I’ve been thinking a lot about why I became a triathlete and why I still am.
Finding the answers to these questions can help us navigate various challenges: Demotivation, feelings of selfishness, and even thoughts of quitting a race.
Not much more than a year ago I faced the worst of these thoughts – quitting. This was during the second half of the run at Ironman Malaysia.
I was happy with the swim, had an OK bike, but things really starting falling apart on the run.
That notorious run.
Searing heat. Life-sapping humidity. Unending, dull concrete road.
That’s when your mind starts playing evil games with you.
“Why are you doing this?” is the first question it asks as it begins its descent down that slippery slope.
Once that line of negative thought has started it’s difficult to undo.
“You can quit now,” it’ll tell you.
This is the central governor pleading with you. Except it’s a small devil on one of your shoulders wearing a sweaty tri suit.
Here’s where you need your anchor, your strongest rebuttal, your most closely held Reason for Racing. The angel on your other shoulder.
“I started this whole thing because…because…umm…”
You don’t want your angel to be caught off-guard here. Without a leg to stand on – both figuratively and literally.
It’s like you’re the Defendant, innocent, being questioned in the court of existentialism, and you forgot your alibi.
The Plaintiff has a strong case: Nobody’s making you do this, there’s free food and beer nearby, you weren’t going to win anyway, you can end the pain now.
You’re selfish and ego-driven and what are you trying to prove?
If your defense is weak or non-existent, you will either cave in, or more likely, you will slow down and have a miserable finish.
That’s what I did.
I was not prepared with a solid, irrefutable Reason for Racing.
A few weeks back, I was talking with a friend, Arturo Rangel, who had been going through some of the same questions during training for Ironman Cozumel.
“Why am I going through this again, my ego?”
“Is it worth it?”
“There’s no point.”
“I was talking to myself for one hour. Then, I realized, Maya!”
Maya is little girl Arturo knew of who needed medical care, and he realized he could raise money for her.
So when those insidious thoughts of quitting would inevitably creep into his mind during the run, he’d have that anchor. That angel. That Johnnie Cochran.
OK, maybe that last reference was uncalled for but you get my point.
And while Maya may not be his original reason for getting into the sport, it was his current Reason for Racing that got him to the finish line in one piece.
What are your Reasons for Racing? And how have they evolved over the years?
Odds are they are not the same now as when you first started. Arturo’s wasn’t Maya originally.
So find yours. And before you go into every hard training session, and especially your race, just have that one Reason for Racing ready.
Other common Reasons for Racing are:
Physical benefits – Weight loss, lower blood pressure, having more energy, looking and feeling younger/better
Inspiring others – Being a hero to your kids, or showing your family and friends that you can do it may make them follow
The sheer challenge of it – I think this is why I got started, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t stop. I’m always looking for the next PB or World Champs qualification to keep this momentum going.
There are also many mental benefits, but I believe these are more nice side-effects than core reasons. Better focus, self-confidence, improved stress management, and more are all going to be results you will experience.