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Steve Trew explains how the old-school triathlete, will keep on going. He just can’t help himself…

About 18 months ago (issue 70) my column was about the old-timer triathlete who had swum, biked and run pretty much every course there was, in a time before wetsuits and warm-weather training camps were part of the triathlon scene. But where is he now and can he still compete?

No one knows accurately how long an athlete can go on successfully without doing permanent damage to his or her body. The years it takes to grow and improve, the years to hone the talent, the years to use the craft, and the years to exist on the skills and knowledge that have been gained.

Then there are the years when the skills speedily and most ungracefully slip away. You would have to follow him on thousands of meandering miles and to thousands of training sessions to watch him grow fit and strong, to see him race and win, and then fi nally to witness him decline and lose.

You wouldn’t know him from the other triathletes who are also running and cycling and swimming the thousands of miles, taking their turn at winning and losing.

From the look of him, our old school triathlete is past running, cycling and swimming. For many years now he has run and cycled around the same circuits, swum at the same time in the same swimming pool. The locals know him and have grown used to the gaunt figure silently shuffling the familiar paths.

He no longer associates with the younger triathletes . He chooses and prefers the lonely pavements. It was better in the old days. Summer was for triathlon. But triathlon at other times of the year? No, never.

He is more than a little weary and his body has been used up by the years. His once so proud body that has betrayed him, his muscles honed to fine perfection. A body that had once reacted instantly to every thought and command now lags behind his brain and memory.

The skin seems too big for the body inside it, the lightness needed for competition had stayed as he had swum, cycled and run away from the competitive years.

How he’d reached this age without breaking down was a mystery. The hard surfaces had strangely left him injury free, while age had left him looking ridiculous. He wears the lightweight clothing and shoes of a young athlete, but on an old man’s body.

He has no injuries but he aches. Old men always hurt somehow and somewhere. He shuffl es along almost from side to side now, and talks to himself as old men do, the burden of his age and his lost youth hangs heavily.

He had been good in his time, he knew that. He’d raced everywhere; Windsor, Shropshire, London, Blenheim, Lanzarote, France and Holland, chasing competition but also because he wanted and needed to race.

Other triathletes had looked at him enquiringly, had watched him stretch and warm-up, had jogged behind him as if by chance, perhaps waiting for a careless word to be thrown in their direction, for it was always this way.

They had copied his clothing and admired his style. The sycophants had been around him always, younger athletes eager for the knowledge he had to give; always someone to carry his tracksuit, to fetch a drink, to want his wise experience.

But now he is very much alone, trapped by the years of his ageing. The others were long gone, both friends and rivals. He is tolerated only, an athlete from a long-gone era. It is over. He is too slow to swim, cycle and run with others.

His body is sore. His legs, back and shoulders ache. He is bored with training but for some reason he needs it. Though he would be glad to see the end of it all.

The world had changed, was changing still. What did it matter what others said?

What did it matter what he looked like on the outside? Inside he knew, and understood. He was a triathlete forever.

Steve Trew: Coach and Commentator

Carpe diem, guys. It’s gone before you know it. Steve is an advisory coach for Speedo. He can be reached for all things triathlon on trew@personalbest.demon.co.uk