Untucked: The power of three | AspenTimes.com

Untucked: The power of three

Barbara Platts

There comes a point in every difficult endeavor when we rethink our decision to do it, when we question why we put ourselves in that situation in the first place. For me, this past Sunday, that point of questioning came when I was submerged into Union Reservoir in Longmont for the start of a triathlon. I had swam a quarter of a mile and was only halfway finished. My breath sounded more like a wheeze as I tried to excrete lake water from my esophagus. My cousin, who has always been my racing buddy in these types of events, was well ahead of me and entirely out of sight. Other swimmers were passing with great speed, making me question not only my stroke form but my athleticism in general. With a tired body, and admittedly an already bruised ego, I kept swimming, knowing that this sprint triathlon had only just begun.

For those who don't know, a triathlon is a race that consists of three sports: swimming, biking and running (in that order, with no breaks). The holy grail of triathlons is the Ironman, which is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. But for those of us who aren't insanely fit athletes, there are other versions of this sport that are shorter distances. The one I did last weekend was the Outdoor Divas sprint triathlon by Without Limits Productions. It consisted of

a half-mile swim, a 12.9-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run – not a death sentence, but also no walk in the park. This was the 10th anniversary of this women-only triathlon, which had more than 460 participants, 40 percent of which were first-timers.

Now, for many people who have never participated in a triathlon – and for a handful of those that have – the idea in itself may seem silly, pointless even. So, how did this athletic madness even begin? Well, we can blame the French for that one. According to an ESPN timeline, the first-ever triathlon, or "Les Trois Sports," debuted in Paris in the 1920s. This particular race consisted of a swim across the channel Marne, a 12K bike ride and a 3K run. Triathlons first came to the States in the 1970s because of the San Diego Track Club. The members used the multi-sport activity as an alternative workout. From there, triathlons grew in popularity in the U.S. and around the world. In 2000, the event officially gained Olympic status at the games in Sydney.

According to USA Triathlon, when the sport was included in the Olympics it also became a popular activity for the average joe. People saw triathlons on TV and they wanted to try it out for themselves. Today, the sport is still booming, and shows no sign of stopping. So, if you've been curious about trying one, now may be the time.

As for my own race last week, things got a bit easier once I finished the half-mile swim – I suppose aquatics have never really been my thing. I survived, and even had a bit of fun, on the bike ride, and then got to my favorite part of the event: the 5K run. At the beginning of each sport, I felt a burst of energy, like I could do anything, while simultaneously feeling like I could collapse at any moment. Each step of the way, my fellow competitors provided an overwhelming amount of support. Even though a triathlon is a solo mission in many ways, it felt like we were all on one team, out there to hold up one another through it all.

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My cousin, who was a good way ahead of me after the swim, finished her race and then walked back and waited for me. When I reached her, she lead me to the finish line. Every muscle in my body was exhausted, but, with a quarter mile left, I transitioned from a jog to an all out sprint, crossing the finish line with as much energy as I could muster.

I finished in 1 hour 56 minutes and 36 seconds, just under my goal of two hours. No, it's not a record-breaking time, but it was a personal victory for me, as it was a bit faster than the last one I participated in five years ago. Almost all of my fellow competitors made it over the finish line as well. Without Limits Productions said there was a 99.5 percent finish rate, the highest ever for the company.

During every difficult endeavor we put ourselves through, there are moments of doubt. We succeed when we overcome these and push ourselves further than we ever thought was possible. It's not easy, but it's most certainly worth it.

Barbara Platts is already plotting her next triathlon. The pain hurts too good to pass up. Reach her at bplatts.000@gmail.com.

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