Upon completing the Chicago Triathlon this year, I had some thoughts about measurable progress and mentoring which I wanted to share. I fared well among my age group, but my personal time is not the story I’m most proud of. The lesson I really want to share, is about the true value of turning other people on to your passions, and the delight in seeing them succeed.
Last summer I worked and trained hard with my now wife, Jess, so that we both would do the International Distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) Chicago Triathlon. We biked and swam together several times a week without fail. I never felt like I was slacking when training with her, but neither was that time usually spent at racing speed. At those speeds, I was due not to match some of my previous times in the bike portion, but the value of us training together, staying mutually motivated, was worth the tradeoff. Already she and I were going to have a milestone of our first Olympic distance tri, and at any speed that’s an accomplishment to be proud of.
Other friends, who already ran in running events decided they’d try their first tri and do a Sprint distance that year. Four of us took a really memorable picture before our races, and it was so fun to have a gang together.
This year, except for Jess who was pregnant, the other friends went on to do their second Sprint Tri, and they brought a fifth person into the mix for their rookie year. It was spreading! There is no improvement more gratifying to watch than the early improvement once someone has done a Tri before. One of our crew, who last year had to stop and hang onto each lifeguard boat as she passed them, this year had the milestone of doing the swim unassisted!
There’s an old African proverb; “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, you must go together” This is true in a broader sense than you may think. It can be bittersweet to trade off some of one’s own performance to help another. But that is what makes converts, and new happy converts can keep your own motivation high for longer than you can do it yourself. If you’re willing to see them eventually overtake you, and be truly happy for their progress, than you are truly fighting the good fight!
Footnote: I’m actually very glad to have these results, exiting the 35-39 age group with a time in the top 20% of my age group and top 13% overall. In many senses this is a personal best for me, even if not the fastest overall time. That’s a wonderful thing about triathlon- there are so many independent ways to improve! I almost think that improvement is automatic as a function of hours put in- “that which is measured, and focused upon- improves” So I’m glad I did not miss the chance to convert a few new folks, only to rise a few measly percent in overall standing – I’m not going pro any day, anyhow.