In triathlon, we have the opportunity to race along with the best in the world. There is no other sport out there that gives the ‘average Joe’ a chance to push limits and sweat along the side of the Elite. Many age groupers mentally/ physical mimic a pro’s approach to the swim, bike, run... recording/splashing social media by sharing their training, nutrition, recovery tips, etc.
That said, without sacrificing our type A personality that many times accompanies personal ambitious standards, goals, and commitment, I want to remind you of the simplicity and privilege it is in being an age grouper.
1- No Expiration Date
Technically, you are not limited by the number of years that you can race in this sport. The oldest Ironman World Championship athlete has been well into their 80’s. Age group athletes don’t have to face the idea of ‘retirement’ and public announcement of leaving the sport. We have the chance of competing and staying relevant within our respected age groups/amateur rankings for really as long as we wish.
2- Life Long Heath & Mental Well-being
This sport is no joke. Whether you are racing within yourself or striving for that podium, the sport “will beat you down”. Forget the physical strain but consider the emotional truth in that statement. Many pro athletes have come forward with an honest reality of loneliness and having a true struggle with self-worth, outside the sport. You have the chance, as an age grouper, to stay committed to a bigger picture and more fulfilling lifestyle outside the sport. Not to mention, you have the opportunity to ‘listen’ to your bodies signals. You do not have to ignore the significance of a bigger picture both mentally and physically.
3- Affords Balance
Your choice, “approach your training as a part-time pro (1K-2K hrs/year): while juggling a full-time job & part time friend/ family member OR spread out that 1K-2K hours over the course of 2-3 years while building and maintaining excellence in your professional and personal life)... your choice!
Again, without dismissing our allegiance to our performance aspirations, we have the opportunity to better balance our lifestyle. Age groupers do not have to isolate their lives into the sport while ignoring personally, relational, profession, etc goals. It has been said over and over, “A HAPPY athlete, will be a FAST athlete”.
One of the happiest, smartest, and most talented athletes explained how he organized a 3yr cycle of training & racing. His order of importance-
1st yr: family, professional, training/racing primarily locally
2nd yr: professional, family, training/racing primarily locally with 1-2 high profile races (goal to qualify for Boston or IM Worlds)
3rd yr: family, racing at the highest level for an age grouper, professional
Mind you, he owns his business, has a family of 3, and has maintained this rotation since the early ’90s!
Aside from feeding the age groupers ego, you do not face the need for instantaneous success. So maintaining a balanced approach will more likely give you a happy, healthy, fulfilling, and steady growth in many aspects of your life.
My hope is that you may find your formula.
Have faith, your day in/day out focus and consistency will lead to new limits.