It's just over a year since I started swimming laps at the pool. Since I ran early mornings and biked with the kids in tow, the pool is where I first noticed them. My town is full of them. They're at the grocery store, on the trails, at the library...
The Ironmen (Both male and female).
Sometimes, it was obvious who they were. They had the ankle tattoos and it seemed like they blasted up and down the lane at lightening speed. I did NOT swim in the centre two lanes. That is where they swam. I swam in the really really slow lane at first, and when I realized that lane was for people that didn't even get their hair wet, I moved up and just swam in the slow lane.
After finishing my own swim, where I could barely swim a full length without a break, I would sit in the hot tub and watch them. I was new to swimming and while I didn't have good form, I was already recognizing it in others. Some of them were beautiful to watch. I have occasionally referred to my swimming as "working really hard to go really slow". Not the Ironmen. They looked smooth and efficient in the water. It looked practically effortless for them.
Two of them dropped their kids off at the other preschool, in the building where Spud went to preschool. I'd see them heading out for training in their finisher's jackets and their fancy tri-bikes. I'd carry on with occasionally picking Spud up in the chariot with my old hybrid bike.
Then gradually, something happened. I found the courage within myself to join a swim program where some of them were. I started talking to other people at the pool. Another Ironman joined the babysitting co-op I belong to and asked me if I wanted to go for a run sometime.
I realized something. They are just people. They are a few years ahead of me in triathlon goals. Some of them go faster then I am ever likely to, but we share a common interest. Do some of them still intimidate me? Sure, a little. But mostly, they inspire me.
I love hearing the stories of what brought them to where they are. I still watch them in the pool (I think there's a lot to be gained by watching good technique). Sometimes, I also swim with them. When I see them at the grocery store, I give a hello. The ironman that asked me to run with her has become a solid friend, and the preschool moms have become acquaintances that I chat with when I see.
Today, I am meeting with a group for an open water swim followed by a bike. I'm sure there will be a couple ironmen in the group. I suspect I won't be able to keep up with some of them. Does it intimidate me? Yes, it still does a little bit. But, more then that, it inspires me. One day, I'll be in their shoes and I'll be the one that inspires others...