An Open Letter to Triathletes

Dear Triathletes,

First off, I want you to know that I admire you. I really do. I admire your tenacity and determination. I admire your intensity. I admire your endurance.

And it’s a darn shame you waste all those admirable qualities on the most ridiculous activity (yes, “activity,” not “sport”–I’ll get to that in a moment) that has ever been created.

I will explain.

Swimming is Mind-Blowingly Awful
Consider some of the things that make biking wonderful: You get to see beautiful terrain. You’re going somewhere. You can use it both for entertainment and as a practical means of conveyance. You can talk with your friends while you’re doing it. The variety of the terrain means that you get interesting new challenges on a moment-by-moment basis. And perhaps most importantly, you are unlikely to drown or be eaten by a giant fish (see Jonah 1:17).

None of these desirable attributes can be said of swimming.

Here, on the other hand, is what can be said of swimming:

  • It is insular: When you’re swimming, you are isolated from everything. You don’t get to look at anything, except where you’re going (and that’s only kinda-sorta). You don’t get to talk with anyone, should the mood strike you. You do get to listen to the environment–I’ll give you that–but the environment is always making exactly one sound: “splash.” That loses its charm after a bit. Triathletes, consider: people are currently facing court martial for using many of these same tactics to extract information from prisoners in Guantanamo.
  • It is crowded: While swimming doesn’t allow you any normal human interaction with your competitors, it does allow uncomfortable, abnormal interaction. Specifically, while you’re swimming in a race (especially open water courses), you’re constantly being kicked and elbowed.
  • It is gross: Triathletes, I’m sure you never pee in the pool. And your nose never starts running while you’re swimming. And you never need to clear your nostrils. And you never get a mouthful of water, then spit it back out. And of course you’re not sweating while you swim. Right? Right? Oh. Well, in that case, I’m sorry, but a swimming pool is absolutely the most grossifying place on planet Earth. I just had an involuntary shudder thinking about that stew of fluids you’re swimming back and forth in. Ew.
  • It is mind-bogglingly boring: You swim and swim, exerting incredible effort with your entire body to go approximately the speed a child can easily skip. You don’t get to see anything. You don’t get to hear anything. You don’t get to feel anything, except water (and elbows and feet as you’re kicked and knocked about). This is actually the same point I made at the beginning of this bullet list, but I feel strongly enough about it to make it twice.
  • I am no good at it: Okay, this may be more my problem than a problem with the sport itself.
  • It is dangerous: There are giant fish out there. And they’re hungry. Do I have to remind you of the story of Jonah? Or Pinnochio?

Running is Pure Misery
Giant fish notwithstanding, swimming at least is good for you. It works your whole body out without busting you up. Running, on the other hand, is just plain evil. I’ve covered the problems of running before, though, so won’t go into it here. Trust me, though: Running is bad.

Triathlon is Not a Sport Because it Does Not Fit Into the Way I Choose to Define “Sport”
As far as I’m concerned, a sport is a physical activity you can do for fun or competition. By my (very authoritative and comprehensive) definition, a sport is not legitimate unless you’d go out and do it just for kicks, even if there weren’t a competition coming up. So biking’s a sport. Running’s a sport. Even swimming’s a sport. But doing all three in succession? No, that’s not a sport. That’s a stunt, or self-imposed punishment, or a statement. It’s not a sport.

You do all three events in a row only during a competition, or to prepare for a competition. And while you may be having fun during some of those events, you are not having fun because you are doing all three of the events in a row.

So cut it out.

Triathlon is Arbitrary, and Not Even Imaginatively Arbitrary
Let’s imagine for a moment that none of the points I have made so far stand up. I know, I know: my arguments are so compelling they brook no dissent, but still, for the sake of argument, pretend.

Here’s my final point: Triathlon is silly because it takes three random events, pins them together, and calls them a different event.

Why three events? Why not five? Or eleven? And why always the same three events, always in the same order?

If you absolutely must cram multiple events together, why not get creative about it, from time to time? Here are some suggestions:

  • Bike, football, poker
  • Bike, horseshoes, log-rolling
  • Bike, snowshoe, line-dancing
  • Road bike, mountain bike, velodrome, cyclocross (as I type this, I suddenly realize this would actually be a really interesting event)
  • Bike, nail-driving, yodeling

I could go on.

A Heartfelt Plea
Triathletes, please. Stop it. The rest of the cycling world would happily welcome you into our arms if you’ll only join us. We’ll teach you how to draft. We’ll teach you how to pedal circles. We’ll teach you how to ride a bike that’s both comfortable and efficient.

Just admit you have a problem. We’ll do the rest.


The Fat Cyclist

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