Friday, July 15, 2011

Race Report, part 2

Triathlon training: Almost as good as a
trip to Fantasy Island
When I initially got the urge to do a triathlon a year ago, I would say the primary motivation was a desire to perform. I was already swimming, biking and running a few times each week but it wasn’t enough to just do these activities on my own. I really wanted to participate in an event that required all three, to prove to myself, or the world, or some invisible observer, that I really could do it. I wanted to be more than just a recreational swimmer, biker or runner. I felt like I had to finish a triathlon so I could indeed identify myself as a triathlete. I wanted to be something more than just who I was currently identifying myself as at the time, which was, most likely, a middle-aged, suburban housewife and mother. Anyone who knows me hopefully knows that I would say that with more than just a tiny bit of sarcasm. But sarcasm aside, to some extent, I was feeling that that was “all” I had become and I just wanted to be something else for a moment, something more. It was like an escape.

After the race was over, I said to my husband, “there, I am a triathlete!” Of course, I had done a triathlon years ago at age 26, but does one triathlon make you a triathlete? Once a triathlete, always a triathlete? Is it like alcoholism where some people believe that even once you’re sober, you’re still an alcoholic, just a recovered alcoholic? What is the official criteria for identifying one’s self as a triathlete? Although I have run two marathons in my life I hardly think of myself as a marathoner. I simply don’t “feel” like one. I only reluctantly identify myself as a “runner” even though I have been practicing that activity in some capacity for over 20 years. I’m not sure why that is.

I am also a mom, and I have a lot of friends who are mothers. I think it’s a shame that “mother” isn’t as “kick-ass”-sounding as “runner” or “triathlete” or say, “superhero.” There are probably many other identifiers like dad, librarian or single-gal-living-alone, which are equally lacking in cache but that doesn’t mean those people are not totally cool. Our personal cool factor, or lack thereof, has to come from within, right? It’s an easy cliché to fall back on. But what was really remarkable for me was that as I was out there performing in a tough race and feeling determined about finishing, I felt even better when I saw my daughter on the sidelines and remembered who I really am. I get that it’s possible to be a mom and a bad-ass athlete at the same time. I’ve seen those photos of Dara Torres. But for me, it is a really important distinction to make. Yes, I feel pretty cool that I competed in a triathlon. But that feeling will only last for so long. I could stop working out and I would lose that sense of who I am. But I don’t think I will ever lose my sense of being a mom and being more important to one little person than anything else in the world. Making that realization was a major accomplishment for me.

So however you identify yourself, whatever you know in your heart and head to be really meaningful, I wish for you to find the appropriate yardstick by which to measure your performance. And I hope it comes up with all good marks, or at least ones you can live with. I ask you, do you feel like you left it all out there on the field each day? Then you are super bad, too.

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