Triathlon and endurance sports in general often require us to push our limits, or more realistically, challenge us to find our limits. I’m convinced, more and more, that most of us have no idea what our actual physical limits are. That is one of the things I love most about triathlon. I love surprising myself. However, that surprise doesn’t come easily, and typically requires just as much mental fortitude as it does physical fortitude. I have learned more and more that I must be willing to suffer in my training. What is suffering? The dictionary describes “to suffer” as to submit to or be forced to endure or to feel keenly or labor under. What a perfect description of what it takes to be a successful triathlete: we must submit to and endure and labor under the rigors of hours upon hours of physically stressing our bodies in order to achieve our goals. What is unique is that we CHOOSE to suffer, and that we must FORCE ourselves to endure. Regardless of how fast or slow we might be in comparison to the rest of the field, each person must finish the race on their own. Each person has their own motivations. Each person must CHOOSE to endure and suffer until the end.
On 18 Sept ’10 I raced the San Diego Tri Classic Olympic triathlon. My swim was just average, or less than, for me. But I was excited to hit the bike and ride hard on my new tri-bike. But, just 4-miles into the bike I found myself in a situation I’d never encountered: I wiped out. Pavement was slick, I was in aero, attempted to not run over a GU packet dropped by someone in front of me, but hit that packet just right. Next thing I knew my right side was sliding across the asphalt and I was donating skin to San Diego. Once I stopped and could get up, I checked the bike and found it’s okay. Nothing seemed broken on me, and I then had to choose. I knew I was bleeding, I knew I had road rash, my right hip hurt but otherwise I was okay, just shaken. The competitive part of me knew the race had just become a “just finish” one for me. I don’t like that. I had a perfectly good reason to DNF right then and there. But I was wearing my Team RWB Tri Top (old version—don’t worry, new ones to come!) and I knew I was going to finish. I had some scratches and bruises. Big deal. The wounded vets that Team RWB supports have to deal with so much more. As a Team RWB Triathlete, I decided quitting wasn’t an option for me. I would finish. And I did. The bike finished okay, but I was sore, and come the run, I just kept moving. I hadn’t really looked at all my wounds and knew that my right side was pretty banged up. I got some funny comments on the run about it being “hard core” to finish. My response—“it’s only a flesh wound” and really, that’s all it was.
Here, 3 weeks later, it’s almost all but healed up. Our wounded vets deal with so much more than that. Did I suffer for a couple of hours out there that day? Sure, I “suffered” a little bit, but I did it by choice. And I will continue to train and race at efforts that find me “suffering” and when I reach those suffering points, I’ll remember that it’s only momentary suffering that comes to a victorious result when I cross that finish line. I know my suffering will end. I choose my suffer. Our wounded vets, while clearly volunteering to serve their country, and in so doing wrote a blank check to the USA, didn’t intentionally seek out being wounded. The results of their wounds don’t magically end at a finish line where beer and pizza awaits them. So, remember that when you are out there in your training and racing. When you reach your suffer points EMBRACE them because they will make you stronger, faster, and mentally tough. You will represent yourself and Team RWB well. The suffer moments will make you a better Triathlete, and they are a way for you to embrace the Team RWB motto “It’s Our Turn.” Go on out and suffer Team RWB Tri—“It’s Our Turn!”