A Friend's Bet Ignited my Triathlon Journey

By Ken Barrick | Jan. 03, 2019, 1:14 p.m. (ET)

It was March, 2014. I was sitting in an airport in Honduras on my way back from a scuba diving vacation, when a friend of mine handed me a triathlon magazine that was sitting on the chair next to him. He knew I was a baseball player and often made fun of me for how I always bragged about being an athlete at my advanced age of 46. “These are athletes,” he said as he handed me the magazine.

“Triathlon,” I scoffed, “that’s like taking candy from a baby. I can do that easily.”

“Sure,” he quipped back, “I dare you.”

With that dare, my adventure began. Upon arriving back in my hometown of Baltimore, MD, I began my research. Where was the closest triathlon event to my home and when? I discovered the Baltimore Triathlon was being held in September. I had six months to train. 

Yes, I’d been an athlete all my life. I played baseball, basketball, football, volleyball and tennis. I was a scuba instructor, which meant I was at least comfortable and somewhat competent in the water. I had done some mountain biking just a few years earlier. How hard could doing a triathlon be? I discovered there were two distances available in Baltimore that year — Sprint and Olympic-distance. I declared I was going to start with the Sprint. My friend told me that was not a triathlon and it did not count. He said anything less than a full Ironman and I’d be a failure. I laughed and said to him, “If you think the sprint is so easy, come on and do it with me.” He declined of course.

The .48-mile swim, 13.8-mile bike ride and 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run seemed like something I could pull off in my sleep. In May I hired a personal trainer and told him my goals. They were really simple goals. The first goal was to complete the race and the second was to not finish dead last.

I turned 47 in August, one month before the event. To be honest, even though I trained twice a week from May through August, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen on race day. My baseball season had also gotten underway, and I had torn my left rotator cuff in June. I modified my swim stroke and spent nearly a month doing physical therapy while training. I had my shoulder wrapped the evening before the event.

Did I forget to mention that my efforts also inspired my marathon running wife to get involved? She decided to take on her first triathlon along with me. She beat me of course, but I inspired myself by beating 19 other participants, several of whom were much younger than myself. I had accomplished both of my goals. 

In 2015, I signed up for another sprint event and finished ahead of more than 200 people. I decided to continue with the sport. I’ve never seen the podium, but that doesn’t matter to me. This sport is about the challenge of being better every time out. I’ve struggled with injuries due to my other sports, but I have been able to complete every event I’ve signed up for, including my first Olympic-distance event in 2018. It was the Northeast Aqua Bike, which was a 1-mile swim and 26-mile bike ride.

I’m four years into the sport and see no reason to quit. I just keep chugging along. I encourage nearly everyone I meet to give it a try. So far only a few have taken me up on the challenge. What does that tell me? I’m doing something special that not many people are willing to take on. Swimming, biking and running I say. It sounds simple enough, right? My words to everyone: It’s never too late to Tri.

 

Ken Barrick is an age-group triathlete in the USA Triathlon Mideast Region. To stay updated on Mideast Region news and connect with other athletes like Ken, check out our USA Triathlon Mideast Region Facebook page.