Going The Distance: Student Triathletes

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By Ben Present > Senior > Journalism > University of Maryland, College Park
College is an exercise in time management. For many students, the transition to living independently is trying enough on its own. As a result, extracurricular activities take a backseat to the basics. After all, it becomes tough enough to wake up for those 10 a.m. classes.



But for a small number of students, those same 10 a.m. classes come only after 10 miles on foot, 10 miles on the bike, then 10 more miles in the pool. These students represent the collegiate crop that is dedicated to training for and competing in endurance sports. Preparing year-round for decathlons, triathlons and Ironmans, most of these athletes admit their strict training regimen isn’t for everybody. But if you ask them, they will say they can’t imagine their college careers going any other way.
“It takes someone who’s willing to get up at six in the morning to do workouts before class,” said SUNY-Geneseo junior Toby Ring, who completed three triathlons during his first year at college. “And then you have to train after class.”
Ring, who competes in a 1500-meter swimming, 40 kilometer biking and 10 kilometer running triathlon, admitted he needed to make his academics work around his training. The history and education major said he registers for one less course in the spring when his training is in full gear. “People think I’m crazy, but I love everything about training and racing,” he said. “You really have to.”
Zack Malet, a mid-distance runner at Brown University, would advise newcomers to the sport to start slow. “If you jump into doing 10 miles a day you’re going to burn out,” he said. He learned the hard way as a freshman, suffering a stress fracture on his right foot because he was suddenly running a lot more in college than he did in high school.
Malet said running track helped him keep his priorities in order during college, as well as bolstering his resume. And while the economics major said varsity track meant cutting back on things like drinking and other popular college pastimes, he looks back on his track career with little regret. “[Without track], I’d party a lot more; I’d be less productive,” Malet said. “The running joke is ‘I can’t, I have track.’”

Endurance Coach Advice: “The Joy is in the Journey”
Jose Lopez, 47, coaches student triathletes with Long Island Tri Coach 20 hours a week on top of his full-time position as deputy commissioner of Nassau Community Parks. He was drawn to the world of endurance sports 30 years ago after seeing an Ironman competition on TV. “I was so intrigued I said, ‘Wow I got to do that,’” he said. “It totally had me mesmerized.”

According to Lopez, it’s important for athletes to recognize how significant of an accomplishment the mere training is, rather than just focusing on the end result. “I always tell my runners, ‘The joy is in the journey,’” he said. “Come race day, when you put it out there, as long as you know you put your time in, you haven’t lost. The race is just the icing on the cake.”


Image courtesy of bengreenfieldfitness.com/

College Magazine Staff

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