By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN For Delano triathletes Kristin Nelson and Rayme Bernick, swimming, running, and biking are far more than just physical exercise.
“I absolutely love the feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment,” said Nelson of Body Soul and Wellness fitness center in Delano.
She and Bernick competed in the YWCA of Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon Aug. 15, along with more than 1,000 other women ages 14 and older.
“It was super motivational,” said Bernick of Stalhlke Bus Service in Delano. “There were women of all shapes, sizes, and ages.”
Nelson, who is Bernick’s personal trainer, participated in the race all three years of its existence.
“I love the combination,” Nelson said.
From the fresh feel of the swim, to the cool breeze of the bike ride, to the rhythmic strength of the run, a triathlon is an invigorating experience Nelson loves to share with others.
“It’s so much more fun to train with groups of like-minded women,” she said.
Bernick ran the Twin Cities Marathon recently, but she had never done a triathlon before.
“Kristin got me started,” Bernick said. “I’ll be doing it every year from now on.”
Bernick and Nelson began training for the race a few months ago, often going to Lake Independence to practice swimming.
“Don’t be afraid of the swim,” Nelson advised. “Hit the open water while you’re training to make sure you’re comfortable. The swim is the first event, and getting a good start can help the whole race.”
Bernick said she found the swim to be the most challenging part of the triathlon, while Nelson said running is always her most difficult event.
About a week before the race, Nelson and Bernick had their own “trial” triathlon, doing all three events on their own to see how it would go.
“We started at like 9 a.m., and it was already 90 degrees,” Bernick said. “The day of the actual race, it was beautiful weather; one of the best days of the summer.”
Kristin got a personal record of one hour and 46 minutes, and Bernick had a time of one hour and 55 minutes.
“My goal time was under two hours, so I’m happy with it,” Bernick said.
For a triathlon, participants have transition areas where they can change outfits and equipment in between events.
“Our transitions were only about a minute and a half,” Bernick said. Both she and Nelson wore special triathlon suits made for both water and land activities.
“You leave it on the whole day,” Bernick explained.
Each athlete in the triathlon is given a different race number and timing chip. For the swimming portion, participants are assigned different “waves,” so that 50 to 75 women are entering the water at the same time.
After the 500-yard swim in Lake Nokomis, participants grab their bikes and shoes for a 15-mile ride.
“The breeze of being on the bike dries you off nicely,” Nelson said.
The last event is a 5k run on paths near the lake.
During transitions, athletes often use sport drinks or gels to fuel their bodies.
Bernick isn’t a big fan of how the gels taste, but said they are useful for providing energy in a short amount of time.
According to Nelson, it’s important to have nourishment and transitions planned out well in advance.
“Figure out your nutrition ahead of time. Race day is not the time to try out a new energy drink or gel,” she said. “Also, make sure your transition area is very well organized.”
The YWCA Women’s Triathlon is an ideal race for beginners, Nelson said.
“The whole atmosphere is so positive and uplifting,” she said. “Even if you don’t feel you can do the entire race, you can pick two friends and do a relay,”
Because it’s all women, the race is also less intimidating for some.
“Men usually are more aggressive on the course,” Nelson said.
Seeing all types of women, at a variety of fitness levels, was motivating and inspirational for Nelson and Bernick.
“There’s a 72 year old woman who was in it,” Nelson said. “I think she’s got about 100 triathlons under her belt.”
Nelson, who has had two neck surgeries, was thankful that she was able to finish this race without any pain.
Before she became a personal trainer, Nelson had a career at Children’s Hospital. Her neck injuries might have stemmed from hunching over a computer for long hours, she said.
Nelson’s decision to become a trainer came after she and her family signed up for a taekwondo class.
“Working with people, and the health and medical industry, always interested me,” she said.
“It was so powerful to watch people transform,” she said. Nelson decided to make a full career out of what she loved, and went back to school for fitness and nutrition.
Whether it’s a triathlon or personal exercise session, Nelson said it’s rewarding to see people improve their longevity and quality of life.
“The infectious thrill has caught on with my family,” she added.
Her husband, Dale, is “hooked” on triathlons, and Nelson continues to motivate others to join in the excitement, as well.
“It’s so fun to spread the fever,” she said.
For more information about the Women’s Tri, go to www.ywcawomenstri.org.