June 24, 2018 was a day that would change my perspective on a lot of things. I competed in my first triathlon on that date and, trust me when I tell you, it was tough. I’ve been able to swim for as long as I can remember. We all learn to ride our bikes at a young age (or we should) and running is just something I’ve grown to enjoy. So with that I thought, “How hard could this be?” A co-worker of mine convinced me to combine all three disciplines, follow a training plan, and compete. I did just that. I QUICKLY found an answer to that question I asked myself. It was hard as hell!
What followed my first competition though, was nothing I ever imagined; an unexplainable love for the sport. I fell in love with it and it became addicting. YouTube watch history would suggest I watched enough videos about triathlons to fall asleep to. I wanted to know more and more…and more. Swim stroke techniques, bike cadence and run posture all flooded my mind. I found myself immersed in the Olympic channel watching sprint-distance triathlons all the way to Ironman competitions. More swim meets and races than I had ever watched before. So I decided to dive deep into the sport and train as much as life would allow me to.
As with anything that is exciting, most people want to talk about it; your favorite football team, accomplishments of your children, etc. If you find someone who shares the same interests as you, conversations flow freely. In my excitement and desire to find those who share such interests, I have found that there are a lot of people who simply do not share the interest of triathlons. Go figure! Specifically those of the African American community seem to not even remotely entertain the idea of such a “sport.” I tend to get a lot of the same statements from people about how black people don’t do that or black people don’t do this. Well, I am here to tell you, “Yes, the hell we do.”
There are stereotypical stigmas that plague the black community and it is growing to be the bane of my existence in this sport. I would be lying if I told you I never thought certain sports were race driven, or gender driven. In the past, I would’ve told you that hockey is a white man’s sport and gymnastics is reserved for women. I would be a hypocrite to act as if I never had that mentality, but I can assure you, those days are long gone. There are, in fact, black people who play hockey (disregard the ratios people and work with me) and male gymnasts. These individuals are no less of an athlete because of some preconceived notion on my part. It takes discipline in any sport to compete and be good at it. If you feel otherwise, try all sports and you let me know how that works for you.
In my conversations, I always challenge people to open their minds and entertain the thought of triathlons or something different. Triathlons just happen to be my chosen sport. Jokingly, I created three hashtags on one of my posts in the past that set out to challenge these stereotypes. They stuck around and I knew people were noticing them because when I would see them, they would quote a hashtag. It’s funny to me how a small joke can turn into something I look back at and say, “Damn, I really like that.” I like it so much that I decided to get it printed on my tri-suit for race day.
What better way to be a pillar of what I believe in than to showcase it at my races? Conceptually, I think it’s dope and quite frankly, that is all that matters. Maybe one day I’ll get a few closed-minded individuals to broaden their horizons. We can create a little mafia that collectively challenges those stereotypes!