Old dogs and new tricks. Tired old cliché, right? It might be but regardless of its antiquity I didn’t think the old dog would ever be me. But it sure seems like it is these days. Every once in a while I run my fingers through my hair and I see far too many gray hairs. That’s OK, though. I have names for them: “Jet Blue” “Luggage Carousel” “Ignorant and Lazy Traveler.” I have earned these hairs, even if I do not want them. Nevertheless, I am as youthful as I have ever been and am in the best shape of my life. Unfortunately, that does not mean every sport is going to come easily.
In the past two weeks I have taken on my first duathlon ever and my first Olympic Triathlon. A swimmer growing up, I was hoping that a few rudimentary workouts in the pool (which is all I have been able to fit into my schedule) would put me in decent swimming condition. They did. But having never been a cyclist, I had no old latent skills simply waiting to be kindled back into life. As such, the few rudimentary workouts I have done in that field (yesterday’s triathlon would be the 10th time I have ever ridden an actual tri-bike, a number which includes three races) put me nowhere near where I know I can be. And therein is the beauty of this new challenge.
Does it hurt the ego a bit to be nowhere near as good as I would like to be in the events? Absolutely. Have I also realized that, since these were the first two times I had ever completed the events, I set a new personal best in each? You bet! Of course, that only happens once per event and now I actually have to get better to experience the personal best. That one-race buffer was enough to whet my appetite, however. That buffer was just enough for this old dog to realize some new tricks are always welcome to the repertoire.
These triathlons and their ilk are strange to me in that they require so much more pre-race preparation. In running, it is fine to show up five minutes before the race (for most races), find your spot and run. You know who the competition is and you are all headed in the same direction. With wave starts based on age (or even the alphabet), staggered placings in order to get all the competitors off on a narrow path, and triathlon gear out the wazoo, there is a large hurdle to overcome for each race beyond the actual training for the event itself. It is throwing me extraordinarily out of my comfort zone. And it feels great.