Words of Wisdom from a Yale 1970 Alumnus

August 16, 2013 - 6:26am by Anonymous (not verified)

What’s Ahead:  A Vigorous Life Seeking Balance

Roger Leonard, TD 1970

I’ve enjoyed scanning the YTC website and eventually reached out to Clay and Colleen to join the team.  Colleen thought that it would be interesting to hear from an alumnus.  Despite being a newcomer triathlete, I humbly offer a perspective as an Old Blue.  Having recently celebrated my 65th birthday, I qualify for “Old”, but let me reassure you that such a designation is purely temporal, not necessarily physical or intellectual.  Indeed, being an athlete clears the mind and sustains the body.

Yale 1970: the last all-male class.   How grateful we are for change!  I arrived in New Haven as a swimmer and left as captain of the water polo team that participated in the first NCAA championship (we got clobbered by the California teams).  The swim team sustained our elite legacy with several Olympic medalists including Don Schollander with 4 golds from Tokyo.  I was definitely a third tier swimmer and switched to WP in sophomore year.

Then came my athletic Dark Age, doing nothing during medical school, residency, and fellowship. During the 110-hour workweek prior to the creation of resident duty-hours, “free time” was devoted to my wife and daughter.  As Walter Cronkite said “And that’s the way it was”.   By age 30, I finally was able to reboot.  My evolving plan, concocted about 1983, was to run in my 30s, swim in my 40s, bike in my 50s, and become a triathlete in my 60s! You know it doesn’t work that way.   Nonetheless, I managed to run several marathons by age 35 (PR 3h 17min), have been a Masters swimmer for 25 years, and enjoyed several biking vacations with my wife and daughters in Ireland, Italy, and France.  My wife, Becky, and I are biking Spain this August from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean. 

Ultimately, I reached my goal of being a triathlete in my 60s.  It began 4 years ago with a couple Olympic distance competitions (DC and Nation’s – both around 3hr).  Figuring that the older I got and the longer the distance, the higher I would place…as if that really matters…I set my sights on Chesapeake Man last fall, limited to the aquavelo (2.4mi + 112 mi) and came in last in my age group (3/3)!  As expected, my swim was strong (1hr 4 min).  The bike was unexplored territory having never done a century ride before.  The first 3 hours were fine at 18 mph, then we turned into the wind and the second loop was tough.  Finished the bike in 6hr 39 min.  This summer, I’m focusing on the run and will compete in Nation’s again.

Returning to the title, how does one become a triathlete and maintain balance in life?  First, exercise is a critical part of a balanced life.  Like anything, it’s the excess that creates challenges.  Having an understanding and supportive partner/spouse makes a huge difference, especially if you can share your passion.  Becky and I run together, bike together, and prefer active vacations. What a treat that my daughters and grandson came to “watch” Chesapeake Man! 

We all figure out how to fit in the training with our professional life.  As a cardiologist and hospital Vice-President for Medical Affairs, the days were too unpredictable.  My solution was to go to bed early and get up early, starting workouts at 5am often.  Perhaps, evening workouts are your solution. Consistency in schedule matters.  Yet, family matters more in becoming the best triathlete partner, spouse, parent, and grandparent (yeah!).

Being a triathlete is part of our identity.  I feel great with the same physique I had 45 years ago.  I know I’m healthier in mind and body.  May you find balance in your schedules and balance among the three sports, each in “moderation” down an injury-free path!

Looking forward to a race together some day!

Best wishes to all.