I’m always getting asked why I love this sport so much. With the most common reaction being “that sounds horrid!, why would you want to do such a thing”.
And, to a certain extent I have to agree. I mean let’s face it, triathlon isn’t the easiest of sports. It requires expertise in three disciplines, it takes up a lot of your time and if I’m being brutally honest – it’s quite selfish.
However, (and you knew there was going to be a however) these things are far outweighed by the benefits you receive in return. So for anyone thinking about getting into triathlon I submit my top 5 ‘more’ reasons why I love it:
1. There’s nowhere to hide
When it comes to triathlon there’s nowhere to hide. YOU are ultimately accountable for your successes and failures. You don’t have a team that can make up for your off days, or a coach that can provide instructions from the sideline when your form needs correcting or they see a weakness in the opposition.
It’s all about you, and you alone
When you’re out there miles from home you have to become the coach, the sports psychologist, the mechanic, the nutritionist, the masseuse and the tactician. This sport delves into the very heart of who you are and tests every part of your mind and body.
I’ve achieved things that I never thought I could, or would ever do. I’ve asked my body to give an extra 10% that I never knew existed, and I’ve seen people reach goals that they were told would never be possible.
2. The People
Like all other sports, there are some right royal wankers in the triathlon community. But, thankfully they’re far outnumbered by the truly amazing and inspirational people that you’ll meet, train with and share a laugh with over a coffee. (Lots of coffee)
Every person at the start line of a triathlon has their own amazing and inspirational story to tell. There are no free rides and these people are truly inspirational. I’ve met single parents with sole care of 4 young children who race ironman, guys who’ve come back from serious accidents and an inspiring couple who are 20 years my senior, still competing and representing Australia in their age group. (over 70)
My club is an extension of my family and are the most supportive people I have ever met. It’s not about coming first, or even getting on the podium. It’s about finishing, growing and constant improvement.
3. The lifestyle
Triathlon isn’t just about the event. In fact it’s the complete opposite. Unlike other sports, you can’t just turn up every week for the game and expect to perform at your best. It’s about every single day leading up to the event. Where you train, when you train, who you train with, how you train, how well you recover, what you eat and how you become mentally prepared for what you’ll soon be asking your body to do.
Triathlon gets under your skin, enters your bloodstream and becomes the heart of who you are and how you live your life.
You’ll find yourself exercising more, going to bed earlier, eating healthier, drinking less and becoming mentally stronger than even before. You’ll also realise that you’ve learnt a new language. A drink will be referred to as “hydration”, your lunch will now be called “nutrition”, T1,T2, power, intervals, long slow, dura-ace, cadence, clipless, drafting, negative split, TT, DNF and PB will all become terms that mean something.
You’ll also know exactly what your heart rate will be when you run at a 5:15 min/km pace. Trust me.
4. The Life Lessons
“Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever”, Lance Armstrong
Despite Lance Armstrong’s indiscretions, the sentiment behind this quote relates to life in general, not just for race day. Triathlon has taught me the following life lessons:
Mental preparation and strength is key
In triathlon and in life, your mind can be your closest ally or your worst enemy. Your legs can always run further and faster than what your mind will allow.
During my first 5km Parkrun I’d planned to run 3km and then walk the rest of the way, as 2.5km was the longest I had run to date. I arrived at the 3km mark and my brain was screaming at me “Karl, stop now, you’re hurting, you won’t make it to 5km anyway, so what difference does it make? STOP NOW!”
However what my brain had been underestimating was how stupidly competitive I am and the importance for me to keep up with a young blond woman that had been running with me for the first 3kms. I … must … not …. Stop. I ignored it and started to focus on getting to the next light pole, then the next park bench, then the next rubbish bin.
You can probably guess what happened? Yep, I made it to the 5km and established my first 5km PB. Lance was right, the pain was temporary. (Well for the next few days anyway)
Through practice, training and nurturing you can continue to redefine what is possible and break down those mental barriers to success.
Never give up
This is a simple statement, yet we greatly underestimated its power. You never know what’s around the next corner and if you give up, you’ll never find out. Consider the following examples:
Would Steven Bradbury have won the gold medal in the final of the 1000m speed skating in Salt Lake 2002 if he gave up because he was in last place for the entire race?
What would the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team have achieved if they believed the hype that they’d never qualify for the Olympics?
Who would have ever heard of The Beatles if they gave up after they were rejected by the first record company they approached?
Where would Oprah Winfrey be now if she just accepted that her upbringing was going to reflect the rest of her life?
Run your own race
Don’t worry about someone else as you don’t know their story and you don’t know how they’re feeling. The most important person to not let down is you! Set your own goals and move towards them at your own pace.
Encourage and respect others
Supporting and encouraging others in sport and in life is essential.
All it takes is a “well done”, “looking good”, “love ya work”. Let them know you’re there to support them, that you’re paying attention and that you care.
A few little words of encouragement can make a world of difference to a person’s performance on course, or at work the next day.
5. The equipment / toys
I sometimes just wander down to the garage and stare at my bikes and smile. Is that weird?
Ok so this might just be me, but I love my Garmin and I love my bike and I love the cool things that you can “justify” purchasing when you become a triathlete.
When I’m in transition it takes me twice as long to set up because I can’t resist walking up and down the aisles checking out the amazing machinery and seeing what other toys the athletes have, and how they’ve set them up.
The Secret 6th Reason
Alright so there’s one more reason I love this sport. The feeling!
The feeling you experience when you get a new PB. The feeling you get when you’ve achieved something you thought was once impossible. The feeling of pride, relief, jubilation and of course sheer exhaustion when you cross the finish line.
This is what being alive is all about.
What do you love about this great sport of ours? Leave a reply and let me know.
I’d love to hear from you.
Keep Smiling Tri Monkeys