I took part in my first triathlon in 1983. I was young and eager to race, and tried to find a race every weekend. I breathed the sport. Back then news about events, results, professionals, and products lurked in corners of the country. Still, I found my way to as many as I could find, going off of rumors and tips. I could not get enough. Still, even accounting for my obsession, I never dreamt that the sport would become such a big part of my life. Yet here I am, running a triathlon store, coaching triathletes, and promoting the Portland Triathlon each fall. The sport has become my life—and not simply from an athletic perspective.
If we’re lucky we get many chapters in our book of life. I’m very lucky to count Chrissie Wellington as a friend, and when she retired a few years ago, many of us were shocked. But Chrissie reminded all of us that there were many things she still wanted to do with her existence, and she’s attacked her list with the same verve and commitment that made her one of the best athletes of all time, regardless of sport.
Since you’re reading this blog post right now, I’m guessing that you’re still firmly in the triathlon chapter of your life. That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re here. I get the honor of meeting many athletes like you, and they all come to the sport with some kind of goal: perform, participate, or connect. Regardless of the goal, something I often see in the store is that people come into the sport, throw themselves into it completely for a few years, and then move on to something else, to some other chapter. I don’t see much middle ground.
For athletes like Chrissie, it made sense to move on from the sport—it was time, she literally had nothing left to prove; she’d accomplished everything she’d set out to do in the sport. But comparing ourselves to athletes at that level can muddy the waters for the rest of us. The real question is what do we want to accomplish in the sport? What, many years from now, do we want to feel proud of? Having goals for races is great, but triathlon can supply us with life goals, as well, keeping us healthy and active well into our later years, and arming us with a career of memories we can deploy with our friends, enriching the lives around us.
When I picked up the sport, I had no idea where it would take me, but here I am, many years later, having made a life partnership with triathlon. Like any long term relationship, there have been good patches and bad, sickness and health, but its companionship has shaped my life for the better, as long as I respected and honored it in return. I’ve gone through periods of obsession, and periods where the sport lived on the fringes of my existence; through it all, though, I’m happy to say the relationship has been balanced, and the things I’ve gotten back from my investment—things like lifelong friends, beautiful memories, and amazing places visited—have lingered long after my results have faded from memory.