It’s Never too late to Tri

(With this post we are kicking off a new regular series “Trails & Trials,” a monthly adventure series inspiring others to experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of cycling, running or swimming in Central Texas . Keep an eye out for more posts in coming months! – ALW)

By Natasha van der Merwe

I’ll never forget the day Kevin walked into my office where I was director of triathlon. He was 70, and he wanted to know how to prepare for his first triathlon.

He had some swimming experience, a very old Schwinn bike and the will to get through the run, even if it meant doing a lot of walking.

He jumped in head first to training. He never missed a practice or an opportunity to ask a coach a question about how he could improve. The questions were limitless: How can I improve my swim form? What should my cadence be on the bike? What should my heart be on the run? How can I fuel my body for the best performance?

Kevin embodies one of the biggest reasons so many people are drawn to our sport. Trying to conquer three different sports in the quickest time possible is a challenge that not only attracts people, but hooks them in for life. Because just as in life, in triathlon, there is always an opportunity for improvement.

I came into the sport pretty late, too, compared to many of my competitors who started as junior triathletes.

At 27, I was a tennis coach, putting all my hours into helping others reach their full potential. But, I also longed to find something to feverishly pursue for myself.

Enter triathlon. A friend entered me into my first race, and I was hooked. I still don’t know how I did not find this sport sooner.

Like most and like Kevin, I started with a sprint triathlon, a 500-meter swim, 12-mile bike and 5K run.

I hadn’t been in the pool since my junior school swim team days. A lot had changed, and I was fortunate to have a swim coach to watch my stroke and give me pointers. With a few swims before race day, I knew I wasn’t going to drown.

A friend was kind enough to take me out riding and teach me how and when to shift gears. I soon found myself riding with a group from the local bike store. It was one of the most joyous times in my life; feeling the wind and sun on my back, taking in the beauty of the countryside, getting the endorphin high of exercise all while chatting away with the person riding next to me. My best friends to this day are those who I bike and run with.

Running was the easy part – logistically anyway.  All I needed was a pair of running shoes from my local running store and a Garmin watch because it’s always more fun to see how far and fast I’ve gone.

One of the best parts of triathlon, I’ve found, is the opportunity to build lifelong friendships, and meet people like Kevin, who are determined to give it their all no matter their stage in life. Want to join a community of other fitness enthusiasts or triathletes?  Waco has lots of options and everyone’s welcome at Waco Bike Club, Waco Triathlon Club, or Waco Striders.  Need some expert advice on equipment or nutrition? Stop by Bicycle World Waco or Waco Running Company any day of the week. There’s nothing like being fully accountable and equipped. It gets you up in the morning, and pushes you to start your day with a great sweat session.

So why sign up now for your first 5k or sprint triathlon? Because you’re never too old to take on new challenges. Just ask Kevin. Or me. And because sport will give you the energy and confidence it did when you were growing up and will help you be a role model for your kids, too.

Here’s just a short list of the benefits:

  • Work ethic – a commitment to preparing for race day, because there is no faking a triathlon.
  •  Discipline – Getting up in the early morning to train stinks  at first, but soon you won’t be able to start your day without those endorphins.
  • Time management – To fit everything in with your busy life, you’ll have to prioritize.
  • Goal setting – You know you’ll want to beat your office friend or training buddy who entered the race, too.
  • Perseverance – It won’t be all smooth sailing, so you’ll have to learn to problem solve and stay mentally strong despite setbacks. (Pro tip: If you’re struggling, it’s usually because you aren’t eating and sleeping enough. Do that right and smoother waters are ahead.)
  • Confidence – Something we all need more of.
  • Pride – Hard work does yield gratifying results.

At 70, Kevin found all those benefits and is still pursuing his triathlon goals more than two years later. For me, triathlon gave me the structure and the goals I needed to channel all of my passion into a growing career in sport while being a role model for my toddler daughter.

What will it give you? You never know til you tri. But I can guarantee you, it will be worth it.

The Tenth Annual TriWaco Triathlon will be on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Registration opens on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017! The race starts with a 1500-meter open water swim in the Brazos River followed by a mostly flat and fast 25-mile bike ride on country roads north and west of Waco. The race finishes out with a hilly 10-kilometer run along the Brazos River that leads to the oldest suspension bridge in Texas. The Sprint distance event includes a 400-meter swim in the Brazos River, a 12-mile bike ride along the same country roads and a 3.5-mile run finishing on the suspension bridge. For more information, visit the website:

Natasha van der Merwe is originally from South Africa. She is mom to a 19-month old girl, former professional tennis player and tennis instructor, and a professional triathlete representing Bicycle World and Waco Running Company.  She has multiple top 10 finishes in Ironman and 70.3 events around the world. She is Director of Team Programs for Bicycle World, Texas



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