I was having a conversation with a friend the other night, catching up on our lives, the usual. He's a Dad like me- except he has 3 little girls- 2 year old twins and a 1 year old, so his life is marginally more complex than mine at the moment. He and I have a pretty similar outlook on life, work, family, etc. So he was asking me about my training, and finally asked me: "Why do you do it?"
Now, that seems to be a pretty straightforward question, but every time someone asks me why I'm a triathlete, I really don't seem to have a great answer for them. I mean, yeah, I want to be fit- there are a million ways to do that. I like to compete- again I could scratch that itch with competitive basket weaving or home brewing if I wanted. No, triathlon is different. I ran in road races when I was younger and got pretty fast- especially at middle distance where I was reasonably competitive, but Triathlon is just a different animal. Why is that?
Here are a few things I've figured out about the sport I love:
1. It still scares me a little bit. After all this time, and all the races I've done, every time I toe the line to jump in that water, I'm a little bit nervous. I know what's coming- it's going to be an underwater boxing match, I'm going to get kicked, poked, run over, you name it, it'll happen. The bike leg is technical and fraught with danger- crashing, equipment failures, cars, wind, etc. A lot can happen out there on a bike course (I've seen 2 fatalities in races in my life and I pray I never see another one). After all that, you still have to run! Depending on how your swim and bike go, this can be a funtrot down the road, or it can be the longest slog of your lifetime- it just depends, and you don't know until it happens.
2. The stuff- there's so much more "Stuff" in triathlon, and this is something that I have a love/hate relationship with. There aren't a lot of areas in my life where I want the best/most expensive/hi tech gadget out there, but triathlon seems to be the exception. Man there's a lot of gear! I love it all, but I hardly buy any of it. I ride a ten year old bike (which I still love) I finally broke down this year and bought a new wetsuit- as the old one had disintegrated, I only buy shoes when I have to, etc. I see a lot of fat guys on brand new Cervelo P3s that I'm passing on the bike- it's not about the chassis, it's about the engine. I'm on a quest to see how much I can make my body do, not how much I can make my gear do. My body is still my limiting factor in my performance. When I can't get any more out of my body, I'll worry about taking 10 grams off my wheel weight.
3. Variety- I love the fact that it's a multi-sport discipline. I'm a decent sized guy- 6 feet tall, and at the moment, about 195 (down from 230 18 months ago!) Even in prime racing condition, I'll be around 180-185. This is not Kenyan territory, so doing things like marathons, I break down at a certain point. I've been training harder the last 2 months than I have since I was in college rowing crew at 160lbs (seriously- I looked like a cast member from Survivor) but I haven't broken down at all, and I firmly believe it's because I'm not doing too much of one thing, and my body has time to recover.
4. It makes me balance everything. I have a job, a family, my friends, my sport to balance, and I don't want to neglect any of them, so I have to be creative and make it all work. It's much harder this time around than when I was single and had no wife, kids, home to worry about. I had a job, but it was just a job, not a career to worry about, and I didn't have much at stake then. Now I have to have balance, I have to be responsible, and at the same time I have to make time for me, so the discipline I put into my Triathlon training carries over into other areas of my life and makes me better.
5. The "Because it's There" factor. This is the hardest to explain, but the most powerful reason I can come up with. It's the same reason people do all the other sports that are out there. It's hard. As Tom Hanks said in "A League of Their Own", it's supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great. Why do I choose triathlon? I choose triathlon because it challenges me every day, it makes me want to push harder, and I get better every time I do it.
So those are my reasons. As my title says, you either get it, or you don't. If you get it, I don't have to really explain it to you. If you don't get it, you might read the above and sortof understand, but more likely you'll just think- that guy's nuts. Fortunately, if you're reading this, you probably get it.
So what are your reasons?