Given that there are three main components to triathlon, it is only natural that people wonder which sport I like best. I often answer sarcastically, “Whichever feels the best on the day.” Truthfully, and perhaps why I have been in the sport for so long, I relish all three sports equally, but for different reasons. Swimming comes the most naturally, but biking and running are sports whose skills I have eagerly spent time mastering.
Swimming. I began swimming competitively at the age of seven. While most swimmers have a love/hate relationship with the water, my experience was not so volatile. I encountered the requisite shoulder injuries, tension with coaches and teammates, and loathing of sitting at swim meets. But, through it all, I woke up early to attend morning practice and moved on to masters swimming when my collegiate days were over. I never felt burnout. To this day, despite my body’s feeling a shock of cold upon diving into the water (even if it is 80 degrees), I look forward to the workouts. My times are not what they were during the swimming days, so I compare them to my triathlon swimming times. Over the years I have seen improvement scattered with lulls in progress. I test myself against the people I swim with and I try hard to perfect my stroke. All of these things have kept swimming challenging and fresh, 33 years later.
Biking. I am easy to spot zooming around Boulder with my wild hair poking out of my helmet. The thing l like best about riding, and why I resent the indoor trainer so much, is spending time outside. I have been fortunate to ride my bike all over the world, and what better way to investigate unknown territory (although, I once got lost in Sweden two days before a race turning a 90 minute easy spin into a 3 hour ordeal). A perfect day: when the sun is shining and the air is still and nothing is heard but the rhythm of pedaling. Scenic mountains, ocean views, meandering country roads, desert flora, swamp are all better appreciated perched upon a bike. When you are driving in a car and you see a perfectly surfaced road with a large shoulder, don’t you wish you could ride it on your bike?
Running. Perhaps the sport we all started off with – running free as a child, playing tag, various team sports. I love running for its simplicity and the ability to do it anywhere at any time. I can run on trails or paths that are less than ideal for biking, opening up more areas for exploring. My run seems to suffer the most in the off-season, which means it is where I have to work the hardest with the biggest dividends and the most satisfaction.
On race day, all of this blather goes out the window. It is then the “whichever feels the best on the day” applies. At many races, I am getting beat up on the swim, too absorbed in the race to enjoy the scenery, and running hard for the finish line. But, 99% of the time is spent training, so if you don’t enjoy that aspect of the sport, then it is time to find new inspiration or hang it up.
How about you, what's your favorite sport?