I got this t-shirt for Christmas, but I didn’t wear it straight away.
There is something about declaring your sporting commitments publicly, such as wearing a t-shirt that states ‘I Tri’, that means you have to be ready to represent and be an ambassador of your sport.
I don’t look like your average triathlete; I look like I spend most of my days sitting on the couch watching re-runs of Friends and eating chocolate ice cream. Which is why I knew I’d make a good triathlon representative and that it was worth waiting until such time as I was ready to take on that responsibility.
Yes, I dare to think that I might inspire other crazy weirdos to have a go at this sport – because I am part of a minority of un-athletic, un-talented morons doing this for fun, as opposed to the generally intimidating triathletes you might normally see or hear of. I have visions of some other average joe lunatic standing in the checkout queue at Coles, noticing my t-shirt and asking me a question about triathlon. And me, enthusiastically telling joe how terrifying and challenging yet ultimately achievable it is, before he or she scurries off to sign up for the Bribie Island Triathlon that very afternoon.
I will be kind, welcoming and encouraging. Average Joe Lunatic’s world will be a better place.
So, I knew I had to be ready to represent seriously. Therefore, I didn’t wear my t-shirt straight away, even though I was swimming, biking and running – and tri-ing – really hard. I was definitely a triathlete, I had no issue with that. You don’t have to enter a race to be a runner. You don’t have to publish a book to be a writer.
But I wanted to make sure that I could wear my t-shirt with my head held high, ready to answer questions if needs be. I waited patiently for that time to come, thinking it might be after the finish line at Bribie.
In fact it happened after I got out of the shower on my birthday, as I took a quick snap of the jellyfish stings on my stomach and slowly started to feel the pride of surviving an Open Water Clinic that I simply could not have taken part in 4 months ago.
I went to my drawer, spotted my ‘I tri’ t-shirt, and knew it was time to wear it.
Let’s be clear: I don’t have all the answers to all the questions. OK, alright, fine… I don’t have the answers to many questions at all. But to represent my sport, I don’t have to be perfect, or know how to win a race, or even have a chance of winning a race. Not knowing these things is actually part of the average joe lunatic’s triathlon challenge, part of the very puzzle that I hope to exemplify. What makes me a triathlete? Facing up to the challenge. Every day. Pushing past my limits. Moving forward against great resistance. Trying again even when I think I am stuck.
I do know how to answer questions on all those things.
So I wore the t-shirt, all afternoon, with great pride. I plaited my hair to the side (which I only usually do for working out – I find that plaits put a lot less pressure on your scalp if you have very long hair like I do – that’s my pro tip for the day) so that everyone could see or read the back.
It was wonderful and even though nobody asked me about my physical pursuits, I hoped that perhaps even just seeing little old me wandering around the woods (we went for a hike) in a triathlon t-shirt would spark an interest, or a thought to check out triathlon ‘someday’.
Hey, darling! Do you see that weirdo chick over there with the tri t-shirt on? If she can do a bloody triathlon, I’m thinking I could too!
Yes mate, yes you could.
Then 24 hours later I was experiencing the other end of the triathlon representation squad. I was driving around the city going to various hellish work appointments, one of which finished early. Which left me sitting in the car answering emails and wondering what else to do to waste 10 minutes before heading to my next meeting. And I remembered the shop down the road that Shane and I had passed just a few weeks beforehand.
A triathlon shop! I wont mention the name here because this is not a positive review of the shop. Shane and I had driven past it when it was closed and I’d made a mental note to come back someday. It was only a few minutes from the city, so I headed over to take a look.
I was quite excited. I had a bit of birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and I wondered what goodies I might find to tempt those dollars out of my purse and into the special shop’s till.
I stepped in and saw an array of fairly nice cycling jerseys… although upon inspection the women’s ones were all size S and actually looked like children’s clothes. But in triathlon world, them’s the breaks I believe – as previously stated, I don’t fit the measurements of the average triathlete.
I am a giant triathlete. That is OK.
I continued wandering, touching, rifling, admiring. A lady approached. She was a teeny weeny triathlete.
Can I help you? She asked. I replied with a smile and said I was just having a look for now. She buggered off.
I continued my wandering, looking at some tri suits that I thought looked very well-designed – nice material, a bit thicker than the one I own, a couple of them had zips at the front, one had a nice pocket that you could stash a chocolate bar into. Cool. I considered trying one on, but nothing seemed to have a price, which started to perturb me.
I checked the front and back of a few random tags, but definitely no prices were to be found. I looked around for signs that perhaps would give me a clue – but nothing. Maybe if you had to ask the price, you couldn’t afford it.
I slowly made my way up to the far end of the shop, where there were some lovely Funkita swimming costumes. And the same lady appeared to ask once again if I needed any help.
I smiled again and explained ‘well I just hadn’t been in to your shop before, so I thought I’d drop in and have a look.’
‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Do you tri?’
‘Yes.’ I replied, still smiling… And she promptly walked off!
So I turned too, and started heading for the door as calmly as I could. What had just happened? Had I given the wrong answer? Why did she ask me that? If I had said no, would she have thrown me out? Why did she ignore me when I said yes? Did the fact that I am twice the size of her offend her somehow? Was she frightened I might buy something and let the brand name down?
I got back in my car and had a moan to myself. Damn that stupid old woman with sun-damaged skin from running outside too much and damn her stupid inability to welcome a participant to her sport – upon which, her livelihood depends might I add. Damn her for making me feel like I am not good enough to shop in her shop! Damn the stupid price-less tri suits and size S cycling jerseys!
I was a bit upset. And annoyed at the human race and our propensity to judge people. It took me a while to recover.
But recover I did. Because, such is life – some fool will always judge you, mock you, dislike you or misunderstand you. As a human being, I will always worry about these things and be far too sensitive about them. But ultimately I wont let them hold me back or prevent me from having fun. And I am having so so so so much fun doing my triathlon training, whizzing along on my bike, learning to run, swimming with dolphins.
The fun is what I will represent with pride. Because triathlon is a fun sport for everyone to take part in. Long may the fun continue.