I swam out at Finger Lakes last night. It was my fastest time ever for that swim (1100 yards) at 19:44. Not world beating, or even fast for that matter, but fast enough for me to be pleased with the progress. I am now very certain that I would make the 70 minute (ish) cutoff for a half Ironman distance event with PLENTY of time to spare. And as I was swimming, I found myself thinking about this (these?) sport(s?) that I have chosen. The swim itself is still an enigma to me. My whole “greater effort=faster time” philosophy just doesn’t work with swimming. Bicycling is just going to take time. I have the gear, now I need the motor. The run is my favorite, I’m good there.
I’m sure my worries about the swim cutoff may sound odd for some… That I, or any athlete for that matter, would be worried about… not having the fastest time… but instead, not getting disqualified for being too slow. If you have never had this perspective, congratulations. I’m not exactly proud to have it, myself. But it is a reality for me, given my skill level on the swim. This is what triathlons do to you. They expose your weaknesses as challenges for you to overcome. If you take the challenge, you are a triathlete. If you let your weaknesses win, well I guess there are other sports to try…
See, there are two things that really attract me to triathlons.
First, they humble you. I desperately need that. I have always been good at team sports. I can pretty much pick up any ball and play a decent game. But I also know that the majority of my success as a (insert team sport here) player is because I recognize and utilize the talents of my teammates. Only in the last 4 years have I given myself and my training over to sports as individual and personal as marathon and, eventually, triathlon training. And I have been constantly humbled. By the limits, both perceived and real, on my body. By the amazing athletes that I watch disappear in front of me in the water, on bikes or on the run… seemingly effortlessly. I know they are working hard… God knows I am. I would never be insulting enough to assume that they are just “cruising”. But it sure looks like it. But they are the first ones to encourage and congratulate you when you finish a race or run. That has taken a while to get used to, coming from the cut throat, in-your-face world of team sports. Humbling.
Second, and I know this sounds sick, but I love the training. Almost as much, if not more than, the actual competitions. Multiple workouts per day. Pushing myself to go longer or harder. The great people I get to train with. It all makes me very happy and satisfied (and tired) at the end of the day. I also feel like I am in control of my health and my training. I set my schedule, and it’s as tough as I can make it, given work and family constraints. Blessedly, both are accepting and tolerant of my early mornings, long rides and stinky clothes. I have combined my commute with training by biking the 12 miles each way to work three days a week (when work/weather allows). I take workout clothes with me on trips when I go out to train. Races seem almost anticlimactic to me. It’s great to see where I am at and they are a great gauge for my training, but they are always over too soon and leave me wondering what I could have done better. I still learn/do something stupid at every race. I don’t expect that to change any time soon and it actually adds to the fun, but I’m still more excited by a big group ride or conquering a longer distance in the water than anything.
Regardless of how many triathlons I do, or the other sports I still choose to play, endurance sports have become my favorites. I used to be riveted to the TV on Sunday to watch football and tried to catch as many baseball games as I could. Now I would rather be DOING something. For me, my bike/shoes/swim trunks are what is important to me. I can watch the rest on Sportcenter… but I probably won’t… 😉