Fine Triathletes

author : alicefoeller
comments : 0

Human decency shines through at races

If you wonder why people complete their first triathlon and then can't give up racing, it often has as much to do with the race environment and experience as it does with the joys and struggles of training.

Triathlon is one of the few sports where all of the competitors are on the same course at the same time. The professional may have nicer bike racks, but you can see them (as they come whipping past) on the same course you are on.

Men and women race together. Collegiate athletes share the road with 70-year-olds. People who exist entirely on protein shakes line up next to people who use triathlon as an excuse to eat more pizza and drink more beer. It's a pretty crazy crowd standing on most beaches at the start of a race.

One thing that is consistent is how incredibly considerate most triathletes are to each other, even in the heat of competition.

I know of one member here who stopped during his first Ironman, threw his time goal out the window, and stayed with a cyclist he had watched lost consciousness and ride off the road into a ditch. He remained with him until help came, as the minutes ticked by.

Personally, I have had people help me, mutter word of encouragement even as they struggle for breath, and go to great lengths to help others. Often I'll hear an announcement before a race that a triathlete needs a pair of goggles, or a spare wheel even. Then a few minutes later, I'll hear an announcement saying, "Thanks." Someone came through with the needed item.

Here are a few stories from other members of BeginnerTriathlete:

From member b2run:

My friend and coworker decided to do a try-a-tri. She tried to train as much as she could but her young children prevented her from putting in as many training hours as she would have liked. On the day of the race, she was a little nervous but was determined to finish. She got through the swim and the bike but was exhausted by the beginning of the run. She ran a short way and then jerked into a slow walk muttering, "I can't do this." Another triathlete running past her heard her and stopped. She promised that she would walk with her the whole way to make sure that she finished. She encouraged her and lifted her spirits. My friend gathered her courage and pushed herself into a run and finished the race.

From member QueenZipp:

In my first season racing I did a women's only triathlon.  There were some younger girls also racing, not quite sure of the lowest age limit but I think she may have been middle school age.  On the bike course she had some difficulty--I honestly don't recall if she had a flat or fell....but I remember a large number of women stopping to check on her as if she was their child. 

Also in that first season, I did my first open water race.  I got to the race site and went in for a practice swim to find my goggles were broken and leaking terribly.  A volunteer loaned me hers.  I distinctly remember handing them off to my family as I went through T1 so they could give them back to her. 

I am part of a large group that formed after the death of a local elite runner (killed while training for the Boston Marathon by a drunk driver).  We have a motto that we RUN AS ONE.  At the Richmond marathon, we are there loud and proud cheering on every finisher--from the speedy elites to the folks who just make the cut off. Some of the crew will finish their own races then double back out on the course to run in with others who may be struggling to complete. 

From member WildWill:

I have competed in IM Switzerland a couple of time and never had a decent result .... its a  bit of a boggy race for me. The first time my back went out during the bike, which resulted in one of the longest days of suffering I have ever experienced. However, it is my second attempt at the race I need to highlight here,

It was IM Switzerland 2013 and it was hot, damn hot.

The whole race was going well, an enjoyable non-wetsuit  swim in the clear waters of Lake Zurich, a reasonable (for me) first lap on the bike, but all the time the temperature was rising and I was too caught up in my race to be sensible enough to take appropriate action. The first hill on the 2nd lap it hit me, I was cooking in my own juices. By the time I hit the 2nd hill, I was all over the road. 

Two-thirds up the hill I ground to a halt and the world tipped on its side. 

Within second local spectators had helped me off the road and into the shade of a tree. Even rescuing my bike. They did not know me - I was just a mad Brit in skull and crossbones, but they came to my help.

Next the same locals saved my day and my race. Three of them had produced watering cans and started to water me down, like I was a prize rose patch. Just a little at first, then more and more until it had cooled me and brought me back into myself. They insisted I stayed sitting in the shade for a while longer while I drank enough to re-hydrate. but then they waved me off on my race.

It was the slowest bike leg of any IM I have ever raced, but due to the help of a bunch of strangers on a overly-hot hill in Switzerland - I  finished - not a pretty finish - but a finish all the same.

Member alath sums it up well:

There's not a specific instance, but I appreciate when other competitors say encouraging things during the race. Under normal circumstances, phrases like "have a nice day" don't necessarily mean much. But for people running or biking at a significant percentage of threshold, sparing some breath to uplift a fellow racer takes on a lot more meaning. "I have barely enough air for my physiologic needs at this point, but I'm going to use some of it to be nice." This happens multiple times in every race I'm in and I always appreciate it.


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date: March 31, 2017


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.

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