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My Triathlon Family Tree

By Rachel Blechman | March 17, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

usa triathlon collegiate national championshipsQuestions that need answering by the University of Miami TriCanes:

1) Who are you?
2) What are you wearing?
3) Are you twerking?! 

The family tree started on the way to a fall sprint in Tallahassee (Talla-nasty), Fla., for my second race ever, two very long years ago. The three freshmen that had quickly become best friends decided that they were the children and soon built up a tree that included love, divorce, adoption, diversity and a myriad of other options that encompassed the past and present TriCanes.

Fast-forward two years when two of those bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kids are now leading the team toward yet another Collegiate National Championship race. As the years progressed from that tree scribbled on napkins, we expanded it to white boards as people graduated and others joined. There is something about this team that keeps bringing people back. For some it is a love of pain, others it is the love of being outside. For many, it’s the athletes that create a home far from the place they grew up.

usa triathlon collegiate national championshipsWhile traveling to Clermont, Fla., for the first race in our sprint toward Tempe, Ariz., this spring, there was a 30-minute lineup in the state park before we could pull into transition. Not even two minutes after pulling up, a full-blown dance party ensued, led by the Miami team. This included salsa, country music, house music, wobbling on top of a car, and unfortunately, a bit of spandex twerking.  Amused spectators grinned as they walked by the crazy antics of a group of people completely comfortable with themselves and their surroundings.

Within minutes, our friends from the University of Florida team pulled up with large smiles on their faces, expecting another crazy surprise from our family. The TriGators are more than just another team. This past year we have worked hard to get to know the other teams in the Florida Collegiate Triathlon Conference. Our family spans from the local groups to students around Florida that we are proud to race and train with. When up in Gainesville, I know that I can call on friends from that team to take me on the best 10-mile trail run of my life, and a student from UNF studying at FAU near Miami can call us up and grab a ride to the next race to join his team.

usa triathlon collegiate national championshipsThe fun continued throughout the weekend, and during the race, our team decided to play Marco Polo as a motivation mechanism. During a four-loop bike course and two-loop run on the same course, one was constantly diverted from their exhaustion by a yell of “Marco.” By the middle of the race, other teams had joined in the game to call back “Polo” and refocus into the red zone.

Everyone is a competitor in a triathlon — the person in front of you is the next person to pass, but this does not mean you can’t support one another. We are brought together by a love of adrenaline, pain and sweat, all of which combine to create the blood running through our veins. So while a crazy napkin defines my team, a crazy sport truly defines my family.