Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Last Triathlon - A Possible Exit Strategy

At the time it seemed a bit odd. I was giving the keynote address at the Toronto Triathlon Club's AGM, and I was going over in detail, how to get out of triathlon! Well, to be true, it was the details of my last Ironman triathlon race which also happened to be my last triathlon. Whatever the case, it's always good to have an exit strategy!

For those still new to the sport of triathlon, or still in pursuit, of that first Ironman race, please ignore the following, but book-note this for the future. You may want to come back and review this at some point!

In 1997 a lot was going on for me. My son was born in July. I was entered in Ironman Canada (Penticton) in August of that year, and I had also started a new, very exciting, but demanding job at Sugoi. Matthew was born on July 13. Training had been sporadic that year to date. If I was being honest with myself, my enthusiasm to keep training and racing at the same level, was starting to wane. Two weeks after Matthew was born, I had a bit of an epiphany while out for one of my last long runs before IMC. I decided on that, run, that IMC would be it - the last triathlon!

Much to my surprise, the race at IMC went extraordinarily well - swam OK, biked strong and, pulled a rabbit out of the hat on the run. It was particularly satisfying because my age-group had been fairly competitive with a close battle for 2nd - 5th spots, that went on step-for-step, deep into the run - rare in long distance triathlon. I managed to finish 2nd on the strength of what had always been my strength in the sport - a strong run. I held, my one month old son in my arms, just over the finish-line and wept, genuine tears of happiness and gratefulness. This was it! Not my best race. Not my best finish at IMC, but on that day, in that race, in that moment, it was fantastic!

The lesson here, with the luxury of hind-site, is when you have a really good/great Ironman race, and you know you are towards the end of your triathlon, "career" . . . . . . walk away!  I see many people grimly struggling on, still trying to have that amazing or prefect Ironman race, and unfortunatly for them it never comes. It's a race with so many variables and can be brutal and uncompromising - you have to take your "victories" when and where you can. Rarely does an Ironman triathlon go completely to plan. Knowing when to pack it in is sometimes, just as important as knowing when to start things up!

Years later, I am pleased that I did decide to end it there. It's always good to go out on high note. To be able to look back at that last race, with happiness and satisfaction that, you gave it your best on that day, and that it went well.

Sixteen years on, I have no regrets. It was time to move on.

Final Thoughts: If you have moved on from triathlon, hopefully you've stayed active. Moved onto another endurance sport - you have a great base and experience in three, from all that hard work in triathlon!

If you have moved on, what have you moved on to?

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Anonymous said...

Great insight and question, Steve!

After five Ironmans (four at IMC), Jesus Christ got hold of my life. It was a week before Ironman New Zealand, in March, 2002 and not something that had been in my self-sufficient game-plan. I raced with a newfound peace, and finished with a deep joy that has not faded as so many finishes did.

Like Ironman, the Christian walk not easy, but my new life in Him exceeds -- on a daily basis -- the very best shiver-down-the-spine, tear-in-the-eye, hard-earned-medal-around-the-neck Ironman finish I ever had.

Are you prepared for the ultimate finish line we all must cross? Are you ready to stand before a holy God? Are you running to win the ultimate prize?

Steve Fleck said...


Everyone has to find their own source of motivation.

Thanks for your comment and for reading.


Triman said...

I think I've gone "cold turkey" on long distance racing, we'll see.

While Ironman might define triathlon for many, and thus quitting Ironman is quitting triathlon, it doesn't have to be. Triathlon racing at age group sprint, Olympic distance is entirely more manageable.

I respect you for quitting entirely, it doesn't have to be that way though. Don't think dropping distance means it will get easier. It can but it doesn't have to be. Setting yourself goals in life, measuring achievements is an entirely positive thing to do. Want to improve your 5k speed? Challenge yourself to podium or win you age group in sprint triathlon.