I made my way to the local pool on a Saturday afternoon for a recovery session after a long ride. I got into the fast lane accompanying a long-haired man with a goatee and several piercings. My first reaction was that he was clearly not an athlete and certainly nowhere near my calibre. After several laps of him breast stroking and me trying to elbow him out of the way, I decided to put my on Ironman France swim cap. This was the triathlete equivalent of “do you know who I am?”. He moved across.
Towards the end of the set, after replaying the incident in my head, a guilty feeling sunk in. Two years ago, I did not know how to swim, not even a single length let alone 3.8km. The fast lane was where I aspired to be and looking across from the where I swam, I dreamt of being an Ironman. Could that have also been the person I was just rude to?
Over the past few months, I have encountered many incidents where athletes thought they had bragging rights at social outings or races. It was awful being on the receiving end and it hugely deflated my confidence. This had many repercussions; it put me off group rides, where training etiquette is learnt. It also spurred my competitiveness in running (the triathlon leg I am most comfortable with). Even worse, this caused me to train improperly and created even more friction with other athletes.
Getting changed at the end of the session, I kept thinking: triathlon is not a group sport. We must compete within ourselves and not each other. If any aspiring triathlete had a fraction of the support I had, we would flourish beyond belief and the possibility of fostering world-class athletes would be that little bit easier to achieve.