NEW MADISON — New Madison native Dianna Bridges competed as a triathlete for Team USA in the Fynske Bank Multisport World Championships July 14 in Denmark, finishing in the top 20 in her age division.
“In the end, I did OK,” said said. “It wasn’t the best race I’ve had, but I managed to get top 20. I’m already looking forward and training for nationals to hopefully qualify for next year. Worlds will be in Spain, and I hope to improve.”
Bridges, now a Florida resident, said while she didn’t get to sightsee much in Denmark as she prepared for the triathlon, being there was fun.
“Getting to ride all over Odense on the bike was pretty amazing and a great way to see the country in a way that lets you really appreciate both the beauty and how great the people are,” she said. “Whole families were set up along the route to cheer us on. Tables, meals, almost a formal tailgating giving off wonderful energy.”
“It really becomes something bigger than just you or your race! I’m used to people cheering for me or calling out my name, but in this race it was ‘Woooo, go USA!’ It really inspires you to push through those last miles when you’re saddle sore and all you want is to stop,” Bridges added.
For her, walking in the parade was in itself an honor.
“The team followed the flag through the streets with the other countries. There was so much pride in all the entrants at this point just representing. And also hunger as we paraded past people eating food and we had been training all day. Luckily it ended at a huge party for all of us with great food.”
Bridges described the week leading up to the triathlon as hot and beautiful while the day of the race itself was overcast, cold and windy.
“I had some problems with my swim,” she explained. “My cap kept coming off (it was too small) and was pulling my goggles off. So I was slower out of the water than I’d planned. As I changed out of my wetsuit, one of the other girls said, ‘Isn’t that the hardest thing you’ve ever done?’ I don’t agree, but a 2-mile swim is never easy. And since the swim was out and back, we had to contend with different currents affecting us as well as the aquatic life. The water had many jellyfish and also we saw lampreys. Some even attached to us.”
Bridges said, once she was on the bike, she picked up crowd energy.
“It was cold, and I was wet. I didn’t realize how much I was sweating until it was over. The cold had me more concerned about shivering! The Team USA suits dry exceptionally fast, and I was working hard so it helped keep me warm. The route was beautiful, and like I said, having people cheer for you with shouts of ‘Go USA!’ was invigorating.”
Bridges is a 1996 Tri-Village graduate and graduated Edison State Community College’s nursing program in 2009. When not competing, she works as a trauma night nurse. Her experience in medicine prompted her to pursue better physical fitness for herself and led her to the triathlon.
“I started out riding and running because I saw so many of my patients and family who had health problems like diabetes and hypertension. I was determined to not become that person,” she said. “I wanted to be an example to my daughters, to encourage them to lead healthy lives also. A friend challenged me to go to a race with her. I could barely swim and struggled to not drown. I got on the bike and worked hard to come from last to mid pack. Then I got off the bike and had to run. There’s a reason workouts that include both a bike ride and a run are called bricks: that’s exactly how your legs feel when you do it.
“I thought I was dying on that race, but I loved the challenge. I knew I could do better! So I worked hard to get faster. I learned to swim. Paid a coach (Raymond Botelho of Cape Cod, Massachusetts). Worked harder. Ran farther. Put down power. I’ve still not gotten to the point where I think I’m as fast as I can get. I struggled this year after some health problems earlier in the year, but I am training harder and making gains again.”
Bridges said she both encourages, and finds encouragement from, her athletic friends.
“I love all the really fierce female athlete friends I have. There are more and more of them all the time!” she said. “I love taking new women out to learn how to ride and to learn to enjoy the feeling that comes with a good hard ride or run. I volunteer about 30 hours per month to the local trail system trying to help encourage more girls on bikes.
“I love the freedom and friendships I’ve made through triathlon. I would never have tried out for team without the local friends encouraging me.”