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Race Result

Racer: Steve Smith
Race: Reston Triathlon
Date: Sunday, September 7, 1997
Location: Reston, VA
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 2:21:08
Overall Place: 58
Age Group Place: 9
Comment: 31:25 / 1:01:29 / 44:08 ... My first race ever, tri, running, or biking

Race Report:

I'm writing this in 2004, not long after I finished 51/0A and 9/AG in the Triathlon World Championships!!! The 1997 Reston Triathlon was my first ever triathlon--heck it was my first ever running race and first ever cycling race as well. I finished 58/OA and 9/AG ... a nice bit of symmetry, eh?

How I got there

It's been a long seven years. Back in 1997 my good friend at work asked me to ride the MS Bike Ride with him. I'd done some long (4-5 hours) mountain bike rides in the previous year or two, but only occasionally. I agreed to do the ride & then upped the ante, choosing to ride the century on the first day and then the standard 40 miles on the second day. I had a blast training, and I had even more fun when I put slicks on my mountain bike two weeks before the event.

A few weeks after the ride I found myself at the beach. I'd swam as a kid, and I sucked. Not only did I suck (and I did) my sister, three years my junior, was amazing. She could cream me in the 50-yard freestyle ... swimming backstroke. That is totally unacceptable to a 12-year-old boy, so I did the obvious thing: I took up diving (which, it turns out, I sucked at even more. I stuck to soccer after that). After being cut from the high school soccer team (mostly for being a runt in a school with no frosh soccer), the only sweating I did for the next 8 years was during exams.

I'd started jogging in college (I still smoked) and stopped eating Big Macs ... mostly because I thought that would help woo girls (at that time, the girls I woo'd smoked, so it's not as contradictory as you may think). Anyway, I'd always ridden a bike--as a means of transportation--and was an occasional runner. When I went to the beach with family, I would swim my yearly swim, down the beach about a half-mile, and then run back.

So, after spending the spring of 1997 on my mountain bike, I found myself jogging back along the beach after a swim. Hmmm, I thought, if I sign up for one of dem triathlon thingies, I'll allow myself to by one of dem road bike thingies. This was May.

I swam with a masters group for the first time ever in June. (In a weird twist of fate, the masters coach was the sister of my MS Bike Ride friend!). Just showing up for masters was a terrifying experience. Did I mention that I sucked at swimming as a kid? Getting the courage to show up at that first masters workout was far tougher than getting to the start of the Reston Triathlon.

So by June of 1997, I started running, biking and swimming, and I loved it. Especially the biking part (I'd purchased a pretty new Klein road bike). I was fortunate in that I bought an excellent, but overly complicated, book about training called "The Endurance Athlete's Edge." Somehow, I managed to avoid the classic training mistakes (too hard, not enough recovery, etc).

Race day approached and I didn't think too much of it. I'm not sure why, I approached the race with curiosity ... I was just curious to know if I could do this thing. I never figured that it'd get as serious as it would.


Apparently, with 16 years of recovery, I didn't suck quite so bad at swimming. In fact, I swam a 31:25. Not great, but not terrible for a first swim. Actually, I probably lost 2-3 minutes in zigging and zagging and I also took 3:00 in transition. I'm writing this race report seven years after the race, and I don't remember much more.


When I started this triathlon thing, I figured I'd be strong biker. It took a few years for that prediction to come true, but it did. I rode a 1:01:29 (22 mph) in my first race, and I was stunned by that at the time (standard road bike with standard wheels and no aero nothin')


I ran a 44:08 for the shaded, twisty, mostly flat run course. At the time I didn't think much about that, but in retrospect that's a damn fine inaugural 10K split, more so when you realize it was my first 10K race, ever.


I finished 9th in my age group. I was stunned. A few weeks later I heard some of the guys talking about nationals and worlds. Worlds? Age group worlds? I'd never heard of such a thing ... Right then and there I decided if these world thingies ever took place in Italy, Switzerland or Australia/New Zealand, I would do my best to get there.

A few months after my first triathlon, I left my job to wander the western United States for 18 months. I sold my Klein and didn't bike a single mile the next three years. I swam maybe 12 times over that time. I ran quite a bit, and I hiked a lot. But I always considered myself a triathlete. I wouldn't race again until the spring of 2001, when I finally decided that soccer was beating up my body too much. After my second race, I was hooked.