Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sprint - Olympic - Half IM - IM

Listening to coaches and athletes on these newfound triathlon podcasts has challenged my thinking in many different areas including this implicit assumption I had made that various triathlon distances are a ladder to be climbed. You know, the "more is better" philosophy. Longer is more noble. Greater suffering yields greater rewards. Well, it turns out maybe not, and definitely not for everybody. With increased distance, there is often increased sacrifice, a price to be paid, whether in terms of relationships, health, or enjoyment. So the net result may be positive or negative. For everyone this crossover point is different.

This particular podcast guest and noted triathlon coach (whose name I can't recall) suggested finding the distance that works for your physiology, motivation, and lifestyle and not just thoughtlessly aspiring to longer, bigger, more.

I have to admit I was looking at sprint triathlons as primarily a stepping stone to other distances. (Note: this is rooted in my own personality er...attributes because I certainly don't get any pressure or that message from my coach or anyone else.) Now I see that's the wrong way to look at it. There's no shame in training specifically for sprint triathlons. And if I never move out of sprints, that's totally fine (although I doubt that will be the case).

No doubt competition is stiffer as you move up the distances and there are fewer under-prepared athletes. But the wider variety of participants should not detract from one's personal accomplishment in a sprint triathlon (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run = .47 mi, 12.4 mi, 3.1 mi).

That said, I am interested in dabbling in the Olympic distance triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) perhaps trying it this fall. But not as a stepping stone. The primary draw for me is the swim, to prove to myself I can do almost a mile swim in open water.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I have let myself go as far as to think about a half Ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run). I got really excited when I saw some of the warm beach areas that host these events (Cancun comes to mind!) and thought how fun that would be to make a vacation out of it.

Ironman? Nah, it gets back to the whole sacrifice thing. My family is too important to me and I know I could not maintain that vital balance that keeps me (and more importantly, THEM) happy.

Nothing wrong with happily hanging out in the Sprint/Olympic range and working to maximize my potential there.

Yes, I know, I've done exactly ONE sprint triathlon so I'm not exactly speaking from a place of experience. So this whole reflection may seem irrelevant. But I'm a dreamer and a planner and like to look ahead. And understanding my motivation and how I define personal success is an important element.