 NTP class, and our goal race was Rev3 Williamsburg. A month before the race I injured my IT band while running. I went on a largely run-free diet that month. I had a great swim, burnt most of my matches on the bike, and ran-walked the run. Besides making many training and race mistakes, I had a great time and was hungry for more.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in a triathlon?

I’ve made a lot of race mistakes in my short tenure, but the most memorable was at Rumpus in Bumpass earlier this year. I had a great swim and wanted to make good time through T1. After stripping off my wetsuit, putting on my bike gear, and grabbing my bike, I sprinted toward the mount line. I was moving too fast for the congested, narrow path, so I ended up tripping and falling on top of my bike. My bike was damaged, as was my ego. But not all was bad. The bike was still rideable, and the people were entertained.

Do you have a swimming background?

I thought you’d never ask! Yes, I have a swim background. I started competitive swimming when I was 9 and then picked up water polo in high school. I had a short stint on my college’s NCAA water polo team but eventually moved over to my college’s club team.

What is your favorite stroke?

Freestyle. My favorite event was the 200 free.

Do you find triathlon swimming different?

The stroke and fitness are largely the same. But there are some big differences. For one, you must think a lot more during a triathlon swim than you do during a competitive swim race. You must pay attention to the buoys, to the current, and to swimmers around you. You must make decisions like whether to draft off a swimmer, forge on ahead by yourself, or cool your jets and conserve energy for the rest of the race. Another key difference is the mentality. In competitive swimming, races last seconds or minutes, not hours. So you have to worry about every fraction of a second lost to a bad dive, stroke, or turn. In triathlon, you typically only have to worry about tens of seconds or minutes. From this perspective, triathlon swimming is a lot less stressful than competitive swimming.

Do you have any swim advice for triathletes?

I’ve got a few thoughts:

Have confidence in yourself. A key part of fast, efficient swimming is being relaxed in the water. If you are not confident, your body becomes rigid and you have to fight for each stroke. Swimming is not about fighting. If you’re comfortable and confident during a normal pool swim but get a lot of anxiety about open water swimming, try simulating that open water sensation. I suggest start your swims by jumping (yes jumping, not sitting and sliding) into the deep end of the pool, pulling yourself to the surface quickly, and swimming. You might also want to recruit a friend to swim next to you and push you around a bit so you get used to pack swimming. Remember, swim with confidence.

Have patience. Swimming is a difficult thing to master, and you do not become a fast swimmer overnight. Sometimes you will feel that you haven’t seen improvements in days or weeks or months, but don’t let that get to you. If you put in the work, you will eventually get faster.

Work hard, but also work smart. Swimming is not just about expanding your aerobic and anaerobic limits. Swimming involves a lot of technique, so you should constantly be working to improve yours. Sometimes you will be able to achieve major improvements, and sometimes just minor ones, but they all make a difference.

Any memorable races or experience?

I just competed in my first half ironman at Ironman Atlantic City 70.3. The weekend was fantastic because I got to hang out with and cheer for some awesome triathlon friends (shout out to Mike Shipp, Daniela Diaz, and all the people I met from District Triathlon). I also got to meet and race against Triathlon Taren, who has been a huge part of my triathlon onboarding. The highlight of the weekend was finishing fifth in my age group and snagging a spot to Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand. Let the LotR marathoning begin!

What do you enjoy outside of triathlon?

Hiking, camping, concerts, board games, movies/tv, pizza, and ice cream. Pretty normal things.

Any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share?

In 2015 I did a 2-mile Alcatraz swim. The water temperature was 58 degrees. I only wore a speedo. #Type2fun