For those training for their first triathlons, take this as your fair warning; triathlons are the gateway drug of endurance sports. If it seems silly to compare something good for you (like exercise) to something bad for you (like drugs), then you haven’t been doing triathlons long enough.
There are two surprises that await you at the finish line of your first triathlon. The first is an overwhelming surge in emotions. Perhaps you don’t realize it as you spend months and months training, but by the time you are 100 yards away from the finish line, it all floods back to you at once. Flashbacks pop into the mind, reminding you of how far you’ve come. You’ll see the first time you went for a run, the first time you struggled in the pool, the first time you thought you couldn’t do it and about a dozen other memories. This internal highlight film eventually gives way to the overwhelming excitement and energy that is present at the finish line. As strangers cheer for you as you cross the finish line, and as you sit back and take stock in how far you’ve come, it’s hard not to feel just a tiny surge in emotions.
The second surprise is the feeling that immediately follows the finish line. Instead of focusing on how tired or sweaty or bruised or sore you are, most often the very first though that pops into the brain is “when can I do it again?” This is not normal behavior. It is the behavior and thought patterns of somebody who has just developed an addiction to endurance sports, and chances are good it won’t end with just triathlons.
Duathlons, 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, 100-mile bike races and open water relay races are just some of the endurance sports that await the newly crowned triathlete. Since triathlon is a combination of swimming, cycling and running, those who compete in them are treating themselves to the “sampler platter” of endurance sports. Often times it is not long before they find themselves signing up for a main course in any of the individual disciplines.