Retrospective- by Sue Aquila
I have been triing for 10+ years. I love competing at the top of every level including ITU, Ironman, USA Triathlon etc. I started this sport to check off a bucket list item to defy my 40’s and the extra weight of middle age. Now it feels like a necessity to defy my 50’s and beyond. My retrospective:
Bikes Does everyone start with a superbike today? I love it when I find someone starting our sport on a road or mountain bike. An athlete willing to evolve in skills and equipment will stay in our sport longer.
Swim Mass starts now are rare to non-existent. I had at least two black eyes early in my career from men careening me on the swim during the mosh pit swim. I applauded the change to self-seeding some years ago. Now I miss the head to head competition of the past. And I rue the day compression socks were allowed to be worn covering the age of our competitors and their beautiful calves.
Technology I love it! With gadgets, a focused triathlete can become their best triathlete. There is a backlash out there right now about technology but to me, using it feels like cheating when I race. In training, it helps to keep my easy days easy and my hard days hard.
Nutrition FFS this has gotten way too complicated. Are you keto, paleo, training low or practicing intermittent fasting??? The bottom line, real food is good and all things are possible through caffeine and carbs. Eating should be a joy in our lives. Not a burden.
Safety For complicated reasons, many of our long course events have become a free for all on the bike with no marshalls, drafting and crowded courses. Training outdoors is scarier with the app loaded tv screens drivers carry that are masquerading as phones. When I started the sport you had a phone for calling with little texting and no apps. Not a constant distraction when driving! I spend more time on the trainer now than outdoors. I miss nature but I am safer and often working harder.
Professionals I miss when our sport had heroes. Cutting costs by focusing less on the pros has eliminated the Julie Moss factor of why I entered the sport. The pregnancy penalty in the last couple of years roiled the women’s pro division excluding some of my favorites at Kona. Age groupers have increased in their professional affiliations to maximize marketing for companies. We are a bit more like Nascar without the stars or the fist fights. And I continue to be disappointed that Ironman discriminates against women pros at Kona. Women professionals deserve an equal number of slots as male professionals. @50womentokona
Local Another local race died this year. As the market contracts, I am finding fewer options nearby. The grassroots races helped attract new people (including me) to our sport and created a community.
International Focus It is fun to be on a team like MCC with athletes all around the world. We gather via Strava and our camps. Plus there is nothing more entertaining than having a group of us racing together!
Local Bike Store I remember the experience of gathering at our local bike store. We would order parts, service, gab and discuss how to get faster. I loved it. Now we can order everything off of Amazon and then lament that our local bike store is closing.
Legends I still love the stories shared by the legends in our sport. I have been fortunate to be have been coached by two of them. They shared their amazing stories from Epic Camps to World Championships. They were our first explorers into the new world of endurance. They created many of the training principles we use today and almost destroyed themselves in the process. The camaraderie they feel for each other is enviable and the reason I look forward to my thirty hours of training at our February camp each year. Epic events may not build character but they do reveal it. Along with my tendency to develop fatigue induced hysteria.
Endure Lots more ways out there to get fit quick and fast. We hack the crap out of everything. The truth is that nothing prepares you for racing long like training long. Rinse and repeat this concept week in and week out to win.
Recovery Wow, there are so many ways to recover today. People are exchanging too much training time in the pursuit of recovery. The same effective recovery principles that applied ten years ago apply today; nutrition and sleep matter most.
Notifications I don’t know why we decided to connect phone notifications to our workout devices. Ten years ago you would ride your bike for hours cut off from the world. It rejuvenated your mind while you trained your body. Do yourself a favor and shut off notifications on your training devices. And while you are at it, try shutting them off on your phone. It will be life changing!
Electronic Shifting I will never go back to mechanical shifting. Ever.
Research Twitter has been a game changer for me with the science of sport. Cutting edge exercise physiologists and other Ph.D.’s are willing to share their knowledge for free! It is amazing and has changed my training and coaching. My favorites: @andybeetroot @stephenseiler @shonahalson @jeukendrop @alan_couzens @sweatscience and others...
Entertainment Netflix and Amazon Prime make my trainer/treadmill work tolerable and entertaining. Yes, my hardest workouts still require the most violent movies.
Clothing My choices when I started were limited and uncomfortable. Now we have women-owned clothing companies making us great gear including Oiselle, Smashfest Queen and others.
Patience Ten years ago, signing up for an Ironman required sitting by my computer hitting refresh in an attempt to get one of the limited registration slots. Now we have some time to register without fear of missing out.
Women There seems to be a few more of us and the men are getting used to it. Guys being jerks when we pass on the bike can still be an issue but it seems to be getting better. Now if I could just do something about the guys that try to race us in training.
Cheating Women in my age group dope and cheat. I am sure they did it ten years ago but now they seem to get caught a bit more. I can’t change them but I can train and race under the rules I agreed to participate. Shame on those who don’t.
So much has changed and for the better. I love our sport and I am grateful for the health and friendships I have received from it. The sport and I will keep moving forward. No easy way.