It’s a question we all ask ourselves as we commit to our first triathlon and the answer evolves as we continue to train and participate in the sport.
Whether we are inspired, asked, dared or bribed to do our first triathlon, it’s an exciting and daunting challenge. There is a lot of apprehension, stress and anticipation regarding training, equipment and if our bodies will get us across the finish line.
And that is the ultimate goal and answer initially - to finish - to prove that you can do it. Whether a sprint or an Ironman, to complete a triathlon is an accomplishment that can never be taken away. The sport is one that embraces the finish. Go to any full Ironman race and the crowds swell and peak at the 17-hour cutoff. Everyone involved from pros to newbies understand the power of finishing, because some do not.
For those who finish, a world of confidence is revealed, and for most a new drive is ignited. The drive to not only finish the next triathlon, but try for a longer distance, a better time or a place on the podium. So the answer to the title question expands - to be the best triathlete you can be.
With this comes the investment in equipment, that borrowed bike or old school Schwinn isn’t going to cut it, as well as a significant time commitment. Finding likemind friends and training buddies is easy as you migrate to more triathlon specific training and with it comes group rides and runs, advice, encouragement and camaraderie. Community and friendship at this point are also added to our answer.
Now with the right gear, training and a good group of athletic friends, success is almost certain. Your year-over-year race times plumet, distances that seemed fit for immortals you achieve time and time again, you are nationally ranked, get podium placements, you are a rock star in your own mind and you love it.
And the years tick by like the foot strike of an Olympic marathoner. Then one season, you don’t have your best year, then you recognize that you will probably never beat your PR from a couple of years ago. Sidelined by injuries, family commitments and career, your times aren’t what they used to be and you may DNF a race or two, or just bail on an entry.
But these years of triathlon do not need to be filled with excuses, frustration and discouragement. Re-evaluate the reasons why you did triathlons in your prime racing years and figure out what is achievable and motivating as you move into older age brackets and life’s complexities.
After racing for 20+ years, I look forward to triathlons because, simply put, I enjoy the sport. At events, I also get to see my old friends and training buddies. We reminisce about past races, epic workouts and how crazy we were. My answer now on why I tri is because when I finish a race it’s less about the time on the clock or the feeling of accomplishment, but rather gratitude that I’m still in the game.
“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.”
- Natascha Badmann, 6x Ironman World Champion
Written by Race Team member Catherine Meihofer