Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Why Do You Do It???

This week I was asked the following questions: What are you running from? What are you running to? Why do you do triathlon?

Befitting the questions, I started to ponder them on my run tonight. Am I running from something? If I asked myself that question three years ago, the answer would have been yes.

I was running to escape the hurt and anger of a betrayal. Had I not run I am sure my head and heart would have exploded trying to deal with all the emotion. Running helped me survive. I would run so hard that all I could think about was the burning in my lungs and my legs. There was no room for other thought. For many months it was the only activity that allowed my brain to focus on something other than the never answered question 'why?'. Thankfully, I no longer run from anything.

Nowadays I not only run, but I swim and bike. So what am I swimming, biking and running towards? That's easy - I move towards challenge.

Many moons ago I struggled with self esteem and confidence. People who know me now have a hard time believing that, but it's true. It was taking on challenges, big and small, that lead to gaining self esteem and confidence. Rather than cower from a challenge, I become like a rabid, frothing linebacker going in for the quarterback sack. Of course, the biggest mental and physical challenge was Ironman. Not just the race itself, but every day of training leading up to that momentos day.

So I was also asked why do you do it? Well now, that's easy. I do it because I am rewarded by attaining the goals I set out for myself. The question was then asked, do you do it for approval?

At first I scoffed at that, what a silly question. No way! Of course, that's when the wee gerbil in my brain started spinning. Huh. Do I do this for approval? This was a very hard question to ask myself. I don't want to do this for anyone. I want to do this for me. If I need to seek approval, isn't that the wrong reason to be in this sport?

It seems a can of worms was opened with that one simple initial question.

I like to be honest with myself, so after much thought I finally had to admit that there was a part of me that did this for approval. Look world! Look at what I did! Remember that little girl who would rather quit than fail at a task?? Well look at her now! I can do anything I set my mind to! I'm a frigging Ironman for crying out loud!

The good thing about being honest with yourself is that if you don't like the answer to the question - you have the power to change it. I would prefer to do things for myself. So maybe the whole triathlon/Ironman thing started out so I could prove something to the world, but it's not the reason I continue on.

Seriously, if I was competing in triathlon JUST for the approval of others, I wouldn't continue to do it. It's really hard work!! Not to mention it takes up a lot of time, and it can hurt. LOL.

So the other answers to the question 'why do you do it' would be as follows.
  • The constant challenge of the sport - even the pros haven't mastered it. Once you finally figure something out, like your swim technique, then you get to figure out how to go farther, faster. I love that.
  • The people invovled in the sport are truly like family. They encourage you, challenge you, share your laughter, your accomplishments, your tears and your fears. They are there with you every lap, pedal stroke and step.
  • The zen moments, where you think you've found Nirvana, are addicting. Once you've experienced it you want more. Droool.
  • The big accomplishments, like finishing your first triathlon, as well as all the wee ones make it so much fun. Swimming 1000 m under 20 minutes. Riding 60 km, 90 km, 210 km for the first time! Seeing your running pace get faster and faster.
  • The funny moments. Let's not forget those! Having a Nuun volcano in your car. Swimming into a bright blue paddle boat - that's docked! Dodging prairie dogs on your bike. Having your friend do a farmer blow on her bike in front of you, and feeling the spray. Getting caught on video shaking your booty to 'Baby Got Back' at the start of your very first Ironman run.

I think those are some pretty damn good answers. So now it's your turn to answer, 'Why Do You Do It?!'

Peace out my friends.


  1. ohhh I love these type of questions. First off for me it's about the self esteem and accomplishing things, similar to what you mentioned. The second major reason is harder to explain and it's more particular towards running. It just seems like I was meant to do it. When you're fit and running(night time for best effects) and you just let the pace go there's a certain freedom that you get from it. Like everything going on in your life doesn't matter. If you had a terrible day at work, relationship problems, financial difficulties, etc you can leave it all behind and right now it's just you and your body. Everyday I sit at work watching the clock and counting the hours before I can go home and do what I really love.... TRAIN!!

  2. Yes,yes, and yes! I agree with everything you wrote, Susi and what runningman said. Training liberates me -- when I am training, I am part of the world around me, not separate. By pushing past self-imposed limits, I have gained not only insight into myself (why did I create these limits to begin with?) but have gained more respect for people in general. Triathlon has taught me how to live with my eyes and heart wide open -- I learn something everyday. There are so many deep, profound lessons that have pierced into my core. These lessons aren't restricted to only one sphere of experience -- ie. an intellectual epiphany. Rather, the lessons I have learned through triathlon encompass multiple spheres at the same time. Every aspect of my being is fully engaged in these moments.

    Triathlon is such an intensely personal sport that other athletes have an immediate bond with one another. I LOVE TRIATHLON!!!! It makes me happy!! :) :) :)

  3. I am totally resonding to this when I have a minute...

  4. Great question and terrific post Susi. One of the best, if not the best response I have ever read on that particuliar topic. I look forward to meeting you one day and giving you a big hug for that!

    I ask myself that question from time to time and come up with a different answer each time.

    The NCCP holistic model teaches us that people participate in sport for 4 basic reason:

    1.) Sights & Sounds
    2.) Self Direction
    3.) Social Affiliation
    4.) Achievement

    5 years ago I might have categorized as an "acheiver" but since then I would lump myself into social affiliation, sights & sounds, and partly self direction.

    In no particuliar order:

    - I enjoy the physical/mental challenge
    - I enjoy being part of the triathlon family. Some of the best people I have met, and the world has to offer, are involved with this sport.
    - As my friend Troy once told me "Pain is liberating, Pain is freedom".
    - I like waking up early in the morning before a big race, butterflies in the tummy, its still dark outside, and that wet smell of dew on the grass. (sights and sounds)
    - I like the responsibility of planning my schedules and sticking to it.

    Overall, triathlon has truly opened my eyes to the importance of family, friends, beliefs and core values.

  5. Damn you this is so hard!! I'll post something up on my blog but you've given me lots to think about for the trip!

  6. i think we all start for very similar reasons....

  7. i started to run away from my husband at the time :) now i do it because i love the people, the sights and sounds (appreciating the outdoors but also with goals in mind) ... it models things for my kids....relieves me purpose....makes me appreciate alone time....the list is endless

  8. thank you so much for sharing - i am sincerely honoured.

    we are kindred spirits my friends!

  9. Why do I do it?

    Well, a year ago I was a fat middle aged guy beginning to worry about diabetes and other stuff. A few years ago I started swimming in the mornings rather than getting into work at 6:30. Back in the day, swimming used to be easy for me. I'd do a 20 min K and not get my heart rate into double digits. It's a bit fuzzy now, but I'm pretty sure on a good day I could break a 17 min K. Starting again was brutal. It took forever to start getting it back.

    Then in 2007 I had to eat my own cooking for nearly 2 months while my wife stayed with a dying mother. I lost weight. I took a package from a company, and the replacement job didn't happen, so I was off work for several months. I started riding my bike more, and began to drop more weight.

    About then Susi did her Ironman. I spent a big chunk of the day watching the internet feed. I can't say how impressed I was by these people. I remember seeing one girl who would be charitably described as "chubby", heading out onto the run. Ahead of Susi, and I knew how hard Susi had been training. It reminded me that appearances were deceiving.

    I've always been a goal oriented person. Give me a goal, I can fill in the steps needed to get there, and work at it. I think that one of the reasons it took so long to get back to a 20 min K was, A) that I was fat and out of shape, and B) I had a goal, but I didn't have a good reason for the goal.

    So I started thinking about triathalon as a goal. The problem is that I hadn't run since high school. I looked at the various distances, and though about it. Ironman itself was out, that's too big of a step. The sprint and olympic distances were so short that I was reasonably sure I could get through as is, though just barely.

    But half. I knew I couldn't do a half now, and would need to do some serious work to get there. Susi recommended IG. He didn't fall down laughing when I mentioned my goal, for which I was quite grateful.

    Now that I've started, I remain constantly astonished at the changes in myself. Depending on the number tomorrow, and the unknown number I peaked out at, I've lost on the order of 40 pounds, and trending down. I've had to buy new pants, new belt, and I'm getting near to having to do it again.

    I feel so much better these days. Getting out of bed used to be a bit of a gamble, now I usually roll out and get at it. I used to sleep like shite, now, most nights I sleep like a rock. I've got a bounce to my step. Well, most days I do. The mental alertness cannot be overstated. I'm thinking more clearly, and I'm more awake. If these workouts are the price of that, well, shite, why didn't I start decades ago?

    I'm in a really demanding job that has lots of stuff on the go. I'm typically running flat out most days. Some days (seems like more and more recently) I'm in overdrive. Normally busy days are rare, and I haven't had a quiet day since about 2 weeks after I started. Honestly, if I hadn't been working on my fitness, I think I'd have collapsed by now.

    The other part of constant astonishment is how my body has responded. I'm thinner, stronger, faster than I would have believe possible 6 months ago. Part of it is the coaching. Thanks Greg! Part of it is the encouragement from others, and I'll talk about that more in a minute. Thanks! But honestly, the big part has been me hauling my ass out there and doing it. The discipline carries over into other things.

    So far it's been me, me, me. The other part of this is getting to meet some great friendly people. People that are goal focussed. People that have issues in their lives, and are coping with them. People that have looked at something they wanted, and (literally) taken the steps to get there.

    I absolutely, totally believe that both luck and shite happens in life, but that people make their own luck, and their own shite. If you look around, by and large, you'll see that winners hang out with winners, and losers hang out with losers. Somebody that can cross the finish line at Ironman might be a jerk, but they aren't a loser. When you start winning in one part of your life, you'll start winning in the rest of them too.

    I love to win. Getting the feedback from other people about things you do well is an addictive drug. Getting deserved recognition for your accomplishments is better than morning coffee with Baileys in it. And there's no finer accomplishment than being able to do something you didn't use to be able to do. Even if nobody else in the world knows, you know, and nobody in the world can take that feeling, that sense of knowing right down to the bedrock of your being, that "I done good".

  10. okay, i was misty reading the other comments, but this time the tears actually did break free.

    having known keith for the last 5+ years i can say how much he has changed. i don't think i can say it enough - I'M PROUD OF YOU BUD!