Triathlon Plus/TriRadar columnist Steve Trew surveys the toll of triathlon on his body and finds it was all worthwhile.
Add up this sum; one broken wrist, plus three stress fractures (all on the right leg), plus one broken finger, plus one broken collarbone, plus one broken elbow (that one hurt!), plus numerous strains and sprains, plus aching back (often), plus pain walking down stairs and a few very attractive scars equals one fantastically enjoyable life in competitive sport!
Please note that as an ex-maths teacher I understand both sides of the equation must be equal. And yes, they are. Price paid in a bit of pain (well, a bit more than a bit sometimes) is totally acceptable as the price for a great life with races all over Britain and trips all over the world. Multiply this by 40 or so years and, I think overall, I got the best of the deal.
Sunshine and miles
But I seem to have an advanced equation to think about now – not more complicated, just more ‘thinkable’. The left side of the equation: one new right knee plus a new left knee, plus a couple of scars on the face (remnants of operations for removal of a non-threatening skin cancer); on the right side of the equation I have the rest of my life. That is a little more worth thinking about. There is, of course, a plus side to the facial scars – I can probably get a ‘stand-in’ job on the next ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ for Keith Richards.
And yet, as American writer Henry David Thoreau remarked: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation”. I don’t think I’ve done that. So the knees and the cancer are most definitely souvenirs of my outdoor and active lifestyle. Too many running miles and too much sun. Or is that really true? Isn’t it really too many miles without the proper remedial stretching, massage and appropriate recovery? Isn’t it too much sun without the appropriate sun-protection? Of course it is! I’ve only myself to blame.
We didn’t ‘do’ all that stuff back in the days when the world was young. Stretching? You kidding!? Use that time for more miles – more is better! Sun tan lotion? Again, why do that? You don’t get a good, ‘healthy’ tan without a little bit of burning.
I look back and I cringe at the innocence and naïvety. But how did we know? It’s not that long ago that nobody knew really knew about the connection between smoking and cancer. Smoking? Yeah, great! Expands the lungs! And people – lots of people – believed it.
So, as Mr Sinatra so famously said: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention”. I’ll go along with that; add up the pluses, take away the downsides and I’m left with a healthy balance on the plus side. Triathlon did it for me, you see. Coming to the end of my (far too long) active running 27 years ago (gasp!), I’d just started to get myself ready for the cardigan and the pipe. And then this funny old sport came along and bit me on the bum!
Now for a mileage junkie, (what, me?) what could be better than triathlon? Ten hours of running a week – is that all? With triathlon you can double that amount of time for training – fantastic! And it sort of took over from there; raced a bit, wrote a bit, coached a bit. Travelled. More than a bit. Met some of the absolute nicest people in the world. And I’m still meeting them. And it’s all because of triathlon. As my coaching and great friend Chris Jones says: “A lucky life and some amazing people”. Amen to that!
So no, no regrets at all. Things and life change and we deal with those changes – it’s a progression through life and of living. Actually, it’s a bonus, isn’t it? New knees: What if I was able to run again? What do you mean, I’m dreaming? I can dream, can’t I? Maybe even an easy jog with my athletes warming up – that would be a definite bonus. And if that really is a dream, at least the chance to go cycling and swimming properly without the ever-present low-level nagging pain and discomfort. So, the epilogue to this morality tale is: “Keep doing it guys!” Keep doing it until they drag you off screaming and shouting that you want, need to do just one more rep, one more mile, one more session. We’re special, you and me, all of us. Carpe diem, again and again and again. A triathlete forever – that’s not a bad epitaph.