David Martin raced by bicyclist after bicyclist along the West Side Highway in New York City, gaining confidence and shedding anxiety with each push of a pedal.

“I started crying on the bike,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how many people I was passing. I felt like Superman. It felt like I was flying.”

It was that moment in 2012, that Martin knew he wanted to pursue triathlons. This weekend, he heads to Nationals and will be compete with Team USA at the World Championships in Switzerland at the end of the month.

Martin, 31, who splits his time between Washington Depot and New Haven, is one of a few Americans selected to compete for his event in his division. He specializes in the Olympic triathlon, which means he will swim one mile and bike 26 miles, before running a 10K to the finish line.

He tends to complete six or seven triathlons a year, but this will be his first time competing at the highest level, as well as his first international race. He was ecstatic when he learned he would get that chance.

“It was like a dream come true,” Martin said. “It was something that I had been working for for a long time. It was validation that all of the hard work had paid off.”

He trains 16 to 20 hours a week, splitting his time between the three disciplines in a variety of different workouts each day.

Martin doesn’t remember the exact thing that drew him to triathlons. He had always been an athlete, playing hockey and soccer from sixth through 12th grade and wanted to return to athletics after college. He found more than a way to stay in shape, though.

He came to triathlons at a difficult time in his life. He suffered from anxiety and depression and was still trying to figure out who he was. He had studied at an opera conservatory in Ohio with plans to be an actor and was engaged to marry a woman, but two months before the wedding, he came out to his family as gay.

Today he is pursuing a master’s degree in exercise physiology at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and is considering pursuing a doctorate in kinestheology at the University of Connecticut.

Martin is an online coach as well with Full Throttle Endurance, in addition to his lab work at the university studying how the body reacts under stress, especially in endurance athletes.

Triathlons made him feel confident and successful. He no longer turned to his anxiety medication and instead worked up the levels, becoming more serious toward the sport over the years, including finding a coach of his own through Full Throttle.

He shares this message through his lecturing program at schools to help alleviate some of the pressure placed on today’s teenagers who feel they need to know exactly who they are and what they want to do at a young age.

“You don’t have to know who you are,” Martin said. “You just have to know what makes you smile.”

The sense of support and community is a common theme when Martin describes the sport and the people he trains with from school and through Full Throttle. His boyfriend, his mother and her boyfriend are going to Switzerland to cheer him on, with many others following along online during the race. Several people have been helping him train too, joining in on the track sessions at New Milford High School.

“I’ll have a good support system,” he said. “To me the support around you is incredible.”

Most recently, he returned the favor and helped Ben Tuff swim around Jamestown Island in Rhode Island.

About a dozen Full Throttle Endurance athletes will be on Team USA, said Scott Berlinger, who started Full Throttle Endurance in 2003.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of the athletes and the coaches, like David, who lead by example,” Berlinger said. “I couldn’t be happier that they’re all competing at the biggest stage of the triathlons.”

Martin has been speaking with one of them about various aspects, especially logistics on hotels and the best way to get his bike to the race that won’t be too expensive. While Team USA provides a team doctor and mechanic, the rest of the costs are borne by the athletes.

Martin has started a GoFundMe to help cover some of those expenses. Many of his family and friends have donated.

He said he wants to have a strong race and do well not only for himself but for everyone who has rallied around him.

“It’s amazing how tight-knit we are, especially in Washington,” Martin said. “I love that I’m going to this competition to represent not just myself, but my family and my community.”

Connecticut Media Group