It’s the question that I have been asked a zillion times.  Why do you train so much?  Why do you wake up early so often?  Are you crazy?  Is that really fun?  Why do you put yourself through that?  Honestly, I’ve always had an answer to these questions, but after thinking about it some over the winter I realized that there are more reasons than I originally thought!

Why do you play the game?  At least for me,  the primary reason is competition, or to win.  Whether it was playing church league basketball or little league baseball growing up, flag football or rowing in college, or road races and triathlons post college, the goal for me is and always has been to win.  That is what I want to do.  It is fun.  Another thought is this: as much as it sucks to lose, if I know (emphasis on "know") I pushed myself to the limit and still lost, then I’m OK with that.  Some people aren't.  That doesn’t mean that I am happy by any means, but at some point you have to get over it and move on to the next task, using anything you can as a source of motivation.  Over the years, I have came to realize that competition is necessary for me to do what I do and train how I train, but it is not sufficient.  In other words, if you took the competition out of triathlon or any other endurance sport, it would have no interest to me.  But having the competition is not enough in itself; if it quits being fun, then I would lose interest as well.

You may not think so, but the daily grind of training really is fun.  It's really a lifestyle, not just a chore-list of workouts you have to do each day.  I mean, no one likes chores, right?  Now, this may be hard to understand, but it really is true.  Why else would we do it?  Why do 30 people show up on MWF at 5:10 am to swim with the Birmingham Swim League master's group?  It's not because we have to...it's because we want to.  It really is hard to describe the exhilarating feeling that you get on a bicycle while bombing down a hill going 50 mph.  Or spontaneously slamming the pedals and taking off up that same hill and having an ad hoc race against your best friend.  While you are bitter enemies during those few minutes, you get to the top and laugh between gasping breaths about how much fun it was.  Or that rush you get in a race when, for a short period of time, you are running as hard as you can and there is no pain.  Or the sense of accomplishment you get after completing an epic training ride or run or race or season.  There is just something to be said about logging hours; just you and the open road, giving you time to think, ponder, listen to good music, sweat, and just get work done.  It makes you feel alive.

Nothing really compares to the scenery that you encounter over the years on your bike or in your runners...like biking up a challenging mountain and then treating yourself to the amazing view at the top, or running some dirt road in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees, birds, and the occasional squirrel or deer.  Or climbing up Smyer Road and riding across the bluff of Shades Mountain RIGHT at sunset…anyone that has lived in Birmingham for awhile knows how awesome this is!  Romans 1:20 says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”  For me, it’s clear to look at all that I see and come to the conclusion that He made it all, that no one else could have done it except for Him.  It’s almost like my own little worship session; being in awe of creation.

For obvious reasons, doing exercise is good for you…as opposed to sitting on the couch and eating potato chips all day.  Now, we won’t get into the fact that you might twist your ankle while running, hurt your shoulder swimming, or wreck your bike…but those are inherent risks that are assumed and that are all around us anyways.  Also, the social side of endurance sports is there just like anything else…you get to meet people, hang out, fellowship, do life…it’s like what anyone else does with their friends…it’s fun.

Now the old saying goes, “limits are made to be broken.”   What is less boring: to be challenged and put out of your comfort zone, or to easily repeat the same task over and over again?  This question could have many different mediums, whether it be school, work, sport, or life in general.  Why do people challenge themselves?  Why do people set New Year’s resolutions every year?  Is it to challenge themselves to be a better person?  Is it because testing and challenging one’s self is ingrained in the human nature?  Do YOU know what you are capable of?  Do you want to know?  I still don't know what I'm capable of in the future, but I do know that what I'm capable of now dwarfs what I thought I was capable of 4 years ago.  The only way to find out is to go for it.  In triathlon, the athlete is very familiar with the words “test” and “challenge”.  To race at the highest level, not only is the day to day routine challenging, but putting together an entire season is even more demanding.  If it’s so demanding, then why do it?  As with any trade-off analysis, the reason why anything is done is because the pros outweigh the cons, the good outweighs the bad.  It’s hard to describe the feeling you get after winning a race.  It’s also hard to describe the feeling you get after just barely finishing a race that you thought there was NO WAY you were going to be able to finish, but somehow, miraculously, you went blatantly beyond any “limit” that you thought you had.  It’s a sense of accomplishment and a sense of knowing what you can actually do, because you actually did it. 

So, in the end, it’s a number of reasons that lead me to do what I do, and I'm sure I left some out.  These reasons are all related or intertwined in some way, and they each have their place.  If it doesn’t make sense, then don’t worry about it. 

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