Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Ironman Busselton 70.3 2011

There are as many varied and different answers to this question as there are individuals. I ask myself this question from time to time as I struggle with my self imposed regime for training for an Ironman.

But at the core there is really one real answer. Like no other sport , it is more than an activity . Firstly it is 3 sports rolled into one and therefore takes up much more time. It is an outdoor pursuit and requires time and effort outdoors. It does attract a different type of person. One who wants a challenge and it fills in most a need , a desire , a demand , or a thrill.

The stock answers are :

Because I can

It keeps me healthy

It relieves stress etc

These are all reasonable explanations but as Ben Greenfield in a piece on his website ponders , the true reasons are irrational fears if we are brutally honest (Ben Greenfield )

“You do triathlons to prove something to other people. I really am that good, that fit, that motivated, that focused. If my neighbor did it, I can do. I’m better than them. I’ll beat them this year.

You do triathlons because you did just one, this one time, and then you got sucked into the vortex and you had to keep coming back and trying to beat your performance from the previous year. In other words, you want to prove to yourself that your body is getting better, not worse.

You do triathlons because all your friends are doing it and who will provide your social support if it’s not the triathlon club?

You do triathlons because running is boring and you don’t have that kind of attention span.

Dare I say, some of you do triathlons because you want to look good naked?

What are some types of irrational and emotional motivators for triathlon? Here are some examples:

Being able to wear your Ironman or triathlon race t-shirt in public to impress people.

Wanting to be able to eat whatever you want, but not having the control, so finding a sport where working out too much is OK.

Being able to fit into whatever style of clothes you wish.

Having nice legs and feeling confident when you put on spandex.

Telling people at parties that you’re an athlete, maybe even an Ironman.

Comments like, “You’re really slim. Do you workout?”

Not dying early so you can travel with your grandchildren.

Having an honorable excuse for not doing yard work on the weekends because of your “training”.

Contrast these with logical motivators for doing triathlon:

Improve your health.

Less stress.

Good role model.

Balanced lifestyle.

Clothes fit better.

More energy.

You see the difference? Sure, the irrational wants (compared to fears) are conceited and superficial. I get it. But guess which individual gets better results? The person motivated by irrational motivators or logical motivators? Irrational, hands down every time. The secret to achieving success in these type of sports is to figure out the true WHY – which is some always an irrational desire, fear or want.”

It is important to know as unlike any other sport I know it is a life changing exercise.

From a personal perspective , my lifestyle and the way I live changes. My perspective changes , my friends change and my routine changes. Training is more a meditation , an exercise in learning to conquer all my fears. Fear of losing , failure , overcoming the unknown , anxiety and doubt.

I have seen more sunrises and sunsets as a triathlete than in my previous 20 years . If anything there is an appreciation of being out in the open. There is the enjoyment and the sociability of training in a group .

I like many stumble into this sport. Sports generally teaches us and test us over and over again. Triathlons and its training has many life lessons .

I have learnt many life lessons from triathlons and training . As well and foremost it makes you feel so alive.

You learn Time management ,Commitment and most of all Enjoyment and fun.

Sally Edwards a great Triathlete and Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee  , in her book on triathlon wrote:

"It hasn’t happened often

It doesn’t last long

Sometimes it last no longer than a lingering moment

Sometimes days

If it were to last forever it would not be sweet

It is the sweet spot in sports

It is a rare feeling of being alive in every cell of your body , in every corner of your mind , in every sense and sensation."

For me that is the experience of competing in a triathlon for the first time.

It was the sense of crossing the line and finishing something I never thought I could do.

My experience is a common emotion for the average triathlete.

My first triathlon was in 2006 at the Corporate Triathlon at Fremantle.My preparation comprised a few swim sessions at the Bayswater pool and riding my brothers mountain bike. I had to be rescued from the wave pool when they turned it on in one of the practise sessions and I could barely swim 25 m freestyle. I breastroked the 250 m swim . I had huge panic attacks. To the point that I sought help from a friend who was studying psychology . The ride round the Fremantle Esplanade was slow and I finished the 5km run utterly exhausted but something got me excited about the sport.

I got a bike on eBay ( a Raceline ) with ultegra gears and probably not quite the right size. I started riding round the river and around my home. I fell off a few times as I could not unclip in time much to the amusement of motorist coming to a stop at an intersection.

I then signed up to join a club.I picked the North Coast Tri Club because someone suggested I join them as they did Aquathons and I knew I needed to swim. I joined a swim class. And I began to ride with the North Coast group on Tuesday's, Thursday's  and Saturday .

By 2007 , I had signed up to do the Half Ironman and got a Programme. I went on to race the inaugural Half Ironman  in Singapore and did my first Ironman in 2007.

In that period I have become fitter , I have made lots of mistakes, and I have learnt  a lot .

Great experiences and not so great experiences.

1. My first flat tire . I did not know how to change a tire and fortunately I was on the coast a few kms from Sorrento and Mark Hoffman was running by and he helped me change the tire

2. Crashing into the side of the road with no vehicles in sight

3. Crashing into a parked car whilst training (more tired than training)

4. Standing at the start of Ironman Busselton

5. The friendships I have made in the club and the sport

6. Trip to Ironman Japan and Austria and Lanzarote

7. Riding in the hills on a Saturday or Sunday morning as the mist rises in winter

8. Sunrise over the river on Tuesday mornings

9. Swimming at  Cottesloe on Sunday mornings

If anything triathlon is a sport that encompasses life . In Japan as you race the spectators shout

Gambarre which means Fight On or Do your best .

The first kanji, 「頑」, means 'firm' or 'resolute'. The second part, 「張る」, means 'insist', amongst

other things. So the whole word literally means something like 'be resolute' - hence 'do your best'.

So whilst it may for many be truthfully irrational and emotional motivators , why do I do triathlons. Simply because it is fun and IT is to find that sweet spot in sports.
I hope you find it as well.