Finding motivation to push through the perils that both the body and mind face during a triathlon is a struggle for competitors of all skills and experience.
In Sunday’s seventh annual Pioneer Power Sprint, nearly 300 triathletes wound through TWU’s campus, golf course and to the outskirts of Denton and back before ending down Administration Drive. First came the 300-meter swim, then the 26-kilometer bike ride and finished up by the 5K, which also had over 150 participants.
Bejamin Drezek was the overall men’s winner, finishing the event in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 42.3 seconds, while Mandy Lozano was the overall women’s winner in a time of 1:18:44.8.
Some athletes say they struggle with the swimming because of their lack of proximity to a training pool and some have trouble getting up to top speed on the bike.
This was the second Pioneer Power Sprint for 24-year-old Sean Sylvera of Denton, and his problem didn’t lay with the pool or in the hills. His shoulders and back were laden with 100 pounds of weight; the amount of weight he has lost in the past two years.
This past year he has shed 40 pounds to go with 60 the year before, but despite coming in last in his age bracket, Sylvera knows he’s on the right path to a healthier life and a more successful experience on the course.
“I actually hit a plateau there for a while and I got with a nutritionist, and man, it made a world of difference,” Sylvera said. “It kind of opened my eyes about how to eat smart and how to diet. When you’re training, you can’t really [diet]. Your body naturally tries instinctively to retain fuel if it thinks you’re starving. We went about it in an easier way and now the weight is falling off. Now I’m having to keep on weight so I can compete in the big boy division at nationals.”
Sylvera has been training the past two years for his goal of completing a half iron man triathlon while surpassing that goal on the way to nationals in Wisconsin.
“Last year I did my first half iron man and it went well,” Sylvera said. “I did another one to train for my first full iron man which I just completed May 18 of this year. I just recently qualified for nationals. You have to place top three in your age group at any race. I’ll be going up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I’ll be swimming in Lake Michigan.”
Between last year and this year, Sylvera jumped on to a local training team in Denton that has opened his eyes to the required training while giving him a team to compete against.
“I’ve made huge strides, and now I’m doing great,” Sylvera said. “We operate out of the bicycle path in Denton. [The team] is KMF racing, which stands for ‘Keep Moving Forward.’ It’s a steady climb and I’m getting better every day. You’ve got that support system and sometimes it’s hard to go out and run or bike by yourself.”
Along with the fine tuning of his body, Sylvera also said he faced some fear with the transitions between events. Last year he wore the weight of 65 pounds in vests, but this year he put it all in a backpack.
“I carried the weight a little bit different,” Sylvera said. “I was a little bit scared of getting on the bike, but even more so getting off the bike after I had ridden. I got on there and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The run was fine, but the straps kept wiggling down. It was slow, but I got it done.”
SMU sophomore Daniel Gum, 19, embraced triathlons as a way to stay in shape and connected with swimming, which he did in high school in Stuttgart, Germany. Sunday's sprint was his fourth triathlon and already he’s hooked.
“In freshman year, they had a night at the club thing where they showcased all the clubs at the school,” Gum said. “I saw that they had a triathlon club, and I thought that would be a really cool way to get into swimming without throwing myself into anything crazy, and little did I know, triathlons are crazy. I’ve got the tri bug and I’m back here again.”
This wasn’t his first triathlon in Denton, but in his first Pioneer Power Sprint, Gum had the fastest swim time in his age group. His struggles were in the middle portion of the triathlon.
“The first one I did was the ‘Mean Green’ here in Denton,” Gum said. “Actually, part of the bike was the same so I got a little deja vu. The cold kind of got to me, but the weather here is great. I wanted to hold what I’ve been holding so far and get a little faster on my 5K. I got 36th total overall and I’m kind of proud of that. I definitely need to improve on the bike. I was first on the swim, but 77th on the bike. Biking is definitely my weak spot.”
Jacob Shaffer, 32, placed third in his age bracket, and the former track athlete from Texas A&M also had his trouble with getting the speed of his bike up to the top level.
“My deal is if I can just get to the run, then I can catch people,” Shaffer said. “I started doing that, but now the more I’ve done, the more I’ve realized that you can back off on the run a little bit if you have a good bike. To me it’s won or lost on the bike. If you can go 20 mph [miles per hour] but your competitors are going 22, 23 mph, even if you catch them on the run they probably still got you on the bike.”
Shaffer has had plenty of experience in triathlons, and it was his time at Texas A&M and the allure of a new challenge that helped transition him into it.
“I’ve been doing three or four every summer since about 2009,” Shaffer said. “I ran track at Texas A&M and was doing road races and kind of wanted something different. The biggest thing for me is that I changed my form. I started doing chi running, which is trying to get your body in balance with quick, shorter steps instead of longer strides. That seems to help with shin splints and then rest. You have to rest.”