At the beginning of May I rented an RV, took a day off work, and headed up to central California to compete in the 30th Avia Wildflower Triathlon. Joined by family, a few friends, and a couple stellar athletes I’m proud to work with at Mad Dogg Athletics, I remember coming away from the event thinking what a great time it was and excitedly talking with the group about what triathlon we wanted to do next. The funny thing is if you had asked me around mile 10 of the run course which triathlon I wanted to do next, I probably would have come up with some expletive-laden answer about how I’m quitting the sport and I just want a beer.
So then why – only hours later – was I so excited to talk about the next triathlon we’re going to do? I guess because, to me, the “tri” in triathlon isn’t just about the three legs of the race but about reflection, camaraderie, and reward. And when the race is over, the feeling you have for those three things is unlike anything else.
Reflection. By design, triathlon is an individual sport. Though you may have a training partner, triathlon club, or a regular Spinning® class you attend, many – if not most – of your training activities will be solo. On race day, the rules enforce individual racing. So most of the time you’re spending in triathlon you’re alone with your thoughts, and you can be bored or take the opportunity to reflect on self, family, friends, and work. For me, it’s therapeutic. On the days I train by running with my two-year old in his jogger, I get a unique bonding opportunity that I otherwise wouldn’t get. And on race day, when others are passing me like I’m standing still or I’m finding my next person to pass, I reflect on the gift I was given to be out on the course, being able to participate, using my body and mind, and enjoying the beautiful land and freedom where we live.
Camaraderie. Now that I just got done talking about how triathlon is an individual sport, it would seem almost contradictory to then say the camaraderie in triathlon is one of the things that I enjoy most about it. I attribute the camaraderie in triathlon to two main things: 1) the people in the sport are great people that are probably out there for the same reasons you are – to set a goal, push yourself, be healthy and active, and have fun; and 2) there’s something about the bonding experience people have when they all go through the same rigorous challenge together. When you add those two together, it’s all just really cool. I love the triathlon community… supportive, friendly, of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, and often competing for some cause to benefit others. And, although I’m not in a triathlon club, I hear those are fantastic too.
Reward. Triathlons reward you in many ways. Some say the endorphins produced during the race and the rush at the finish line is the best reward. Others fundraise or race for a cause that makes the journey a great personal reward. And sometimes beating your personal best or simply crossing the finish line of a grueling race is a great reward. For me, it’s different each time but I’ve experienced each of these, and
the reward truly is amazing. And, by the way, I lost 20 pounds in the training process for this last race so that’s a pretty good reward too.
So last Friday night I signed up for the San Diego Triathlon Challenge in October, an amazing event in support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The race is a one mile swim, 44 miles bike, and 10 miles run, and I’m completely looking forward to all THREE parts of the triathlon!