Sara Sanderson pulls herself out of the pool and starts heading toward the door, her wet feet slapping on the floor. She attempts to dry her feet as best she can before she shoves on her socks and running shoes.
Then, she makes her way outside and picks up her pace to start her run.
Sanderson, a Wartburg student, swam, biked, ran and lifted weights to prepare for the TriByKnight Triathlon on Saturday, May 6.
The triathlon is in its sixth year at Wartburg. Participants first swim 300 yards, then bike 15 miles and finish with a 3.1 mile run. Competitors can either complete the race by themselves or create a team of three people, where each person completes one segment of the race.
Watch a slideshow of this year’s TriByKnight Triathlon.
Sheila Kittleson, Director of “The W,” said the race originally started as a fundraiser for a local non-profit. The organization and “The W” have since stopped working together, but Kittleson said she thought it was in their best interest to continue hosting the triathlon.
Sanderson said she always wanted to compete in the TriByKnight, but when she played softball her schedule conflicted too much. Now that she no longer plays, she had the time to train and compete.
“I’ve done somewhere over 10 5K races, including a Tough Mudder, but I’ve never done a triathlon before,” she said. “I’m currently training for a half marathon in June in Duluth, Minnesota too.”
Another student, Morgan Neuendorf, also challenged herself by participating in the race. But, unlike Sanderson, she only biked.
Neuendorf was on a team with two high school friends for the race. She said one of her friends is training for a different swimming competition, so she wanted to compete in the swimming portion of the triathlon, but not the rest. Neuendorf agreed to help her out.
“I actually got last pick when we decided who would run and who would bike,” Neuendorf explained with a smile. “I’m pretty nervous.”
Since Neuendorf only biked, she went on 10-15 mile bike rides to prepare. The bike portion of the triathlon was on county roads, so she also tried to get used to the strong winds that could make her ride harder.
“I’m just really hoping I don’t lose any momentum going up a hill. That would be really embarrassing if I had to push my bike up,” she joked.
Sanderson’s goals were a little less specific. She said she just wants to finish and enjoy herself. She said a lot of times she forgets to enjoy running because she gets too focused on the pace.
Because Sanderson has competed in races before, she knows how exciting the atmosphere can be. She said it’s never really felt like something where there’s winners or losers, like a normal sport.
“It’s a supporting community who welcomes people with open arms, even those new to the distance or the race. In my case this weekend, new to a triathlon,” Sanderson said.
As the race date neared and their training started to taper off, both competitors were looking forward to Saturday. But, they were both looking forward to very different things.
In Sanderson’s case, she was looking forward to the challenge and being able to call herself a triathlete.
“I feel empowered when I race. I love working hard to achieve my goals. It’s a rewarding feeling,” she explained.
Sanderson completed the race in just over two hours. The first place male competitor, Adam Kassem, finished with a time of one hour and two minutes. The first place female, Cayla Bellamy, finished after one hour and 19 minutes.
Neuendorf said she was excited to spend time with her high school friends. But, the thing she was looking forward to most could be summed up in one word.