Training with younger athletes reminds me of my own struggle to find my way in sport early in my career (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). I remember balancing a zero budget, university studies, international travel and worried parents with my intense desire to progress in the sport. Looking back, I never expected my career to follow the path it has. I love being around young athletes and I am constantly encouraging them to have the courage to follow their dreams and pursue their highest potential, no matter how intimidating that seems.
The few athletes that make it to the top rise out of the ranks of beginners just as everyone else. There are a handful of athletes with outstanding success in the sport and many more with moderate to limited success. Challenging yourself to pursue the highest level in triathlon requires a considerable conviction, determination and resilience. It also requires sacrifice including financial hardship, postponing education, postponing other career choices, missing major events in life (birthdays, weddings, parties, etc.), physical challenges (injuries, illness, etc.) and strain on your personal relationships. These are all real costs associated with following your dreams.
This advice is not limited to youngsters though–the same applies to amateur athletes going after their goals later in life. Whether you’re a young athlete pursuing the Olympics, or a middle-aged athlete who just learned to swim and wants to qualify for Kona, your goals matter.
While you’re working on achieving your goals, you’ll experience a journey unlike any you can have outside of sport. When you explore the world on your bike, it looks a lot different than it does from the seat of a plane, car or a bus. Being an athlete allows you to meet a wide spectrum of people with whom you may not have anything else in common, but through sport you find a connection. Racing lets you experience the scents, sights and elements with an intensity that makes them hard to forget, regardless of your results.