Maggie Rusch

Professional Triathlete

Starting Lines

Does anyone ever feel ready when they line up on a starting line? 

Does it get easier by the time you reach start line number twenty? What about fifty? What about number one when you don’t quite know the suffering that awaits and you’re working with a clean slate? Or, what if you’re “only” racing amateur? Back of pack? Coming back from an injury? Maybe you’re on your home turf and you’ve run/biked the race route hundreds of times. Maybe it’s a Sprint or Olympic... or maybe you have a pre-baked excuse ready to let you off the hook?

Or—maybe—what if you’re lined up next to a 3x World Champion, the same one who you just so happened to awkwardly ask for a photo at your second half-ironman just six years ago... and know she has no recollection of that despite the fact you now occasionally swim right behind her at swim practice and spend the entire time trying not to tap her toes. And you can only laugh at the weird turns where your life has brought you to get to today. 

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I am not sure I have ever felt ready for a race. I am also not sure I ever will. 

The more time I spend in Boulder, the more I realize that I don’t live the life of your typical professional triathlete. Some days, I am the girl jumping out of swim practice early, sprinting from the pool to the locker room, sweating as I try to change and speed home to make my 8:30am conference call.

Other days I’m not even that lucky and the call has to happen in my swimsuit from the stall of an outdoor shower. “Hi everyone, this is Maggie.” [HITS MUTE BUTTON] …. [UNMUTE] “Yes, well let’s see: yesterday’s deployment went well but we’ll need to clean up some of the profiles and I have a few concerns about the process builders so let me do another round on those and I’ll follow up before end of day.” [MUTE BUTTON]. Honest to god, whoever invented the mute button deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I love it, but it’s not always easy. 

Six weeks ago, I had the first of two professional triathletes come to stay with me. Right around then, I started swimming regularly with Siri Lindley's crew, all full time athletes. Three weeks ago, I raced a small but high caliber field at Monterrey 70.3 and did not meet the high expectations I set for myself. Two weeks ago, yet another mostly full-time triathlete came to stay with me. You start to get a glimpse into what it takes to be world class and begin to realize that your life as currently designed does not have the room for prioritizing triathlon life. At least, not if you hope to maximize your potential. Naps? What are naps? 

Following the build up above, one week ago, I had a total melt down about the fact that I would never live up to my hopes and dreams as a professional triathlete. I spent one weekend throwing a hissy hit and skipping a few key workouts and generally just getting down on myself. 

But what is the answer? It would be easy to drop back and become an amateur and lower the invisible bar I keep setting for myself. Or, I could quit my job and lose a huge part of what I love to do and what stimulates me intellectually day to day (and pays the bills). At the same time that I question all of this and my investment in the sport, I see Lucy Gossage win Ironman Lanzarote as a part-time doctor who entered the race "on a whim" and it gives me hope.

I ask you just as I ask myself: what is balance? It depends on who you are asking. For some people, balance is 30 hours of training a week, 9 hours of sleep a night and regular massages, naps and recovery smoothies. For me and (maybe) for people like Lucy Gossage, it’s working a job I love, “playing" a sport a love, maintaining a social life (even if it revolves around triathlon), getting lost in the mountains on epic all-day rides and making the most of the all too short time we all have in this crazy world.

Triathlon brings me joy. It doesn’t have to be as serious as so many of us make it out to be. We are simply going out, exercising for absurd amounts of times and distances and making the most of what we can at any given moment. 

And for right now, that’s good enough for me. 

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