How to become tri-cool
Since becoming super-fast on crappy equipment sounds really hard, it’s important we identify a few less difficult ways to increase our coolness score. According to my survey, there is nothing tri-cooler than embracing the fact that you are a tri-dork. It’s still unclear to me if owning your tri-dorkiness erases it or just builds tri-coolness, but either way it’s probably the easiest way to balance the scale. It’s like a habit that at first was annoying but then becomes “lovable.” Like how Robin Williams describes his wife’s midnight farts in “Goodwill Hunting.”
If you are considered an “OverAger” (thank you @BendMichael for the term), someone who is high on the price of equipment-to-speed ratio, it seems that this is an ideal opportunity for you. I know a number of athletes who are fortunate enough to afford nice equipment, and don’t have the time to train a lot (often the reason they can afford nice stuff). But the coolest of those people are aware of, and embrace, the discrepancy. They are self-professed tri-dorks. No different than a CEO who loves (and sucks at) basketball, but has season tickets to the Lakers. You don’t have to be good to support the industry in whatever way you can.
Probably the easiest way to build cool points is by being nice. Sounds tough, right? Things that go a long way: cheering for other competitors, thanking volunteers, and even mustering a smile while you’re out racing. I couldn’t agree with this more. I think it’s easy for all of us triathletes to be so internally focused on our own goals that we forget there’s a whole world of people directly or indirectly supporting our pursuit of those goals. These other people on the start line have put in their own level of dedication and effort into achieving their own goal. What’s cooler than supporting all these people with a small bit of encouragement and gratitude? In my experience, one of the biggest benefits of doing so is the goodness you feel while doing it actually makes you race faster!
According to you guys, few things are cooler than finishing your race when the going gets bad. Triathletes love a struggle. It makes sense—look at what we do. It’s arguably the most demanding physical sport on the planet. So much so, that in many cases, finishing is just as amazing an accomplishment as winning. I totally agree with this sentiment. Nothing is more inspiring to me than watching the last finishers of any distance race struggle across the line, legs buckling in salt-crusted jerseys with tears in their eyes. I’ve noticed in my own writing that the races where I implode and still finish get bigger/stronger/better responses than my biggest victories. It’s a microcosm of the human experience—dealing with difficulty and overcoming adversity. To a certain extent, it’s why we all race. It’s practice for life.
It’s easy to get caught up in our little world (what?!) of triathlon, talking about the relative dorkiness of specific activities and attire choices. But I’ve got news for you guys. According to the 99.9 percent of the population outside of the sport, we’re all big ’ol dorks. The coolest triathlete out there hovers somewhere between captain of the chess club and Steve Urkel on the world scale of coolness. Don’t worry—I don’t think it’s entirely our faults. It’s the nature of our sport, being the outcasts of not one but three more popular and established sports. That’s a lot of nerds jockeying for position.
I think it’s best that we all just give into it and embrace the dorkiness that makes us triathletes. So the next time you see a dude pull up to a group ride in an aero helmet and compression socks in a sleeveless tri kit and arm warmers, say, “What’s up, Jesse? Any chance you’ve got an extra Garmin I could borrow?” Chances are, I’ve brought three.
Jesse Thomas (@jessemthomas) is the 2011 and 2012 Wildflower Long Course champion. He lives in Springfield, Ore., and is the CEO of Picky Bars (Pickybars.com).
More “Triathlife” columns from Jesse Thomas.