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Dylan’s Triathlon Experience

posted on April 7, 2022

What is one thing you find impossible?


Last year I decided to do what I previously thought was impossible. After joining my local gym, I took up swimming as a form of cardio. While in the pool one day I began chatting up another member and he mentioned that he was currently training for a triathlon. Feeling inspired, I went home and signed up for the next race that would take place in Maryland. With no formal swim training, no bike and only a few 5k races under my belt, I was in over my head (no pun intended).


Now that I was signed up, I needed to know how much I should be training (the race distances were 0.75k for the swim, a 15-mile bike, and a 5k run). So, I began working the hardest on my weakest link, which was swimming. I watched all the videos I could find on swim technique (breath count, streamline form, etc.) and developed a good stroke. I would swim three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday) with increasing volume as the race got closer. For the most part I would spend about 2 hours in the pool each training session.


The order of a triathlon race goes: Swim, Bike, then Run. That just so happens to be the order of importance in my training as well. While developing my best Michael Phelps impression, I also was on the hunt for a bike. With most places asking well over $1,000 for a decent bike I struggled to justify spending that for one race. I ended up finding a good deal on an old Trek road bike that is 3 years older than I am. This ancient relic is what I would do my training on and what I would ultimately use on the big day. For my bike training I rode twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday). Each ride would be between 5-15 miles depending on how I was feeling that day. I was also supplementing my bike training by riding my bike to and from work. This leads me to the reason I thought this venture was impossible.


At the time of training I was working 40 hours a week at my job and also 25 hours a week at a coaching internship. The only thing I did in my spare time was eat, train, and sleep. There were days I wanted to quit and skip training or call into my internship and say I couldn’t make it. In those moments I remembered why I was doing what I was doing. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do what I thought was impossible. Every day I would wake up and repeat the mantra that kept progressing me forward: I am Endless. Endless energy, endless motivation, and endless determination to reach my goals.


I knew the running portion of the race would be the easiest for me because of my background in sports. So, I only trained 1-2 times a week and most of the time I just ran the distance of the race, which was a 5k. As time went on and the day of the race approached, I started including multiple sports a day into my training sessions. So some days I would swim then go run on the treadmill right after. Others I would even do all three sports in the same session.


When race day finally came, I was nervous and had doubts that I didn’t train hard enough. These doubts disappeared as I stared out from the starting line over the lake we would be swimming in. Again, I repeated my mantra and prepared for the countdown. When the start timer hit zero, we were off. As soon as I hit the water it’s like I forgot everything I practiced. My breathing was off, form was terrible, and I couldn’t see anything because of how dark the water was. But, these issues didn’t stop me from completing the hardest swim of my life. Getting out of the water I was so disoriented; I didn’t know up from down. But, I trotted over to the transition area, strapped up on my bike and took off.


The next 15 miles of the race were a breeze. The bike became my strongest part of the race and allowed me to catch up to many of the others. The course ventured over multiple uphills and downhills and overall we covered about 2500 meters of elevation. I took this time on the bike to pause mentally and enjoy the scenic views of Fort Ritchie, Maryland. As I had the final transition area in sight, I knew I only needed to push myself a little bit more.


The run portion of the race went well however, by that point I was drained. I moved as fast as I could, but every step felt like I had cement blocks around my feet. The entire run portion though I could see the finish line in my head and pictured crossing it. At the final straight away I gave it everything I had and finished strong with a time of 2 hours and 58 minutes.


I was exhausted, tired, fatigued, or whatever adjective you want to use. But I finished and I proved to myself that I could do what I thought was impossible. I challenge you to come up with something you think is impossible for you to do and go for it. Find that local race, powerlifting competition, or speaking event that you have always wanted to do but never thought you could. Life is short, enjoy the ride.


-Dylan Kopp


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