The atmosphere at the Lakefront in August was one of unparalleled excitement and intensity as elite athletes from all around the country, including Justine Spore, senior, gathered to compete in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, held on August 8 and 9. Spore, whom you might recognize on the softball diamond, tennis court, ski slopes or track, has found especial success in the triathlon, a race that challenges athletes to compete in three events — a swim, bike, and run.
“I like it so much because you are never stuck doing one thing — you get to do all three,” Spore said
On the first day, qualifying athletes raced the Olympic distance course, a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.
Spore raced the sprint distance, a 750 m swim, 20 km bike ride and five km run, on the second day of the competition after she qualified for this triathlon last summer, placing in the top ten percent of her age group at the Naperville Triathlon in Naperville, IL.
This triathlon was different from anything Spore had previously experienced. The swim began in the Outer Harbor, the stretch of lake that runs in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World. Spore estimates that out of the hundreds of other people in the water with her, she was one of three who did not have a wetsuit.
“I definitely needed one. I got in the water and I couldn’t breathe it was so cold,” Spore said. “I guess it was just motivation to swim faster.”
The transition zone, or the place where athletes prepare to enter their next event, was located in front of Discovery World and was especially memorable.
“It’s very hectic. Everyone is scrambling to take off their stuff and put their shoes on,” Spore said.
That was also where the bike ride began. The route took athletes to the top Lincoln Memorial Dr. and back, then over the Hoan Bridge and to the transition area.
“It was a very nice bike ride because they close the streets off and they don’t take us down any bumpy roads or anything,” Spore said. “You have to get used to forty-five year olds whizzing past you on really nice bikes … It’s very humbling.” Spore thinks that the bike is her strongest part.
The run, which Spore found the most challenging, wound its way around Veteran’s Park and back to Discovery World. Plagued with multiple stress fractures over the course of her high school career, she trains very moderately for this portion of the race.
“There were a lot of people,” Spore said. “It was crazy. They had this huge finish line and everyone was screaming.”
Spore placed 50th in her age group and is ready to race again.
“There were a lot of people who were really into it, who trained really hard,” Spore said. “It’s so inspiring. There are so many people who are so in shape and train for hours every day. I don’t know if I could ever do that but it is something to aspire towards.”
Spore has not competed in an Olympic distance triathlon yet, chiefly because she does not want to risk re-injuring herself on the longer run, but would like to try one in the future.
Spore trains all year for these races.
“It’s hard to fit in workouts and practice every day,” Spore said.
She maintains a fitness baseline by swimming through the winter before school.
“I totally dislike biking in doors,” Spore said.
When summer begins, Spore focuses her training towards the triathlon.
“As soon as the weather gets nice enough to bike, I start doing stuff. I don’t have three hours every day to go bust out a fifty mile bike ride,” said Spore, who must juggle her time between training and a job at the Milwaukee Pretzel Factory.
Spore tries to ride three to four times a week, working in different distances and training on different terrains.
“I did the hill by Lincoln Memorial seven times in one day and it definitely helped because we did it in the race,” she said.
Spore also did Watershed Wisdom, which she said included “a heck of a lot of biking and even some trail.”
While Spore admits that it is a bit of a of a drag to swim in the pool, she makes sure to keep it in her training regimen.
“It makes a huge difference to dedicate some time in the pool every week,” Spore said.
by Sydney Widell