Hardened for Suffering

Posted: May 15, 2008 in Health, Idealism

My first triathlon of the season is in a couple days. As in the past, I’ve been both anticipating and dreading it, and I feel underprepared. I’ve had a few different thoughts this time around, though. The first is that because it’s so early in the season, the water temperature of the lake in which we will swim is only 59 degrees Fahrenheit. I thought perhaps the swim portion would be cancelled or converted to an extra running leg, but it appears the swim is on. I’m definitely not looking forward to jumping in that water.

That dread over the extraordinary discomfort of physical cold caused me to wonder why I’m bothering to put myself in harm’s way beyond the obvious fitness and health benefits of athletic activity. It dawned on me today that much as I’ve tried to keep my gnawing sense of impending doom at bay, I nonetheless believe that we’re in for a world of hurt within my lifetime, and it may be that I’m using the triathlon in part to harden myself for the suffering I expect us all to experience sooner rather than later.

I’m not a competitive athlete; I’m way too slow. For me, the trial is all about endurance, though the cold water (even in a wetsuit) promises to create a different sort of discomfort. I’m habituated by now to fatigue and the strain of keeping moving when I’d rather give up. It’s odd, though, to consider that the ongoing work at tri sports may have intuitively become a proxy for other discomfort, deprivation, and downright suffering yet to come. Unlike many others who have grown soft and will most likely feel their pains quite acutely, I know that I’m prepared to bear it — for a while at least.

  1. That’s a healthy outlook. Better to attempt triathlon than lie around debilitated by a headache or moaning about an in-grown toenail.
    More power to you!

  2. Caligula says:

    I actually don’t think extreme fitness events like marathons and triathlons are healthy at all. You should walk. We were not designed to jog or run for long periods of time. We evolved walking for long distances, sprinting during the “kill”, and then more walking. A lot of long distance athletes die quite young from mysterious tumors and cancers. Do the research. Be like a European and walk. Jogging for endless miles is very American and stupid. Everything in America has to be done to the extreme. It has something to do with the “Killer Capitalism” we vaunt over here. Why does fitness always have to be so extreme? I walk trails by my house, and I always see people jogging, or riding their bikes at high speed, and I think, “you morons!” Just thought I would share those thoughts with you, and you seem above average in I.Q.

  3. Brutus says:

    I didn’t update the post with results from my race a few weeks back, but suffice it to say I was at the trailing edge of finishers. I’m not at all extreme about it and only do the sprint distances. I also alternate walking and running. So rest assured that I know my limits and am not pushing beyond them.

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