Hey green team,
With the first days of June upon us, the weather is nicer(ish), the days are longer, and of course: we can train outside. It’s also the most joyful season for those attending one of the 60+ colleges and universities in the Boston area, known to some as “OMG I cannot drive ANYWHERE AROUND HERE OMG” and to others as simply “Commencement.”
What does Commencement have to do with triathlon, you ask? Well, for one, it’s literal: commencing. For we Wheelworks crew, it’s the start of another season of swimming, biking, and running toward finish lines (or at least toward brunch). For others, it’s the commencement of a new life, a new job, a new identity. These two notions intersected one May morning for me, which made me think about how our identities can be molded by the suits we wear--and more importantly, how “commencement” applies to all who engage.
For those who don’t know, my day job brings me to a local university, and I am fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant, inspiring folks around. Every Commencement morning, I dust off my cap and gown, shrug the robes over my shoulder, place the hood over my head, and don a bright blue velvet hat my dad affectionately deemed “fuzzy blueberry.” I process onto the stage; I cheer for students as they cross. And then, just like that, they go onto their new lives, and my regalia finds its home in a garment bag once more.
This year, following Commencement exercises, I immediately changed into running gear. Gone was the blue velvet, the floor-length garments, the matching hood. In fact, I wore the opposite: light colors, light fabrics. As I began the slow motion of revolving legs, I noticed that my colleagues didn’t stop to say hello. Students with whom I posed for photos just an hour ago walked right by. It seemed my whole identity shifted simply by changing my clothes.
Taking this one step further, I recently tried on my favorite green tri kit--mostly to see how it fit, but also to remind myself to swap that daily half box of Cheerios for vegetables. It occurred to me that this too is an identity shift: from trainer to racer, from individual triathlete to WWMS collective. It’s not just what we wear, it’s the way we operate; riding up mountains in freezing rain (#trainingweekend), swimming in a choppy ocean, running in conditions from snow to heat. In the same way regalia does not make someone an academic, the tri kit doesn’t make you a triathlete: YOU do. That fierce determination makes our bodies move, but remember too that you are part of a team. The real motivation to get up at 6AM on a Saturday is knowing that friends are waiting; that if the ride goes from “slightly chilly” to “I can no longer feel my feet,” you’ll keep going because you’re not alone.
So the next time someone asks why you’re tugging on calf sleeves to go running during lunch, remember: you get to choose that identity. And we all chose one we share, one we get to carry with us during every race. We are members of the most determined, supportive, and downright amazing team of athletes around. We wear our green proudly, because it reminds us we are never alone in the triathlon world.
Train well, and we’ll see you at the next race!