My paternal grandfather, Jacob Kyzor, came from the East End of London. Even though Grandpa Jacob’s parents were mid-19th century Jewish emigrants from Russia, he always regarded himself as English. And so I have always regarded myself as one-quarter English. My mother took me to London for the first time in 1950 when I was 13 years old. I lived in London for two years in the 1960s, doing post-doctoral work at the University of London and the London School of Economics. And since then, as I am fond of telling Londoners when I visit, I am lucky enough to have been in London more times than I can remember.
So, you might be thinking, "why is he telling us all of this?" Because when it was announced that the ITU Triathlon Age-Group World Championships would be held in London in 2013, at least in part on the 2012 Olympic triathlon course in Hyde Park, I was one excited age-group triathlete. By now you probably know that I am so old (77), with an age-cohort that is so small, that all I have to do at the National Championships is cross the finish line to qualify for the World Championships. And so I did the Sprint Nationals in Burlington, Vt., in 2012.
How exciting! I was going to be racing in my “Second City,” in part on the Olympic course, no less. Everything was carefully planned. It would be my ninth World Championships, and, hopefully, my fifth time finishing. (I hadn’t finished my first, at Madeira Island, due to nausea from a rough swim, didn’t start at Budapest due to very cold water and rain, and didn’t start the Duathlon Worlds at Nancy, France, because it was partially an urban course with lots of technical turns that I don’t train for.) But in London, everything looked good. The water temperature was supposed to be 68F and the weather had been fine in England all summer. It was going to be great!
Unfortunately, I didn’t even get to the start line. The water temperature was actually 62F. The course for the Sprint was entirely within Hyde Park, which meant that on the bike there would be a number of 180-degree turns. When the weather is fine, I ordinarily slow way down for 180-degree turns. But rain was threatening that day and I don’t like taking chances, especially on a course with a number of sharp turns. So I decided not to go. As it happened, at the time of the start of my head, it started to rain. So water temperature or no, I likely wouldn’t have gone anyway.
Once again you might ask, "why is he telling us all of this?" Because one important lesson that I have learned in all my years of multi-sport racing is that it is only racing and we are only amateurs. There is always another race. Not a World Championships in London for me, but there will be another one (as it happens, hopefully the Duathlon Worlds at Adelaide, AUS in 2015). All of my friends who were there did race and all came through just fine, several medal winners among them. But there were people who didn’t and I just didn’t want to take the chance that I would have joined them. Folks have gotten seriously injured a long way from home and I was going to make sure that I wasn’t going to be one of them. For me it was getting there, being there to cheer on my friends (several of who medaled), and having qualified to race, in London, if the conditions had been right. That’s what counted.
Grandpa Jacob would have been proud of me for getting there. He also would have been proud of me for knowing when to hold ‘em and knowing when to fold ‘em, for me, for where my head is, for what my goals are, and for what I am capable of.
This series of thoughts and recommendations for beginner and recreational triathletes and duathletes by Dr. Steve Jonas is drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), text used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His original book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.