Friday, February 8, 2013

So, Why Do You Do It?

Triathlon hurts. The training hurts. The races hurt. Triathlon is different from almost every other sport because it isn’t a game. Our “games” are our races, and you may have only a few of those a season. Most people can only race a maximum of seven or eight times a season if they want to have time for proper training blocks. Can you imagine a baseball season with only eight games? Triathlon is a lifestyle; one which requires a lot of work. And pain. You tell people stories about how deep you went into the pain cave and then they ask, “So why do you do it?"

I suppose it’s a legitimate question. One that can be difficult to answer on certain days or when you’re put on the spot. The truth is there are probably thousands of different responses people could give. “I want to lose weight.” “I did it to live a healthier lifestyle.” “I love the challenge.” These are noble responses and good reasons to train for and compete in triathlons. But is that enough to push you through the pain of a long ride or run? Is that enough to pull you from your bed at 4:30am day after day? Is it why you forgo time with your family and friends when you could be relaxing on a sunny afternoon? Is it worth layering up because you are about to go for a run in rain when it’s 40 degrees?
For me, and I suspect many others, there is more to why I train for triathlons and a bigger motivator as to why I won’t quit when I’m suffering. I have two main motivating factors that drive me on those days I feel like quitting early. I swim, bike, and run because there are others who cannot. I have been afforded so much to have the ability to get out of my chair and go do something that so many people can only dream of. I do not want to take this gift for granted. I run for them, because I know that there are thousands of people out there who would give anything to be able to do what I can do. It wouldn’t be fair for me to neglect such a gift that I’ve been given. I have a responsibility to use the abilities I am fortunate enough to have.

I do it for those who support me. I could not be successful at triathlon without the support of countless people. On race day, it may boil down to my fitness and ability to swim, bike, and run to get through the race, but I couldn’t even get to the start line without that support system. My father, mother, and the rest of my family who believes in me and understands the sacrifice of time so I can pursue this passion; my girlfriend who never complains about the six hour training rides or stench I bring into the house and always has food ready for me after I’ve run myself into the ground; my friends who train with me, help and support me, and push me to be stronger and faster. These people all make sacrifices so that I can race and try to reach my potential as a triathlete. They are the ones who sit at home and worry each time I leave, nervous as to whether or not I’ll come home safely. When I’m seven hours into a race and I start throwing up and my legs are screaming for me to quit… Those people didn’t quit on me. They didn’t stop supporting me through all the training or cheering me on. Why should I get to quit on them? They made sacrifices. Now it’s my turn.

Every person has their own reasons for why they endure the suffering and the pain. These are the things that motivate us to keep pedaling or running when your brain says “stop.”  But at the end of the day, after you finally make it to the finish line and are reunited with that support group, the pain seems to instantly subside. You enter that finishing chute and it’s as if you come out completely different on the other side. And at that moment, you realize just how worth it everything was. All the hours of training, the early mornings, the late nights, and the pain you endured were a small price to pay for the reward you receive. 

So why do you do it? I’m sure there is something that drives you and pushes you through those dark moments. I hope it continues to motivate and inspire you.