Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why I hate triathletes

I’ve raced exactly 50 triathlons and by any man’s measure that would make me a “triathlete”, even though the thought of being a triathlete often makes me cringe. This past weekend was a chilling reminder of why I often hate the sport that I love. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t hate the sport as much as I frequently find myself having some serious issues with the types of people it attracts.

I spent the weekend in Madison, Wisc., at a press launch for Saris/CycleOps. I showed up to the factory and made the customary handshakes and “how ya beens” to the group of cycling journalists I often see at these types of events. After we all got caught up on who had been to the best and worse destinations over the past few months, the conversation shifted toward the inevitable—the half-dozen or so cycling writers got to making fun of triathletes. It’s not secret; cyclists hate triathletes. Maybe “hate” is a strong word…cyclists find triathletes humorous, much in the same way that Tiger Woods would find a celebrity golf tournament humorous. It’s condescending, on our one-sported counterparts part, but they have good reason. Cyclists are humored by the fact that triathletes, no matter how slow, will spend every last penny of their offspring’s college fund to boost their power by a watt or two. Cyclists are much more frugal and will let their chain wear to the point that it almost skips off the pavement with every turn of the cranks.

Part of the presentation from Saris highlighted the new Zipp Sub-9 PowerTap Disc. Add in a pair of ceramic bearings and the new PowerTap-enabled Garmin 705 Edge and the whole system will run you about five grand.

“And fat, slow triathletes will buy it,” a not-to-be-named cycling writer chimed in.

He was right and I felt just a little ashamed to be the one guy in the room associated with a group of people who won’t think twice before dropping five grand to drop their Ironman time from 16:49 to 16:42. It’s not all bad though. It’s rare to find a sport with such dedicated people, but there’s a fine line between dedication and unjustifiable obsession and triathletes are sprinting across that line in droves.

I ended the trip with a detour to Chicago to visit some family and eat some seriously unhealthy food, which is harder to come by in my new (and skinnier) home of San Diego. I headed to my favorite BBQ joint with my cousin to pick up some baby backs and coleslaw for my family. We thought raising my Dad’s cholesterol by five points was the perfect way to say “happy Father’s Day”.

We stood in a mile-long line amongst people whose average weight rivaled that of the last finisher at an IronGirl, but right in front of use stood a rail-thin, clean-shaven man in his mid-40s. I have no problem with rail-thin, clean-shaven men in their mid-40s, but the rest of this dude’s features made me want to stick a sharpened pork rib through his heart. The guy was rocking an “IRONMAN FINISHER” cut-off T-shirt, an Ironman Wisconsin visor, compression socks and an M-Dot tattoo on his shoulder. No, I’m not making any of that up.

To anyone who has ever gone out in public looking like this dude: please stop. In the big scheme of things nobody cares about your latest 140.6-mile endeavor – and nobody should care – except yourself. If you’re in this sport just so you can show off to your coworkers and a bunch of fat asses at a BBQ pit that you’re in shape, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.


wheeltags said...

Amen brother!

Coach Michael Bowen said...

Brad - Agreed! I don't feel like I'm something special because I tri. God forbid I could even walk around like I'm some sort of demigod because I did 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours.

Why wear more than one IM finisher item at a time? If they want the M-dot tattoo, that's fine, but think about what message you're putting across with all that stuff.

Just because John Collins said you can "brag for the rest of your life" doesn't mean the rest of the world, including many triathletes, really want to hear it from walking IM billboards for the rest of their life.

Garrett said...

From working at a bike shop who deals primarily with serious cyclist and triathletes I have learned somethings about both. A cyclist with a nice bike that is all dirty and the drive chain is shot to hell are the best cyclists, why because they just ride the crap out of their bike and get fast. Then there is the triathlete who's bike is top of the line which is perfectly clean, not because they take care of it but because they don't ride. Oh yeah they also have a power meter and a gps and have no clue what the data means. But hey they keep us in business.

cassio598 said...

For the most part, I think your post is right on. A lot of people go way overboard with triathlon, and even just plain old running. Show me a car with a 26.2 sticker, and I'll show you a driver who didn't finish in under 3:30.

I keep going back and forth between wanting to make fun of those people, and wanting to be inclusive. I guess the thing that's most irritating is the aggressive mediocrity. Yes, most people wouldn't even want to try a sprint, nevermind the full-value, but any schmo can get up off the couch and finish a marathon in 6 hours.

I guess Colorado distance coach Mark Whetmore said it best: don't advertise.

margo said...

i will say that while i don't brag about my tri participation (because i'm slow as molasses), i do love my 70.3 sticker. it makes ME smile when i see it, and that's why it's on my car.

sbsimple said...

The man in front of you probably was going a little overboard, but give him credit he finished, which is better than I can say for most people in this world. He could be advertising for something a lot less productive. Brad I also seem to recall you saying you have an M-dot tattoo, but of course your tattoo isn't for advertising like the wanna- be tri-guy in front of you. Maybe we can all just be more interested in ourselves and happy for others.

Anonymous said...

I'll join the "amens" on this article and most of the comments. But I have to say, I put a 26.2 sticker, and other running club stickers on my car, not because of my aggressive mediocrity. I just like running - a lot. I'm no elite, but my sub 2:45 times aren't slow by any means.

The GC guy said...

I saw a guy at Gold Coast Half ironman wearing what appears to be ironman finisher towels sewn together to form an overcoat/robe kind of thing. He was walking around in speedos. A) not a good look. B) I was worried that he was going to flash someone.

chuck11 said...

I live by a really nice lake. 12 years ago I was the only one that would go out there to do swim workouts. Now groups of 30 or more triathletes come out all summer long. The temps in the summer get over 100deg reg. the water temp is over 82 deg and sometimes more then 85 deg. These triathletes for some reason all feel they need to wear wetsuits. You may see 1 or 2 people in these groups the whole summer that dont swim in wetsuits. I am not talking about shortjohns I mean full wetsuits with maybe a few in longjohns. They just look so stupid. I get the feeling they want everyone to know they are triathletes and want to show off their 400.00-600.00 wetsuits off.

Tri_Guy said...

@cassio598 - I rock a 26.2 sticker and I can turn over 3:00 marathons in my sleep and I seriously doubt that any schmo can get off the couch and turn over a 6 hour marathon. You can't just assume that everyone who is proud of their achievements is a jerk. The fact that less than 0.01% of the population has completed a 140.6 race should be enough for those people to rock whatever the hell they want to wear. I've done 140.6's 70.3's 26.2's and everything in between. And yes, I have the stickers and the power meter. I also put in 150+ miles on the bike and 25+ on the pavement every week while working full time and going to school. You never know what these people have overcome on their way to success.
In regards to "advertisement" you could same the same thing for the morbidly obese people standing in line at the BBQ; those people advertise an overeating sedentary lifestyle. I speak for a lot of people when I say I don't want to look at that any more than they want to look at my tattoo. Same rules apply... if you don't like it then you don't have to look. Ever consider maybe your rail thin buddy just finished a workout and that's why he's in a visor and a cutoff shirt?