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Lessons from a Veteran (AKA an Old Man)

14 Jun 2016
by David Henzlik

by David Henzlik

I began racing triathlons in my early twenties. If you asked me then what motivated me to get involved in the endurance sport I would have said I don’t want to be the stereotypical young dad. I was feeling overweight and out of shape with a less than impressive wardrobe consisting mostly of starched shorts and penny loafers. I needed something to shake me up, without killing me. Now, 30 years later and too many races under my belt to count, the catalyst for keeping me in the game has changed. I have learned over time that there is so much more to the sport and community than what initially meets the eye.  

Recently, I have had the privilege of mentoring my son-in-law who is just starting his journey as a triathlete. He is around the same age I was when I did my first race and I see a lot of my young self in him (hopefully he considers this a compliment and not an attempt to relive my glory days).  While it is exciting to see such a strong competitor join the sport at his age, it also reminds me of how much
there is to grasp and master when it comes to training, racing and most importantly (in my humble opinion at least) balance. This is not to say my son-in-law isn’t off to a damn impressive start: he is a natural born athlete and already landed himself on the podium in his inaugural race.  


David and his son-in-law Thiago

My point here is more about setting the tone and creating the foundation early to stay at the top of your game- mentally, physically and relationally.  This sport has given me some of the best accomplishments in my adult life but it also requires a lot in return. There is plenty you have to figure out for yourself BUT it doesn’t hurt to have someone who has seen a few things in their day in your corner helping guide you along. Here are a few bits of ‘wisdom’ (I use this term very loosely) that I have picked up along the way- take ‘em or leave ‘em, unless you are my son-in-law in which case I expect you to recite these from memory next time I see you.


 I am a lucky man. I have an incredibly loving and supportive wife who has blessed me with four children and over 30 years of marriage. I also have some amazing friends- many of whom I’ve met through triathlons and endurance racing.  There is no chance in hell I would be where I am today as an athlete if it weren’t for these relationships. You could argue that while we are all on the same team; this is a solo game at heart. The truth of the matter is relationships are the backbone of my success.


David and his daughter Taylor, in the early days

My wife and children giving me the green light to put pause on my life and train for my first Ironman. My training buddies getting my ass out the door and on to the bike, into the pool, or hitting the pavement no
matter how much I wanted to bail.

I could go on for hours talking about how much I owe to my family and friends in the TRI community.
The take away here is simple: you can’t do it alone folks. Cherish and preserve your relationships. They will take you much farther than the nicest tri bike or top of the line running shoes ever will.  


It is pretty damn easy to get wrapped up in the world of endurance racing.  No matter how tempting
it is to GO GO GO don’t forget that there is a world that occurs outside of the sport. Sticking to a training schedule is a key component to becoming a successful triathlete but life does happen, whether our training schedule likes it or not.

Find a way to be OK with skipping a workout or missing a race, because at the end of the day we can’t control everything that we get handed.

Attitude and perspective are a huge piece of the pie when it comes to this sport. Keeping a pulse on the real world is key- as with anything in life, don’t keep your head in the sand for too long of your might miss the ride all together. Don’t let a podium finish be the only way you measure the success of a race, there are much bigger take aways than some nice hardware.


I think it goes without saying our bodies are capable of doing some incredibly impressive things! As an athlete you constantly have to push yourself to make forward progress and stay competitive. 


A bit of old-school tri memorabilia. Yup - David has been at this awhile

Although none of us want to be slowed down- let’s face it, triathletes are a very competitive group of people- you have to remember a moment of glory isn’t typically worth a lifetime of pain (literally and figuratively). We all know the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ but keep it in check- never stop pushing yourself but respect what your body is trying to tell you.  

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