Have you ever watched a video or read an article and thought, “That’s what I want to do”?
Often, a triathlon journey starts out as a spark in the “I’ve-Got-To-Do-That” section of the brain. By the way, that section is very close to the “Watch-This!” cortex which in some people is an entire hemisphere. After a while, the journey gets routine for some people and the “Let’s-Do-Something-Else” reflex kicks in.
What keeps many of us going down a certain path? Why do some triathletes stay passionate about their sport for decades and others lose interest after several years?
Usually, the word, journey, implies going somewhere: a destination awaits. If that is true, then what is the destination in a triathlon journey, or any metaphorical journey for that matter?
I can only share with you my personal experiences and philosophies on this subject. I have no database from which to pull enlightenment.
I get great satisfaction from finishing a triathlon. The finish line feeling is amazing. But the finish line is not really a FINISH line in the sense of a destination. It is only a step toward a greater objective: to live life to the fullest. In an earlier blog post I wrote about what it feels like to be an IRONMAN. It applies to any race. Here are the main points.
- It’s the nervousness of waiting for the swim start, then getting pummeled by hundreds of swimmers and trying to fend off nausea caused by drinking too much salt water.
- It’s the relief of climbing out of the water to be greeted by friendly volunteers and the adrenaline rush of racing a quarter of a mile to my bike.
- It’s the fear of riding the bike over a metal drawbridge and the excitement of having done it without incident.
- It’s the arrogance of yelling at the head wind to “BRING IT ON”
- It’s the excitement of seeing that special person on the sidelines at mile 38.
- It’s the horror of seeing an ambulance on the bike course and a fellow athlete who is face down on the pavement.
- It’s the sadness of thinking how hard that athlete worked to get to this race to have it end so horribly.
- It’s cheering with the spectators at the entrance to T2.
- It’s the pain of the muscle cramps that won’t allow the legs to function and the blisters: those nasty blisters.
- It’s the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers.
- It’s the companionship of hundreds of others who are suffering too.
- It’s that feeling of renewed energy at the head of the finish chute.
- It’s the satisfaction of crossing the finish line with a good friend.
- It’s an overwhelming emotional catharsis as the events of the day are retold among friends and family.
But this is just my perspective of the journey.
Inspiration From Others
I live by Scott Tinley’s quote,
“… race long enough and sooner or later you’ll suck…”
I’m fine with that. Self deprecating humor can actually be quite therapeutic. But I do find inspiration in others like Rudy Garcia-Tolson and Melissa Stockwell. Some may call them challenged athletes, but I don’t think that term fits. We are all challenged athletes. We all have burdens to overcome.
Garcia-Tolson is a double amputee above the knee. I’ve been following him since 2009 when he and I participated in Ironman Arizona. I’ve never met him and he has no idea who I am, but he pushes me to be a better athlete: a better person. His story is inspirational as he tells Bob Babbitt (who, by the way, has an awesome series of video interviews with endurance athletes).
It’s not just the “challenged” athletes that inspire. The next time you toe the starting line, look around you. Each person has a story worthy of telling. Everyone there has made sacrifices, overcome obstacles, lost motivation, struggled with self doubt.
TriRiot is my attempt at telling the age grouper story. I hope you find as much inspiration as I do in all of the “ordinary” people who push themselves to extraordinary limits.