By the Rev. Cathy Jamieson
GREENVILLE—What began as dinner conversation at the Cabinet Banquet the night before Annual Conference ended with a third-place finish in a triathlon sprint relay.
Beth Westbury, conference treasurer, was seated at dinner with colleagues the Rev. Cathy Jamieson, Columbia District superintendent, and the Rev. Jim Dennis, Greenville District superintendent. Westbury is an avid runner who runs three days a week and participates in half marathons. Dennis is a cyclist who rides 50 miles on average a week and regularly competes in 100 mile-plus races. Jamieson rides horses, practices yoga daily and swims a couple miles every week.
Westbury turned to her colleagues and casually said, “We ought to do a triathlon relay.”
After the banquet, Jamieson went online and found out the Tri the Swamp Rabbit Triathlon was being held July 20 at Furman University. The triathlon is a fundraiser for the Mere Christianity Forum, an organization honoring C.S. Lewis and “promoting the thoughtful exploration of Christian faith through conversation and community.”
The triathlon included age and gender categories for competition, but it also included a sprint relay for mixed age and mixed gender teams. The relay included a 250-meter swim, a 16.5-mile bike ride and a 5K run.
The team registered and began to prepare themselves. Dennis came up with the team name, Tri Unity, which seemed appropriate given the division in our denomination and our culture right now. Each member of a relay team brings their diverse gifts, but united together, they are stronger in a competition.
Jamieson competed in swimming as a teenager and young adult, and with the help of a swim coach, she began to step up her workout routine. “I hadn’t competed in 30 years, so I needed to do more speed and stamina work,” Jamieson said. “I’m thankful to Karen Cattaneo, swim coach at the Jeep Rogers YMCA, who coached me on how to do a triathlon pool swim.”
In a regular swim competition, each swimmer has their own lane, but in a triathlon, swimmers enter the start lane every 5 seconds. They swim in two-way traffic, from one end of the pool to the other. Slow swimmers can bottleneck a lane and affect your time. But with determination, Jamieson was out of the pool and sprinting up a hill to the bike transition area, where she passed the timing chip to Dennis.
Dennis hopped on his custom-made bike and headed for the hilly course.
“I was pleased with my final time of 57 minutes and 17.1 mph average—not my best, but respectable for the amount of training I was able to squeeze in lately,” Dennis said. “My only regret is that a 2-minute faster time would have moved our team up into second place.”
When Dennis came flying into the finish, he jumped off his bike, and the timing chip was passed to Westbury.
Cloud coverage and cooler temperatures were deceiving, because Westbury noticed the humidity as soon as she started her run.
“The air was thick with humidity, but I was fortunate,” Westbury said. “Most participants had already completed the swim and bike events, and the fatigue showed. I was fresh and eager to do my best for our team.”
The route was an out and back that left the athletic fields near the pool and went partway around the lake and back to the athletic fields.
“Since the run comes after the swim and bike events, the waiting was difficult for me,” she said. “But it pays off with the exhilaration of crossing the finish line.”
The day ended with refreshments, an awards ceremony and lots of support for the 217 athletes.
Participants ranged in age from 8 years old to 70 plus years old, with the majority participating in the individual triathlon categories.
The Tri Unity team came in third in the sprint relay, and they said they were pleased with their time—but they hope to do even better next year.
They would love to see additional teams of United Methodist clergy and laity participate as a way to promote health and fitness. There are plans to launch a conference-wide health and fitness club, which could build on the already successful FAN (Faith, Activity and Nutrition) program taking place in many local churches.
If you’re interested in joining the Tri Unity Team in their efforts to promote health and fitness, contact Westbury (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jamieson (email@example.com) or Dennis (firstname.lastname@example.org).