A few weeks ago I raced the 70.3 (Half Iron Man) World Championships on the Sunshine Coast. It was the first time I had competed at a World Championship event and went into the event without any real expectations. In fact, the main thing I wanted to achieve in the race was to put together a strong run split. I really thought I would be able to run in the low 1:20’s off the bike. I was conservative on the bike to ensure I had fresh legs but the last few climbs as I came towards transition just seemed to drain me a little more than I expected. In the end, I did not run as fast as I wanted or expected. This left me disappointed. On the flip side, though, I was over the moon that I had just completed my first World Championship. The whole experience was amazing and something I will struggle to forget.
What I have been struggling with since the race is to answer people if I am happy with my race. I am happy. As I mentioned, the experience was amazing. Being on the course was amazing and running down the finish line with my Countries’ flag was amazing. However, I am not entirely happy with my result. But how do you explain this to people, especially people who are not triathletes? Do the two feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction need to be mutually exclusive? Is it possible to only feel one? So my standard response has been “yes and no.” This is then followed up with a much more in-depth answer than I think they expected (or wanted for that matter.)
That’s the thing about sport and racing, though, it is a constant dichotomy (a fancy word for contrast.) When you race it hurts and can literally bring a person to tears. But we do it because we enjoy it? We spend countless hours training or getting up at the crack of dawn when all we really want to do is sleep in. We obsess over our food and complain about our diets but again we do it because we are working towards something we do for fun. I think athletes of all sports can understand this. For the vast majority of people on this planet who play sport, only a minuscule percentage will ever rely on a sport to make a living. This means that the vast majority compete for fun or as a hobby.
So we race for fun or because we enjoy it but at that the same time we accept that there are many aspects of doing what we enjoy that is in fact, not so enjoyable. So why then do we bother? Why do we bother getting up early or pushing ourselves so hard we literally vomit? As stupid or confusing as this may seem I think the answer loops back to the fact that we do enjoy what we do. There are many different ways a person can enjoy it though and while every person has their own motivations for it there is no wrong or right answer. Some people enjoy sports because it is social for them. They love to train with a group of friends and it is a big part of their social life. Other people compete because they want to stay in shape. This is a big part of it for me. Triathlon has helped to keep me in shape and has meant that I have not put on the 50kgs I lost for over 5 years now! Another group of people which I also think I fall into pursue their sport and are willing to suffer through all of the challenges because sport can help us to be the best version of ourselves.
At the end of the day, sport is a hobby. The world isn’t going to end if a person wins or loses and this is true for amateurs as well as professionals (you wouldn’t know it the way some fans carry on.) But sport can teach us many lessons that can be applied to everyday life. Teamwork, dedication, overcoming obstacles, problem-solving. These are the sorts of catchy words you wouldn’t be surprised to read on a resume. But they are things that are best learned while training or competing or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So yes, sport is a dichotomy. Like me, it could be because you had a good experience but were not satisfied with your actual performance or it is because you love to compete but struggle to train. It can be the worst thing in the world sometimes but can just as likely be the best. The fact remains though that we all continue to pursue it. For whatever reason, we accept the contrast of sport, the highs and lows and say screw it and do it anyway.