Megan Leubner thought she might top her age group in the recent Gillie Girl Triathlon. Instead she was excited to come in third for the entire race.

“I didn't expect it,” the Skaneateles resident said.

The Camillus race was Leubner's third triathlon. She was always an athlete, participating in gymnastic and dance when she was younger. Then she turn to running. Last year, some friends suggested she take that dedication to running a step further and compete in a triathlon.

“I had no idea,” Luebner said of how much she would enjoy them. “Everyone saw me run and they suggested that I would be good at triathlons. I wasn't so sure.”

Nevertheless, she decided to give it a go.

“I bought a bike and started (riding),” she said.

The swimming section of the three-portion race intimidated her, and she began swimming laps at the Skaneateles YMCA to try to get more power in her stroke.

Later she joined a triathlon training group at Endurance Monster to help focus her efforts.

While she was grateful for the support and comradarie, changing her technique was difficult at first.

“It was hard. I've done it so long that way and it's worked,” she said of her style.

She began running with Eric Prager, who told her about the July 22 race at Gillie Lake in Veteran's Memorial Park. The inaugural race raised money for the Carol M. Baldwin Cancer Research Fund. Her mother and sister volunteered during the competition, directing people during the race and helping with registration.

Its half-mile swim, 14-mile bike race and 5K run took Leubner 1:16:42.35 to finish, one minute behind the second-place finisher, and eight minutes behind the first. Three hundred women competed.

It took her almost as long to learn that she came in third for the race as it did getting to the finish line. While the 24-year-old enjoys friendly competition with her friends, she likes the idea of improving past performances over beating other racers.

“You want to beat your own time,” Leubner said.

She'll have two more chances to do that in the coming months. She'll compete in a competition in Vermont later this year, as well as the Skinnyman during the Skanraces.com's Labor Day Weekend Races.

Leubner works as physical therapist assistant for Rebound Physical Therapy in Marcellus. Her position helps her know how to stretch, how to prevent injury and aid recovery, which all helps her stay healthy and able to take on the next challenge.

“That's why I like (triathlons) so much, I can see as much how much I can challenge myself,” she said.

Skaneateles Journal editor Jessica Soule may be reached at 283-1615 or Jessica.Soule@lee.net.

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