Triathlon is a sport unlike any other. When I tell people I run triathlons, they typically look at me like I have three heads. It’s a strange and mythical beast of a sport that people don’t know much about.
I can’t knock any of the individual sports that all come together to make triathlon the crazy multisport sport that it is. I’ve been a runner for 13 years and I’ve competed on swim team before. Cycling was the part I was least knowledgeable in at the start and is now definitely a strong point for me in the race. Being good, great, or even elite at running, cycling, or swimming is an accomplishment not to be scoffed at. But there’s something unique about triathlon that is not present in other endurance sports. It’s a one of a kind experience, and ask anyone who’s ever finished even something as short as a super sprint tri, it’s intoxicating and addicting.
Triathlon is a sport that involves three sports crammed together to make one. It’s a swim, followed immediately by a bike, followed immediately again by a run. How can something so daunting and greuling could possibly be something you not only willingly subject yourself, to do over and over at greater and greater lengths? But think about it, you can run, you can swim, you can bike. You are physically capable and able to do all three on their own. Each one is difficult in it’s own right. To put all three together is a feat, and one not to be taken lightly.
I truly believe everyone, with the right training, regardless of fitness level, can finish a triathlon. It is doable. And it is amazing. The feeling when you cross the finish line is indescribable. I’ve run enough road races to know it feels damn good to cross that finish line whether I did crummy or ran a personal best. But crossing the finish line of a triathlon is a different kind of satisfaction. The human body is fascinating and triathlon pushes the body to an extreme level. You use completely different large muscle groups for each component of the race which means your body need to quickly adjust the way it’s working from leg to leg. This is why brick workouts are so important, but more on that another day.
Triathlon makes you not only work hard physically, but it forces you to be stronger mentally, more so than any other sport. Think your marathon was tough mentally? How about running one after biking 112 miles, after swimming 2.4 miles. That requires mental fortitude that is far beyond that of any other sport. And even at a sprint distance, that mental toughness is so important. When I forgot my bib on the run at IG Cuse this year I thought I’d be DQed. I could have easily said “eff trying to finish hard”. But I didn’t. In my mind I kept thinking that DQed or not I had a goal and dammit I would achieve it. And I did, by much more than I ever anticipated. And I never got DQed, so imagine how mad I’d be at myself had I given up on the run.
Triathlon means looking deep inside yourself and finding out truly what you’re made of. Physically, mentally, emotionally, triathlon is the ultimate test of a person. Strength can get you far, but triumph over pain and mental fatigue is so magnified in triathlon. I teared up when I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon. I was more proud than I can ever remember being when Rob and I crossed the finish line of his first triathlon hand in hand. And at my most recent tri, I teared up again at the finish line. Because the emotion of knowing you’re going to finish something so great, so difficult, so demanding on the body, the mind, and your time leading up to it, is beyond comprehension. It is a feeling so amazing, and so spiritually gratifying, it’s completely and undeniably indescribable.
Triathlon is difficult, yes. But many things in life are and we survive and we grow from difficult times. Triathlon allows you to intentionally grow and discover just how great you can be. And that is something that I, as an accomplished runner, swimmer, rugby playing athlete with over two decades of athletic experience, can say with confidence is unique to triathlon.
Triathlon is the ultimate sport because it forces you to be the best you possible, and that is worth tri-ing for. Believe me, because I believe you can tri too. So why not tri? Dig deep, and reach for the best, most amazing you you can possibly be. Triathlon will give you that. It is possible. And let me tell you, there is no better feeling.