Monday, 18 July 2011

How to make friends whilst racing people

I did my first Olympic distance triathlon yesterday. Given how little preparation had gone into it, I was quite pleased with my pedestrian time and actually rather enjoyed the extra distance. I even wondered if I should break recent form and consider some training in between these races.

It seems perhaps not everyone enjoys their racing though. At least 3 people mumbled that they weren't having any fun as they streaked past me on the run. Call me old fashioned, but it does seem a silly way of having a crap time on a Sunday morning.

One such character really caught my attention at yesterday's race. We shall call her Skinnylady (merely an observation, with a hint of envy).

It's not unusual for me to be overtaken by a lighter, leaner competitor going uphill on my bike and yesterday was no exception. On the other hand, it's always quite motivating to catch up with someone who clearly takes more care of their self than I do and I do my best to manage that on the descents; however, in the awkward moment as you draw level, I believe it's only good manners to acknowledge that person with a word of encouragement.

"Well done", I said as Skinnylady overtook me on the first climb.

Skinnylady said......... nothing. She didn't even flinch.

Moments later, I moved past Skinnylady on a flat, fast section of road, "Well done, keep it going!"

And Skinnylady said ............. nothing. Again.

On the long climb up to the half way turn, Skinnylady danced past me with some style, to which I offered, "Go on, great climbing!"

Skinnylady exclaimed ................. nothing. Foxtrot Alpha.

At this point, I considered the possibilities: perhaps English wasn't her first language; maybe she was crippled by pathological shyness; or maybe she was just plain rude. As I overtook her again on the next descent, my cheeks were flapping so much I couldn't really speak, so I decided to cease efforts to communicate there.

She finally snuck past me on the way into transition and I assumed that would be the end of our uncomfortable silences. I continued with my campaign of harassment/support and attempted to encourage those passing me on the second lap of their run, comforted by the fact that many of the racing snakes could manage a nod of recognition as they pelted past. Many even initiated their own support with a helpful comment and my faith in camaraderie was restored.

Finally hitting a steady shuffle after 3K or so, I saw a familiar silhouette in the distance... walking. With some curiosity, I drew level and asked if she was OK.

“I’ve got cramp!” Skinnylady barked. I made sympathetic noises and encouraged her to keep moving until it passed. I carried on running for fear of my own cramp or, even worse, another fiery rebuttal.

Some time later, a small voice behind me yelped,

"Thank you for keeping me going. Can I run with you?"

Hello Skinnylady.

I offered her one of my Shot Bloks and said she was welcome to join me. We continued on into the second lap, shoulder to shoulder. I wondered whether small talk would be a wise option but decided that the awkward silence we'd established earlier in the event would probably be more appropriate. Besides, conversation whilst running is not easy with my training base. This continued until a kind-looking man cheered us both on. Breaking all expectations, Skinnylady turned to me, smiled, and said,

"Isn't everyone here friendly?"

She then lengthened her stride and left me for dust.


  1. Yay! It just goes to show that friendly persistence pays off... It was a lovely story in the end :-)

  2. LOL hilarious!!! I hope I bump into you at a race :) And bluddy well done on Olympic distance Tri - I have no idea how far that is but it sounds lots and very hard!

  3. Great job! Well done on all accounts.
    Can a person be 'hardcore' and 'soft-centred' ?
    If they can, you are.

  4. Lol. I felt like I was there. Brilliant.

  5. brilliant blog! and congratulations on the triathlon, I could never do one!


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