I speak of triathlon in glowing terms here. And yet I feel compelled to admit the downside. If you're just doing the minimum to stay healthy and only attempting sprint triathlons, there is no downside. Half an hour to an hour a day of exercise is essential if you're going to be truly healthy. And that's enough to get you through a sprint event. There is little but good.
But at the higher levels? Oh gosh. Sometimes I wish I'd been there at the bar in Hawaii. Guys, listen to me. You've had too many beers. This is a cool idea. But wouldn't a 2 mile swim be just as good as 2.4? Seriously. And how about 90 miles for the bike? A good round number. Think about it. And twenty miles is more than enough challenge for the run. Why did they have to be so damn macho? And drunk? If just one of them had been a teetotaler, the madness might have been averted. But no. Insanity was unleashed upon the world.
When you're going for the longer triathlons and doing above an hour a day (and some days you may do as much as 4 or 5 hours), you may find yourself taking naps in the middle of the day. It can just wear you out. It's especially difficult as you move up a level. When you're constantly trying to do a little more than you did last week, it soon becomes exhausting. Time to back off and let your system catch up. But you will have periods of discomfort and weariness no matter how carefully you manage things. You'll have sore legs from a long run or a short race. In fact, you'll always be a little bit sore everywhere. Sometimes your significant other will comment that you're walking funny. You will tell yourself you kind of like feeling sore. That it reminds yourself you're alive. This is a lie. It's annoying to be so sore. You'll worry about twinges in your shoulder joint, your feet, oh, just about anywhere. Your hair may turn to straw from too much chlorine in the pool. You may have an accident on the bike. (I currently have a little time off from training. I've got a pulverized clavical, headaches from the concussion and a lovely variety of road rash. These things happen. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet, I'd be a vegetable now.)
Maybe I should also mention that you can die at this. Of course, you can die crossing the street. But there is a heightened risk here. In a Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation study the death rate was 1.5 per 100,000 participants. Thirteen of the 14 people whose deaths were considered got in trouble in the water. Except the majority of them didn't so much drown as have a medical emergency which later resulted in death. There was a newspaper account recently of a woman dying in the New York Triathlon. It looks like she had a heart attach during the swim. A staff kayaker jumped in when he saw she was in trouble, got her onto a small motorized watercraft and then got her to shore and into an ambulance. She died the next morning. Would she be alive today if she'd never risked the stress of the race? Who knows? But there have been outright drownings where there is no doubt about cause and effect. How much risk are you willing to take on in your life?
Finally understand that the longer the distance, the more difficult this sport becomes. And beware the time commitment. Isn't there something else, anything else, you'd rather do with all that time? But what if all you're going to do with the time is sit in front of the boob tube?
Cause see, you'll have this amazing body you get to live in. And in the periods when you're not pushing yourself to higher levels, in the times when you're just coasting, my gosh, you'll feel like Superman. You'll like the way you look in the mirror. You'll be healthier than just about anyone you know. And younger than you have any right to be. Your faith in yourself will get completely out of control. And life will be an adventure... I seem to have gotten off topic here.
Did I mention it can also get very expensive?
Triathlon is not easy. On the other hand. Easy is vastly overrated.