Our youngest Topo ambassador, Chase Visser, is a competitive youth triathlete navigating the race circuit while juggling the academic rigors that come with being a high school senior (remember those days of AP classes, college applications and SATs?).
During his budding career, Chase has already raced for Team USA at the Rotterdam Tri / 2017 ITU Triathlon World Championships (in Rotterdam, Netherlands), placed fourth overall at the Wildflower Sprint Triathlon (2018), took first overall at the Lake Tahoe Sprint Triathlon (2017), podiumed overall at the Tri Santa Cruz Sprint Triathlon (2017), and was named All American in 2016 and 2017.
We caught up with Chase in between study breaks and training to gather some tips on how he balances it all.
How did you become involved in triathlon?
By mistake actually. I was on a year-round competitive swim team from the time I was 8 years-old. The summer before I entered high school, one of my teammates decided to join a local triathlon team “just to keep busy.” He asked me to join him. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t really know that much about the sport, but after some nudging I agreed to go to one practice and quickly discovered that I enjoyed the diversity of triathlon and the comradery among the athletes. It was much more fun than staring at the black line at the bottom of the swimming pool over and over again. Of course, with triathlon you need to do some swim training, but you can mix it up between the pool and open water training sites.
What do you like most about triathlon?
The finish line! I also love that it is a multi-sport event and that things are constantly changing. Triathlon really tests your ability to adapt physically and mentally as you use different muscle groups, race in various weather conditions, and at different elevations. No two races are remotely the same. You’re constantly learning. It’s a blast.
What are your goals as a triathlete?
My number one goal is to keep it fun. I have learned from participating in other sports that once the “fun” is lost, I lose interest. I imagine it works the same way for other athletes as well. With triathlon, I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities: from traveling nationally and internationally to meeting athletes from around the globe. That is what I find fun…in addition to a good race to finish line of course! In 2019, I hope to complete my first half Ironman at the one-and-only Wildflower Triathlon – this is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. In addition, I will be a college freshman in Fall 2019 and I can’t wait to compete on a collegiate triathlon team!
What are some of the biggest challenges you have found about competing in an atypical sport?
Most people don’t understand what triathlon is, how it works, or why someone would possibly choose to take part in not one, but three sports. In times of intense training, it’s hard to maintain a social life. Between school and training, it’s constantly GO-GO-GO. Any leftover time is reserved to recoup, spend time with my family, or sleep.
Another challenge I’ve run into is not being able to take part in high school sports because my school does not have a triathlon team and I would miss too many high school practices and meets due to conflicts with my triathlon race schedule. However, I do know many triathletes who were fortunate enough to have school triathlon teams to race with and the sport is growing, so hopefully more high schools will be able to have teams in the future.
Finally, finding other young triathletes to train with is rare. In the big scheme of things, there are not that many junior high and high schoolers participating in triathlon, so I’ve been a younger athlete competing against mostly adults in the sport.
What tips do you have for someone thinking about trying a triathlon for the first time?
Jump in! Triathlon is really fun. Don’t feel like you have to be a stellar athlete. Just like running, there are many distances offered for triathlon races so you can find something that will work for you. Just get your feet wet (literally!).
The triathlon community is really supportive; most people are there just to have fun and get in a good workout. Often the person last out of the water, last off the bike, or last to the finish line gets the biggest cheers, so don’t be afraid that you might be last. It’s that supportive of an environment.
Finally, on the day of your first race, find someone in transition who has a nice bike and ask them if they can help you set up your transition area. Chances are a person with a nice bike is invested in the future of the sport and will be willing to share lots of tips.
How do you balance school and triathlon?
Balancing school and sports is a challenge for anyone. I’m definitely not unique and I suspect it will continue to be a work in progress as I go on to play college sports. For myself in particular, when I’m doing well in one area I tend to do well in other areas. Just like with training, I’ve found that staying focused in the moment during lectures helps me make the most of my time and retain the information better. Keeping a regular routine and finding even small chunks of time when I can fit in homework between training sessions is also essential.
What’s next for you?
I’m headed off to college next year so in terms of career goals, I want to do something that is physically active, mentally challenging and involves science (by graduation, I will have taken every AP science course my school offers!). I am currently exploring a career in the fire service, spending half of my school day learning what it’s like to be a firefighter. During the spring semester, I will be assigned to at a fire station and will work alongside the crew. I’m really looking forward to that.