Looking For A Unique 2016 Goal?

Make Someone Else a Triathlete!

by Cherie Gruenfeld

It’s a new year!

For triathletes, January holds the excitement of a brand new season. What 2016 holds in store for each of us is still unknown, and that’s part of the excitement.

That said, those of us who’ve been around a while do know one thing about the upcoming year which is that we will probably finish a triathlon of some distance. We know that because we’ve done it before – many times before, for some of us.

But I am reminded that there are many folks who have never done a triathlon and, if asked, would probably reply, ”That’s not for me. I could never do a triathlon.”

Recently, I was at a triathlon which is advertised as: “A distance for everyone!”  The weekend provided two days of racing which included an Ironman, a Half-Ironman, an Olympic, a Sprint and the Open, which was even shorter than a sprint. It was accurate  advertising - the two-day event welcomed all levels of experience.

On race morning I was introduced to a group of three 60+ women who were nervous about doing their very first triathlon – the Open. They were being guided by a fellow, much younger than they, who was an experienced triathlete. I watched as he walked them through the transition area, explaining what they would encounter there. He took them to the water’s edge and spoke about how to stay calm during the swim. Generally, he was keeping them calm and building confidence.

As race time neared, I walked down to the water and watched these three game older women as they entered the frigid water along with some very young kids, middle-age guys and others like them – of a certain age. What these people all had in common was: This was their very first triathlon. They were trained and they were ready – a bit scared, but ready.

As they came out of their short swim, every racer was sporting a big smile. The cold water hadn’t put a damper on their spirits. They were doing a triathlon!

Most were a bit shaky as they made their way out on the bike, some with helmets askew and jackets unzipped and trailing behind them. But the smiles were still there. On the run, they worked hard. After all, this was their first experience running after swimming and biking. There were a few grimaces, but those were quickly replaced by jubilation as the finish line came into sight.

I’ve been at many Ironman finish lines but they have nothing on the finish line of this  little triathlon. There was excitement and a grand sense of accomplishment, just as you see at the end of a 140.6-mile race. The emotions ran from relief to astonishment. It was truly a game-changer for each of these first-timers, whether they were six, sixteen or sixty-plus. Each was now “a triathlete.”

I’m sure that every one of these newbies had someone, like this fellow I watched shepherding the older women, to first convince them to give it a try and then to provide the coaching, motivation, inspiration, and hand-holding on race morning and to celebrate with them at the finish line. That kind of support assures the beginner of a successful experience and very likely adds a new triathlete to our ranks.

If you’ve never witnessed a first-timer reaching this milestone, I highly recommend it.

In fact, I challenge each of you to not only witness it, but to get involved. Become the one doing the convincing, coaching, motivating, inspiring, hand-holding and celebrating with them. Make it one of your goals for 2016. Trust me when I tell you that it will be one of your most treasured memories of the year.

If you’re wondering how to get started on this rewarding venture, it’s very easy:

  • Look around you. Do you have a spouse or a child who you could mentor through this journey?
  • Get them started quickly. With each new success comes more confidence about taking the next step.
  • Try to remember what it feels like to be a beginner. Help them to laugh at and learn from their mistakes.
  • Never forget this is their experience. On race day, you’re not the racer. You’re the coach, giving support from the sidelines.

You’re going to take this person, who felt he could never be a triathlete, on a grand journey, from the start line to the finish line.

It may just be a game-changer for you as well.

Enjoy the adventure

Good luck