A Three-Legged Race
How Triathlons Liberated David Martin’s Life
Elite triathlete David Martin of New Preston qualified to join Team USA and head to the world triathlon championships in 2019 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Photo by Douglas Foulke
Triathlete David Martin had a crazy experience in late September as he headed from his training turf on Lake Waramaug to the Ironman Atlantic City 70.3. Almost there after six hours on the road the Friday evening before the race, his bike rack failed, his Giant bike flew off the roof onto the pavement and was mangled by a bus.
Martin, who grew up in New Milford and Washington as part of distinguished local families—his mother’s side is the Mygatts—was despondent but not defeated. He and his companions enjoyed dinner at Buddakan and hatched a plan to head back to New York City early on race day to rent a bike at Strictly Bicycle. New bike in hand and back in Atlantic City, Martin felt “delirious.”
In social media posts afterward, he called the ordeal “one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had,” but almost fondly. Here’s why: Despite the misadventure, Martin finished fifth in his age group (30-34) and 20th overall in a triathlon featuring more than 2,000 participants.
It was an awesome result, but hardly the only explanation for Martin’s upbeat mood despite losing an expensive bike. Several weeks before Atlantic City, he learned he had qualified to join Team USA and head to the world triathlon championships in 2019 to compete in the standard distance race, a 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 miles on the bike, and a 6.3 mile run.
Martin will compete as an elite amateur—as opposed to the professionals who represent the U.S. in the Olympics. Elite amateurs have day jobs and compete because it’s a passion. The pros are in their own circuit, and making the leap up in status is tough for an amateur.
Still, it will feel like the Olympics when Martin goes to the 2019 Grand Final of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship, being held August 29 to September 3 in Lausanne, Switzerland, as one of 18 U.S. qualifiers in his division.
Despite his success, including several first place finishes in his division, Martin never anticipated this success. The Rumsey Hall and Canterbury School graduate played soccer and hockey in high school, but he was never all in on sports. “I was depressed in high school and dealing with a lot of anxiety,” he says. “I think that’s because I didn’t know who I was.”
In 2012, Martin participated in his first triathlon as a way to stay active and fit. Then he started posting impressive results. “What I love about triathlon is, in the moment, it makes me feel strong. It makes me feel confident, like I have a gift.”
That confidence has also allowed him to acknowledge and honor his true self. His depression held on after college at Skidmore, and while Martin got engaged at one point, he called it off two months before the wedding. He wasn’t being honest with himself or others then—but now, buoyed by the success of being an elite triathlete, everything is aligning. “Now I have the confidence to tell everyone I have a boyfriend,” he said. “That’s who I am.”
Martin is also someone who trains 16 to 20 hours a week, sometimes circling Lake Waramaug on his bike for four hours straight. He’ll give himself a bit of a break for the holidays, ratcheting down the intensity of workouts to enjoy family meals and focus more on having fun and spending time with friends.