Training. Racing. More training to improve upon the weaknesses from the last race. Is this a hobby, or a way of life?
The answer to that question tells a lot about the person providing the answer.
A co-worker is preparing to race his first sprint distance triathlon. In an odd twist of reality, I would now refer to the race as "short." Half mile swim, 20 mile bike, 5K run. No big deal. The challenge will be the swim. And not because the swim is challenging for everyone, but because of the answer to the above question. Hobby, or way of life?
Twice this week, I showed up at the pool ready to help him with his swim. I had intentionally scheduled shorter swims to allow time to offer what meager guidance I have at my disposal. Twice this week, I completed significantly longer swims because there was nobody to train. Twice this week, my answer was "way of life" while his was "hobby."
His failure to make it to the pool doesn't concern me, too much. I was there to swim, regardless. And if the swim beats him on Saturday, it will be his lesson and his DNF. If he looks at training and racing as something that can be skipped, that's fine, as well.
Each of us must make the decision. Hobby, or way of life? By the way, the answer is best judged by actions, not words. What happens when the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. for a 5 o'clock morning swim session? Is it a jump out of bed to silence the alarm and get out of the house without waking anyone? Or is it a roll to hit the snooze button? What about when life gets complicated and finding time to train becomes challenging? Is it one more session that gets skipped, or one more situation where creativity allows the training to happen?
And here's a little secret. Either answer is okay. Some people planning a lifetime of triathlons will find that triathlons aren't really their thing. Others thinking about one small race will soon find themselves scraping together the $450 for an Ironman race. All are participating in a challenging sport, doing more than the average American ever considers.
And I'll be there, Saturday, supporting my co-worker as he races his first triathlon. And if the outcome is less than he hopes for, I'll be there afterward to offer suggestions for improvement. Because even if this is a hobby for him, it has quickly become a way of life, for me.