I guess you could say that about most folks I meet on the Xterra circuit.
Whenever anyone asks me what it’s like to race off-road triathlons, I always come back with how the athletes, volunteers and staff are all friendly and fun. I had raced numerous Xterra’s before ever attempting a road tri. Once I finally raced in a road triathlon, something I immediately noticed was that hardly anyone are as friendly as the folks I meet at Xterra events.
So it should be no surprise that when Andrew and I drove to the top of Oak Mountain to preride a section of the course, we came across two friendly people. Already at the top, prepping their bike for a ride was Shonny Vanlandingham.
As the four of us conversed over the next 10 minutes while prepping our bikes, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it as any different as as if we were just four yokes getting ready for your average daily ride. We bid Shonny and her friend a farewell and good luck (in the race) as she headed into the trailhead.
No sooner was Shonny out of sight, we spotted three riders coming up the road towards us. As they drew closer, I recognized the lead rider as Melanie McQuaid. "Hey Melanie," I greeted.
One of the two other riders was Francisco Fernandez-Posse, who recognized me, came over and shook my hand. "How’s it going, Marcus."
We chatted with Melanie, Francisco & Fred Smith for around 5 minutes about last year’s race, how hot it was and how this year it looked like it would rain.
Before you knew it, Melanie asked Andrew and I if we were ready to ride. We grabbed our last few things and the 5 of us dove into the trail. It was a blast to ride and converse along the trails of Oak Mountain with the three of them, even if it was only a short ride.
When we hit the main road, our two groups parted as they went to the transition area while Andrew and I ascended back up where we started.
We met back up with them in the transition area as Melanie and Francisco were coming out of the lake from a short swim. We conversed again for a while about water temps, wetsuits and the like.
Throughout the ride, conversations by the lake or later when we hooked up with Franciso (and buddies) at dinner, everyone, including Melanie was quick to offer suggestions, tips, tricks, etc. What other sport would competitors do such a thing? In all situations, I enjoyed conversations with everyone immensely.
As I reflect back on today’s events, I keep going back to the same thought. Just goes to show you that there are still people in this sport that shine not only in athletic ability, but also in sportsmanship and all-around genuine character. These are the type of people who are the true champions of our sport, regardless of what place they finish in the race.