Every year, I try to end my summer with a half Ironman or some other 5+ hour endurance race. There are several reasons for that little bit of annual madness (like, believe it or not, fun), but perhaps the most important one is to make sure that I don’t fall off the fitness wagon half way through the summer.
Occasionally, I am as serious about performance at these late season events as I am about shorter, more focused races, but most of the time, nope. For me, the most important part of doing a half or full iron distance triathlon is participating. (And finishing.) This past weekend was no exception. Setting up my transition area under a beautiful pre-dawn sky surrounded by some of the fittest people in the US’ South East, my plan was simple: Have fun, take it easy, and enjoy every minute of this race. That is precisely what I did.
Not that I would call mile nine of the half Marathon all that enjoyable… but you get the picture.
Towards the end of the race, I did something that I seldom ever do in athletic competitions: I stopped and waited for a friend who wasn’t having a great day. Instead of running the final few miles to the finish, I walked alongside him and we had a great conversation – something we hadn’t had a chance to do in a very long time. Sure, it didn’t help my run split, but this race – like so many of these late season mile fests – wasn’t about setting personal bests or placing in my age group. This race, perhaps more than any before it, reminded me how much I enjoy the multisport lifestyle I chose to be a part of. How much I enjoy mixing an early morning mass swim, a rugged time trial and a long group run. How much I enjoy the sun’s warmth on my shoulders, the comforting southern wind against my face, and the sights and sounds of hundreds of fellow citizen athletes break a sweat for a few hours.
In nine years of competition I have yet to meet a triathlete I don’t like. There is just something refreshing about the can-do, no bullshit, let’s get it done attitude displayed by this great family of fitness hobbyists. You aren’t likely to hear a whole lot of excuses or “poor me” stories come out of this bunch. What you are likely to hear though is “Good job! Way to go! Looking good, number 123! Hang in there, number 345!” These folks give you a thumbs up and a smile when they pass you, and shout encouragements when you pass them. What other sport generates that kind of positive attitude? The smiles stretching across people’s faces before the gun goes off and once they’ve crossed the finish line tells you volumes about who they are. There are no game faces here. There is no posturing. No political maneuvering. What you see is humanity at its best. Humanity at its most humble. Its most caring. Its most honest. Its most respectful. And yet at its most confident.
I’ve never met a dumb, lazy or mean triathlete. I’ve never met a dishonest one either. I guess there’s something about the psychology of a person who would spend months preparing their body and their mind for a battle against the miles and the desire to quit that just doesn’t click with petty self-serving behaviors. Counting myself among the ranks of these fine men and women is something I am more grateful for than words can convey. I am very lucky to be part of such a wonderful community of human beings.
Here’s to an all too short but memorable triathlon season with the Finish Line-Hincapie Sportswear Triathlon Team. Looking forward to getting even fitter and faster over the cold months ahead. (Spring will be back before we know it.)
Have a great weekend, everyone.