In touch with the Zeitgeist?
At around 35k into the cycle leg of today’s Mooloolaba triathlon, with a strong headwind and the seat feeling very hard, I was wondering “why am I doing this”. At the time, the question was more like “why did I get out of bed this morning”, but there’s also a question as to why a middle-aged academic like myself is doing something like this at all.
My own causal account is pretty simple. I gave up my old sport, karate, for a variety of reasons, then started “boot camp” style training (minus silly uniforms and other pseudo-military stuff). to keep fit. As a consequence, I found that, whereas the distance I could comfortably run had been measured in 100s of metres, it was now measured in kilometers. But I still wasn’t particularly fast and my reasoning (captured by a T-shirt I saw today) was, “why suck at one sport when you can suck at three”. And indeed, so it has turned out, but I still enjoy it and keep trying.
So, that’s the purposive agent account. But (while I was not consciously aware of this at the time) triathlons are booming and not just in Australia. So, it seems, there is some general zeitgeist which I (and thousands of others) have somehow been driven by. This is not a unique occurrence
An alternative hypothesis, at least in some cases, is that there is no zeitgeist, merely a tendency to pay more attention to social phenomena that resonate with our own experience. In my early days of fatherhood, I acquired a sudden, and shortlived interest in babies generally. Grandfatherhood hasn’t the same effect, possibly because my grandson is so much cuter than any other possible baby (or, now, toddler).
For those interested, I finished in 3:16:12, shaving three minutes of my time for last year, but well to the back of the field (2335/2667).
fn1. Headwinds on the return cycle leg constitute an officially recognised Excuse for slow performance, along with currents, heat etc. By contrast, my PB time on the outward cycle leg is down to grit, determination and all-round athleticisim