Just when you think you're tough enough


10 things not to say to a Triathlete

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10 things triathletes are sick of hearing, and how to respond.

If you’ve been on the multisport scene for any length of time, you’re also likely tired of hearing the peanut gallery chime in with some of these common questions and declarations. Here’s how to respond. Just remember to be nice 🙂

1. “All you ever do is work out, don’t you have a life?”

Why yes, I do. Nothing makes me MORE alive than bringing back childhood through swimming, biking and running while enhancing them with the competitive spirit.

2. “I could do a tri, I just don’t have the time.”

News flash: We don’t have the time either, but we’ve found a way to carve it out of our busy lives because that’s what you do when you commit to something important to you.

3. “My cousin/sister/friend did an IRONMAN in an hour.”

Using the term “IRONMAN” to describe any length of triathlon race is like using the term “PhD” to describe any level of education. A lot of time, preparation, sacrifice and passion goes into racing 140.6 miles and it’s annoying to hear people boil it all down to the equivalent of a fun run.

4. “Triathletes are in love with themselves.”

If it seems like we talk a lot about what we do, it’s partly because we’re often forced to explain what an IRONMAN race actually is (see #3). We’re excited by our goals and our accomplishments, and many of us got into the sport because we were inspired by hearing stories about it from others. The love is everywhere—and yes, it makes it for a stronger self-esteem and sense of self-confidence—but that’s not a bad thing.

5. “Tri looks boring. All you do is swim, bike and run.”

Sure, repetition can be boring—but the mystique of going from point A to point B is one of the timeless tenets of any great adventure. Take your average road trip. Is it just a car headed down the highway running up the odometer? Or is it the backdrop for unforgettable conversations, inside jokes and memories that will last a lifetime?

6. “I would have gone faster, but ________.”

There comes a point in a triathlete’s life, when hearing excuses cheapens the “war story” narrative rather than enhancing it. We’ve all had experiences where certain factors may have contributed to a sub-par performance, but sometimes it just comes down to being honest: we aren’t always “on” and we aren’t always prepared for every challenge. It’s okay to give an honest race report and accept you have work to do in your training.

7. “So you can eat whatever you want then?”

No, we cannot. Just because the average IRONMAN competitor burns around 10,000 calories over the course of a 140.6-mile race, that doesn’t give us carte blanche for what we put into our bodies. There’s a reason athletes refer to food as “fuel”— it’s a major factor in how well our machine performs in training racing and recovery.

8. “I’m doing the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder…”

Here’s the thing: it’s not that we don’t appreciate the challenges of a good obstacle course. It’s that it’s often brought up it in a way that seems “one uppy” in conversation.

9. “Now that you’re done with IRONMAN, what’s next?”

For triathletes, being “done” with IRONMAN is like being done with breathing. The sport becomes our lifeblood, fueling our drive in a way we never imagined it could.

Take it from 21-time Kona finisher, Harriet Anderson, one of the most inspirational and “longest running” athletes in the sport (who is also the oldest woman to ever finish the IRONMAN World Championship).

10. “I just want to finish.”

There’s more to it than that and we both know it. Whether you’re racing for a charity, to wrestle personal demons, to celebrate health or to smash a PR, don’t be shy about sharing your motivations and race-day goals. As triathletes, we’ve all come to this sport from different backgrounds, but we’re in this together and we all want something out of it.