Many of my triathlon friends live by the Latin code carpe diem, seize the day. Others prefer its close cousin, Nike Dollarus Maximus, loosely translated to Just Do It.
I’ve always preferred know thyself. It keeps my ego in check, empowers me with the discipline to refrain from self-destructive activities (the non-athletic kind), and serves as a mantra for consistent behavior.
After nearly 40 years, I thought I knew myself really well. But one recent blog post and five-plus years of triathlon training have unraveled a core truth about myself I hadn’t previously considered.
I’m an introvert.
Those who know me best may argue otherwise, but it’s true – I prefer living within as opposed to projecting outward. I just didn’t know it all this time. My epiphany began the way most do these days, mindlessly thumbing through social media looking at my friends’ posts and what they’re sharing. I clicked on a blog post about how to date a triathlete or endurance junkie. This one, to be precise. I figured it would be funny and something I could share with my wife – until the first bit of advice jokingly said not to date or marry a triathlete at all.
Maybe she had already read it?!
I kept scrolling. The first serious point explained that most of us are introverts. The author, Carrie Schep, wrote, “Sure, we may be the life of the party on the rare occasions we are out socializing. We may seem extroverted because of our tendency to be outgoing when others are around. But don’t be fooled. Usually that’s just the endorphins talking.”
Yep, that’s me. I honestly thought I was an extrovert because I actually enjoy socializing with others. And when that ceases to be entertaining, I always figured it’s simply because I’m tired.
Then she wrote this: “…eventually, we need to balance out our 90% alone time with some human contact.”
Oh. Yeah, that’s me too.
Followed by, “It takes a certain type to spend hours alone running and cycling, and that certain type usually has a penchant for solitude that may be disturbing to others.”
Hmm. Yep, also me. Except I had never actively thought about why before.
So I did the only thing someone who knows themselves really well would do. I stopped reading the blog and looked for funny cat images instead. But those words kept gnawing at my psyche. Am I really an introvert? Do I truly prefer being alone than with others? Does that make me anti-social? I started thinking about all my training workouts, and my social interactions in general. Most of the time I train alone, and like it. I love being lost in thought, especially on a run when the hypnotic trance of my strides morphs into a club promoter and DJ cranking out something far cooler than throbbing music – silence. On group bike rides, I typically don’t ride with the peloton. It’s nothing personal, I just want to get my workout in the way my coach intended – with as few social pauses or conversations as possible. Outside of training, I’m terrible at keeping in touch with my friends, sometimes going days at a time before I return a phone call.
I first read Carrie’s blog post days before New Year’s Eve, a time when my wife and our friends annually meet up for a couple days of revelry. This year, after the first several hours, I started to withdraw from the group dynamic. Looking back, this has been a common trend when I spend several hours or days with friends or family. I get antsy. Tense. Everything around me seems loud and in turn, I want to shrink and find a place to hide. Until I read Carrie’s blog post, I thought the problem was with everyone else. Why do they have to be so loud?
Now, my world has been rocked. The problem is mine. I’m a soloist trapped at a jam session.
Was I like this before? Or have years of silently analyzing heart rate, wattage, stride length, shoulder rotation, feet pronation, leg balance, caloric intake and intensity factor made me this way? Nature versus nurture, I suppose. Is triathlon the perfect sport for introverts? Or does one become introverted through triathlon training?
It doesn’t matter. I’m taking a different approach. Triathlon has helped me to know myself better. I finally understand why I seemingly get quiet for no reason in an extended group setting, or why everything just feels right with the world when I’m alone on a run or a ride. Maybe a new mantra is in order.