Tomorrow is the first race of this fine series and first race for the start of my 3rd triathlon season as an amateur age grouper. To preface, this sport has encompassed my life since it was a mere topic of conversation with my brother in February of 2011. A month later I was motivated to sign up to race an “open” distance in open water with HITS Triathlon Series in Ocala. It was the inaugural season for their race series as well, with our small group of eager first-timers representing the undeniable demand for multi-sport. The race director, Mark Wilson, with experience in several ironman races, did his best to settle our nerves, but also envisioned us one day bringing triathlon from a niche to a much broader/mainstream collective from simply the “open” intro distance.
With plenty of prayer, I treaded water until hearing the sound of the gun. About my fourth stroke, I swallowed a liter of water and my heart rate skyrocketed. The rest of the race I had trouble lowering my heart rate even after sitting in T1 (Transition between swim/bike) for a few minutes. And so, I suffered until the last 200 metres of the race (the run portion). At that moment, I saw a man not even 10 years my senior in slow motion. I urged him to get going on as we were near the end. Reluctantly, he started to jog again and then nearing the last 100 metres or so, he sprinted with me to the finish line. I backed off so he could complete the race before me as he was ahead of me anyway and I felt was the right thing to do.
The first-timers and I quickly sat down on the chairs recovering from an exhilarating adrenaline spike, but relieved it was over. Soon after, Mark Wilson started reading off names of awards given to those 1st in their age category and 1st overall. I knew since I let that man finish before me, it was unlikely that I won anything, but to my surprise they called my name (the catch: I was the only one in my age group there that day). I’ll take it! Had I quit in the lake when I swallowed that water and couldn’t regain my form, I would have never had the opportunity to meet that man near the finish and help him finish or win the award. God’s providence, I guess.
Lesson: this is something that has changed my life. Triathlon embodies what I believe, what I know, and what I want. That is, I believe/know/want a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle. I want to learn how to master 3 sports. I want to expand my belief and mental focus to a higher level. I know it will take time, dedication, commitment, patience, but most importantly, a cheerful happy heart.
Fast forward to today, I ask myself why do I engage in triathlon? The past three years participating in this sport has helped me reflect on the impact it can make on people I meet on a daily basis. From my patients, to my colleagues, from my family to my friends, knowing that we can do all things through (higher power insert name here), whether God, Jesus, Allah, or whomever you believe in, we can achieve great things. We can do things most do not believe is possible. We can stretch our brains out to fulfill closer to its potential. And finally, we can focus our mental faculties on positive and empowering things. Will you accept the challenge? Will you TRI? If you already have, will you TRI HARDER, LONGER, or FASTER?