All I Ever Need to Know About Life I Learned from Triathlons
By: Susan DuPont
What is the best piece of triathlon advice you’ve ever been given? When I first began doing triathlons eight years ago, I didn’t know a brick from a fartlek, so I was extremely grateful for all the valuable advice I received from triathletes, coaches, spectators, officials, friends, family, and even complete strangers. Over the years, I have come to realize that there is no one single piece of advice that sums up my experiences in triathlon. Instead, I have discovered that most of the advice I’ve received is far more reaching than in just the world of triathlon. Discovering this has not only changed the way I look at triathlons, it has changed the way I look at life in general.
All I needed to know about life I learned from triathlons!
1. Embrace your inner child. What kid doesn’t like to swim, bike, and run? Kick your shoes off once in a while and build sandcastles in the sand. Hunt for four leaf clovers and wear your pajamas all day. Be silly and dance to your favorite song in the living room. Feel like you’re twelve years old again the next time you are tucked in the aero position racing down a hill.
2. Never, ever cheat. There will be people who do cheat; you do not have to be one of them. There will be some people who will do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if that means breaking the rules. Once again, you do not have to be one of them.
3. Don’t get rubbed the wrong way. Sometimes life and people irritate us and make us cranky. Likewise, forgetting to use body glide will leave you feeling all sorts of irritated and cranky. Learn to ignore people who get on your nerves and you will find yourself a lot less chafed.
4. Narcissism is a deadly vice. Be very, very wary in thinking you are all that. You’re not. Humility is way more attractive than a big ego. Be humble when you win and gracious when you don’t.
5. HTFU. Yes, there will be times when life sucks and you want to cry, and yes, there will be times when you don’t want to run that brick because you are tired and hot. But suck it up and get going because no one really cares and no one wants to hear it. Life is not going to stop and wait on you because you are soft and teary eyed.
6. There will always be someone who can and will beat you. Accept this fact and realize that the real race in both life and triathlon is between you and yourself. Let everyone else run his own race and you run yours. Don’t whine and cry because someone has a nicer bike, faster run split, or knocked you out of placing. Run the best race you can every time.
7. Find a support team. Everyone needs someone to have his back. Make sure you surround yourself with friends and family who encourage and believe in you. And be sure you thank them for their support because putting up with you during your taper sure isn’t easy!
8. The journey is far more important than the destination. While the finish line is sweet, exactly how you got there is way more critical and valuable. Enjoy the ride instead of only focusing on the destination.
9. Hills are tough to climb at the time, but what a great view when you reach the top. Stop and enjoy the view every once in a while. Life is full of hard climbs, but when we reach the top we can sit back and smile.
10. Anything can become addictive and unhealthy. Triathletes have addictive personalities, hence our obsession with everything triathlon. We sometimes need help in knowing when to say when. Sometimes we need a strong person to say, “Stop. Take some time off.” Don’t let yourself become consumed by anything, even something as wonderful as triathlon.
11. Appreciate sunrises and sunsets. If you are like me, then you have found time to watch the sun come up over the water before an Ironman and have marveled at its beauty. Also, if you are like me, you will probably see that same sun set while you are out on the run course. Either way, take time to appreciate its awesomeness and be grateful you are here.
12. Stall falls will happen. Just like in life, there will be times when you fall flat on your face and possibly in front of others. Learn to get back up and dust yourself off. EVERYONE has done it.
13. Thank volunteers. Karma is a good thing and thanking people who have taken time out of their day to help you with yours is just good manners, plain and simple. And when possible, volunteer your time as well. It is just as important to give back as it is to take.
14. Practice makes perfect…and permanent. You will never better yourself at anything if you don’t practice that particular skill. While doing a short brick may seem like torture, it is actually teaching your body how to prepare for a race. Likewise, if every time you swim you continue to use an improper stroke, then that bad habit will become permanent.
15. The human body is capable of doing more than you think. Just when you think you can’t, you can. Ironman is very much a mental game that is channeled into a physical form. If you are mentally prepared and focused, then you can persuade your body to do some extraordinary things. There are times in life when we think we cannot go any further or take any more. You can.
16. You will fail on occasion; learn from those mistakes. Yes, there will be times when you forget to carry fuel on a long run. Yes, there will be times when you go too hard on the bike and blow up on the run. Yes, there will be times when you don’t place, or may not even finish. Learn from it and move on. You only fail if you continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
17. Find heroes. They may be superstars like Macca or Chrissie or they might be the ordinary kinds of people who do extraordinary things like the late John “Blazeman” Blais or Sister Madonna Buder. Seek out those who inspire you and act on that inspiration. Who knows, you might even be someone’s hero yourself!
18. Find and seek balance. Triathlon is three disciplines so you must learn how to be good at all three. You can’t focus on one discipline and neglect the others. Likewise, you need to find a happy medium for work, family, friends, and hobbies. Spending too much time on one will cause problems with the others.
19. Set realistic goals. Evaluate and readjust when necessary. There is nothing worse than someone who makes a goal and doesn’t have a plan for it, or the person that makes an unobtainable goal and can therefore never achieve it. Set goals and follow a plan to achieve them; then evaluate your results and set new goals.
20. Just TRI! Isn’t this the most important lesson of all? If we never try, we can never accomplish anything.
So what are you waiting for???? GO TRI!!!
English teacher by day, triathlete by weekend! Currently entering my ninth year of triathlons, I am a five time Ironman finisher living in Greenville, South Carolina. My blog includes race reports, training tips, book reviews, training updates, and various other pieces of advice that I have gleaned from my years of competing in triathlon. You can find out more about me as well as read more of my posts at http://gottatri-atriathletesjourney.blogspot.com/