First I wanted to say thank you to Tri360 for featuring me as their athlete of the month for December. I had fun answering some of the questions they asked. If you haven't had a chance to check out the shop, stop by. They host weekly runs out of the store on Mondays at 6:30pm as well as Saturday AM bike rides at 8:30. If you do the Saturday ride this winter and spring, I assure you that hills will be no match for you come tri season. And a thank you to Emily for nominating me, I'm truly flattered :) My Magic 8 Ball says we will likely see an athlete-of-the-month write-up for you soon as well, badass biker :).
One of the questions that I was asked was why do I do triathlon. My answer in a nutshell was: for the lifestyle it offers, the friendships I've forged, and the fun of racing. That captures the overarching reasons - but what are the nitty gritty details? As the 2012 season comes to a close and I begin gearing up for 2013, which will be my 7th season of racing (!!??!!), it's important to have a reason and a purpose behind all of that time and effort I put into my training. I've realized that over time, the reasons I race have evolved under the umbrella of lifestyle, friends, and racing.
When I started training and racing in 2007 (I only did a few triathlons that year), I did it partially so I could eat whatever I wanted and burn it off. I didn't really know anybody else in the triathlon community yet, but joining Team Z that year was a great way to meet like-minded people and I met some of my favorite people through that club. When I did races my first few years, finishing with a smile and feeling comfortable was the main goal. Many of these race distances were new to me and I didn't know what my capabilities were, especially when it came to Ironman. My reason for signing up for an iron-distance race in 2008 was simply to see if I could complete it. Before I'd started training for that distance, I'd never ridden my bike more than 30 miles and I barely knew how to swim properly. When I toed the line at Beach2Battleship a year later, that was a victory in and of itself. I figured I would be a one-and-done with that distance; I wasn't in love with riding my bike for hours on end and I thought the training was too time-consuming. Less than 24 hours after crossing the finish line, I signed up for next year's Ironman Florida with a new reason to race: get faster.
Fast-forward to today and my goals and reasons for competing have evolved over the last few years. Lifestyle means more than just being able to eat whatever I want. While I do indulge here and there and I'm not 100% strict with my diet (I've flirted with vegetarianism, I've given up chocolate for Lent, I've tried to cut down on processed foods, etc), I do try to focus on food as fuel rather than food being something to eat when bored or stressed. I worked with Beth Shutt (dietician and pro triathlete extraordinaire) earlier this year to analyze and tweak my daily diet (too much butter, not enough fruits and veggies). We talked about little changes I could make here and there that would eventually add up to a noticeable difference. Lifestyle also means getting more sleep, going to bed at a reasonable hour, fewer cocktails and more water. It means planning out my day so I get my workouts in, rather than letting circumstances get the best of me and taking the easy route of skipping a workout if it's too late or I don't want to get up early. In 2013, I'd like to continue to use triathlon to improve my daily lifestyle and see how more positive changes might impact my training and race results.
In terms of friendships, my 2012 season was the richest one yet. I said "yes" more often to getting together with friends to ride, run, or swim as opposed to doing the majority of my training solo. Having awesome training partners has provided both motivation and accountability. I've learned alot from my triathlete friends on subjects ranging from mental toughness to swim techniques to best ways to alleviate saddle sores (just what you wanted to hear, I am sure!). Having someone to train with or seeing a familiar face on the race course is sometimes the perfect pick-me-up when things hit a low point. It's a truly wonderful thing to be surrounded by so many like-minded individuals who understand your goals, who are chasing after PRs themselves. And although we are often each other's competition during races, we're also each others' cheerleaders. We understand each other and our reasons for throwing ourselves so completely into this sport. I feel like my life is richer in the company of all the girlfriends (and guy friends too!) that I've made through triathlon. I can't imagine my life without them or the sport.
And my reasons for racing! I've evolved from my high school mindset of hating cross country and track meets because of the pressure I put on myself to enjoying competitions and seeing them as a fun game of self-improvement. As I said earlier, when I was new to the sport and still learning the ropes, I raced to cross the finish line. I still race to cross the finish line, but now I like to see if I can do it faster each time. I've also begun to view races (and tough training sessions) as ways to test my mental will to succeed - I think it's both an exciting and nerve-wracking feeling to be treading water in the moments before the bullhorn sounds, not know how the next few hours will play out or what obstacles I might face and how I will handle any adversities. I race for that satisfied feeling after a well-executed race. Not necessarily a perfect race, but one where I didn't give up. My reasons for racing in 2013 will be much of the same - expanding my horizons on the mental toughness front, hopefully pushing the boundaries of what I thought was physically possible for me and finding new levels of satisfaction with my race results.
And that is why I do triathlons.