What I Wish I Had Known 30 Years Ago
Often you hear these types of questions, “What would the ‘present’ you like to tell the 20-year-old you? What do you wish you’d known back then that you know now?”
I started racing triathlons when I was 36. I had a running background before that. Now, at 66, the rearview mirror shows me many lessons I’ve learned and discoveries I’ve had along the way.
IF..If I’d known then what I know now, would I have just quit after that pretty terrible first experience? Or, would I have jumped in more quickly than I did?
Unquestionably, I’d have kept going, more committed and “into it” than what I actually chose to do initially. My first race goal was the same as 99% of everyone, which was just to finish. It was just to answer the question, “Can I actually DO a triathlon?”
Now 30 years later, having experienced successes beyond my wildest dreams, I would have encouraged the 35 year old beginner-self with the following advice:
- This is a lifestyle, not a hobby. You’ll think about some aspect of it almost every day.
- The limits you have are 99% mental. They are mostly just illusions.
- You’ll not believe the success that awaits you. Your success will breed confidence that will lead to more success.
- The confidence you’ll gain is amazing and will carry over to the rest of your life.
- It’s a financial black hole. Seriously. Be careful.
- Don’t worry about being a lousy swimmer. Forget about that side-stroked 1,000 yds. swim in your first race. Forget about seeing only three bikes left in T-1 when you get there. Swimming is a life-long learning experience. You’ll get it. Get videoed sooner than later to see and correct your mistakes. Remember, solid technique + good body position + swim fitness = a good swim!
- Do not become tri-obsessed. Many do and lose all perspective on the bigger picture of life.
- Since you’re married with kids, put triathlon under them. A long way under. They must always come first!
- You’ll meet life-long friends. Enjoy those relationships. Encourage them.
- Give back. As you learn and gain experience, pass it on. Try to help others avoid making the same mistakes you’ll make along the way.
- You will have some terrible races. Horrible ones. But, you’ll also have some that will blow your mind!
- Figure out the race-day nutrition you’ll need. It’ll take several years to figure that out. Be patient. Hammer Nutrition will be a huge part of your success, so study their approach and use it.
- You WILL find yourself on the starting line of the Hawaiian Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. Yes, I just said that. Quit laughing hysterically.
- A gal in Phoenix who raced for (age-group) Team USA will tell you that you could do it too…quit rolling those eyes. She’s right.
- In 2013, you’ll find yourself in 2nd place at USAT Nationals in Burlington, VT, 100 yards behind the #1 ranked guy in the US after slowly closing on him the whole 5K. You’ll be faced with a decision. You’ll be hurting worse than you ever have in your life…and will need to dig even deeper. Do it. You WILL survive to talk about it, though at the time you won’t think so.
- When you pull up to that guy, with the long finish shoot/line in sight, don’t wait. Go for it! Don’t wait for it to come down to a 15 yd. sprint. Give all you have to the finish line. You’ll like the results.
- You will deal with injuries. Don’t get depressed or quit. Do resistance/strength work and you’ll be OK.
- You don’t have to have a $12,000 bike. Don’t be intimidated by those who do. When you pass them on your 10 yr. old bike, smile, and say, “Nice bike.” Wait, no, don’t do that.
- As you age, it’ll get harder. With age comes a greater desire for the comfort of all types…the couch, comfort food, etc. Fight it. Find elderly role models. Discover people way older than you who are still accomplishing crazy stuff and be inspired.
- Food and clean eating will be your biggest challenge, not the training. You can’t out-train a bad diet, you sugarholic!
- When you hit your late 50s and 60s, the number of athletes in your age group will really start to shrink. But, the fast guys will still be on the starting line. There will just be fewer of them.
- Finally, know that this is just part of who you are. This is part of who God created you to be. Embrace it. Develop the gift you’ve been given. Use it for the good of others and not just your own satisfaction. Give credit where credit is due.
Hey, you…young buck…are you listening to this ‘ol guy? I sure hope so! Listen up, believe it and apply it. You’ll be glad you did.