It was so long ago that I barely remember being driven to my first triathlon. I was driven there because at the time I was 15 and only had a permit. My dad was cool with letting me take his car without him to drive my junior-high girlfriends home, but he thought the 90 miles from Goldsboro to Surf City might be pushing it. I entered the Surf City Sprint Triathlon on a suggestion from my good friend CC Wilkins, who very well may be the original triathlete in NC. CC would see me endlessly running around the YMCA until the staff would finally kick me out at 10 pm. I was there for swim practice, but would stay and play hours of basketball, mostly because it was so much more fun than doing homework. I guess my parents figured that if I wasn’t at the library, the Y was a pretty safe alternative, especially considering that all my friends were smoking at the “cool” hangout that was sadly the local Burger King parking lot. The only reason I joined the swim team was because the prettiest girl in my high school was on it. She was a grade above me, and really fast (in the pool!). But I was able to improve enough to finally swim in the lane next to her, which was my ultimate lifetime swimming goal.
In addition to swimming and playing a lot of soccer, I started running with my Dad when I was 8. He was training for marathons, so I would just start running the first mile with him. This led to some local 10k’s and such, but all these activities were really for the sole purpose of being in the best shape for tennis. As soon as my sister and I were conceived, Dad moved our family into a house next to a park that had a dozen tennis courts. Sufficient meals and beds were provided at home, but those courts are where we really grew up. We had no idea what video games were, or which TV shows our friends were always discussing. And in lieu of sleep-over’s and Saturday morning cartoons, my parents were endlessly driving us to junior tennis tournaments all over the South.
So when I arrived at UNC my freshman year and found my way to the Varsity Tennis tryouts, my triathlon journey officially began, as I was quickly dismissed. For some reason the coach wasn’t all that impressed with my wind-sprint capabilities, and was apparently more interested in the top national players he had been recruiting for the past 10 months.
A lot has changed in this sport since that first race I entered in Surf City in the early nineties. That race was nothing more than Bill Scott (Set-Up Events founder), a megaphone, 200 Speedo wearing dudes, a few brave girls, and all the Bud Light you could drink at the finish line. But I still love the sport and mostly all the interesting characters that are a part of it – serious, not so, Type A, Type whatever – it’s always quite an entertaining bunch. And if any of you are ever thirsty after the race, I am always good for a cooler full of ice-cold Natty Lights. And always happy to share – as long as you shotgun the first one!
I currently live in Goldsboro, NC where I make the best Country Ham in the South and get to train with North Carolina’s original triathlete. Cheers.