I think I might be having a bit of a rant this week but there is something happening in triathlon at the moment and it is rubbing me the wrong way. What could it be you ask? Well I'm not going to get into it right away. This weekend I am racing Australia's oldest triathlon, the Nepean Tri. This is a truly iconic Australian race but not one that has ever really been on my bucket list. One of my good friends decided earlier this year that he wanted to do a triathlon and I thought the 1km swim, 30km bike and 10km run would be a good distance to start at. The fact that the swim is in the regatta lake also means that there is no tide, current or sharks for him to worry about. So I agreed to sign up and do the race with him.
Over the last few months I have been privileged to meet a number of other people who are also attempting their first triathlon out there. To the point that this Sunday when I line up I will be racing with no less than 5 triathlon first timers that I know. When I did my first triathlon I would not have finished if it wasn't for the support of my crazy English friend, Rob. It is literally the reason why I crossed that finish line and am still in the sport today. So I am really looking forward to cheering on all the people who I will know out there on Sunday. I am genuinely looking forward to racing this weekend.
Triathlon like most endurance sport is incredibly encouraging. Lots of us don't like the swim which can be one of the biggest fears for new athletes. Many people including myself feel self-concicious wearing skin tight lycra. We all understand the commitment it takes to not only finish a triathlon or go fast but to simply get to the start line. So to all of my friends who are reading this and are racing on Sunday congratulations. It takes guts to put your hand up and say this is something that I want to do. It takes determination to do the training to even get to the start line. Trust me when I say the hardest part is behind you. On course athletes support each other. If you are struggling you never see people laugh or mock. When I was broken last year at the Western Sydney 70.3 on the side of the course crying I had multiple people stop their race to see if they could help me. I was inundated with support. It helped me keep going and eventually finish. Even the professionals of the sport. We are so lucky that we have so much access to the best of the best. You can walk up to most of the pros and have a chat and they are always friendly and more than happy to have a photo or a chat. In fact I am yet to meet one who has been a prick. But this is where my problem lies. There is a growing trend lately for age group athletes to become incredibly arrogant and take themselves too seriously. To the point of being rude to other athletes. I feel it is important here to take a moment and state I understand that there are some age group athletes who compete at a very high level and some who are trying to qualify as a pro. But in reality this number is low. So if you are one of those people I am not talking about you.
When I was in Indonesia for Bintan 70.3 there was another age grouper there. They had all the gear. Wearing a branded shirt, hat and everything. If you didn't know where they racked their bike you would have thought they were a pro or at the very least, sponsored. After this person was done setting up their transition another athlete who was racked near me was obviously struggling with their bike and asked this person for help. The wannabe pro literally ignored them. I couldn't believe it. I stopped what I was doing and helped them pump up their tyre. It took less than a minute. It wasn't just that though, it was the way they conducted themselves in general. The same person was in my age group and was very forceful pushing to the front of the swim start. I was nervous because I was there trying to qualify and I thought this person might be a seriously good athlete. That was the last I saw of that person all day. Where did they finish? Much lower in the rankings then I did and I crashed my bloody bike! You see it in training too though. At the pool, at the track, the age group athlete who takes it all too seriously. I get it, you want to go as fast as you can. But come on, we aren't racing for money, in fact more often that not we are spending lots and lots of money to do this. We do it because we are meant to enjoy it!
I train hard and I have big goals in the sport. But maybe my perspective is different because I have taken the long way to get where I am (and I am far from the top of anything). But one of my favourite things is to spend time with triathlete beginners. I try to let them know the things I have leant along the way. I love the sport and I want it to grow and become one of the most popular sports in the world. Triathlon encourages a healthy lifestyle so the more people doing it, the better the competition and the healthier we will be as a society. So why has there been this shift lately for people to stop being friendly to one another? Why do so many people forget that it is a hobby, something that is meant to be fun. Bad news, but if you are over 25 you will struggle to truly make it as a top professional. Again, I am sure that some of you out there are capable of it. But not all of you. I see it all the time. Someone does a tri, they love it. They get right into it and at some point the though crosses their mind, "I could go pro". Maybe it is because the gap between top age grouper and lower tier pro is almost non-existent. But the time gap does not represent the amount of effort that goes into going 5 minutes faster. I am getting angry just writing this and am worried that I am getting off track. This isn't about having a go at people for their goals or their training volume or even about what the sport means to you. What I am trying to say is that triathlon is a beautiful sport because it encourages like-minded people to come together and achieve something extraordinary. But at the end of the day for 99% of us it is a hobby and that is all it will ever be. Going faster or winning your age group will not make you a better person. Lots of the top age groupers out there are amazing friendly people.
So lets all try and take the time to have a chat with the person next to us in transition. To answer the question of a person at the track or in the pool. By being encouraging and welcoming we will grow the sport. More races are better for everyone and at the end of the day, most of us are only ever racing ourselves. So enjoy the process, enjoy the sport. Appreciate the effort you put in and understand that other people are pushing themselves to achieve something incredible as well.
Sorry if this week is a bit ranty but by having so many people I know doing their first triathlon made me realise that it can be really intimidating for people entering the sport and we all have our role to play. Whatever journey we are on within triathlon, unless you are racing for your living, your race is not more important than anyone else's. Lets all race hard and race fair and remember why we do this sport, because we choose to.
Good luck to everyone this weekend!
The race is your reward so enjoy your first TRI!