The Journey: Becoming a Triathlete

One of the best things about triathlon is that it is comprised of three sports. One of the worst things about triathlon is that is comprised of three sports.

For many people new to triathlon, learning one new sport is time consuming enough, now multiply by three. To learn each sport and not only become proficient, but to actually become competitive at it takes time. The great thing about having three sports to learn is that when you get tired, sore or, heaven forbid, injured in one, you will have another sport to practice and master. Cross training and multi sport racing is a fantastic athletic endeavour for ALL athletes as it challenges the body and the mind in a much different way than a single sport focus.

As a new comer to triathlon in my early 20s I was a total rookie who had to learn all three sports. I was coming off of a hockey career and I was fit in a hockey sense, but that short burst of speed fitness that I had did not necessarily translate over to triathlon. I had ridden a bike and run (very little) to maintain fitness for hockey, but swimming was a completely foreign activity to me. It took me a while to adopt the mentality of an athlete competing in an aerobic endurance event. Going from a competitive hockey player to that guy who could barely swim a length was humbling to say the least.

Starting out was not easy. I had to check my ego at the door and become a total student of all three sports.

Becoming a student meant searching out coaches, training groups and other athletes that had experience. I was lucky in that I was growing up in the small triathlon mecca of Kingston, Ontario. There were so many people that took the time to share their knowledge and expertise with me, and there were so many great race directors in Ontario putting on events and races to compete in that I consider myself very lucky to have been in the right place at that time.

To this day I still consider myself a hockey player that does triathlon. But it is starting to sink in that my journey as a triathlete, and now coach, is coming up on twice as long as my competitive hockey career.

The great thing about the journey to becoming a triathlete is that I have enjoyed every step of the way. Learning new things is fun and getting into the sport allows you to learn A LOT of new things; how to change a bicycle tire, how to flip turn in the pool, how to go from biking to running without feeling like you are going to fall over, what the heck does fartlek mean?

There are so many little victories along the way when becoming a triathlete that it makes each training session, each race, each trip to train or race, a separate little journey. It’s a journey that is always punctuated by successes and failures and it’s a journey that I’m still on.

And it’s a journey I would start all over again.

Mike Neill riding a bike up Rock Store climb in California