Tri/duathletes sometimes wonder “why am I doing this?” This can happen on a hot day about halfway through the run, on a windy day when you’ve been riding into a stiff headwind for half an hour, or, let’s say, a third of the way into a rather cold-water swim. I’ve had all three experiences, more than once. At the end of my 33rd season in multisport, I thought to share some thoughts on the subject with you, as well as to bring into the discussion, my other sport, downhill skiing.
I was not athletic when I was growing up. In particular, my hand-eye coordination was not good, which is a certain downer for doing most of the sports that kids do, like base/softball and basketball. (At my school we did not have soccer, at which I might have been OK, or football, which I never would had touched anyway.) In the pick-up softball games, where the sides were chosen up after the two captains had successively put their grips on a bat, I was never better than the next-to-the last to be chosen.
And then, at age 22, during my first year of medical school, a random event happened. Two classmates, neither of whom I knew very well (but I had a car and neither of them did), asked me if I would like to go skiing. “Skiing?” I said. “That’s a sport for idiots. But I’ll try anything once.” That day turned out to be one of the best days of my life. For I finally found a sport that I could actually do reasonably well — well enough that I eventually became a certified ski instructor. Indeed, I became, for the first time in my life, an athlete. I’ve had many great skiing days during the 50-plus years I’ve been a skier. Too, I’ve had a number of great teaching days in the sport with students and fellow instructors. Then another great day arrived just a couple of weeks ago, when I received my 20-year Instructors’ Pin from the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Indeed, for the kid who was “not an athlete,” man, that was a thrill.
But with skiing, and later as a part-time instructor, the number of days that I was able to engage in each season doesn’t get one into shape. That adventure began only when, at age 43, I became a regular exerciser. And then, as my regular readers know, one thing led to another and at age 46 I did my first triathlon. As my regular readers know too, I have never been “good” in multisport racing in terms of going fast. But I have been “good” in terms of doing it for quite some time: 247 triathlons and duathlons by the end of this past season, my 33rd, while having fun (well, OK, having fun most of the time). If I stay healthy and uninjured, I’ll get to 250 next season. And then, who knows?
And so, even at 79, but still having some memories from childhood about getting picked last or next-to-last at the softball game, and then being sent to right field because, there being few left-handed hitters, the ball would likely never go there, this is what my sports mean to me. As an adult, I became an athlete, and in one of the sports, on its own terms, I was “good” at it. Very importantly too, in both sports, oh my, have I had fun, over and over again, whether it was flying down a groomed slope faster than most, in the right technique, or crossing that finishing line, toward the back of the pack but doing so, as I like to say, “happily and healthily.”
For someone who was a total non-athlete as a kid that’s what my sports have meant to me. As you review this past season in our sport and perhaps already start to think about the next, perhaps considering the question, “what do my sport(s) mean to me(?)” will help you to put it all into perspective and set you on the way to making the next one a most productive one, for you.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is 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 first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.