Theresa Byrd, DrPH, associate dean and chair of the Department of Public Health, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, proudly called El Paso home for 23 years before moving to Lubbock to launch a new public health program with TTUHSC. Still working part-time at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, she returns regularly and continues to be active in Race El Paso events. Having participated in Mighty Mujer Triathlon and Eagle in the Sun Triathlon as both a participant and volunteer, Dr. Byrd shared her story and her best pieces of advice:
What part of Mighty Mujer Triathlon did you find most challenging?
I think the cycling is the most challenging part – it is a tough course. It is really important to ride the course a few times before the event! I often train in spin classes, because I am a little afraid to ride on the street in El Paso, but for this particular event, riding the actual course is really important.
What is the best piece of triathlon advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I was given was – just do it! I remember the first Eagle in the Sun. I was trying to run; I was slow and tired. One of the volunteers was sitting on the side of the road cheering me on. I said, “Well, I am pretty slow!” She said, “Hey, look at me, I am just sitting here. You are doing it!” That made me feel good.
How do you fit training into a busy schedule?
Training can take time, but for a sprint triathlon it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I do spin classes about 4 times a week, and in good weather I try to ride outside on the weekends (I recommend the ScenicSunday event on Scenic Drive- this gives you some climbing and there are no cars!). Swimming was my weak point, so I started swimming a couple of times a week – usually early mornings (The Leo Cancellare pool opens at 4:30 AM!). I just kept doing laps. At first I had to stop after each lap to catch my breath, but after a few weeks I was doing the whole distance without stopping. Running is hard for me, so I usually walk all or part of the event, but I trained on the treadmill at the gym. This year, I plan to run the whole two miles! I have always been physically active, so I have always made time for exercise in my schedule-it keeps me sane and on top of my game!
What did you enjoy about volunteering for Race El Paso events?
I loved volunteering at the last Eagle in the Sun. I stood at the finish line and cheered every single finisher in! I loved seeing how excited they were to cross the finish line. Especially the first timers! It is such a great feeling to finish and be able to say “I am a triathlete!”
If you could redo your first triathlon, what would you do differently?
Nothing! I trained as much as I could, and I did my best – I finished! My times improved over the next couple of tris, but the first one was still the sweetest! Just knowing that I could finish was a great feeling. I was an athlete in high school, and it felt really good to have that identity again.
What would you say to someone wanting to do their first triathlon?
You can do it. You don’t have to be fast-just have endurance! Avoid stressing about it. I like to think of the event as a fun day of activity (actually only about two hours) – just think about having fun!
Texas Tech Physicians is the platinum sponsor for Mighty Mujer Triathlon on April 19. For those who want to participate and have not registered yet, there’s still time! For those that have, visit the Race El Paso website for all of the important packet pick-up and race day information.