By Freddie Betanzos
I came to triathlon from a not-to-traditional avenue: inline speed skating.
When younger, and contemplating recreation sports, I wanted something more challenging and unorthodox. After some research and polling friends and family, I met a friend that invited me to a local skating rink for a birthday party. I ended up trying out the races at the party and seemed to have a knack for it. I was approached by a local coach who invited me to come to a speed practice. Of course I did! And… I loved it. Speed skating had all the things that I had enjoyed about the traditional sports: Team atmosphere, speed, strategy, tactics, and camaraderie of athletes with like goals; without being traditional.
Several years later, I had been a part of many different teams that traveled around the U.S.: competing in invitational, regional and national competitions. My “knack” was in the shorter distance events and when I
say short, I mean really short, like 500 meters or less. So imagine very short, violent efforts of about 45 seconds in length. So, not a lot of time for strategy, race tactics or anything else once the gun had fired. But it did provide that burst of adrenaline and a constant challenge of racing at high speeds in very close proximity, trusting everything to the inner edge of 5 wheels.
I was offered a chance to attend the Olympic Training Center to compete at the 200 meter parabolic “banked” track that sits in the infield of cycling Velodrome in the valley of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.
I was there, training and competing from 1988 – 1992. The USARS (US Roller Sports) was starting to push to make roller sports a part of the Olympics. Up and coming talent from each of the regions in the U.S. would come out and compete against the current U.S. “World” Team.
At several of the banked track training camps, I would ride with the athletes that were there for the cycling camps. Since we inline skaters used cycling to cross-train in the off-seasons, this felt right at home. During this time, I began watching televised broadcasts of both the Tour de France and Ironman on ABC Wide World of Sports and ESPN. More speeds planted.
USAC (Now USARS) was the governing body for inline speed skating and they were reluctant to “sell” inline speed skating to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as a single event, so all inline athletes with aspirations of competing in an Olympic setting had a decision to make: stay in a dead end sport or convert to ice, which was already a Winter Olympic event. Ice would give you a short or long track option, but this meant moving from the South to the Northeast for 4 years and leaving family and friends; all in hopes of an Olympic bid in a transition sport. I decided that any thoughts of an Olympic
experience ended. I continued competing at the regional and national levels for a few more years, and even a trip to the ESPN X-Games in Rhode Island in 1996, before retiring from the sport.
Memorabilia from Freddie’s X-games experience
After hanging up my in-lines, there was something significant that was missing; I had a void that nothing seemed to fill. I began to find my enjoyment of being on sort of a team, in a competitive and active environment once again when I bought a road bike and began riding with some of the local group rides.
Then while going through some old boxes and I found some paper work that I had printed off way back in 1990. On this paper, were all of the details about an Ironman event: the distances, time cutoffs, rules, etc. It also had some calculations and very rough projections of my thoughts about how I might be able to complete one of these crazy races. Remember, I was a 500 meter specialist, not a 140.6 miler. As I
looked at the papers and my notes years later, I thought: what about now? I am older, wiser, and I had now ridden several century rides. If I could ride 100, why not 112? I thought about the swim and run on either side of the bike.
The gears were turning. And ANYTHING is possible, right? I made the leap. And now, many IM’s later, here we are: using different tactics over a longer period of time, but loving the same aspects of sport that took me to speedskating: team atmosphere, speed, strategy, tactics, and camaraderie of athletes with like goals. I completed my first HIM in 2006, and first full in 2010, and going strong in both still.
Freddie enjoying his post inline skating sport: triathlon