Hervey Bay Triathlon: a lesson in sportsmanship

Last weekend I watched my first triathlon … well, the second half cos seeing the swim leg (the first of the three) would have meant leaving the house before 6.45am and I couldn’t quite motivate myself for that. Nevertheless, I got to see the cycle and run legs and was struck by a number of things.

bikesgirl1. Even the fittest looking athletes seemed to be doing it hard (having said that – by the time they got to where I was they’d already done half of each leg). I was surprised by the grimaces and occasional hand to the stomach as if staving off a stitch.

2. You have to be pretty fit and lean to look good in a lycra onesie. I’m just sayin’… Some of those cycling and running past me were impressive. In fact, I *ahem* may have been guilty of this tweet.

However, lycra is not particularly forgiving if your physique is less-than-perfect.

3. A HELL of a lot of people wear black. My friend Liz, visiting from Brisbane, had told me she’d be in black. An inordinate number of cyclists (men and women alike) went whizzing past me in black so I didn’t see Liz until she was metres away (though thankfully I was near the turnaround point so got a second viewing!

4. A surprising number of people are willing to ‘give it a go’. There were some seriously chubby types (though possibly not as chubby as moi) out and about and I was mightily impressed at their fitness and determination. In fact, I saw familiar faces from around town (possibly in the corporate event and just doing one leg) who I was surprised to see running 10km. As I cannot run 100m anyone running further than that deserves my warmest regards. It was a timely reminder that just ‘trying’ is all-important.

bikes5. Encouragement is appreciated. As I was waiting to see Liz I contemplated how exactly I’d cheer. After all, I was in a pretty isolated place with few people around. Readers of my other blogs may think I have no shame, but I do suffer embarrassment very easily… however when the time came, I was easily able to shriek (in what was – I’m fairly sure – a calm but sexy voice), “Yay Liz!” And “Go, Liz!”

However as the day wore on I found myself feeling obliged to continue to watch ALL of the cyclists and runners – catching their eye and smiling encouragingly.

I got several comments – from the occasional, “Hello!” to, “Thanks for being here!” And even a “It’s great to see your lovely smile!” Which of course meant that I had to forgo playing on my iPod or reading the book I’d brought to beam at everyone and anyone passing by. (Those just out on a morning walk to buy the paper probably wondered why they deserved such a beatific gift!) By the time the stragglers came by at the end – stopping for breath or grimacing painfully I even felt obliged to tell them what a wonderful job they were doing. When someone said they wished they were in my spot (lolling about on the thick green grass), I replied that I envied their ability to get out there and try.

bikes runners6. The camaraderie was AMAZING. A few of the cyclists whizzing by knew each other and cheered their friends, counterparts or opponents as they circled the halfway point. Others offered encouraging words to the slower cyclists as they left them in their dust.

But it was during the run leg that I noticed it the most. “Great running,” I’d hear as one fit looking person overtook another. And when I heard “Great work,” and it was someone with a greyhound-like body talking to someone-who-shouldn’t-wear-lycra, I looked for signs of sarcasm or condescension, but saw nothing of the kind. Just lots of cheering each other on. I mean, I know it wasn’t an Olympic event, but still… it was nice to see that support and camaraderie.

And that, folks, is what I’ll take away from last weekend’s event. That no matter how stuffed someone might be or how superior someone might be, to offer a kind word of encouragement to others can mean more than you can imagine. After all, I wasn’t even IN the event, but have a newfound respect for the solidarity that comes from competing (as one). Many of those there weren’t in it to win it; they were wanting to better their previous time, or just finish the bloody thing. Many were just there to try. (And as for the locals… I think it was a case of ‘If you build it, they will come!’)

Oh… and if you’ve got lots of wobbly bits, you might want to avoid lycra (or at least stick to black). That’s another lesson for those playing along at home.

Have you expected fierce competitiveness and found, instead, goodwill? 
Do you ‘do’ lycra? More importantly, SHOULD you do lycra?*

*Am being facetious obviously. I’m a strong believer that anyone should wear whatever they like. (Well, within reason… 😉 )

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