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What Triathlons and Writing Have In Common

By Sandra Elzie

This past weekend I was in Panama City Beach, Florida to cheer my daughter on in her second Ironman triathlon.  As you probably already know, the Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, 112 miles on the bike, followed by a 26.2 mile marathon run…which must be completed within 17 hours.

My son-in-law, Kent , has participated in several of these grueling races and my daughter, Kim, has now completed two of them, so I’ve had the opportunity to tell their stories and even educate readers a bit on the history of this particular racing event.  (In case you missed them, click on Kent and Kim’s names to read the earlier posts)

But today I want to look at this subject from a slightly different angle.  My question is this:  What does an Ironman Triathlon have in common with writing a novel?

I’ve given this a bit of thought, and although I’ll probably leave a few things off my list, I’ll take a stab at drawing the comparison.

  • Both require a person to have a bold dream.
  • Both require a person to make a decision to achieve the dream.
  • Both require a long-term time commitment.
  • Both require seeking advice from experts in the field.
  • Both require preparation, practice and discipline.
  • Both require a winning attitude—never giving up: Failure Is Not An Option.
  • Both require continued effort—unwavering determination—until the goal is reached.

Some authors write for the glory or the money…but most write because they must write…the characters and stories in their heads must be shared.  Likewise, some athletes train and race to satisfy a driving need to compete…or in a pursuit to win, but one thing is for sure.  Whether you’re putting in hundreds of hours to train for the ultimate physical race, or sitting in front of a computer the seemingly endless hours to complete (and then edit and revise…and sometimes rewrite) a three-hundred page novel, a person must be willing to sacrifice to reach their goal.

Of course, it’s not only the individual who must sacrifice for the goal to be met.  An athlete in training must spend hundreds and hundreds of hours in a gym, a pool or out on the road biking…not to mention the numerous weekends spent competing in shorter races to prepare for the longer one.  This is time that the athlete…and the author…must be away from their families.  The support of family is vital to an author or an athlete’s success.

So, what else can you add to the list above?



Marilyn Baron - November 7, 2012 - 6:43 am

Both may require a lack of sleep.
Great post and good analogy.

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 7:24 am

Yes! You’re right! I should have probably added that they handed out chocolate milk at the finish line….since chocolate is great for a quick refueling. LOL

Linsey Lanier - November 7, 2012 - 7:52 am

I remember celebrating Kim’s accomplishment last year when you announced it, Sandy. This year, she’s just as inspiring. In triathlons, in writing a novel, in life in general, no matter what happens, you’ve got to keep moving.

Chocolate is great for refueling? Now that’s a great excuse to eat more of it. :)

Congrats to Kim and Kent.

Debbie Kaufman - November 7, 2012 - 7:58 am

I can’t imagine the level of physical endurance that an Ironman takes. But then, most people can’t really imagine the concentrations and mental endurance required to finish a book! Still, much easier to endure while sitting down, LOL!

Pam Asberry - November 7, 2012 - 10:03 am

As you know, Sandy, I am a runner, and I loved this post! Now I’m off to try to get caught up on my NaNoWriMo word count. And then maybe *I’ll* write a post about NaNoWriMo being the marathon of the writing world! ;-)

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 1:13 pm

Hi Linsey,
Thanks…my daughter is very inspiring to me as well. Of course, if she didn’t look so much like me, I’d wonder if someone switched babies in the hospital when she was born. Athletics is just not my thing. (g)

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 1:17 pm

Hi Deb,
The physical endurance is half the battle…and the mental fortitude is the other. I heard one participant talking about the rough seas…the waves breaking in his face when he’d start to take a breath…and he also commented that so many were throwing up out there that he tried to dodge what was floating. Yuck! We just have no idea what these athletes endure. I’ll take my cushioned chair and hot cup of coffee any time over what this guy was describing.

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 1:19 pm

Hi Pam,
Yeah for you! I’ve promised my daughter and granddaughter that grandma will drive up to VA next April to do a 5K at the race my daughter & son-in-law will be putting on. I think I’ll buy one of those cute little outfits so I’ll at least look good when I drag my tired body over the finish line. :-D

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 1:21 pm

Maybe I should have added that you’ll be hearing about another race next year in one of my posts….my first 5K !!! Heaven help me.

Maxine Davis - November 7, 2012 - 3:23 pm

Of the two, I would rather write. :-) I can only imagine the amount of training, dedication and diet that she must to in order to compete and I really admire her. Of course if you sit in front of a screen and keyboard all day, you must be willing to exercise and diet – I know – it’s on a much smaller scale. :-D

Susan Carlisle - November 7, 2012 - 3:37 pm

I really like the comparison. Writng a book is simular to running an Ironman. I’m feeling like a champion running cross the finish line. Good feeling.

Carol Burnside - November 7, 2012 - 3:51 pm

I agree with your list, Sandy. Basically, both require a lot of fortitude. Congrats to your daughter!

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 4:19 pm

Hi Maxine,
I’m sure I don’t know the half of what she goes through to prepare. But I know that if she slacks off….and if she wants to participate in future Ironman events, she has to work extra hard to catch up. Thanks for stopping by.

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 4:20 pm

Hi Susan,
Yeah for you! I can imagine you with your arms pumping the air like Rocky at the top of the stairs!

Sandy Elzie - November 7, 2012 - 4:22 pm

Hi Carol,
I think writing is a bit more private. In an Ironman, everyone gets to see you with wet, plastered hair & sweaty…but even if we work in our pajamas, no one sees the bed hair. :-))

I’m with Maxine, I’ll take writing any day over pushing my body to perform to that level.

Sia Huff - November 7, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Great post, Sandy.
I’ll add you need to eat nutrionally and take care of yourself. Moving all day requires fuel, but sitting and only moving your fingers requires a different type of fuel.
Congrats to your daughter.

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