On Sunday, April 1st 2012 my boyfriend, Dom, his sister, Amy and her husband, Stu, all competed in the Skilled 23rd Corporate Teams Triathlon & Tri It Teams Triathlon.
This was a corporate triathlon, which meant that competitors participated as representatives of a company. Every second person seemed to be from Rio Tinto, and Amy’s company, Orontide, also had a huge presence. Stu, Dom and their third team member, John, were competing for Stu’s company Helm Maintenance.
Now I have to admit, when I first heard that word “Triathlon” escape Dom’s lips, it immediately conjured up images of svelte athletes in tight lyrca, pushing their bodies and minds beyond the limits of normal human capacity, in the constant, desperate battle to be better, faster, harder, stronger.But the reality of it was something quite different, and, I'll admit, unexpected.As our small but enthusiastic cheer squad approached the briefing area, the competitors were already all gathered together, listening to the magnified voice of one of the organizer and hosts, delivering the instructions of the race. The crowd that had gathered consisted of people of all shapes and sizes - men and women, young and old, even a group of school boys who couldn't have been older than 13 or 14. Despite it being 7am on an almost-winter day, there was a great atmosphere. People chatted and greeted one another warmly. It was obvious that many people knew each other and were all readily offering up their support of one another. This was a far cry from the image I had gone along with, of competitors sizing up their opposition, sabotaging their adversaries, intimidatingly showing off their chiseled abs and menacingly flexing their rippling biceps at one another.I spoke to a man on the beach who was participating with his wife and son. His wife had recently had a pacemaker put in, so I wasn't sure how she would go completing all three sections. He had volunteered to do the swim and his son was going to do the bike leg for her. He explained to me that it was a great way for their family to feel closer to one another, and it was important for his wife to know that she had the support of "her boys". The more people I spoke to, the more stories like that one I heard. One man had had a health scare about six months earlier, and so had decided to start trying to get into shape. He was only doing the swim leg, and had been training as often as he could around his hectic university professor schedule. When he emerged from the water, looking exhausted but exultant, a group of his students who had been huddled together on the sand clapped and cheered. As he raised his arms into the air in celebration, you couldn't have wiped the smiles off the faces of any of the people watching.The first leg was a 250m ocean swim, and bright canary-yellow swimming caps were compulsory for all of the competitors. As each "wave" was called up to the starting line (they had been separated into groups, called waves, depending on age, experience, and what sort of group they had nominated to do it with), the sand was suddenly inundated with yellow heads. From our spectator's area on the beach, we could see each group tentatively entering the freezing cold water, and we cheered as they swam the full distance, trying to pick out who was who in the flurry of arms visible 20 meters off shore.
As the first wave of yellow heads started to emerge from the water, the atmosphere on the beach was animated. When the competitors had been given their briefing earlier that morning, the announcer had told the spectators, "You are the most important people here today! I don't want to see you standing around like light-posts - the competitors need to hear you cheering!" And we didn't take those orders lightly. As each swimmer emerged from the water, and ran (at varying speeds) up the beach, they were greeted with cheers and shouts of support and encouragement.My boyfriend was the first person from his wave to get out of the water, and the crowd (mostly me) went wild!From the beach, the competitors ran up to the "transition area", where they had to put a shirt on (no bare chests were allowed once the swim was over) and jump on their bikes. After a 10km ride (or three laps of Fremantle's South Terrace), there was another transition, where they put their bikes away and started the 2.5km run. It was quite something to see row after row of bikes lined up in the transition area. Being from an events organization background, I am extremely impressed by the organization and planning that would have gone into putting the event together.Standing lining the barriers of the race track, we had a prime view of the end of the event. Amy was competing with a team from her work, a company called Orontide, and they had printed signs for us to hold up, bearing the slogans "Fantastic Effort" and "Well Done!" accompanied by the Orontide logo, which we flourished with gusto. As the participants rounded the corner to make their final 100m sprint towards the finish line, the diversity of the people who had entered became even more apparent. There was a team from Bunnings Warehouse, who finished the race kitted out in their full uniform, including apron and cap. People of all ages, sizes and races were involved, some huffing and puffing, some walking, and others pushing themselves to find that last burst of energy to sprint across the finish line. It was a really inspiring experience - made even more so by the fact that Stu placed fourth, and Dom's and his team (made up of three of them) had the fastest time overall.Prior to having seen the competition first-hand I was honestly astounded that I knew people who voluntarily and actively participated in what I had always considered to be a ludicrous, self-inflicted sort of torture. But I see now that it's not just about being an endorphin-driven exercise junkie or adisciplined, driven athlete. While it does take a fair bit of drive and motivation, not only to get out of bed at 4am (I'll tell you now I'm not the world's greatest morning person), and to keep going when your body is screaming at you to stop, it is also a chance for regular, every day people to do something that challenges them, that pushes them out of their comfort zone.
Finding the motivation to "Find 30" can be hard enough, especially as the cold weather sets in, but having a goal to work towards - whether it's just getting through the three legs, or improving your overall time or strength in a certain area - makes it that little bit easier to get your body and mind into gear. And seeing the faces of the competitors as they cross the finish line - the determination in their eyes, the pride and elation that is written all over their faces as they appreciate what they've achieved - makes this humble observer think that this triathlon business might just be worth getting into.