Friday, July 5, 2013

Grousing about Triathlon

I've spent much of this year grousing about triathlon (for example . . .)  I've more or less concluded that this is the last year I spend the time and money signing up for and participating in this Franken-sport.  A short list of serious gripes:

1.  It's expensive.  The triathlon equivalent of a 10K -- the Olympic distance -- is a $95 event for a small race and can run into the $200 range for a big production like the Nation's Triathlon.  (Ted, how about NYC?)  That's before the gear, the travel, and the training requirements.  (Running?  I can find expensive marathons, but the par for a half marathon or shorter is $50 or less.)

2.  It's a pain in the neck.  Even for a local race I have to commit the entire weekend to getting gear together, showing up early to rack the bike and to let somebody write on my legs and arms with a permanent marker, racing, and rewinding all of the above.  For a remote race think more like four days.  (Running?  Except for silly permit requirements on federal land, it's the norm for me to show up the morning of, to sign up, and to race.)

3.  Training is a pain in the neck.  Basically I train for two different sports.  (Swimming comes along for the ride.)  I can run a marathon PR on ~40 miles/week of run training.  An ironman requires that same run mileage plus ~150 miles/week on the bike, and then some.  Because of the onerous training requirements, there is a huge premium on quality over quantity.  Note that does not mean training is made any easier.  Quality can briefly be described as "whatever is most uncomfortable to you at the time."

4.  The sport is very top-down.  Every race I run is certified in some way by USA Triathlon.  I need to be a member of USA Triathlon to compete.  The problem is that USA Triathlon is an abysmally run outfit.  I've now signed up twice this year and will need to fight with that organization to have my second membership refunded.  I look forward to the day when the major promotors separate from USAT entirely.  (Running races frequently are certified by USA Track and Field, but that organization imposes much less in the way of direct obligations on participants.  My guess is that most races would be perfectly happy without USATF certification so the governing body has minimal leverage.)

5.  Triathletes tend to preen.  The gear is pretty.  Uni-suits are bought to match bicycles.  I know at least one guy who paid big money for custom paint work on his helmet.  There's a whole lot of talk about whose position is most aero.  Amazingly, those factors can overcome raw race times -- many the athlete has worried more about a monster bike split than s/he has about the overall time.  (Running:  have you ever heard somebody say "sure, she's faster, but she's a heel-striker so it doesn't count."?)

There may be more serious complaints.  There are certainly myriad comedic ones.  Perhaps you all can help to hold me to this:  after Timberman (August), Nation's (September), and Lake Tahoe (September) -- barring my qualifying for a championship event -- I'm done at least until the end of 2014.


  1. NYC is expensive too. 250ish I think.

    I'll decide about Timberman on the Monday after NYC. My running is still quite dubious

    But don't give up on Tri too quickly. I think my switch to Tri is the only reason I'm still running marathons. If I weren't cross training I'd be hurt all the time. Okay, so I'm hurt now, but that's from running 5ks not tris.

    You are still young for this crowd. If Tri is bugging you, by all means give it a rest. But I suspect you'll be back.

  2. I sympathize with much of what you're saying, though I wonder how much the training demands really differ from what you'd like to be doing. Given that you enjoy training for and competing in ultramarathons and ultracycling events, and don't swim much in any case, I question how much different your life will be if you're not preparing for an Ironman.