The finish is getting closer and closer. My legs move like bricks underneath my body. This should be the final corner. I see the banner on the footbridge over the road: 250 meter to go. A glance at my watch as it jumps to 2:59:00. Lightning fast the calculation shoots through my brain. Run faster than 4 min/km for the last 250 meters of this 42,195 meter. Shit. I might come up short here…
This first full triathlon season has been a great journey. What started in September with my first ever marathon, finished last Sunday with my second one. In between were my first two half Ironman races and the participation in various other triathlon, running, swimming, and duathlon events. Sometimes I even walked away with a medal. But the biggest reward this year is the discovery of what the sport actually gives me.
Living in Australia for the second consecutive year was still a bit about settling in. And being a part of a community always helps with that. In this case the North Coast Tri Club. A family orientated tri club full of people who day in, day out, train and help each other to be better, healthier or happier people. A club that not only offers a lot 'gezelligheid' as the Dutch would say, but also a club to draw a lot of inspiration from.
From the volunteers who passionately run the club to the talented youngster who qualifies for the World Championships in Canada. From the 60-year-old who qualifies for his first trip to Kona to the participants finishing last with the biggest smile on their face. And so on. Everyone has his own amazing story. It is pretty hard to not feel encouraged or motivated in the sport when you see this happening around you.
Naturally I already don't need a whole lot of encouragement when there is a competition involved. I simply don't like to lose. In anything. But triathlon made me realise who I am up against when competing. Turns out it is no longer that person on the other side of the ping-pong table or the footballer who tries to pass me. It is the man in the mirror. Me.
In triathlon, for 99% of the time, I am not racing someone else. I am only trying to beat the person and athlete I am today. Both physically and mentally. And I love that process. The constant drive for improvement. In every training. By spending hours on the bike, in the pool or out running. By being more conscious of what I eat and not forgetting my daily stretches. Setting new personal goals, working towards them, and either reach them - or learn from failing.
It might sound slightly unhealthy and obsessive for someone who is not even close to being a professional athlete. But the sports junkie in me just takes enormous amount of energy and pleasure out of this process. And don't get me wrong; I still hate to lose and will always try to win. But the competition has changed and my reward lies in taking joy out of getting better.
… So I try to sprint. I hear the crowd cheering on all tired runners and I awkwardly wave my right arm up and down to get more support. The adrenalin starts to kick in. I hear the speaker counting down to that 3 hour gun time barrier. The final 100 meters are approaching. One more last push and just before I cross the line I look at my watch. Did I make it? 2.59.54. I beat me today.