Skip to main content

Triathlon for Buddhists

"Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering." -- Macca (Chris McCormack)
If you told me 4 years ago that I'd be standing in the middle of my bathroom trying to reach over my shoulder to grab the zipper cord while trying on a wetsuit, I'd have told you your elevator doesn't go all the way to the top. Especially if you told "past me" that I'd be doing this while my soon-to-be-3-year-old and 20 month old were napping. I'd have said you had the wrong guy on several fronts. Past me--no kids--was in the middle of training for my first marathon and barely able to put a few miles together--wondering how I was going to do 26.2.

I'm not sure at what point last summer I got the crazy idea that I was going to race an Ironman. Maybe it was thumbing through the bike catalogs and seeing the shiny, sleek speed machines and thinking about the people who buy them. Maybe it was watching the broadcast of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Seeing the midnight finishers struggle against all odds to cross the line. Even the pros weren't having a good day. It was a race that seemed to challenge everyone equally no matter their skill level. Pain and joy living in equal parts. Pure happiness mixed with a lot...I mean a lot...of suffering. Maybe it was the moment when I realized that, despite my running background, I was having an easier time getting motivated to bike than get in my marathon workouts last year.

I devoured anything I could on the topic. Everything was new. The magazines, the websites, the books on training. Last night, I'd checked out a favorite of mine again...a past Kona-qualifier with an eye for triathlon racing stats...and commented to Kelly how amusing it is to be down the road and see old things with fresh eyes. I'm knee deep (about to be chest deep--pardon the pun?) in the sport now and some of what I was hanging on previously is less important to me now. Or I have the insight to disagree or know other opinions or even just know in my head now my take on the topic. It amuses me to suddenly be on the other side of possible. Something I admired from far away I'm now living closeup and even more fascinated by the more I know it. (Parenting is kinda like that, too.)

I'd just put in a good over 30 minutes at the pool on Monday night, but decided not to group ride with the cycle club last night for a variety of reasons. I'm tapering and less willing to push too hard until race day--or harder than my schedule allows, at least. Plus I'm uber-confident on the bike. The swim and run are where my work should be, really. So back-to-back workouts in the pool for me. I didn't have anything in mind for a workout but wanting to be there for 45 min to an hour. So I somehow got it in my head that was going to swim my upcoming race distance 50m laps...with a small break between to make it a long set of 50's. Which I accomplished with time to spare under 40 minutes. 1500 meters worth. Not bad for somebody who didn't know how to swim as of February. We'll see if that translates to open water in a lake in a couple weeks. But I'm fairly proud of this accomplishment alone...4 months of work paying off!

The lesson here is don't cling. Don't cling to the idea that something is too hard. Or not for you. Or that it will get the best of you. Don't listen to the voices of doubt--real or imagined. I may do terrible on race day. Standing on the beach, I may get all these panic problems other triathletes talk about. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm not frozen with fear at this point. Somehow, over the last few years, my psychology has changed to become a "why not?" person. A no-negatives person. Or, as the quote from Macca hints at, maybe I've turned into more of an "embrace the suck" type of person. Yes, it's hard and you may get hurt and whine whine whine. Nothing worth doing is going to be handed to you in a convenient, easy-to-use container. Life doesn't have handles to make it easier to carry.

Of course, Kelly finds our switched personalities amusing. She used to be the harsh one. The "put on your big boy pants" one has softened. I'd run and change jeans if I spilled the slightest bit of something on them. Kids changes those attitudes. So has endurance sports. Now I'm standing in a place where a 140.6 mile, 15 hour (for me probably) race is mostly about execution because I know I can do it. In my head, one of my proudest moments has already been completed.

Mind over matter? Maybe.

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought." -- Buddha