On-campus triathlon triumphs over weather

| Senior Sports Editor

Start with Washington University students waking up between 6 and 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning; throw in some cold weather in the low 40s, an overcast sky, strong wind and rain; add a combination of 400 meters of swimming, a 12-mile bike ride around Forest Park and a five-kilometer run.

This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but dozens of Washington University students and other members of the community competed, either as individuals or in teams, in the first annual Wash. U. triathlon. “People really said, ‘Screw the weather,’ and came out here and did it, despite the bad conditions,” said junior Karin Underwood, a co-organizer.

At 7:45 a.m., the check-in line was out the door of the Athletic Complex as triathletes prepared for an 8:30 a.m. start to the triathlon. According to senior Lauren Shuler, one of the co-organizers of the triathlon, about 113 people registered online, and around 20 didn’t show up.

There were wide ranges of experience in the field, as some people had done 10 triathlons while others were competing in their first. “There were a lot of people you wouldn’t expect,” said junior Michael Flanagan, a volunteer.

Most triathlons are completely individual events, so the team aspect—in which one person could swim and another could run while the third person could handle the bike ride—was received positively. “For people who aren’t avid in all three sports, it makes you more willing to participate,” Associate Dean for Students Chris Kroeger said. Kroeger rode a bike for the first time in 35 years as a result of the triathlon.

Freshman Jennifer Grant completed two legs of the triathlon. “I learned not only how to run and bike, but learned how to deal with the different weather situations,” Grant said.

The rain and strong wind posed added challenges to the triathletes. “My feet were numb when I got off the bike,” senior Tara Benesch said. “The minute you just get off the bike, I felt like I was 10 pounds heavier with water.”

One of the primary goals of the triathlon, according to organizers, was to get people who wouldn’t normally compete to take part in a triathlon. Mission accomplished, as Benesch, Grant and many others were first-timers.

Ultimately, participants had a good time and are now more open to future triathlons. “Everyone’s smiling,” Underwood said. “There are people who literally can’t feel their hands and feet and are still having a good time.”

“It was an invigorating experience and should be annual or even twice a year,” Kroeger said. All the participants and organizers echoed their hopes for better weather the next time.

“Overall, it was a great new Wash. U. tradition,” junior Andrew Frangos said. His triathlon team is already excited for next year.