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Triathlife With Jesse Thomas: Your 15 Milliseconds Of Fame

  • By Jesse Thomas
  • Published Apr 25, 2013
  • Updated Nov 15, 2013 at 8:34 PM UTC
Illustration by Matt Collins.

Your look is about to be immortalized in the one, the only, Race Photo.

Like the rest of the “Entertainment Tonight”-watching/Us Weekly-reading world, I was enthralled last spring by the phenomenal story of Zeddie Little. For those of you who aren’t pop-culture sluts, Zeddie is a normal dude who, while running a local 10K, was randomly photographed in the midst of a perfect stride, smile and, of course, hairdo. „

The photographer’s friend noticed the perfect shot, and uploaded it to Reddit with the title “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.” Within days, RPG received millions of views, spawning a viral Internet sensation. Little was featured in just about every major (pop culture) news outlet and was a guest on “Good Morning America.”

Yes, I’m aware that America loves to dish out fame and glory to people who have absolutely no talent, skills or contributable value to society. But in this case, America got it right. What Zeddie Little achieved on that late spring morning was nothing short of a goddamn miracle. Anyone who’s raced knows it’s ridiculously hard to get a decent, much less semi-attractive, race photo. The collective endurance world gathered together in a show of solidarity to proclaim, “This man took a good race photo. He should be loved, admired and probably have his own reality show.”

So yeah, we obviously know it’s hard to take a good race photo, but why does that matter? Why do we care? Well, let’s be honest—very few of us are ever going to win a race, our age group or even a pair of socks in the raffle. When the event is all said and done, all we’ll have to show for our effort is a single line on the results page. That is, unless we nail the Race Photo. That picture is our golden memento. It’s our proof of performance. It’s the strategically placed conversation starter that allows us to recap the full race in real time to our unsuspecting loved ones who just want to watch TV please stop talking about your stupid decathlon.

So in an effort to help us all Zeddie Little the crap out of our next race photo opportunity, I polled my Twitter and Facebook people to see what mistakes to avoid and strategies to use. I coupled those ideas with some of my own experiences to generate an all-inclusive race photo strategy. Read below and forever be ready for the big time!

RELATED: How To Take The Perfect Triathlon Photo

Pre-race

Just like your racing plan, a successful outing is 90 percent prep work. You’ve got to be smart and think ahead. There are no shortcuts on the road to perfect pics.

Location: Before the race, scout the course for potential photographer stations. Take notice of how the sun comes across the road. Is there a perfect background setting as you come around a corner? Maybe a lake, dandelions, or dandelions in front of a lake? Be aware at all times of your surroundings. Anticipating the shot is key to enabling the necessary prep work below.

Photographer: If you’re lucky, you may know the photographer. Research his past shots. Is he classic, action, scenic, postmodern eclectic macro panoramic? What Instagram filters does he use most often? Slip him an energy gel from your race packet for special attention or info on locations. Don’t be afraid to bribe. It’s worth it.

Gear: Wear-test your kit ahead of time to determine the impact of wetness. Before my Pearl Izumi days, I had a kit that was super sleek and awesome when dry, but changed to downright pornographic when wet. I wish someone had told me that nipples, and in extreme cases, chest hair, may become all anyone sees when looking at a wet kit.  Don’t forget to test below the waistline. Finally, think beyond water—better to test with all kinds of bodily fluids before the race rather than during.

RELATED – Triathlife With Jesse Thomas: I Eat A Lot And That’s OK

The setup

The moment is near. If you’re lucky, you’ve scouted the location and have been anticipating this moment for miles. In some cases (swim exit, finish line), you know it’s coming regardless. Now is the time for final prep work.

Speed and position: Slow down! Not only will this allow you to make the necessary adjustments/enhancements, but a sudden increase in speed may throw off the photographer’s timing, thus needlessly sacrificing your energy gel. Make sure you’ve got some space between you and the person in front of you, unless it’s that guy from sales. In that case, seize this perfect opportunity to immortalize your pass of that douchebag for ultimate water-cooler bragging rights. Booyah!

Cleanup: By now, you’re confident in your kit’s ability to handle all kinds of wetness, so all you need to do is clean up the few remaining details. Be sure to zip up your top, wipe off your face, adjust your aviators, remove any leftover Picky Bars from your teeth and, of course, wipe away all that weird foamy stuff built up around your armpits. Finally, don’t forget to adjust your race number so your name/race are clearly visible. Fellas, I highly recommend pulling your race number down so it covers your crotch. No matter how bulletproof your kit is, it’s highly likely that your endowment is out for everyone to see and you don’t want to be THAT guy, no matter how “confident” you are.

Final touches: If you’re having a bad hair day, grab some excess Body Glide from under your pits and use it as styling gel. If it’s an emergency, you could even go for the chamois cream.

RELATED – Triathlife With Jesse Thomas: Tri Speak

Showtime

You’re primed and ready to go. All that’s left is that magical moment. Here are the final key tips for perfection.

The stance: According to my photographer friends, the perfect photo encapsulates the moment when you are breathing out, lips barely parted, gazing into the distance, body in the air and slightly on the descent, with no muscle compression (the last point is particularly important if you didn’t quite reach race weight). If you’re like me and try to think of all of these things at once, you’ll probably end up somewhere between hunchbacked, confused and slightly constipated. So don’t overthink it. I know it’s hard to contain the excitement, but do your best to run or ride with naturalness and stay relaxed.

The look: There are two basic looks that you can strive for, depending on how you plan to recap the race story to your unsuspecting family. If you want to talk about how much you enjoyed the race, how beautiful it was and how easy it felt after all your hard training, follow Zeddie’s lead and go with the Ridiculously Photogenic Approach. In this case, you smile, tilt your head slightly and imagine a happy place (I go couch, ice cream and “Glee” on TV). If you’re going for the It Was So Tough But I Gutted It Out So You Should Think I’m Awesome recap, try the Daniel Craig/Channing Tatum/Ryan Gosling look (my wife may have helped me brainstorm this section). This involves a sturdy look into the distance, purposeful. Pain is only slightly detectable deep in the eyes. It’s like you’re working hard, but it doesn’t matter because you’re beautiful.

What to do if it all goes to crap

Sometimes, no matter how well we plan, how hard we try, and how confident we are in our kit’s ability to handle body excretions, the poo hits the fan, or more accurately, your leg. Maybe you guessed the pic spot wrong and you weren’t prepared, your Body Glide had all worn off and there was none left for your hair, or it’s just impossible to wipe away all that foamy stuff from your pits without a Costco-sized case of highly absorbent microfiber cloths. Well, just like when your race plan crumbles under a bad day, it’s important to stay calm and make the best of the situation. My recommendation: Go big. Put your glasses on sideways, cross your eyes, tuck your arms inside your race belt and trip. Do whatever it takes to make it bad. The only thing better than a ridiculously photogenic race photo is the hands-down absolute worst race photo ever.

I know it sounds like a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation. Some of you crazy people out there may decide to not think much about the race picture and instead focus on your actual race. I hadn’t really thought about that until now. If that’s what you decide to do, well, forget you and your stupid plan! Don’t blame me when the douchebag from sales posts his perfect race photo on the water cooler and marries a New Jersey Housewife.

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).

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