This past weekend I was out on a 100-mile bike ride, and it started to pour rain.
Part of the route was on a local greenway, and rounding a curve onto a wooded pedestrian bridge my bike slid out from under me and I went down hard on my right shoulder. For a while I just laid there in the downpour, wrenching in pain. I was fine, but what came to mind in that moment was this article that had not yet been written, discussing why doing triathlons are “FUN!”
Admittedly, there will be times when you will question the premise that training and competing in triathlons is “fun.”
Here are some times when I questioned it:
1. Falling over on my bike, getting used to clipless pedals.
2. Swallowing mouthfuls of nasty lake water.
3. Accidentally getting IcyHot or BodyGlide in places you really don’t want it.
4. Getting kicked in the head by other swimmers in a tri event.
5. Your first flat tire.
6. Calf cramps with 4 miles left to run.
Listen to Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius ”Mr. Professional Sports Leg Cramp Rubber Outer”:
What Is “Fun” Anyway?
There are all kinds of things I can imagine that would make doing triathlons more enjoyable.
- a full-time massage therapist
- one of those $10,000 primo bikes
- a free lifetime supply of Cytomax
- an all-expense-paid recovery vacation after your big event
But if you’re like me, the above list probably isn’t going to happen, and so you’re going to have to appreciate what’s fun about triathlons in other ways.
Honestly, most people aren’t going to keep doing something they don’t enjoy, so it’s an important aspect to sticking with it. People derive a sense of satisfaction from triathloning in different ways. What you find “fun” about it may be different than what I find fun about it.
But let me answer the question straight up for myself, “Jim, what do you enjoy about training and doing triathlons?”
The “Challenge” Is What Makes Triathlons Fun
First off, what people perceive as undesirable about training and doing triathlons, I don’t; namely pain.
There is a human gear that allows one to function beyond the boundaries of comfort and ease, and it often involves suffering. Using that gear is part of the gift of being human, and becoming more efficient in functioning in that gear is one aspect of fulfilling your highest potential as a person.
Sure, the actual physical ache in the moment doesn’t seem to have a lot of redeeming value, but your mind kicks in to remind you of the bigger picture of what that ache means, represents, and ultimately produces in your life. Lance Armstrong believes that his efficiency of functioning in that gear was instrumental in his fight against cancer.
So if pain isn’t a good reason for not training and competing in triathlons, what’s there not to enjoy?
The skills involved are accessible to virtually anyone. Who among us as kids didn’t go swimming, ride a bike, and run? There’s always room to improve technique but it’s not brain surgery either. There isn’t much of a downside to being fit, and accomplishing a significant goal.
What a person ultimately enjoys about triathlons increases over time. The learning curve and establishing an endurance base is demanding, but so is the first 6 months of parenting your first child. You muddle through the best you can, get a little wiser and stronger each day, and you figure it out and make it through.
What Comes Around Goes Around
For me, one of the most fulfilling aspects has been encouraging and helping newcomers.
It’s going to sneak up on you, but one day you are going to come across someone who is right where you are right now. Suddenly it’s going to hit you that you did make it, that you persevered through all the challenges and obstacles, you accomplished your goal, you have become a stronger person — YOU did it!
You will know the joy of letting your story and understanding become a resource to assist and encourage someone else in achieving these same things for themselves. There are so many ways training and doing triathlons impact and change people’s lives, and you will be someone who helped bring others along with you to experience it.
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.