What a difference a year can make!
A year ago a great friend of mine pushed me to sign up for my first triathlon, the 2009 Virginia Run Sprint Triathlon. I’d always thought of myself as pretty athletic in the sense that I lifted weights regularly and had cycled a bit in the past, so why not, that sounded like a good idea at the time. In preparation for the race I did a few runs but couldn’t run more than 2 miles because of terrible shin splints. I dusted off my bike, took it for a spin and swam a few times at the local pool. My training at the time (if you can even call it that) was severely hampered by a large deal that I supported and I found myself on the road for six weeks where the pressures to work long hours, eat junk food and drink with co-workers were simply too great to overcome. The result was a 215 lbs, out-of-shape, individual who finished 3rd from the bottom in my age group and thought I was going to die in the process. I’m not sure what it was but that moment at the finish line, I caught the triathlon bug and everything else is history.
A year has passed now and I just finished the same race as a way to celebrate my one year anniversary into the sport. As I look back to where I started I can barely recognize this person that toed the line a year ago but the transformation has been much more about my lifestyle than simply an athletic improvement.
Externally, the changes are obvious by any standard. The pictures alone speak for themselves in the simple physical changes that a year of committed training have had on me. Performance-wise, my 1:23:49 finish of 2009 trumped by over 21 minutes this year which led me to a second place finish for my age group is astonishing. As I was planning this year’s season, I was hoping for a mere 10 minute improvement and I clearly far exceeded that goal. It is also important to note that all of my time splits have improved in a year and across all three sports.
And yet, though I have obviously improved at my ability to perform in the sport of triathlon, much deeper changes have also occurred. As I look back at this person I barely recognize, I see someone who was tremendously challenged with balancing all aspects of his life. We all have multiple interests, activities and requirements. Work, family life, entertainment, activities all end up in natural conflict as life evolves and I have always struggled with the balance of all these components.
In the past, my passions often impeded on one another. Work and its travel had often placed any physical activity on a back seat for weeks at a time. When I was home, physical activity might have impacted my family life and when it wasn’t, my family life would be hurting my ability to work. Though I will certainly not claim to have found the perfect balance, this past year has been a huge improvement. By committing to goals and communicating them to family, friends and co-workers, things have generally fallen into place in a much more harmonious manner and as a result have positively impacted by general well-being.
My wife not long ago even confessed that she likes me better now than before I was doing triathlons even though I can assure you that work has increased and my time spent on physical activities has grown. I would even dare to say that this new balance has resulted in positive career growth shown through an increase in responsibilities. Healthwise of course the improvement is massive with 35 lbs lost and perfect blood test results at my last physical something my wife still thanks me for as my snoring has stopped thereby improving both her quality and quantity of sleep. I can also say that my immune system has greatly improved and I can’t remember the last time I missed a day of work due to illness.
The sport of triathlon is not easy and certainly not for everyone but balancing your passions is important regardless of who you are. Busy executive, stay-at-home parent, college student and just about anyone has challenges with time management and prioritization and I can assure you that none of this gets easier as time goes on. For me, discovering a passion for a sport helped improve my life in many way, perhaps it can help that of others as well.