As a whole, triathletes are wonderful people. They are giving, helpful, courteous. They will go out of their way to help another triathlete, or anyone for that matter, who is in trouble on the course. There are so many different types of triathletes, but if you pay attention you can tell where each of them came from as far as their background.
Normally, triathletes come in four basic types. There are the swimmers, the cyclists, the runners, and the new athlete. You can normally tell the discipline where the triathlete came from by the way they are during training, and during races. This, of course, is generalizing, but pay attention to how someone is during your next group ride or race, someone you don’t now, and then ask them what discipline they started in to see how accurate I am in my assessment. Make it a game! J
You would think, as a swimmer, you would find a laid back, beach type of person, who goes with the flow.
Swimmers are tough people, and they have little patience for people in their way (much like the cyclist, as you will see). Also, unlike the other disciplines, a swimmer will be the first person to call you a wimp or p**sy when you say the water is too cold or too rough. They are the ones complaining loudly if there is talk about shortening a swim route due to conditions (or God Forbid cancelling the swim!!). If you train with one they are the ones barking and yelling at you to rotate more, stretch your arms, increase your rotation speed. During a race they have no problem swimming over you or through you if you’re in the way. They will grab your feet for propulsion; they will elbow you in the ribs if you get too close, and kick you in the face with no feeling of regret.
But, they are also the first ones to drag you out of bed to get in the pool, and much like the runners, they will get in the water with you. They LOVE their discipline and will do their damnedest to get you to love it too.
People that come from a cycling background are the hardcore portions of the sport. They have no patience for newbies, will not call out when they are catching you, or if they are on your wheel. I was doing 17 mph in Augusta last year and got yelled at by no less than three cyclists telling me, and I quote, to “get the fuck to the right”. This was, of course, after them not yelling “on your left” so I had no idea they were there. A cyclist will blow through red lights, ride 3-4 side by side on the road even when cars are in back of them (then yell at the car when they beep). The cyclists feel they are the elite of the sport.
But, the cyclist is also the person what will give you a tube when you have a flat and blew your backup, and will refuse money for it. They will pull out their tubes and fix your bike on the side of the road because, to them, it’s “fun”.
Runners are the good people of the sport. They love to talk while you are running with them, even when you can barely breathe. They are the first to get on the course and run with you, even at a pace that is 10:00 slower than their normal. They encourage and coach and are tough only when they need to be. Runners operate in a pack mentality; all for one … no one left behind. In my opinion, and limited experience, it also seems that those that come to triathlon from a running background transition the best to the sport. When Megan came into the sport over a year ago she was a runner (and basketball player). I told her I thought she would do well, and she progressed fast. I think it’s because runners have the stamina already built in, and the ability to “zone” out over long periods of exercise. They come into it equipped for the pain.
Then there are the rest of us. The ex-football players. The no athletic background types. The people trying to lose weight. The people running for causes greater than their own. We know we will probably never stand on a podium and it doesn’t bother us. We finish last more often than not (though that does bother us). We get run over in the swim, passed like we are standing still on the bike, and walk a lot of the run. We tend to be wide eyed most of the time. We take in everything we can. We watch everyone. We notice little things (like this blog subject) that probably most don’t notice.
But you know something?
I was watching “Sprit of the Marathon” last night on Netflix. They profiled a number of people preparing for Chicago, including two elite runners. But the interesting part is that the people walking, and hurting, and struggling to make it to the end are the more interesting stories. These are the people working 10 hour a day jobs, raising kids, running a house, and still carving out time for 3 hour runs, or 100 mile bikes.
“Everyone Else”, in each sport, are the heart of the sport.
We are Triathlon!