A few weeks ago, I was looking at a listing of local triathlons, curious about what was available. As I suspected, there are quite a few, from low-key sprint races put on by parks and recreation departments to a full Ironman. Perusing the listings, I was surprised to find myself intimidated and overwhelmed at times. The cause? Photos of ultra fit and strong athletes. My reaction was visceral, an internal cringing sensation. As I’ve pondered and felt my way through it, I’ve made some discoveries.
The crowded start stands out here, lots of people jostling for position. I’m not much of a crowd person, preferring smaller groups and am quite happy to be solo at times. Gazing at the photos, I felt small, likely to be trampled. I’m a beginner in this sport, and despite my advancing years (more than twice the age of the elite athletes), in some ways, I felt very young. Now this is my body’s sense. Intellectually, I’ve looked at the race setups and see that beginners tend to start last, often in their own group, to avoid this very thing. Nonetheless, an interesting reaction.
Another awareness is around privacy. I’ve been training solo, and while I’m hardly alone at the pool, gym, or on the road or trail, I’m out there doing my thing, and others are doing theirs, and they may be quite different. In an actual triathlon, everyone is on the same track; swim this far, then bike, then run this distance. My private, albeit publicly announced, project of training for a triathlon becomes more public with actually entering and participating in an event. My adult self is well aware that I will be slow, many will be more accomplished than I, and there is a part of me that is concerned with being so obviously an older beginner.
I’ve encountered this before. I’m also a figure skater, having started skating at 46. I and my fellow adult skaters remind ourselves that we are out on the ice participating, and that more than 99 percent of the world isn’t. It is about the process and the doing, not the level of achievement. Any competition needs to be within myself-am I doing the best that I can do at any given moment? If the answer is yes, then that is the “win”. As I often remind my own clients, it is about showing up, paying attention, doing one’s best and letting go of the outcome. I wonder how many more times I will be challenged to recall this along my triathlon journey.