Motivation to take up the sport of triathlon and stick with it, is, let’s face it, challenging. Three sports, four counting the important strength training, a job, a family, friends, and a few other things are hard to work into a typical workday. You can’t slack off during the week and try to cram on the weekends (it does not work well with the sport or a family). Keeping all parties involved happy seven days a week is the challenge. While winning races is a great motivator, very few triathletes win races, and the vast majority have to find other motivators. And, winning by itself can’t sustain a long streak of many years of participation. If it could then I think we would see many more professional triathletes retiring to the ranks of age group athletes.

To perform in a triathlon at the level that brings a smile to your face while doing a good job while blancing the rest of your life takes sensible objectives, good time management, an appropriate training plan, and a healthy lifestyle (outside of the training). It does help to have a supportive family. Indeed that is necessary, but it must work both ways or something will fail long term.

Two of my friends had a great solution when they, and their children, were younger. Both could, if they focused on nothing but race results, win. The solution: alternate the years when one of them was focused on winning but maintain fitness indefinitely. The result, their two children, not exactly children anymore, are fine athletes.

I have had the pleasure of coaching an athlete for the past 3+ years who has been an active athlete for a long time with a busy job. At 62, David Goforth, was working 50-60 hrs./week in the defense business, enjoying his family, plus other interests. He is still working and traveling for work (less in the last year for obvious reasons) at 66. Most of the years he has been a runner with a very respectable marathon PR of 2:56 when in his 30’s. Biking was, I am guessing, a diversion until triathlon caught his interest around 6 years ago, swimming came along with the triathlon idea (he has made great progress with a sport he learned at almost 60).

Adding a regular dose of biking and running while still working has not been easy. The solution has been some very early morning workouts as this picture from his Training Peaks log attests.

If you can’t read the fine print the average start time is around 5 am with one as early as 4:30 am. As an athlete myself, now in my 70’s, I can safely say that this is not the norm for most of us older athletes. David’s dedication is an impressive show of motivation! My early morning workouts start later than 7 am.

Consistency is a key ingredient in any endurance sport and is something coaches love to see in their athletes. Keeping this up the past year is especially noteworthy. Proof of that is here.

Yes, there are some weeks where he did not make it to plan (grey bar) and six went over (dark blue) but this was good even in normal times.

It’s rather easy to understand David’s motivation to stay active most of his life. A tour of duty in Europe certainly helps, here is his short story of those days.

“I have done marathons in Lincoln, Nebraska (my first), Washington DC, Berlin (my best), Helsinki, Oslo, Rome, and other places few have heard of.

This is  at the finish of my first marathon, 1980 Lincoln Marathon in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When I went to Berlin it was still in East Germany and an occupied city. As we ran through the city we could see the East German/East Berlin guards watching us run through the city since some spots were near the wall. But the support the West Berlin citizens gave the race with music, cheering, people leaning out their windows banging pots together was remarkable. After the race, I took a tour of East Berlin and was followed by the German Secret Police since I was an American serviceman in uniform.

When I ran in Oslo I paid for sitting on the city docks and eating a bunch of freshly caught and steamed shrimp. I would not recommend gorging yourself on shrimp the day before a race.

As part of the Rome Marathon, which started in the Vatican, the Pope came out and addressed the runners and blessed all of us before the race.”

So, what has been motivating David Goforth the last few years? Just staying fit is no guarantee of avoiding health issues, if you doubt that idea take a read of The Haywire Heart (Chris Case, Dr. John Mandrola, Lennard Zinn ). Unfortunately, heart troubles caught up with David a little before we started working together. Fortunately, his condition while worrying at times and limiting somewhat (his medicine limits his HR) has not stopped him from training and racing. He has been encouraged by his doctors to keep up the training in moderation to stay as healthy as possible. He has also run into some other older age problems in the last few years keeping him from racing a triathlon. Last year he entered his first triathlon in quite a while. Not the fastest for sure. Ironically it was the running that let him down the most, but he finished.

People like David are themselves motivation for others, mostly younger, to get going and stay in the sport. Athletes of all ages make triathlon what it is, a wonderful community of people living a healthy lifestyle spanning lifetimes.

Coach Simon Butterworth believes that the key ingredients in a good coach/athlete relationship are regular and open communication, mutual respect, and keeping it fun for the athlete and their family. My training programs are developed with those ideas in the forefront. I work with athletes to develop both short term and long term objectives that work well within the context of the other things they have going on in their life.

Coach Simon’s credentials include:

  • USAT Certified Coach
  • USMS Swim Coach
  • FIST Certified Bike Fitter
  • Training Peaks Certified Coach

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