13 November 2009

What is it about Triathlon?

I don't know how long I'll have this feeling about triathlon but it seems to be firmly planted in my being. Our television is set to record any triathlon that comes up on the schedule. I watch all of them. Some months back I watched the AFLAC Iron Girl sprint triathlon in Georgia. (Come on Mrs Sladed, you can do that one with your sister!) And I started thinking. I don't know what it is about the sport. Maybe it's that you have to do three different unrelated sports to complete a triathlon. Or maybe it's because it requires endurance and perseverance, even in a so-called "sprint" distance. Maybe it's that people use it as a personal challenge to lose weight and/or get themselves into shape. Or maybe it's the friendliness and helpfulness of fellow competitors. Maybe it's the triumphs, the competition, the struggles. Or maybe it's the excitement you feel during different parts of the race, especially in the transition area where everything is moving so quickly and chaotically.

Of course it's all of that, at least for me. It's also about setting goals, training hard, feeling strong, competing, and going after a dream. And there's more to it than that.

Doing triathlons is also about jumping onto a fast-looking carbon fiber bike, clipping your feet into the pedals so that you sort of merge with the bike, cranking your legs, moving fast using your own power and using gravity. It's about finding the joy in running. Joy and running?! I never knew it was there until I'd put enough time into it. It's about moving as fast as you can as you switch from one phase of the race to the next in transition; switching from big muscles and big body movement to small, efficient movements as you change gears, and gear, trying to get back out on the race course again, and then once again switching to big muscles and big body movements. And at the end, it's about the feeling of accomplishment, not to mention the rush of endorphins, you get from doing something difficult.

With Triathlon it's also about where it takes you. It takes you to that "other place". It's a place you don't experience if you're sitting on the couch, driving in the car, going out to dinner, or hanging out having a beer (not that there's anything wrong with ANY of those things!) No, that other place is where you challenge yourself. You challenge your body to do something that a couch-sitter would think is crazy; something YOU may have considered crazy, and maybe at some point even thought impossible. You challenge yourself to do something difficult; something that requires consistency, perseverance, foresight, dedication, commitment, and discipline. And then, in the midst of it all, your brain starts telling you, "Slow down", "take it easy", "take a break", "Stop!" You push your body to see what it can do. You see if you can push your limits. You see if you can do something you never thought you'd be capable of.

And then there's this: you can think about "it" early in the morning. Maybe you do it before you leave for the race. More likely you'll think about "it" when you find a calm moment before the start, after you've gone through your mental checklists or after you've visualized your race. The "it" you can think about? Gratefulness. Grateful for arriving at this day. Grateful for being able to challenge your body and mind. Grateful to have been able to train and prepare. Grateful to all those people that have helped you and supported you along the way. Grateful to be at the starting line. Grateful to be completely and fully alive.

That's why I love this sport.


  1. That explains it all. It is thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, to say the least. You are truly someone to emulate in so many ways. We are all proud to know you, to be involved in your life in some way. I welcome the oppor-tunity to be cheering you on, praying for a satisfying result, living your dream in a small way with you. You are just the best!

  2. Wow, that's all I can say. You not only described it all like JJ says, you've describe life and everyone of it its inherent challenges. And you explained how the mind and the body have to work their way through all the times one or the other wants to say, No Mas. You really are an inspiration on so many levels and I hope you can package this up and share it with others. Good luck this week and go out and do your thing.