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Multisport Racing, Gift-giving, and Goal-Setting

By Steve Jonas | Dec. 17, 2013, 3:04 p.m. (ET)

In the U.S. there a variety of holidays are celebrated at the end of the year, from Christmas to Kwanzaa to the Winter Solstice to Hanukkah. Gift-giving is often associated with these year-end celebrations and so my thoughts turn to what advice I can give to gift-givers, in this column.

Multisport racing is of course an equipment-intensive sport, as contrasted with, say running road races. For the latter you need a pair of shoes, appropriate clothing (which, except when it is cold, amounts to a few relatively inexpensive items), and perhaps a warm-up suit. But for our sport you need all of the above, except that the singlet and shorts becomes a tri-suit. And then there are, well you know the list: a bike and the stuff that goes with it, from a water bottle to a computer, not only running shoes but for most folks bike shoes as well, helmet, gloves, etc.  Some of us put on a bike jersey for the bike. Then, for triathletes there’s the swim stuff, starting with a wetsuit if you are going to swim in any kind of cool to cold water. And so on and so forth. 

Indeed, triathlon is what I like to call a “stuff sport.” You need some “stuff” to compete. (I happen to love “stuff” for sports. I have often said to friends that it is no mystery why my two sports are triathlon and downhill skiing. A) Neither requires hand-eye coordination [of which I am significantly lacking] and B) both are “stuff” sports.)

It happens that one of the most charming family-gift stories I know came out of triathlon. In my very first race, the 1983 Mighty Hamptons Triathlon held at Sag Harbor, N.Y., in the transition area right across from me was a man about my age named Bill Crosby. I already had a 10-speed bike. Bill was riding a ladies’ Raleigh with a full chain-case and a wicker basket on the handlebars. He made it around the course (which had a couple challenging hills) just fine, but I marveled at the strength he must have had in his legs to do so on that bike. Several years later I met him at another Mighty Hamptons. He was sporting a handsome new road racing bike. “Very nice bike you bought for yourself,” I said. “Oh no,” he replied. “My children gave it to me last Christmas!” What a nice reversal of the usual pattern.

And so, at this time of year, what sort of present might you give yourself? Like many of us, you likely are already planning for next season. And yes, there is the schedule and the training program(s). But in my mind, as you plan for next season, the most important present that you can give yourself at this time of the year is to think carefully about your goals.

Do they make sense for you? In terms of number of races, how fast you would like to go, amount of training needed, and etc., are they reasonable and rational, for you? Do you have the skill set, the time, the strength, the mental focus, to reach them? Will you be balanced in your family and work life? Most importantly, how important for you, and not anybody else, is reaching them?  Attempting to overdo it can be just as harmful as underdoing it. What you want to reach is that Goldilocks “just right” state (that is, before the three bears come home!) So as you think about next season, give yourself a present: some time to think about your goals, to make sure that they are the right ones for you.

This series of thoughts and recommendations for beginner and recreational triathletes and duathletes by Dr. Steve Jonas is drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), text used with permission. The book can be purchased at:” Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals.” His original book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd. Ed, can be found at, and Barnes and “The Other Dr. J.” has been a multi-sport racer for 31 years, with 235-plus events under his belt.