Spring has arrived and many Cal Poly students took advantage of last week’s warm weather by studying outdoors or enjoying the new pool at the Recreation Center. To members of the Cal Poly triathlon club team, spring’s warm arrival signals the start of their season. With two months until the Collegiate National Championships, Mustang triathletes are training outdoors for multiple hours every day to reach their peak physical condition before they compete.
Balancing a training schedule with academics takes up the majority of the day for mechanical engineering junior Frankie Wiggins, who has the added responsibilities of being the club’s president. Between a 7 a.m. lecture to start the day and a strict 11 p.m. bedtime, Wiggins’ day is filled with classes, workouts and club-related meetings. Every one-hour break in the afternoon is spent in the library, studying or answering emails. After the day’s final workout ends at 8 p.m., Wiggins only has a few hours to eat dinner and finish homework before he collapses from exhaustion.
“I work round the clock every day, so I try to get in bed around 10:30, 11,” Wiggins said. “I mean, if I’m working out two times a day, I’m in bed by 11, no doubt.”
Though Wiggins has competed in seven triathlons and typically trains twice per day, he said he considers himself a “lower-volume trainer.” As president, he helps coordinate local races such as the March Triathlon Series, a triathlon held at Lopez Lake. Being president has prevented him from training and competing as often as he would like, he said.
Similarly, business administration senior Brian Polidori has to spend valuable training or studying hours on club officer duties. Polidori, the club’s treasurer, tries to incorporate three workouts into his daily schedule but is hindered by a constant flow of club-related transactions.
The upcoming March Triathlon Series is the club’s largest fundraiser — the fee racers pay to participate in the race helps offset the team’s travel expenses to the national championships held in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 21. The closer the date gets, the amount of work Polidori has as treasurer increases.
“I usually end up spending a lot of my time outside of training dealing with the finances of the team,” Polidori said. “I always have checks and cash to deal with.”
Polidori said he and his fellow triathletes are eagerly anticipating their return to the national championships. Since hiring head coach David Sullivan two years ago, the Mustangs have placed top five in the nation in both women’s and men’s teams (the women placed fourth in 2011, and the men placed third in 2010). Sullivan said he considers this year as a “rebuilding year,” since many of last year’s key athletes graduated.
“We have a lot of new people that are coming up, and they just need some time and experience,” Sullivan said. “It’s not something where you can be a national contender in your first year in the sport.”
Sullivan, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1999, said the club has gotten a lot bigger since he was a student. The triathlon team, Cal Poly’s largest sports club, has almost 140 members, compared to the 30 to 40 members on Sullivan’s ‘99 squad. The coach attributed the high member count to the club’s appeal to any level of athlete.
Psychology senior Saskia Wright said the team is growing in popularity because there are people who casually train among those who train intensely. Many members, she said, go to practice on an occasional basis to exercise. Since there are so many club members with such a wide variety of class and work schedules, no one on the team is expected to attend every practice. Wright said this allows casual triathletes to come and go when they please, while serious team members choose to do supplemental workouts individually.
“I can’t make the practices because of my class schedule so I do workouts on my own,” Wright said. “I try to get in workouts that are consistent with the workouts that the rest of the team should be doing.”
Wright, who has competed in more than 10 triathlons, including last year’s national championships, said her favorite part of being on the triathlon team has been making friends. Just like any team sport, Wright said traveling, competing and training together helps create close bonds. Four years since joining the club, Wright lives in a house with triathlete roommates and said she enjoys it immensely.
“Everybody’s just always together,” Wright said. “You work out together everyday, and then, you hang out together at night.”
The Cal Poly triathlon team will be celebrating the coming of spring with their annual fundraiser, March Triathlon Series, on March 24 at Lopez Lake, and will travel to Alabama for the national championships on April 21.