Congratulations to Capilano U English instructor, Andrea Westcott, who just returned from the Triathlon World Age Group Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, where she placed fifth in her age group. Below, Westcott shares her experience on what it’s like to compete in a triathlon.

My adventure in Mexico has its roots in my teen years when I was a speed and synchronized swimmer until I was 20. I loved to read books, but I also loved to compete. I started doing triathlons a dozen years ago. I have now competed in all the different lengths of triathlons, including the one from which I’ve just returned, the Triathlon World Age Group Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, where I competed in the Standard or Olympic-length distance: 1,500 metre swim, 40 kilometre bike and 10 kilometre run.

Each year the event is held in a different location which means every race is very different. For example, last year in Chicago competitors started in the cold, choppy waters of Lake Michigan, rode through the downtown streets of Chicago, and finished the run at Buckingham Fountain by the lake. This year, the ocean in Mexico was lovely and warm, but the current was incredibly strong. Many athletes had trouble, with 25 of them being pulled from the water.

 The Swim

It was the first race where my strength as a swimmer actually made a difference. When the current switched directions and pushed swimmers out to sea, I was already safely out of the water, and running to jump on my bike for the next leg of the event.

The Bike

The route followed the island road straight south by the water until the jungle closed in on both sides as we reached the 20 kilometre, outward-bound mark. After the turn around, it was a straight shot back, with few problems for most athletes, except those who were bothered by unethical riders who took advantage of illegally drafting in the wake of another rider. In triathlon, the bicycle portion of the race is an individual time trial, with the objective being to overcome the aerodynamic drag on your own, without benefitting from riding directly behind another rider.

The Run

We all knew the run portion would be hot, but it was the humidity which took the greatest toll. I was lucky enough to take in enough water, electrolytes and ice so that my body did not overheat, and I was pleased that I felt stronger on the second lap of the five kilometre loop. It felt great to have enough energy left to sprint to the finish line.

Because the location makes such a difference to each competition, I find each new event challenging and stimulating. In comparing it to my work in the classroom, I think, at its best, it’s about the flow of energy. I thrive on the give and take that happens on the race course from the supporters cheering me on from the side lines, just as I thrive on the energy from students as we get involved in a discussion that evolves from the exchange of ideas that can only happen when a group of individuals are actively involved in the dialogue.

Submitted by Andrea Westcott, Capilano U English instructor