NORWALK, Conn. — Like many triathletes, Norwalk’s Lauren Madaffari fell in love with the three-sport combination in the event. But she stands out among triathletes: She found the sport as a teenager.
Madaffari, who will turn 22 on July 21, will compete in the Mossman Sprint Triathlon at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. Her first-ever triathlon was in the 2009 event, and this year will be her fourth time competing here. Madaffari has completed a couple of marathons, half Ironmans and half marathons.
Most men and women make the jump to endurance events in their late 20s or early 30s. Madaffari converted earlier than most. In the Mighty Moss Half Iron Triathlon on July 1 in Norwalk, Madaffari was the fifth woman across the finish line and won her age group. Of course, she was the only one in her age group. There was only one younger contestant. Every other female contestant was older than Madaffari by six years or more.
“It’s a time-consuming sport,’’ said Madaffari, who graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in December. “It’s hard to get equipment and learn the basics. I wish more people my age would do it. ... If more people would do it, they’d fall in love with it.”
Madaffari taught herself to swim a few months before her first triathlon. “I would just watch people,’’ she said. In her first race, she finished 11th out of 12 contestants in her age division. The trend has been steadily upward, and last year she finished more than 23 minutes ahead of her first attempt at the event. “I’m not the fastest yet, but I’m working on it,’’ Madaffari said.
She was a standout field hockey player at Brien McMahon High School, where she also played softball and ran indoor track. After a year of playing field hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she transferred to the University of Hawaii. She put down the field hockey stick and switched to endurance events.
Madaffari ran the Honolulu Marathon each of the past two years. Triathlons, however, have developed as her passion. “I love the energy that comes from the three different sports,’’ she said. “You can be horrible in the swim, but the bike is a whole new game. I love the heart that it takes, especially for the longer distances.”
She will leave later this summer to pursue a master’s degree in California. The Mossman Sprint, however, is a race she plans to keep on her calendar.
“As soon as registration opens, I’m on it,’’ Madaffari said. “It’s cool being on the roads that you know. You know where the potholes are. And it’s nice that my family doesn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn to come watch me. My mom and dad are at every race. They can sleep in for this one.”