“The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t’ is you. And you don’t have to listen” ~ Nike
Swim. Bike. Run.
Why would I ever attempt that? I’m not a good swimmer. I can’t run. And I rarely bike.
That was me five years ago. Since then I have competed in three triathlons, improving each year. Five years ago, I was overweight and unhappy. I began running first. Well, actually walking. But that did lead to running. As I slowly began to get into better physical shape, I also began biking more. Soon I heard about a sport I had really never thought much of – triathlon. And I thougth, what a great way to give me a goal to work toward. For the next three years, I competed in one triathlon each year. And each year brought new knowledge, not only of the sport of triathlon, but knowledge of myself as well.
The First Year
The first year I competed, I came in well-prepared for the run. I assumed biking would be easy since I’ve known how to do that since I was five years old. And the swim, well…I’ve had swim lessons (a long time ago). It was a tough morning, but I finished the race (near last overall). What I learned was:
- Not all bikes are created equal. I could bike, but using a mountain bike in a road race puts you at a woeful disadvantage. Life lesson: We need to understand the environment we are in, so that we have the right tools for the task at hand. It’s easy to assume we know what a particular situation will entail, but proper preparation can make all the difference.
- Swim lessons years ago don’t really cut it. I swore I was going to drown on the 1/4 mile swim. The back float saved me! Life lesson: We need training, even on areas we think we know because we’ve done them sometime in our past. Keeping our skills up is critical to be successful in whatever we choose to do.
The Second Year
The second year I learned some things from the year prior. I purchased a road bike, one designed for the type of race I would compete in. And I went swimming regularly at an area pool. I made marked improvements in my times. What I learned was:
- The right bike makes a big difference. My bike time improved by quite a bit. Life lesson: The right equipment for the task at hand makes things much easier.
- Swimming practice helped considerably. I didn’t feel like I would drown, and my time was cut almost in half. Life lesson: Practicing your skills is what makes you get better at what you do.
- Making improvements feels great. It felt really good to improve upon the year before, and in all three events. Life lesson: Putting in the time on whatever it is you want to get better at will make you better for that event. The people who succeed in life are those who are busting themselves to get better instead of wasting their time on non-productive activities. What you see as the finished product is only the icing on the cake. A lot of effort has went into building that cake up.
The Third Year
The third year, I became complacent. I ran less during the year. I swam only a couple of times. Instead I concentrated on the bike. It’s the longest event, and I thought if I could make a big improvement there, it would carry me through the other areas. While I finished with my best time overall, both my swim time and run time went up from the previous year. And the swim was very tough again. What I learned was:
- You’ve got to keep at it. I thought my swim especially would be fine since it had went pretty well the year before. No. And the run was just plain tough. Life lesson: Skills don’t stay current if you don’t use them. Practice, practice, practice. Whatever it is you want to accomplish.
- Doing something a lot makes it easier. I was getting really pretty good on the bike, and that was fully due to the amount of time I was putting in. Life lesson: If you want to be great at some thing, you’ve got to put the time into it.
One of the great things with triathlon is that it is really three sports wrapped into one. Isn’t this like life? Aren’t we usually pulled in multiple directions, with many things going on. How we manage that is key to how successful we’ll be. And, like triathlon, success is defined by each individual. For some it’s to win. For others, it’s to finish. And that’s how it is in our lives too. We’re all at different parts of our journey, and only we individually can define what success means to us. And go out and achieve it.
Here’s to your success in life!