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Why I Continue To Race

Sunday, March 2, 2014
Contributing Author: 
Scott Molina

Scott Molina at the Nice Triathlon in 1983. He's still racing hard, 31 years later. (Mike Plant photo)

For me the act of signing up for events is the key to continued motivation to find the best version of my athletic self. I don't actually need to do the races; they are almost always anti-climactic. I know that but it does not deter me. Signing up and knowing I have events is enough to help me find the urge to prepare, and it’s that process of preparation and all that's involved with it that keeps me in the game.

Dave Scott once said he loves "playing the game" of triathlon. What he meant, I’d imagine, was that he enjoys putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in order to toe the starting line ready to rock. And there is a hell of a lot of pieces.

Over time we learn more that can be applied to our preparation.Some may take a negative view.  Since we know more about diet, strength training, mobility work, preventative processes in addition to swim, bike, and run-specific ways to prepare, it simply gets too overwhelming.  We can't possibly include all that we know. I can accept that a little better now.

It took me fifteen years to realize I can't be Superman all the time. Aging and all the deterioration involved helps me to appreciate that.  

Managing to stay positive and prioritizing the aspects of preparation is the art of the game.

And I love that challenge. The complexity that normal life imposes on us - kids, job, socializing, injuries, etc. adds to the challenge, and the mix is always changing. And although I often have one drink too many in order to reduce the anxiety I feel in dealing with the challenge of fitting it all together successfully, succeeding in the process is what drives me to race. 

I ask, “Can I do it better than I've done it before? Better than the other old-timers toeing the starting line?” I ask if I can change the emphasis in my training and physicality. And so years when I have a lot of running injuries, I focus on getting stronger in the gym or swimming better. I don't want to be scrawny anymore! But being lighter definitely helps me run faster. Managing that conflict in goals is a little easier as the possibility of running even half decently is not really a prospect any longer.

Sometimes I focus on bike racing or riding more, enjoying riding the climbs more and better.

When I string together some good months of running I start to dream of ticking off those bucket list run events that are still there.   It’s not hard for me to find stimulating challenges. What is hard is not to pursue them all at once.

For 30 years now I've been getting slower. That's a long time to fight the inevitable. It would be easier to take on new challenges because I stink at just about everything else: making money, working more, spending more time with my family. There are so many other ways to spend time and energy that post-elite athletes normally do.

But I love this game!

Now, it’s not about trying to beat my former self. That's impossible. It’s about doing the best I can with what I have right now.

All the events I do have many older folks than me taking part. I always take a good look at them and feel good.  Some are really old geezers and look pretty beat. But they all look like they sincerely want to be there.

I still get choked up seeing disabled people in general and especially physically challenged athletes doing this stuff. They remind me that it’s a gift to be able to do what I can do and I never want to take that gift for granted. It’s getting easier to focus on the upside and not get down about my own limits continually moving in a downward trajectory.

Living in New Zealand has also enabled me to engage with a wonderful natural environment on a daily basis and take on challenges that naturally present themselves. I've actually ridden, ran, and swam the length of this country. Every day I get outside I can hardly believe what a wonderful spot I'm in on this planet. Riding or running over the hills, doing my barefoot strides on the beach near my house--so many wonderful ways to feel alive.

While that near-daily engagement is fulfilling, satisfying, and gratifying, it’s entering events that adds extra spice to sustain me. I really don't search for another way to live.

I hope it lasts.

About Scott Molina there is much to say and more to ask. As the only member of the Big Four to sustain a spot on the triathlon starting line, Molina’s continued participation in the sport is hard to comprehend. Including his high school running and swimming teams, Scott has competed in each of the last five decades. Never mind his documented 103 triathlon victories. Forget his 1988 Ironman World Championship title. At 54 years old, Scott Molina still loves to race. Based in a pastoral Christchurch, NZ, Molina lives with his wife of 23 years, Erin Baker, and their two kids, Tandia and Miguel. Since our first meeting in June of 1982 at the San Diego USTS race, I have pondered his competitive drive. His explanation above is but a small glimpse into a very large career. -- ST