I am usually asked this question, or something in a similar vane, from anyone who finds out that I race triathlons. I stumble over my words not really having an answer.
Let’s see … “oh definitely running” I used to say when I did a handful of triathlons 15 years ago. But I’m just an above average runner, I don’t have a running background like some triathletes I know. I was a volleyball player and equestrian. Distance running was a killer for your vertical, so as a volleyball player I never did much. And running after cycling sure kills my enjoyment of it. I seem to struggle with motivation at that point in the race because I’m so tired by then. This means running maybe isn’t my answer anymore.
“Swimming, then running” was my answer when I started triathlons again in 2013. With a swim coach it’s amazing how much more efficient and faster I have become as a swimmer. I absolutely love swimming now and find any excuse to stop by the pool for a swim. But as much as I love swimming, I hate crowded open water swimming. Mostly to overcome my fear of it, I entered a couple open water swims in 2012. My swim coach told me to “start at the front of the pack, go out strong for the first 100 meters, then settle back into a good race pace and you’ll be fine. You are faster than you think.” I reluctantly trusted her, tried it, and it worked! I got out front, settled into my pace, and was alone for the rest of the swim! Now, though I’m much more comfortable in crowds than I used to be, I still dread crowded swim starts and try to get out front and hold my position so I’m not around anyone. As much as I love swimming, and some might say I am a strong swimmer, starting in a race with crowds makes me nervous. Sometimes I am just glad when the swim portion is over and I’m finally on the bike. So I can’t really answer “swimming.”
Until this past season was nearing the end I would never had said “cycling.” My first year back, in 2013, I was riding an old steel road bike. I had just started cycling a few months before my first race so typically my races would consist of me having a good swim, getting passed by many on my bike, then trying to catch up on the run. I made it a habit to count the number of my fellow age group athletes that passed me on the bike, in hopes I would pass them back on the run. Before the 2014 season I was lucky to purchase a great TT bike from a friend. It fits like a dream and is so fast! With over a year of cycle training, racing, and a new bike, cycling became enjoyable and I was actually doing well on the bike! So maybe cycling is my answer now? It’s hard to say.

By this time the person who asked me this has walked away.

So what is my strongest/favorite of the three? I don’t have an answer for you. For me it’s like telling you which of my children I love more.