What is it about this triathlon? Swimmers can be elitist and standoffish. Road cyclists can be really elitist and standoffish. Runners, especially the fast ones, can be darn intimidating. Yet, what happens when you squash all these prickly disciplines together?
Oddly enough, this "individual" sport of triathlon creates a really cool and welcoming community that is fertile for friendships. Some of those friendships are just people you greet from the handlebars. Sometimes it is the friendly assistance in setting up transition or figuring out that wetsuit for the first time. Sometimes it is nothing more earth shattering than post-race libations. But some of our friendships transcend this hobby or sport that we share. Why is that?
I am sure that I have neither the complete answer nor a corner on the market for insight, but I have a theory. Perhaps nothing is quite so toxic to community as pride. This sport will humble the proud. The swim champ is likely to get smoked by the cyclist. The uber roadie will leave his legs in T2, only to get smoked by every runner in his age group. The road racing champion first must avoid drowning and remember how to clip out before falling on his bike. All three of these might get smoked by the nutritionist who is smart enough to stay hydrated and fueled on the day.
At this stage in our sport's devleopment, none of us (or practically none of us) comes to triathlon having lettered in "triathlon." Many of us (especially us guys for some reason) come to the sport relatively late in life, as full grown adults. We don't come as "triathletes" per se, but maybe as runners, or swimmers, or cyclists, often having only recreational ability. We don't come because of our strengths; we come in spite of our weaknesses. None of us has it all together. Indeed, I bet if you interviewed the best professional triathletes, precious few of them would feel like they had it all together.
So what happens when you have a group of individuals that recognize their own shortcomings and the strengths to be gleaned from someone else? You have a community that creates friendships. Our tri club meetings are probably much like yours. The 30 something females, the 40 something males, the grandmas and grandpas, and the teens and twenties are all on the same footing. All share the fellowship of stupid mistakes, limited abilities, starting from wherever they are and moving onward and upward. After all, the ironman was the sprint tri newbie, not that long ago.
If it is true, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said, that "[t]here is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship," then it is also true in my case that there is no passtime on earth more to be prized than my sport, triathlon.