I hear that there are people who can go to a race and not interact with anyone else. They just show up, do their thing, and then go home.

I’m not one of those people. I mean, if I wanted to fly solo, I’d just schedule a super hard bike ride, you know?

A long solo bike ride

Leave me alone. I'm training!

It’s not that I’m all that extroverted and social – generally, I fall much more on the side of introverted and awkward. (Yes, I’m one of those people you’ll often find in the corner with a glass of wine, petting the host’s dog at a party.) But there’s something about race day that brings out my inner butterfly. There’s this energy, this buzz – like, we’re all here to do this big, hard, scary thing! – that just brings us together, that makes us … kind of like friends. Or at the very least, associates who are sharing a common experience.

I guess maybe it’s a little different for those who are there to, like, win the damn thing. Because, sure, if your eyes are on an actual prize, you might not feel like chatting about the course with your closest competitors. Or maybe you would! I know about a lot of things, but not much about being an elite athlete, it turns out.

For most of us, though, there are a few different types of people you’ll meet on race day. Many are friends, of a sort, while others fall into slightly different categories.

Oh, and also? One of them might be you.

The Cheerleader. She. Is. So! EXCITED! She’s discovered the fact that, when you send out positive vibes to your fellow racers, you tend to get that back in spades – and she’s, like, really going for it.

Cheer Leader

Have a great race everyone!

Now, some people find her to be a bit much – and I just find that response crazy (but that’s probably because … she is me, I am her, we are one). But, I get it – sometimes, when you’re really struggling and know you’re doing a crap job of sticking to your intended pace, you don’t want to hear someone telling you, “Great job!” But remember, she means well, so you don’t have to respond in kind if you’re truly not feeling up to a smile and a friendly nod – but maybe try not to flip her off. How you’ll spot her: Uhh, she’s the one cheering.

The Nervous Nellie. If she’s ever been to a triathlon before, it sure doesn’t show. She’s worried about everything, and can’t stop rattling off the things that could, potentially, go wrong. Because, sure, a pod of dolphins might decide today is the day they want to take a stand and start attacking. Why not? Depending on your state of mind that morning, she might be a great person to meet – because, seriously, helping someone else out can really build your confidence if you feel strong and ready going into your race! Or, her particular neuroses could be suuuuper problematic for you, because if you’re already in a bit of a state, the two of you might really wind each other up. How to spot her: She’ll be the one who’s literally vibrating with nervous energy – and she’s probably spending a bit of her morning over by the Porta-Potties. You know, because nerves.

Porta Potty at a Triathlon

Please hold my calls. I'll be in my office.

The Coachy McCoachface. She knows every detail of this route, and she’s more than happy to give you all the insider scoop on how to best handle that hairpin turn at mile 14 – which is awesome if you’re looking for that information, although it can certainly be overkill (and even a bit stressful) for the more casual racer. She can also be a big motivator if you catch her out on the course, because she’s likely to be the one who doesn’t comment on your sunglasses or the scenery, but rather on the strength of your stride or the fact that she’s really impressed with the way you held you cadence at the exact same RPM for so many miles. How to spot her: She’s the one offering advice and feedback. To everyone.

The Schedule Keeper. She’s got places to be and seemingly arbitrary times at which she needs to be there. Never mind the fact that you’re in the same wave and starting at the same time – she’s on a schedule and when she says she needs to be out of transition and beginning her warm up at 6:12, you’d best not be in her way at 6:11. How you’ll spot her: That girl staring at her watch and muttering? That would be her.

The Gear y von Gearson. She’s got the all the newest stuff – her watch is top of the line, her bike looks like it could probably fly, and … is that a water bottle or a flux capacitor? If you’re rolling in with a squeaky, hand-me-down roadie, it might be tempting to greet her with an eye roll, but I urge you to resist. Because, for one thing, don’t be an asshole. And hey, if you’ve got questions about whether that sweet new space age-y helmet is worth the money, you know who’d be an awesome resource? That girl. How you’ll spot her: Everything she has looks way too cool to sweat on or in.

The On-the-Course Friend. You might be spending a good bit of time out on the course, and if you’re keeping a steady pace on the bike or run, chances are that a few of the folks around you will start to look pretty familiar. You might find yourselves exchanging a few words with each other – hopefully, they’re encouraging words, like, “Love your cute kit!” or “Cheers!” as you both take a swig of Gatorade. Maybe you’ll give each other a few words of encouragement like, “Lookin’ strong!” or “I’m right behind you, please don’t snot rocket!”

Snot Rockets

3, 2, 1 Lift Off! 

(Note: don’t lie about that “one more mile” thing unless you … don’t want to be friends.) How you’ll spot her: She’s the former stranger you’re hugging and crying with in the finisher’s chute.

Who else have you run into on race day? And, if you don’t see yourself in one of these descriptions … how would you describe your bad self when you show up to compete?

About the Author

Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.

Kristen Seymour


Reginald Holden