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You would think that after doing triathlons for over 35 years, this would be an easy question to answer. My first was in 1981…yes I know some of you weren’t even born then. Yet after being asked to write a piece on “why I tri”, I found myself struggling to come up with an explanation. Is it the challenge? Is it the self-discovery? Is it the addiction to endorphins? Is it the competition? Is it the people/camaraderie? Is it the love of swimming/cycling/running? Is it the challenge of managing time to balance family/work/triathlon? I suppose it is all of those things.
I recently had to go back through a bunch of race records to find proof that at one time there was actually a Washington State Triathlon Championship race at Lake Sammamish back in the late 80’s. I didn’t have any luck finding it (I know it was held) but it was an interesting walk back through history of the races that used to be in this area. Now keep in mind this is before the internet existed and all of the race results were photocopied and mailed out to participants. They even posted results in the newspapers! It’s sad some of these races don’t still exist…Silver Lake, Clear Lake, Hoquim, EDS Tri in Poulsbo, Pro Sports Club tri’s and Swim/Runs, Seward Park Swim/Run races and the plethora of Bob Green races in Elma with distances of sprint up to a half IM distance. Bob even provided Wonder Bread to make sandwiches and offered Ho Ho’s and Twinkie’s as part of the post-race meal. Now keep in mind these were the days before tri bikes and wetsuits existed. All you needed was a speedo, goggles, bike, helmet and running shoes. In those days we thought too much time was wasted changing shoes so we rode in running shoes. I even remember doing the Sumner Duathlon (run-bike-run) with Ed Clarke and we opted to wear our bike helmets on the first run to save time in T1. Why do you suppose people don’t run in aero helmets…over the course of 26.2 miles I’m sure you could save 6-8 minutes…anyone willing to test this theory? How many of you would be willing to start a race with a speedo and bike helmet today? And race fees were $15-$25…who in the world would pay $30 to do a race…unheard of! And now I pony up $8-900 to race an IM event…if I had only just invested that money where would I be? It is amazing to see how the sport and events have changed and evolved over the years. Technology continues to innovate and bring new knowledge and faster products to the sport…and yet I’m not as fast as I used to be…maybe that is the influence of aging? My motivation to race fast isn’t as strong as it used to be unless maybe there are some apple fritters on the line!
The Great Apple Fritter Race (Josh vs Brad) 2016
Looking at the other names on the results reminded me of many battles. Some of those people have continued to race, others disappeared for a while and are beginning to resurface at races. It’s nice to see that people can stick with the sport for many years and continue to challenge themselves as we age or at least try to stave off the aging process. The element of trickery and being able to get a leg up on your competitors existed then as it does today. Bike helmets used to have Lycra covers over the Styrofoam shell. I remember using this during one of the Silver Lake races to trick Ed Clarke into thinking that he couldn’t see me up the road because I had switched colors of helmet covers because I knew he would be zeroing in on the black/red cover. I’m sure it led to my victory. And how could I forget the epic battle with Erin Eronemo in his first and last Half IM race in Elma.
As I think about doing this sport for 35 years, I’m not sure how I stuck with it and I’m sure most of you can relate. Trying to maintain a career and pay the bills, raising kids, family activities, doing yardwork, keeping up the house, training, racing and living off 5 hours of sleep a night for too many years…there is hope for those of you with young kids, it does get easier as they get older. Why do I do this crazy sport? It is the challenge, the competition, the endorphins, the people, the self-discovery, it is definitely the fun, the swimming, the cycling, even the running and perhaps, it is really because I don’t know any different.