April 21, 2001. I’m standing on the edge of an outdoor pool in Birmingham, Alabama, next to Jan, ready to literally dive into my first triathlon. I’m the only person from Wisconsin. I traveled a long way to try a new sport.
June 22, 2001. I’m standing at the edge of Lake Wazeecha outside Port Edwards, Wisconsin, next to Jan. It’s the day before our second triathlon and a fit-looking gentleman in his 70’s scans the lake with his eyes. We ask if he’s doing the race and he says, “Yeah, I’m doing it with my son. He got me started doing triathlons back when I was in my early 50’s and I’ve now knocked off over a hundred races.” I am overtaken with the magnitude of his achievement. As we walk away, I can’t stop thinking about it.
The next day. The event has started and I'm struggling in the lake, trying to propel myself forward. This is an ice cube race. I have never subjected my body to such cold water in my life. My lungs are in shock and won't take in air. I don’t own a wet suit and when I get out of the water, my arms are numb. All these athletes are NUTS!
And yet, the idea of creating a long-term fitness goal took hold of me that weekend. One hundred races. I would be healthy long into the future.
At the time, my son David was four and my daughter Heather was seven. I had moved to Wisconsin where I faced the risk of packing on weight from cheese, beer, and long winters. I dreaded the thought of turning into a butterball, so a long-term fitness goal seemed like an excellent preventative measure. Knowing I’d be vibrant and able to enjoy life far down the road was also extremely enticing.
100 triathlons. I run some scenarios through my head. What if I aim for 100 races in 25 years? That would be four each year. Or maybe in 20 years, with five each year. I’d be 54 years old when I reach 100.
“Jan, that guy on the beach yesterday really impressed me. What a great way to stay in shape. Don’t laugh, but I think I could do 100 races, too! Can you just imagine?! Maybe I could do 5 a year for 20 years.”
Eleven years have now elapsed since I set that goal in 2001 and during that time I have completed 56 races! Yesterday was number 56, after completing the Beloit Krueger Pool Triathlon.
The landscape of my life has changed dramatically over the same period. I've gotten divorced, completed a half Ironman triathlon, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, changed careers twice, started my own business, brought a new house, and enjoyed dozens of new friendships. I have led my kids backpacking forty miles through the Grand Canyon. I also met Michael, my true soul mate, who I'm marrying in August.
Life is busy and there have been times when I’ve thought about leaving the goal behind me in order to pursue other things or just free up time for other weekend events. But in the winter, when I’m confined to the house and instinctively eating fat-producing carbs to keep warm, I remember the important role that the annual cycle of races plays in my life. The sport of triathlon helps me gauge my level of fitness over the years. It allows me to surround myself with people who share my enthusiasm for outdoor activity. It also helps me keep my value around health and wellness at the front of my mind.
Fall 2020: It’s 7 am and I’m standing ankle deep in a lake, next to Jan, poised for a start gun to go off. My kids, now 24 and 27, and Michael are spectating from the side of the beach. They’ve used a thick marker to write “Happy 100th race, Mom” on the back of my leg. Jan trash talks in her most innocuous voice, “I’ll wait for you at the finish line.” to which I retort, “Like hell you will!”
It's Your Turn
What’s vitally important in your own life? Is it your health, friends, family, romance, career, intellectual challenge? Whatever it is, make sure you devote enough time and energy to it. Attach time-bound goals and develop strategies to get there. Learn to remove obstacles that stand in your way. And finally, create a circle of supporters who will get you through the rough patches and celebrate your achievements and growth.
Research shows that we are most fulfilled when we pursue our most cherished needs, goals, and wishes. Don’t wait. “Someday” never comes. Just start dabbling in whatever would make you happy and see what happens. You might love the outcome.
If you need help getting started, call me. I would love to help you launch into a new adventure!
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