Why Triathlon???

So Why Triathlon???

While spinning recently, the topic of “why triathlon” came up and the question was posed by an individual who is still wondering why they are drawn to such an endeavor- long past the curious stage and still with it, this individual is currently re-setting this years’ goals…… and wondering…why??   I can suggest that there are so many potential personal goals, challenges and victories possible within the scope of triathlon training, racing (or not), and being part of this phenomenal community and lifestyle.

My own answers to this question of “why” are multi-dimensional and perhaps not as mysterious as they might be…especially after 30 years of having triathlon as part of my life in some way, shape or form.  But wait a minute! when have I not been a triathlete?  in my case the aspects of triathlon that call to me today were part of my life even in my first decade …..and my second decade……and my third decade…..and so on.  My children and parents have never known me to not be a triathlete.

My early years were probably like many children growing up in suburban Canadian centres. I learned to swim, ride a bike and had lots of room to run. I learned to swim as an infant in my grandparents pool, and so cannot remember a time in my life when I did not swim.  Apparently I was a bit of a speed demon on my toddler trike, even defying gravity at times (I remember some of the results of such feats). Running was always my thing, and as a pre-schooler I loved to explore the world, although I may have not been so typical as I was often found quite far from home base.

By the time I was ten I had outgrown lifesaving swim programs and was recruited for a competitive swim club. For a few years, entire summers were spent swimming morning, noon and night with bike rides to get to and from the pool. Thankfully cross country and track seasons allowed me the opportunity to be on school teams and be outdoors instead of on pool decks.

In my teens I was trying to figure out how to be both a runner and a swimmer in club programs, and was racing the boys of the neighbourhood on what I believed to be my lightening fast 10 speed bike. I had no idea about cycling as a sport and it certainly was not on the radar for women or girls in 1973. I had but one very strict rule imposed on me; I was to stop at every stop sign- if caught, the bike would certainly be gone….. and so it was that I would stop when the boys did not,  then have to sprint to catch up (sort of like Tuesday night rides these days!).

Initially, my parents were heavily committed to the swim club and not so keen on the track club so I would get my fix of running through the school programs, which was totally amazing as I was running & training with fine company; company that included Ontario provincial champions, and a national junior record holder.  I eventually was drawn to the sport of flat water paddling which as it turned out allowed me to enjoy all these activities and to be outdoors all day, every day.  My typical summer days consisted of riding my bike 10 km each way to and from the canoe club on the Credit River, then spending the day paddling, swimming, running and then more paddling. The summer of 1976 was probably a highlight as it included winning a national championship and soaking in the excitement of Olympians from around the world training at our club!

A move to Alberta threw a curve ball into the plans to continue with paddling, but created the change and space to finally put running first.  I joined the Edmonton Husky Track Club as an eighteen year old and finally began to set some running goals. However, for whatever reason I would religiously do a swim workout after every track workout…I just could not stay away from the pool! Sometimes I would wonder why, but i kept on keeping on…I simply enjoyed it. Afterward I would ride my trusty ten speed home after the double workouts, and was commuting by bike to my first big office job.  This was 1978 and I was without a doubt the only one in that office that ran and rode a bike to work.

By 1982 I was in Fort McMurray coaching with the swim club there, swimming early morning swims with the senior team, still riding my bike and running with my husband to be. I got him into swimming and then cycling. He suggested we buy touring bikes and spend a summer cycling around PEI and his home province of Nova Scotia.  No arm twisting required…sounded great to me!  So the summer of ’82 was spent riding 100 + km a day.  So inspired by the days scenery I would then embark on 10km runs to further explore our surroundings, then usually enjoyed an ocean swim, punctuated by a lovely meal we made on our one burner stove   ….my idea of a perfect day.  We were both extremely fit by the end of the summer……. something you never want to lose and  according to a recent article in Canadian Triathlon, what retired pros say they miss most!

Fast forward to June 1983 I’m married and expecting our first child.  I had been swimming 2500m everyday while pregnant and doing an aerobics program with (gasp) a television show, when one day I was doing bicep curls and watching Saturday sports coverage and this crazy event called “Kona Ironman” comes on….I think I might have dropped the dumb bell. I know my jaw dropped…..I was 8 months pregnant, 23 years old and somehow I had no idea about this new sport called triathlon being created! Somewhere very far from Northern Alberta, someone had thought to put all my favourite things together to make a new sport.  Whoa! I was blown away!

Incredibly, our Ft Mac Swim Club would host a triathlon that summer and I would do my first, just 8 weeks after Emily’s birth. I also new that as perfect a fit triathlon was for me, so was motherhood and knew I would always put family before being an athlete.  I guess too, that as a swimmer I had been already been introduced to Masters Swimming through my father and past swim coaches who although retired athletes were continuing to train and compete for fun and fitness, as adults. I saw firsthand a different kind of participation in sport …I think we call it Active for Life these days.  Seems to me that triathlon is a wonderful vehicle to be Active For Life…at least it is for me.

What is your “Why”?

Shannon

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