Triathlon is Not Like an Episode of MTV’s “Made”

I’m not sure if the MTV show Made is still on the air anymore, but here is the premise: a high-schooler wants to accomplish something, like making the cheerleading squad, or losing weight for graduation. MTV swoops in to make this kid’s dream come true by giving them a “professional” to guide them through the steps to achieving the dream. They work at it for a few months. The kid usually gets frustrated by the challenge a few times, threatens to give up, the professional encourages them, and they get back to it. By the end of the 30 minutes, the kid has generally accomplished the goal, and everyone learns the value of hard work and is happy and fulfilled.

I assumed triathlon would be like this. I assumed that if I dedicated myself to the sport – three sports – I would get good fairly quickly. Sure, I could only swim breast stroke and didn’t really ride my bike, but I assumed I was fit enough to get good if I just put the time in. It’s been an interesting lesson in patience because, as it turns out, it can actually take quite a long while to become a good triathlete. It turns out that it can take years.

I was naive about this. I sincerely believed that I could put in the training for a couple of seasons – heck, even year-round – and I would be mixing it up with the best of them. What I didn’t realize is that running and cycling are actually two very different sports that require two different skill sets. It is easier to pick up cycling if you have been a runner and have a good aerobic engine, but that is just a piece of the puzzle. The past two years have taught me that there is much more to being a good cyclist than being fit. Things like power-to-weight ratio, strength, bike handling, and flexibility all come into play. And, as it turns out, some of these things can take years to develop and improve. Just as I did not transform myself from a 3:37 marathoner to a 3:05 marathoner in one season, I realize now that I cannot logically expect to become a great cyclist in a matter of months. While I have made huge progress in my biking, I know that I am still not in the same league as the top age groupers.

Patience is not something I am good at. I am an instant-gratification kind of girl. I’m not necessarily proud of this character trait, but it’s the truth. So, in addition to giving me new skills and fitness that I have never known before, triathlon is also teaching me patience.

Unlike a tidy, 30-minute episode of Made, my triathlon skills will have to be honed over the course of years. There’s no instant gratification.

I have a feeling the ultimate rewards will feel much more satisfying.


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