In the past year I haven’t posted much outside of race reports. It is a combination of reasons, mainly that I have been extremely pressed for time, and that my attitude toward racing was pretty crappy (if you don’t have anything nice to say…). Both of those factors have changed this year, and now I want to brag about how exciting my life has been and how much I love racing triathlons again.
Training this year has been really fun. I graduate from Chicago Booth in June, but having finished my graduation requirements I’m really just enjoying training like a professional triathlete again. For most of January and February I stayed with my in-laws in Pasadena, training in the mountains North of LA. I’ve been swimming outdoors at the Rose Bowl, cycling into the Angels National Forest and running trails all around the area. It’s the most fun I’ve had training in a long time, and it’s really changed my mindset with regard to triathlon.
To be perfectly honest, a year ago I would have questioned whether I would still be racing at this point. I was getting sick of doing the same races against the same people. The funding for pro triathletes has squeezed as well due mainly to the consolidation of Ironman races and the end of other pro series like Lifetime Fitness and 5150. I was also working at SRAM for my MBA internship and really enjoying it.
I decided I would give it one more go, but with a different philosophy. I would take advantage of a more flexible schedule and plan my season around potential fun, rather than potential earnings. I figured there was no reason to go to a race with $100,000 in prize money, if the course wasn’t suited to me. I wouldn’t enjoy the race, and even if I maximized my earnings, I’m still making less than a typical Booth graduate – and many of those jobs would be more fun that risking another heat stroke in 90% humidity in the middle of nowhere.
So this year’s schedule is all about having fun. I went to Pucon because it’s touted as one of the most beautiful triathlons in the world (it is), and I stayed for a few days to go mountain biking, and enjoy the area. I raced in Israel because it’s a country I really wanted to visit, and because Abby was able to travel with me. And I raced in Buenos Aires because I love Argentina and I wanted to spend a few days touring the city (after the race, of course). Next month I’ll do Ironman South Africa and then I’ll spend 10 days traveling with Abby. Finally, I’m racing with Aaron Scheidies, trying to qualify for the Paralympics for cycling because I enjoy being part of a team and because I want Aaron to be able to achieve his dreams.
It’s may not be the most lucrative plan, but then again, the past few years, as I’ve planned my season to maximize income and pay my tuition bills to University of Chicago, I lost track of why I started racing triathlons in the first place. I joined Volcano Triathlon Team in 2006 because I wanted to meet people and challenge myself in a new sport. I quit my job to focus on triathlon because I wanted to see if I had what it took to make the Olympics, and I kept racing after 2012 because I still loved how exhilarating it is to pour your energy into a singular goal and then test yourself against the world’s best.
Somewhere, perhaps in my indoor trainer hours at 5am, I lost the feeling of fun that went along with those goals. Triathlon started to feel like a job, a means to an end that failed to surprise.
I kept it up because I love the sport, and I was still racing well – better than ever even. I kept it up because Aaron asked me to help him and I felt like I had a greater purpose than “playing bikes” (which is what Abby jokingly calls my job). I kept it up to prove to myself that I could.
This year, life is a little easier. “Playing bikes” has led to two wins and a third in the first quarter of the year. It’s led to a lot of smiles and self-reflection and new friends. In California I pushed myself to the brink of overtraining, just by having fun. In Chicago I’m making the most of what I have, and the training there isn’t so bad when I have a race calendar that I’m actually looking forward to again.
So far, this year is going well.