Who Looks Fast?

Yeah, yeah, I stole the photo.
Yeah, yeah, I stole the photo.


Before the race on Sunday, there was a girl sitting next to me on the boat and I noticed her because she asked me to watch her stuff while she went to the bathroom and because she looked like a newbie, like this was her first time at a big race. And, it was at odds with the fact that she had one of those fancy uniforms with your name on it that you only get if you’re on a national team and/or race ITU. Oh well, I figured, it must not be that hard to qualify for an age group national team.

Yeah, she beat me by like two minutes.

As I was headed in from the swim and out on the bike, I noticed another woman ahead of me who looked very recreational, very much like she must be on a relay or just had a fast swim and I’d catch her easily.

Yeah, she beat me by like three minutes.

And, don’t pretend you don’t do this — size people up to see who looks fast and who you don’t need to worry about. The girl I thought was a newbie was doing it to me on the boat; I saw. She looked me up and down and couldn’t decide if I looked fast or not. And, I get that. I can’t decide if I look fast or not either.

But, the thing that’s weird about triathlon is that you can’t really tell. (This isn’t as true in running or cycling where you do kind of have to be skinny to be fast because power-to-weight, etc. So the fastest people tend to look like all muscle and nothing else.) At a triathlon, though, you can look around and figure that if the person has a $3,000 bike they probably aren’t slow. But, you might be wrong. Afterall, they are a triathlete. They may just be rich and slow. And, you can assume that some of the girls who look crazy skinny and fit and like they could kick your ass are fast. But, not all of them are. Some of them are just skinny and fast-looking, without actually having the ability to hurt that is required to be fast. And, some of the ones who don’t look that fit, who look like they’re just out to enjoy themselves, are way more capable of hurting than you are.

You can’t always tell what’s inside somebody.

9 thoughts on “Who Looks Fast?

  1. Ha, I love this. I can never tell. I mean, I think I can tell when people are FAST-fast, like going to break the tape fast. But it’s everyone in between where I just have no clue.

  2. I think I can usually tell with straight-up running, but there are still occasions where I’m wrong (or less right than I thought). Also sometimes there are fit-looking people who aren’t all that fit cardiovascularly.

  3. True in a lot of areas of life probably. And I agree that the ability to put up with pain is what is so hard to judge… “How willing are you to suffer?” Hard to tell.

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