2020 Member Spotlight – Sheldon RobertsJune, 2020
How did you get involved in triathlons?
Honestly, I had never even heard of Triathlon until a few years ago. Funnily enough, I met a girl who was into endurance sports including triathlon. I thought I’d be able to win her over by getting into triathlon so I gave it a shot and ended up falling in love with the sport! I also found out the hard way that you can’t impress a triathlete with triathlon!
What was your first triathlon?
My very first race was a Sprint distance with Peasantman at Lake Anna, in VA. It was an incredible experience, and I signed up for my second race the very next day. Shout out to Tuan and crew! They really know how to make a newbie feel like a Fresh Prince!
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in a triathlon?
Not joining a club sooner. My first year of triathlon, I did everything on my own. I actually learned to swim by watching YouTube videos. After my 3rd race and seeing tons of representation from the DC Tri Club, I joined and was so happy I did!
Do you have any memorable races or experience?
The Off Season Spin class helped me to make lots of friends in the group. I learned so much about how to be a better cyclist and manage my heart rate–which I had no idea was a thing until I joined the club. I can one hundred percent say that OSP made me a better triathlete.
As a person of color, are there any extra challenges in the sport?
I can say for certain that the DC Tri Club has been an incredibly welcoming group. I’ve made some life-long friends through the events, classes, and races for sure. When I first started, I thought people were going to laugh at me because I wasn’t a strong swimmer. I figured they’d see me and joke about the stereotype of black people not knowing how to swim. Boy was I wrong! I got nothing but encouragement from the Club, but I did use my internal fears as motivation to work hard on my swim technique, and I’m happy to say that swimming became my favorite discipline of triathlon despite having a previous background in running and cycling.
Triathlon is an amazing sport–it takes a lot of time and commitment, but the reward of accomplishment is well worth it. I wish that more people of color knew about it, but I suspect that many were like me. I’ve spent lots of time thinking about why more minorities don’t participate–especially because it wasn’t uncommon for me to be one of–if not–the only black person at an event or race. I don’t think people realize how unintentionally unwelcome this makes people of color feel. Especially when there are other groups within the TriClub that get their own recognition (which I love!). I think it would be pretty cool to see a Triathletes of Color group in the Club similar to NTP or TriOut.
What do you enjoy outside of triathlon?
I’m a really social person, so happy hours and get-togethers are always a win for me. I also low-key love watching Cage Fighting like UFC on the weekends, but I don’t talk about it much publicly because most people see it as too violent and not for the art that it is.
Any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share?
Well typically the fun fact that I tell people is that I’ve done 7 triathlons. This usually wows folks, but when you’re talking to fellow triathletes, that’s child’s play. All they want to know is when you’re going to do your first Ironman. I’m also a pretty darn good cook, and love to make delicious food for others, but I currently live by myself, so I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. I also have a podcast called BlackLITE that specifically talks about what it’s like being Black in America today. If you’re interested, it can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeart Radio. I’m probably a little biased, but I think everyone can learn something from it!