I think it is a question that has as many answers as there are triathletes. Each of us has a different answer to the question: Why do you do it? It would be easier to give up. Why keep fighting? For me, I honestly don't know. It would be easier to skip the workouts and sit on the couch and just let my aches and pains and blistered feet heal for the next thirty years. I have everything I need: Netflix, a big TV and I get the frequent shopper discount on the three gallon size cheese puffs from Amazon. They deliver.
Putting that small fantasy aside for just a second, I realized that my answer to that question is that I just don't want to stop. It's that simple. I might stop someday, but not today. Today, I work a bit harder. Today, I run an extra five minutes. Today, I keep trying.
The other day, I was talking to one of my few remaining non-triathlete friends and he asked me who the first triathlete was, so of course I tried to lie and claim that honor for myself but I couldn't keep a straight face while I said it so I was found out. If you don't count the kittens lost on the highway thing, I am not a good liar. But, like everything in my life, I am working at getting better. I am a work in progress in all facets of my life.
After talking to my friend, the question continued to haunt me. Who was the first triathlete? Paul Revere maybe. Think about that for a second. First, I remember reading that Paul could ride a donkey like a madman. That is one event. Check. Second, maybe Paul ran from where he was at to get on his donkey, so running is another event. Check. The problem is that I don't remember any reference to him swimming so I guess he doesn't really qualify as the first tri guy.
Archimedes was pretty famous and he spent some time in a tub splashing around doing medium-hard math, but I think he wasn't a runner, so it wasn't him. I am out of ideas, then last night, it hit me like a thunderbolt. I know who the first triathlete was. Odysseus.
Homer describes Odysseus as the original hero, or maybe the original superhero. Odysseus seemed a reasonable man who just stumbled into these unreasonable situations, fighting the good fight, battling against odds, slaying all manner of monsters just to get home to his family. Odysseus was a guy you could get behind because he was a family man. Everybody loves a family man. Odysseus was a guy you could trust. And best of all, he was the first triathlete.
Now, in our modern times, we don't have to wage war with a cyclops like Odysseus did, or even swim in unreasonably rough seas (except for Couer d' Alene) while trying to fight off Poseidon, but we do have to fight. As triathletes, that's what we do. We fight.
We fight our busy schedules and we fight through crummy weather. We fight a never-ending battle against injury; slipping closer to the injury abyss, stumbling ever closer to some foul end. We fight to ignore the complaints of an aging body for just one more year, for just one more day, for just one more second.
We fight against time: Time to train. Time for family. Time for a job. Think about it, we swim laps in the pool, over and over, on that same piece of real estate a thousand times, then a thousand times again. Why? Just to shave one second off a lap time.
We are on a clock when we run mile repeats, trying to beat the stopwatch. We are on a clock on our long ride of the week, trying to get that eighty mile loop down to four hours. The battle with time never ends.
The burden of the training calendar is just as big, but it isn't a physical burden. The calendar is mental cargo. A friend of mine told me that I am 'never more than twelve hours away from another workout.' That sucks. That works for a week or a month, but it gets old at about the four month mark. The calendar has iron-tipped tiger claws that reave your will. The calendar draws blood and leaves a scar.
We have some good days, but in the back of my mind, I know the trainload of bad days is just around the corner. We can't just call in sick. As triathletes, we keep fighting. We take just one more step. Like Odysseus.