The Growth Factor
by Maggie W.
Today I completed the ET Naperville Sprint Triathlon for the fourth time. This is the only race I have raced each year since starting triathlon in 2014. It has also been a fairly consistent race course over those four years (the only difference is the bike in 2014-2015 was 20k and the bike in 2016-2017 was 22k), which allows for some nice comparisons. In a sport like triathlon, there are many ways to gauge success, and for me, coming to triathlon as a band teacher, growth and progress is how I gauge success. However, I didn’t always think this way.
As a child and young adult, I was highly competitive – not just with myself, but with others. I had to be the best and do the best. I was striving to get the highest marks in class, win the most tennis matches, pitch the best games, audition and make all the top performance ensembles, etc. I’m not sure where this drive came from because my parents were always encouraging me to take a break and relax (or as my mom would say “just get a ‘B’ for once!”). Despite being highly successful throughout my youth, I was never particularly happy. One of the most memorable pieces of advice came to me from my 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Hrubesky. He wrote in a card to me, “Do not measure your worth by awards and accolades. Make yourself proud and be content with that.” Little did I know how right he was at the time.
Fast forward to today, and I am proud to say I am embracing those words from Mr. Hrubesky. Becoming a music teacher really helped me start to embrace the growth mentality because that’s my job – to help my students improve and enjoy making music. It doesn’t matter where each student starts, as long as they are growing. So, when I was looking to embark on a new fitness adventure, triathlon naturally appealed to me. It’s an individual endeavor with a community spirit where your success can be measured by your growth. It is also a very humbling sport – one in which you will find yourself being outraced by people of all ages and sizes using all types of equipment. If you spend too much time comparing yourself to others, then you’re missing out on the joy of the sport (of course, a little comparison never hurt to help light the fire, but all within reason).
When I first started doing triathlons, I wasn’t sure how quickly I would see growth, or how exactly I should measure my growth. However, one of the great things about triathlon is that there is so much to work and improve upon. Some days I like to measure growth by my enjoyment or capability to complete a challenging workout I never thought possible, and other days I like to crunch the numbers and analyze my run splits between workouts or races. Today, I was happy to do both subjective and objective comparisons of my performance at the ET Naperville Sprint Triathlon.
Biggest thing I noticed with this race in 2017 compared to when I first did it in 2014 – I completed it with so much more ease. I had fun in 2014, but was going all out physically for me at the time. This year, I felt relaxed and had fun. I did not feel tanked, and I had my best race yet (including my fastest 5K ever). The rest of my growth is in the numbers – but even then, each of those numbers come with caveats and stories (for example, 2016 when I raced with limited training post-sinus surgery or 2014 when I raced on a mountain bike). I also like to remind myself that each race is just a snapshot of the hard work and training I have put in. Some days will be better than others, and a bad race will not discount the growth and effort gained from weeks and months (and now years) of training. Additionally, bad races/workouts almost always illuminate something new to be learned. My wonderful coach, Coach Joe of Experience Triathlon Personal Coaching Services, reminds me all the time that I have many years of growth ahead of me. And for that, I am thankful. So, before you compare yourself to someone passing you on a fat tire bike or who is twice your age, remember Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is thief of joy,” and focus more on your journey and growth and enjoy the moment.
**Naperville Sprint Triathlon Stats for Maggie