Sixteen Ironman races, countless unknown sprints and international distance triathlons, duathlons, and a hefty background preceding it all in Nordic ski racing. Where has it left me? What is the next step? How did I get here?
Getting into the sports I have chosen over the years was at first out of pure love and learning as well as the joy of being outdoors; it seemed the happiest time for me in racing, as well. Then it became competitive for me once I started getting decent (by my standards). After that, it was climbing to the top of my age group results. Not long beyond that the goal was to climb to the top of the overall age groups and begin beating some of the professional triathletes. Aspirations of racing with my heroes as a professional soon followed my top age group finishes. After one single year of professional racing, with fairly poor results except for my mediocre inaugural race in New Zealand, I went back to age groups. All this transpired while keeping a full time job, as well as another side job, and being married. Back then racing was a matter of adventure and travel and seeing new places and sights. Now certain things can be reflected upon in my triathlon career, as I felt the transition in life taking place the last few years.I am now a coach, and I race purely for the lone feel of the heart beating and adrenaline rush. It just feels good to be alive in my opinion, and racing is a short way of experiencing this feeling. Passing on information as a coach is something I truly enjoy, and I have come to grips with just finishing a race wherever I finish it. No more build-ups to be at the top, just enough training to be in shape and not embarrass myself too much. Marriage is a great thing if you do it right, with the right person. It is also something that when done right, will be there forever.
Racing will be over one day, when the body gives out, unless you are lucky enough to race long enough or pass while doing it like our fallen brother Jim Ward. However, family (and especially marriage) will be there beyond our racing years. Being a coach here at D3 Multisport has taught me much about other athletes, what drives them, and the circumstances they all deal with in day to day life. I learn from my athletes as well as the other coaches, how they cope with situations and continue to race with all that is going on. From coaching CEOs of companies, to college students, to working professionals, it is always enlightening to see them work through their own transitions. As a coach there is so much still to learn; as an athlete, there is probably equally as much to learn. At this point in my life it makes me think of a single line in Ozzy Osbourne’s song Changes: “I’m going through changes…” Working on training schedules the other day, I had this song playing on my iPod, and realized that one line rang true to me. One of my athletes said that he wanted to race professional some day. It reminded me of myself when I was his age, and then I went out and did it. I could probably have done it better, had I fully committed to it and gave myself a fair shot at it, but I have no regrets. I did what I had to do to lead a balanced and happy life, while looking to the future some 20, 30 or 40 years down the road.
Make more money, take a 100% commitment to triathlon, start a business, write that book, get married, have kids; they are but a few choices many of us think about along the dusty, bumpy road of life as aspiring young athletes. In hindsight, I think that as I have slowly hung up my super-serious competitive racing years (although I still want to do well in results), there seems to be something hauntingly familiar about where I am.
Coming full circle after the many years of racing, and endless transitions in life, I can’t help but wonder if those before me or alongside of me have come back to this place as well. It is a place of balance, where the end results are not nearly as important as just being. Being in the game and being outside, learning that what I already experienced in my career, rising from a novice/beginner to professional—were all part of the ride that continues and now, as a coach. Although it seems a blur speck of a time since the start of my racing years, almost as if it were just last year, at the same time seems so very long. Here I am, on the other side, transitioning back to the place where it all began—learning, and feeling the pure joy of just being outdoors. Little did I know that the exit door would lead back to the entrance.
Kevin Konczak is a USAT Certified coach.