Sean Robbins got his start as a triathlete in 1994 at the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon.
Robbins needed 17 years before he won the race for the first time. Now, he is holding on to that title.
After winning for the third straight time by swimming, cycling and running through the Back Mountain course in 2:10:34, Robbins said there are no wins in his career that he enjoys more.
“Because of the sentimental value, this is such a special thing for me,” the 43-year-old from Shavertown said. “It really got me started and it’s my hometown race.”
Robbins, a lawyer for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, found out what may seem obvious - that training to be a triathlete and winning a triathlon are not easy. It was a long road to becoming the champion of the Olympic distance race that includes a 1.5-kilometer swim at Harveys Lake, a 40-kilometer bike course that winds its way to the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Campus and an 11-kilometer run that finishes back at the college.
“I kind of went through the school of hard knocks with some of my training, which is kind of natural when people first come on the scene,” Robbins said. “People sort of learn by doing. I made some mistakes along the way.
“A lot of people have coaches now, but it was not so prevalent when I first started.”
Robbins also has some coaching guidance now and has refined his training practices over the years. He needed another major change this year after thinking a year ago that he might have been starting the decline that will eventually be a factor because of age.
For years, Robbins had given himself Fridays off as his own “rule” about training. At the end of a week of work and life’s errands, he thought it made sense to take a rest from training.
Robbins broke that routine last year in an effort to put in more miles on the roads and more yardage in the pool. He found out his body missed the necessary rest.
“I struggled a little bit last year,” he said. “I changed some of my training and the things I did were not really working, so I thought maybe this is all catching up to me, maybe I’ve hit my peak and I’m starting the downward slide.”
Now that he has recognized the value of resting in a sport for people who clearly do not rest much, Robbins’ performances are improving this year.
“By the time I got to Friday, I was always worn out,” Robbins said. “What I found out is that recovery was important.”
Swimming is always his biggest challenge against his top competition, but Robbins was going strong at the end. He won the triathlon by almost four minutes overall, beating every other entry by at least a minute and most by several minutes in the running portion of the event.
Emily Sherrard, of Philadelphia, won the women’s title in 2:24:36 to place fifth overall.
Wyoming’s Nick Hetro won the Sprint Distance Division and Wayne Devine won the AquaBike challenge.
Matt Miller, John Loomis and Jack Tidball formed the winning Olympic Distance Relay.