Race Coverage

That Time I Almost Drown (Or How I Became a Triathlete)...

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By Binam Shrestha

The year was 2004. I had recently moved to the United States from Nepal, a developing nation with few swimming opportunities for lower and middle class families. Like most people, I never learned how to swim. Now in my new American apartment building was a small swimming pool. The weather was hot and the pool was cool. One thing lead to another and I tried my hand at “swimming”. I put that in quotation marks because what I was doing couldn’t really be called swimming. Eventually, I lost my momentum in the middle of the pool, away from any walls. My head slipped below the water at 9 feet deep and I had no way of getting back to the surface. My only saving grace was another person from the building who was also at the pool that day who dove in to pull me out. Needless to say, my relationship with water and swimming from then on was one of anxiety and fear.

Over the years, I tried – and failed – at swim lessons at my local gym because I couldn’t get over my fear of the water. In 2015, my 3 year old daughter started swimming lessons and was surprisingly good. Watching her learn and develop motivated me to try again. I observed her swimming, and some of the things the swim teachers told to timid preschoolers to get them in the water. I started personal lessons once again, and started to slowly improve. By early 2018 I could swim a few laps in a pool, but I was always exhausted after doing only a few lengths. Fortunately I met an amazing group of people, including Coach Luke and some great Triathletes from Gear West. They encouraged me to continue to develop my swimming, and even took me swimming in open water for the first time! ...

My swimming really took off in 2019. I started participating in swim clinics at the Jewish Community Center that was popular with people training for Triathlons. I participated (and won!) in an open water race, even though it was only 0.3 miles distance. I met a great new friend, Lang Hunt, who is an accomplished Triathlete who soon became my role model. Lang knew I already had a strong background in running and biking, and that swimming would be the final key to enter me into a Triathlon. With his help, we devised a plan for me to enter the Hopkins Royal Triathlon in August of 2019. My training was starting to get attention from other friends in a similar situation; very athletic people from Nepal who ran marathons and did long distance cycling events, but who had little to no experience in the water. One good friend Pravesh Khadka agreed to join me in my Triathlon journey.

Our first Triathlon was Chisago Lakes Triathlon, a sprint distance. We started the swim in the last corral because of our shared nervousness in open water. What happen if another swimmer kicks your goggles, or runs into your legs? It turned out that starting in the final corral wasn’t a good logistical decision, but that was part of the learning process. Overall, we did very well for a couple of newbies. We had ideal weather conditions, we had family members and friends cheering us on, and the satisfaction of achieving a goal made it a memorable experience. We were hooked!

Pravesh demanded we enroll in another Triathlon prior to Hopkins – for training reasons. We did the Maple Grove Tri later that month at Olympic distance and continued to grow our experience with Triathlons and confidence in the water. Finally it was time for my ultimate race, the Hopkins Royal Triathlon. My training and dedication ensured I was ready to go on race day. I gave it my all, did my best, and managed to come in 3rd in my age group! The training, support, and insight from the Triathlon community in Minnesota was invaluable in changing me from an athlete who was afraid to swim to a confident Triathlete. It’s never too late to overcome fears and learn new things. I’m now looking forward to training for a half or full Ironman Triathlon in the near future.

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