At 6 A.M. most high school students are still in bed, struggling to wake up and get ready for school, but not Sabrina Schimscheimer. The 15-year-old freshman at South Anchorage High School is at a nearby pool, tucking strands of her long blue-tinted hair under a swim cap, preparing for what she knows will be a rigorous workout, and then math class.
Sabrina is a member of the Southside Triathletes, a team of like-minded competitive teens balancing not just school and a single sport, but cross-training as swimmers, runners and cyclists, all while making sure their homework is finished.
As the final bell rings, students flood the halls, brushing past posters advertising the upcoming musical. Sabrina heads to the theater instead, ready to work behind the scenes as assistant stage manager. The next day will be different—a new book might be introduced in English and triathlon training may be running on the track after school—but whatever comes her way, Sabrina's got it covered with a smile. She may be new to high school and triathlons, but she has the drive and determination to conquer anything that comes her way, keeping her eye on the finish and her mind on what comes next.
HAVE YOU COMPLETED A TRIATHLON?
Not yet. I've signed up for the Gold Nugget Triathlon, along with most of the Southside Triathletes team, and it will be my first. I'm both excited and nervous and am already planning on doing more triathlons in the future. A friend of mine did the Lavaman Tri in Hawaii recently, and I'm going to try to do that one too next year.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TRAIN FOR A TRIATHLON?
I love running, but I wanted to try something new, so I chose to learn to swim and become better at biking to challenge myself in a triathlon. I did cross-country skiing for South this year and wanted to keep in shape, too, not just sit at home after school for hours. My friend and classmate—his mom is actually the swim coach—was talking about it one day and said, "Oh man, tri club is so hard." And I thought, "Yup, I want to do that," and talked with Ms. Miller [Sara Miller, Southside Triathletes coach] and she said I should sign up, so I did!
WHAT DOES YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?
Mondays we usually go cycling at the Alaska Club South from 2:30-3 p.m. Tuesdays/Thursdays we swim at Service pool 5:45-6:45 a.m. Wednesdays are a running and circuit day from 2:15-3:15 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, Ms. Miller likes to change things up, like go cross-country skiing or running or biking. On Sundays, a couple of triathletes get together and go rock climbing for a bit. Usually Saturdays and Sundays are "fun" days.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF TRAINING FOR A TRI?
Running. I really love the running and training part. I've only been swimming for a month, and it's fun, but I love running.
WHERE DO YOU TRAIN?
We train at the Alaska Club, the Service High School pool, South High's track and Hilltop's trails.
IT'S AN INDIVIDUAL SPORT, BUT HOW DOES A TEAM ENVIRONMENT OF SOUTHSIDE TRIATHLETES HELP YOU TRAIN AND COMPETE?
Since most of us are self-motivated, we like to do mini competitions amongst ourselves. This helps get us ready for the races when there is competition everywhere.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF TRAINING?
The actual training, but I know I will like the benefits.
WHAT DOES YOUR DIET LOOK LIKE DURING TRAINING?
I have a healthy diet, but I don't try to limit myself intentionally. I have a normally small stomach and dislike the taste of junk food, so I don't notice a change in my diet. I don't eat meat; I love cheese. After practice the other day I sat on the couch and read my book for class and ate cheese. It was great, although the book I'm reading for class is sad. I can only read so much before I have to put it down and pick up the book I'm reading for fun. Some people binge watch Netflix—I binge read.
IS THERE REALLY A SEASON FOR TRIATHLONS AND/OR YOUR TRAINING?
There is no season! That is what makes this sport so great, because you can do it whenever.
DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN ANY OTHER SPORTS?
I have participated in cross-country running and skiing, and that has helped me build endurance for triathlons.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PUMP YOURSELF UP DURING TRAINING/COMPETITION?As long as I have my determination and will, I am good.
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND AS YOU BEGIN A RACE OR A TRAINING SESSION?
"It's almost over. There is food at the finish line." That is during the whole race, any race. "When this is over, it's food and friends." That's really what motivates me—being active, making friends and hanging out with them, and knowing there's food at the end.
WHAT WAS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED FROM A COACH?
"Don't overwork yourself. Recover." From Liz Brewster, South Anchorage High School past cross-country ski coach.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO KIDS/TEENS WHO ARE THINKING OF ATTEMPTING A TRI?
Do it. You will make friends and when you finish a triathlon, you will be proud of yourself for achieving something not many people have done.
This article was originally published in The Youth Issue of 61°North Magazine. Contact the editor, Jamie Gonzales, at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.