Thursday, December 14, 2006

Slaying a Triathlon Dragon

We frequently seek out the giants of our sport, both elite athletes and coaches, for inspiration and guidance on how to get through difficult training or racing situations. We devour many books and articles on the subject and even attend seminars in the hope of building our mental toughness, to help us get through the pain, discomfort, and disillusionment that often and unexpectedly greet us in the sport of triathlon.

Sometimes the answer and inspiration we need doesn’t lie in the lofty advice that the pillars of our sport vouchsafe us in their words, but rather in the countenance of a young boy tackling his first swim-bike-and-run event.

The emotion, determination, and focus written on eight year old Drew Sundet’s face as he struggles with his first triathlon trial—the displaced goggle—can inspire us all on how to meet diversity with conviction and equanimity.

This past summer, Drew, the son of Mike and Amy Sundet, St. Louis, Missouri, participated in his first triathlon, at the second annual St. Louis Kid's Triathlon —an event that encompassed 100 yards of swimming in a community outdoor pool, biking 3 miles in a hilly St. Louis suburb, and running one-half mile on a track. All done in the high heat and humidity of a St. Louis summer. A daunting event indeed for the 70 or so 7-14 year old kids who participated in the annual event.

Here’s a kid who had the gumption not to stop in the middle of the pool and say, “Now what?” Or get ticked off and quit. With the poise and confidence of a Peter Ried—with his eyes closed no less—Drew takes in a huge breath, and begins to sweep his right arm out of the water for his next stroke. He swam to the end of the pool before he briefly stopped to reorient the recalcitrant goggles, which served him well in the remainder of the swim.

He completed the event in a blistering 27 minutes and 53 seconds—a PR! On the ride home, Drew said to his Dad, “I’m really happy, really proud, and really tired!.”

The next time you find yourself faced with a group start, shivering in the crisp morning air, worried about where you should position yourself to minimize getting kicked, whacked, swam over, and, heaven forbid—for those of us who wear contacts—getting your goggles knocked off, think of Drew. Take inspiration from this young man’s determination and stick-to-it attitude. In the mind of this 8 year old boy, he was truly slaying one of life’s dragons.

by Terry H. Grapentine -