It was just about on this date 11 years ago I did my first triathlon, the Quakerman Tri in Orchard Park NY. Participating with my girlfriend at the time and barely knowing how to swim I managed a measly 3:47/100m in Green Lake, 16.95 mph (running the last mile in bike shoes not knowing what to do after a flat), and 6:46/mile on the run for 14 out of 18 in my AG.
In the years following I made some changes, hunkered down and began to see my successes in the sport grow from finisher medal to All American and top 50 National Age Grouper. This was and continues to be my legacy, and a very typical one at that, void of any tremendous success but significant acknowledgment of gradual improvement year after year, to rise through the ranks of not very good to really pretty good.
And not only in the sport of triathlon, or even sport in general. This theme dates back before High School where I won “most improved” among my entire graduating class. When I thanked my coach at the time he said “you know what Welby, when I first met you, you were pretty terrible…” and that was it, profound but true! My path continued through college almost making it in soccer before switching over to Track and Cross Country. Again, never great but from back of the pack to scoring every meet my senior year at the D1A level. I’ve built tremendous strength in the gym, to the point where my dad had to sit me down and ask if I was taking performance enhancing drugs (No dad, just 90 minutes a day of concentrated lifting, 7 days a week for many years), and I progressed significantly in Snowboarding over time as well from bunny slopes to 100ft table tops, including 5 years of instructing.
I’ve come to acknowledge my greatest strength is my ability to focus on an objective and not shy away or back down until I’ve accomplished something I am proud of. This from an understanding that almost anything is possible with consistency over large stretches of time. Conversely, I’ve come to appreciate that this talent comes with its disadvantages. Once I settle on something it becomes remarkably easy not to back down but at the same token that focus creates a lack of holistic vision to the greater picture, like a racehorse with blinders on, sprinting to a finish line around a confined oval oblivious to the world outside the race track.
Last year following Ironman Lake Placid in July I decided to take a break from dedicated training to explore other facets of life. I made a loose commitment to an hour of exercise a day, focusing on time in the gym, put on 15lbs, traveled more, had a lot of fun, looked good, felt good and you know what happened when I returned to train and race in 2019?? I had perhaps my best season yet! I didn’t just race faster, I was hungrier, and my commitment was unabashed and unwavering, I was more present and appreciative.
All of that said I am ready for another break. This one may be 6 months, it may be significantly longer. Ever since I moved to LA I can’t remember a weekend not filled up with swimming, biking and running. I LOVE these activities but thought maybe I’d try surfing, hiking, exploring different areas of this diverse county and perhaps do a lot of exercise, just decided upon on the day and not months in advance. Also, very significant I want to focus more energy into the gym again, put on weight, and the best way of accomplishing this means another significant change which is a cold turkey break from running. I’ve been a competitive runner for decades now, these bird legs need a vacation. The days of 6’1” 150lbs Welby running 5 min miles are past. Still I have no doubt that 170lbs Welby will be back to run sub 6’s eventually.
My eye is on St George 70.3 Worlds 2021 so I won’t call this a retirement, but for now, as publicly declared in this post, life just got a lot simpler –
FEEL GOOD, LOOK GOOD, HAVE FUN!