Have you ever made a decision that completely changed your life?
I attended Northwood School, a boarding high school in Lake Placid, New York, to pursue my childhood dreams of becoming a professional alpine ski racer. During my senior year, I was very fortunate to have options to ski Division I at every college I applied to, except the University of Vermont (UVM). For this reason, I put UVM on the back burner until I was coincidentally in Burlington, Vermont, and my mom suggested we take a tour. My tour guide was my twin; she was 5 feet 8 inches tall, we had our blonde hair braided the same way, we were wearing the same blue Patagonia, and she was an ex-ski racer who, at the time, was the president of the UVM Triathlon club.
“COLLEGIATE TRIATHLON!?” I exclaimed. At the time I was training for my first IRONMAN, and I thought I was the only teenager who found swimming, biking and running fun. Throughout high school I used triathlon to cross train for skiing. As my high school career was coming to an end, I realized I could expand my athletic horizon and redirect my energy into a new passion, triathlon. After the tour at UVM, I told my mom that I was quitting ski racing and becoming a collegiate triathlete. I did not waste a minute. When I returned home, I mailed in my deposit and began dreaming of the journey I would be embarking on.
The summer leading into freshman year was very eventful. I completed IRONMAN Lake Placid as the youngest competitor, which was probably the most humbling experience of my life. Whenever I told someone “I’m training for an IRONMAN,” 364 days a year they would look at me and say, “Hannah, are you OK? I think you’re going crazy …” But on that 365th day something magical happened and I was treated like a kick-ass rock star. After crossing that finish line, I felt totally satisfied and invincible but also slightly out of place. For anyone who has done an IRONMAN, you know that the average age is oh, I don’t know, 40? It was a little weird and discouraging to be competing, getting my butt kicked, and always socializing with people over twice my age! My favorite thing about collegiate triathlon is sharing this common and crazy love of swimming, biking and running with a group of people my age. We understand each other.
My first experience at the USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championships was in 2014. As a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away by the team camaraderie, the excitement and youthfulness that this event had to offer. What other triathlon are you surrounded by 1,200 ecstatic, talented, like-minded, young adults!? One of the best (or is it the worst?) parts about Collegiate Nationals is Mustachionals — an excuse for collegiate men to go months without shaving, grow epic (disgusting) mustaches and compete to see who has the better mustache! The excitement I experienced last year is honestly what has been motivating me to train so hard throughout this long, cold and miserable winter here in Vermont. Go watch the 2013 and 2014 highlight videos if you don’t believe me when I say this is the best triathlon weekend of the year!
Pursuing triathlon full time has taught me so many life skills. The most important being time management. It’s HARD balancing 18 credit hours, 15-hour training weeks, being president of an entire triathlon club, all while trying to have a social life! My way of dealing with my chaotic schedule is prioritizing and combining the things I have to do. Sleeping and eating are always at the top of the list followed by academics and then athletics. My social life is almost perfectly intertwined with my day-to-day life. The majority of my best friends are also my teammates. Our ways of having fun together typically include doing an awesome smashfest followed by stuffing our faces with as much food as we can find in the dining halls. Apparently ‘normal’ college students don’t go on 3-hour bike rides, talk about chamois, that brick from hell, lube, or how you consciously pee your pants. Who knew!?
If you asked me two years ago what I would be doing in college, I can guarantee the answer would not have been “Studying Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Vermont, be the president of the UVM triathlon club, and training for my second IRONMAN.” That being said, pursuing this new passion has been absolutely amazing. I have had the opportunity to meet so many remarkable people, travel the world, and inspire others in the process. When people say, “College will be the best four years of your life” I can attest that these first two years have been pretty great thanks to collegiate triathlon!
I look forward to seeing you in Clemson!
Tri Hard and Stay Aero,