Sunday 15 December 2019

Don't underestimate the power of perseverance

Don't underestimate your competition
Don't underestimate your competition

Deirdre Hassett

It's happened to me many times, and if you've ever tried a triathlon or road race, it's happened to you. All dressed up in shiny Spandex, I'm puffing along, tucked in for the kill when someone unexpected cruises past.

Maybe a middle-aged woman on an ancient road bike or a slightly bent-over grey-haired man totters past at astonishing speed. I've also been that person: I noticed a few askance glances last year at Ironman Sweden as I (short, female, late thirties) powered past some young male age-group athletes with souped-up bikes, on my entry level triathlon bike at a steady average 20mph.

The moral of the story is: however unlikely the competition looks, never underestimate them. It's true that people slow down as they get older, but not as much as you think, especially in the pool and on the bike. Plus, the innate speed and easy recovery of youth is replaced with the experience, patience and years of built-up endurance.

With some of the big training sessions over the last few weeks, I've been getting to know the local athletes coached by Muddy Waters.

There are the Big Guns, like Erich, Chuck and Ciarán - the fast athletes who sail away into the distance as soon as each ride or run starts.

Then there are the rest of us, a motley crew who battle it out. We're all determined to hold on to the next man up the speed chain; feeding on that competitive edge to go a little faster at each training session.

Andrew is training for Ironman Canada at 23. A talented ex-collegiate swimmer, he's just finding his endurance chops on the bike and run.

.Larry, at a spry 67, is the eldest of our training group. While he admits he's a poor swimmer, he's a power-house on the bike. Jennifer, a slight, wiry 47-year-old, is a fast cyclist and runner and a self-confessed fierce competitor. Paddling through my drills at the pool Coach Muddy sent one of his athletes down to give me some pointers. I'd met Rudy before, a 25-year-old Californian training for Challenge Roth (held on July 20th).

What I hadn't realised was that Rudy, who is a double above-the-knee amputee, is World Paralympic champion in swimming, boasting gold medals from the last three Olympics.

As he straps on his custom running blades at the track, nobody pays any notice - because he's no different from the rest of us; honing our strengths and working on our weaknesses.

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