I have been thinking about inspiration a bit – a forum that I frequent asked “who are your fitness idols?”
I posted to the forum that I’d signed up for the triathlon. I explained that at that point in time, reading about all the Ironmen and women who don’t like doing swim training was most reassuring! I’m certain that it will be the hardest part of the event for me, so it was comforting to know that there are people out there who swim ridiculous kilometres and still find it hard.
I thought of what was my inspiration to sign up to the triathlon, and I have to say that it was watching the Busselton Ironman. Last December we went down to cheer on a guy from the bike shop who was competing, and it was watching all the competitors that made me realise that I didn’t have to be ‘athletic’ to be a part of something like this (even if it was just an enticer triathlon). At Ironman there were people of all shapes and sizes, and differing abilities. The Complete instead of Compete people. The Completers were my people. They are the people that pedal up to the top of the hill. They aren’t the first ones up, they might even be last, but by God, they will get up there.
I had gone to spectate at the Women’s Triathlon a few years ago. Again, I was there to support a friend who was participating. It was her first triathlon, and she came first in her age group. (She was rather chuffed, but declared that she had no need to do another one). I saw all the people who were participating, and while there were all the obvious ‘proper’ triathletes with their tri shoes, and skilful Transition manoeuvring, alongside them were all the ‘regular’ people who were just having a bash. I was excited for them all, but it didn’t make me want to enter the event.
When we went to Ironman I hadn’t expected the ‘normal’ people. In some odd way I’d known that ‘regular’ people compete in Ironman too, but it hadn’t occurred to me how regular they were. They had heavier bikes than me, they had basic runners instead of those expensive Day-Glo trainers that I see in the back of the triathlon magazines. They wore shorts and a t-shirt for the run leg, instead of a salt encrusted tri suit. They wanted to finish, rather than win, and that was when I understood the appeal and the motivation.
I might have said before how I’m not competitive. When I was in school, I was so hopeless with no hand-eye coordination that being competitive wasn’t worthwhile. It was a certain path to failure and if you failed you would be made fun of, so to avoid being teased, you don’t go out there with a competitive attitude; you go out to have fun. I can’t imagine that an Ironman could be counted precisely as fun, but I think personal achievement fits into that category. At Ironman, unless you’ve trained and raced practically full-time for a year, you’re going to have difficulty winning, but if all you want to do is complete it, it is quite possible.
Every time I’ve felt good about myself in sports it was when I had improved at something. I was only ever competitive with myself. I started to cycle, and went further and further and felt good, even after longer rides. Very rarely do I go on a ride and say “I want to beat X”. More often I’ll say “I want to go up Mount Street without wanting to vomit at the top”. It hadn’t occurred to me that triathlon was like that too. You hear of people who have won Ironman, and that doesn’t interest me. I’m impressed, sure, but I’m more impressed by the people who work a full-time job, or have kids and a mortgage and still manage to train for and complete an Ironman.
One of the first times I went up Welshpool Road was the same day three friends did the Women’s Triathlon. The whole time I pedalled up that really steep part I said their names like a three part mantra with each pedalstroke. Beat – beat – beat. One – two – three. One – two – three. I was inspired by them going out and doing something difficult, but I never imagined doing a triathlon myself. Until we went to Busselton, and I saw people like me running past.