Why I Tri
I am fortunate enough to have been an endurance athlete now for over six years, a part of Team SFQ for three years and now a member of the Smash-Dimond team. Sometimes I wish I had discovered the endurance sports world before I turned the ripe ol’ age of 39 (recently 45), but life initially had other plans that caused me to put a lot on the back burner. Sometimes I think it was meant to be this way, because I appreciate the little things so much more now.
I’ve raced 5Ks to full marathons, done a few organized bike rides and century rides, sprint triathlons and the full Ironman distance. Why you might ask? Not because I felt I had to or to prove I was a real athlete, it was simply because I wanted to and found happiness amongst other crazy like-minded people. Training is me time. Racing makes me feel like, for a brief period, I am a rockstar—that what I am doing might be inspiring someone, somewhere. The people I have met through the endurance community, especially my Smashfest Queen and Dimond teammates, are so encouraging — and the volunteers at these events rock!
The Distance Dilemma
I am one of those people who likes to challenge themselves and I’ve been extremely fortunate to do so. I don’t like to make excuses and want to one day be the 70-year old-badass passing everyone. (Thanks USAT for the age on the calf thing—humbling as hell!) So this brings me to my point: too often I see people posting online that they finished a triathlon only to follow-up with the words “…but it was only a sprint.” Why? Why is there a stigma in a sport where there are variety of distances that the sprint is somehow the easy way out or doesn’t count? Why do so many people feel the need or pressure to have to compete in a longer distance to be recognized as a triathlete?
Here’s the deal: If you train by putting in the necessary time, emotionally and physically, and complete any race feeling amazeballs and in utter awe of the feat your body just accomplished, then yes, you are a triathlete. You get it. And just as there are a variety of distances, triathletes race for a variety of reasons and with a range of goals. Some of us do it for fun and just want to finish—me for the last four years, while some of us want take it a step further and start competing for a podium spot or championship slot—me now. Whatever your reason or ultimate goal, the bottom line is to make sure you are having fun and being grateful to toe the line each and every time.
I love that endurance sports offer such variety. You certainly can’t get bored. But for me, after having raced a variety of distances, my favorite is still the sprint triathlon. Not because it’s easier, simply because it is where I have the most fun. Sprints hurt. You are going full throttle, balls-to-the-wall for the entire race, leaving nothing on course. Naturally, each distance has its own challenges—time being the biggest—and one obviously trains differently for each distance. But the adrenaline rush you get from racing in general is just simply a-m-a-z-i-n-g, no matter the distance. This is what most likely causes so many of us to click the registration link again and again and wonder, “What did I just do?” Oh yeah, I just clicked on happiness….
You Need to Do What Works For You
Crossing the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid will always hold an enormous place in my heart. That journey was just that, a journey I needed to go on for myself and no one else. It was my story and only I could write the ending, as it wasn’t race about finish times. Will I do another full Ironman? That’s for me to decide. But for now, I am enjoying working with my incredible coach, Mary Knott, to get faster and see just how far I can push my limits in the sprint.
I always tell people to race what makes you happy and what works for you. Remember, the distance isn’t what makes you an athlete; doing the work and showing up does.
Angi Harrison is a member of the Smash-Dimond team, an Ironwoman and a proud sprint podium finisher. This summer, she’ll be competing at USAT Age Groups Nationals in both the sprint and Olympic distance.