Triathlon Lessons of Life. Part 1 – Behind the scenes of a race

Your heart is pounding as you run out of the ocean and across the beach. You race barefoot through dry sand and over small sharp rocks, all the while stripping your wetsuit off your wet body. Your look around to try to find your bike among the hundreds set up in the transition zone. You passed many of your competitors in the throes of a whirlwind of swimmers – kicking feet and thrashing arms abound. You are breathing hard. You now need to slow it down to concentrate for the next task at hand. As you strip your wetsuit off, you see the black ink of your race number on your thighs and arms. It is only the beginning of your race. You need to find that fine balance of pushing yourself to the limit but still pace yourself to sustain your speed until the very end.

For those who are unfamiliar with triathlons (swim, bike, run), let me say this: It is one heck of a sport. I know, because I used to race triathlon competitions in Germany and Canada. I completed over 50 races. Highlights were the races I did as an age grouper on the Canadian Triathlon team. I prepared my body by training with a club some of the time. But it is often hard to co-ordinate work outs between busy work schedules. I trained between 20-30 hours a week – depending on the race length – to be a top finisher. Triathletes do end up training alone a lot of the time. This takes a lot of discipline. You are training your mind not just your body. Just like in life.

You squeeze your sockless, sandy, wet feet into tight bike shoes, grab your helmet and run your bike through a maze of other competitors. You are dripping wet and your heart is pounding in your chest. You jump on your bike and “get out of Dodge” as fast as you can.  Before all the people you painstakingly passed in the water catch up to you again. Once on your bike, it’s time to ramp up the power and energy, stepping deep into the pedals, your wet hair and clothes leave you chilled at first. The cheering crowd distracts you for a quick second and reminds you why you are doing this. “Go Canada!” they cheer. You say to yourself, “Holy cow, how awesome is this moment? How lucky am I to be here? To be able to move my body like this? And play in this league?” Most of your friends only just had their first cup of coffee at home (part of you wants to be there too). The other part feels exhilarated, happy, fulfilled. You are in the exact place you are meant to be. And you are ‘given her.

At this point, you probably assume that I have always been athletic my whole life, to be able to race for Canada. Most of the people I trained with would also not have guessed that this is absolutely not the case. I was raised in the inner city of a dirty old town in Germany. Not much was expected of girls when it came to sports back then. For example, we did not learn how to play team sports because we did not have a field for us to play on. I moved to Canada at the age of 9. All of my Canadian peers knew how to play many of the sports I was not even familiar with. And I had absolutely no stamina or skill, so I focused on academics instead. Puberty left me overweight and out of breath. A car accident at the age of 19 resulted in a broken back. The doctors recommended I don’t pursue any intense sports going forward. A far cry from racing for Team Canada 10 years later…

You hit your first steep hills. Your heart is pounding in your throat. Your legs feel heavy, maybe a few people (with really fancy bikes) start to pass you. You remind yourself, “You’ve got this.”  But it is starting to hurt. You swallow some power gel to refuel. Once you go downhill, you forget about the pain. You are the queen again! Until the next hill comes, that is. It humbles you tremendously and your inner gremlin grapples for the microphone of your inner dialogue, “Who do you think you are, racing among these athletes? You’re just that little girl who was picked last in the elementary school soft ball team. You have no business being here. You are not fooling anyone. You should just give up.”

The real telling moments in life – just as in sport – happen when things get tough. How you choose to show up determines the story of your life.

But, you are not that little girl anymore. You have trained hard and sacrificed a lot to qualify to be part of this race. You deserve it. And gosh darn it, you will do your best no matter what. “Take that, inner gremlin! And stuff it. If you are not going to help, then get out of the way.” Figuratively, your true-self pushes the inner gremlin off the bike. The bike feels a lot lighter. You notice how your strength comes back into your legs. The next hill, you push through the discomfort and pass those fancy bikes again. You pick up more speed and race toward the last transition zone.

Changes in our life circumstances throw us off our game. What does your default reaction look like?

As you jump off your bike, it feels like you are running on egg shells. Your legs cramp up as they try to adjust to being in an upright position. Although you have practiced the bike-run transition many times, it always feels harder during a race.  You spot your place in the transition zone when you recognize your wetsuit draped over the metal rack where you left it. Now it’s time to manage your breathing again. Slow it down. Don’t fumble. Bike shoes off. Running shoes on. More sunscreen on. Hat on. Turn your race belt around. And off you go – Run! You hear the crowd cheering somewhere in the distance. Maybe you recognize a familiar face as you head to the run portion of the race.


Just because something is difficult, does not mean it is not worth pursuing.

You’ve paced yourself well until now. Although your legs are screaming for you to stop, you know you’re good to go just a little longer. A little harder. Hydrate. Breathe. Suck down another power gel. Focus on your breath again. Ignore the stitches in your side. The blisters on your feet. The fact that your big toenail appears to be aborting the mission. You concentrate on each step. One at a time. Keep running. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Time is passing slowly now. You notice that some of the folks you passed earlier are whizzing by you. “They are real runners. You are not like them. You might be able to swim and bike, but so what? Who cares. You now suck! You might as well give up. And don’t ever try to do anything like this again. You are an impostor, and everyone knows it.” Yup, you guessed it, your inner gremlin caught up to you again.

Taming your inner gremlin is key to a successful life. Self coaching is the best way to do this.

At this point, it feels like even your inner gremlin can run faster than you. He is always close at hand when things get tough. You also know that this is exactly where the real race begins. The previous hours were just a warm up. You give your head a shake. You need to steer your inner self talk. Refocus. Breathe. You see your best friend cheering you on from the side lines. You dig deep. You stop letting people who pass you, throw you off your game. Instead you think, “Good for them. They are doing their own fight. They trained hard as well and deserve it too.” You feel compassion for your fellow competitors instead of beating yourself up for not being as fast.

Successful people tap into their social network to achieve more than they could ever do on their own. You don’t have to do it alone.

Just when you think you don’t want to take another step, you see the finish line in the distance. You hear the announcer and music playing.  People are cheering. A friendly volunteer with a neon vest and big sunglasses shouts over, “You are almost there!” You see the racers who finished ahead of you on the other side of the finish line, doubled over and panting for breath.  You dig even deeper. You are surprised by your newfound strength. The speed in your body. You are bounding now and wonder where that came from? You feel a big smile on your face as you recognize loved ones standing along the finish canal, clapping and cheering you on. Your eyes well up with tears as you feel your emotions come to the surface. You raise your arms in the air as you run through the ribbon. The announcer says your name. You don’t care what place you made. You are happy. You are exactly where you are meant to be.

If you want to know where you are meant to be in your life, check out my recent post: “What is your Why? Your life purpose revealed!”  And if you have not done so yet,  CLICK HERE to download your own free printable workbook, which shows you exactly how to identify your life purpose with confidence in under one hour.

I completed my second to last race 6 months after I gave birth to my baby girl. My partner and I raced one together after that. Likely, I will race again. For now, I continue to work out regularly, because it makes me feel good. And my clients agree: Working out is the best way to keep your energy levels up for the rest of your life. It also keeps our bodies strong and physically capable. And this is should be no surprise; our bodies are made to move. When we don’t, we feel and look unwell. And our mood suffers too. What does triathlon have in common with living a successful life?

In post #2 of this topic, I will share the top lessons from the world of triathlon, which anyone can apply to improve their life – without ever doing a race of their own. Subscribe to my email list to make sure you don’t miss it by CLICKING HERE.



Hey, come join me for the free 5-Day What is Your Why Challenge I am doing via Facebook Live. Click to sign up and get all the details!

Simone Alberts is a success coach, psychologist, mom to a 5 year old and founder of The Self Coach Approach. She empowers freedom seekers to know exactly how to coach themselves so they can create the life they really want – and not settle for the default version).

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