Do you race triathlon because of the challenge of it, or do you enjoy the process of training for a race? What about life – your career? dating? raising children?
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a runner. She has run many long-distance races in the past and is in the midst of training for a marathon and doing serious mileage – currently 17+ mile runs on the weekend. She was telling me how she enjoys the process of training for these long races. By no means does this mean it’s easy for her. But she embraces the suck as well as the highlights. The times she wants to stay in bed but gets out to run anyways and feels great, the times when she doesn’t want to go and doesn’t, and the times where she plans on 4 miles but does 6 because she feels great. Some people, she said, do it for the challenge but do not actually seem to like the process of running.
I realized that this exact distinction is what I mean when I refer to the Trilife. I embrace triathlon as my lifestyle because I like the process, and I imagine that my readers do too. Perhaps you started triathlon for the challenge, and stick with it because you like the process.
I don’t think one way is better than the other. In fact, I’m not sure we have much control over whether we like the process or the challenge. Maybe new things have to start with the challenge? “Can I do this race?” And then somewhere along the way we realize we like the process of training for a race.
I think we will stick with triathlon for far longer if we like the process. My mother-in-law visited when I was training for my first Ironman race and commented how training for it wasn’t just a single decision. I didn’t sign up for the race and then be done with it. Rather, it was hundreds of decisions stacked up together, once or twice daily, to decide to get out there and keep training.
But if someone picks challenge after challenge in different physical arenas, then good for them! I have a friend who did a marathon and was ‘one and done’, but then she trained for a bike race as a new challenge. I admire this attitude as much as I admire someone who sticks with the process of a certain type of race.
Again, this is easy to imagine in the world of triathlon, but more difficult in ‘real life’. It occurs to me that when it comes to ‘real life’ I am far too driven by challenge than by the process. The qualifier “far too” in my sentence is specific to me alone. For me it is too much because it drives me nuts as I constantly think in my head about what my next career challenge will be. Maybe it’s time I take a lesson from my triathlon self and just enjoy the process of life and what it will bring me. I will end with this graphic from a Wait But Why post about our life span; at this point the author Tim Urban is discussing his view of navigating our life to balance the same old day that happens over and over again, with pleasure, with moving our lives in a helpful direction.