Triathlon has paralleled the pattern in cycling. In cycling, pride and ego humiliated anyone not riding a straight block cassette. In triathlon, if you are not riding a carbon fiber aero frame with carbon fiber aero rims fully kitted out with an aero helmet to top it all… you cannot consider yourself a triathlete. In cycling, pride and ego continued in its path of self destruction to the point that the top 20+ riders in the Tours, including Lance Armstrong were doping believing that they were too important to cycling, their wins to critical to the hype of cycling, that anything would ever cause them to fall. In triathlon, today we have age groupers doping, testing positive for stimulants, and even going to the point of tampering with the equipment of fellow age groupers because no different than in cycling… pride and ego has led to winning at any cost, even if that cost is the athlete’s reputation, or at the extreme… the life of a fellow competitor.

Of all people to say that ego was the source of the error…

When Lance Armstrong – Mr Ego himself – said it was ego that led to cyclists riding straight block cassettes in the 70s and 80s it caught my attention immediately. For Armstrong to say that if you showed up back in that era of cycling with a massive gear spread – similar to the current and 4x winner of the Tour de France, Chris Froome – that you would have been laughed out of the peloton not only puts things into perspective, but lays a historical foundation for us in regards to mindset, attitudes, and narratives to understand how straight block cassettes – as in ego & pride – led to the dark doping days of the 00s.

Why is this relevant? Because… “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

Case in point, the sport of triathlon is today all about ego. If you show up in anything other than full pro triathlon gear, with anything less than full pro triathlon carbon fiber aero bike, aero helmet, rims, etc… then you may not be laughed at to your face, but you will be laughed at nonetheless. If you race in anything other than Ironman distance events, fellow athletes, trainers and coaches will again, maybe not laugh to your face, but they will laugh to themselves. Similarly, triathlon coaches push first time triathletes straight into Sprint and Olympic or even iron distance triathlons, because “Try a Tri” and “Give It A Tri” / Super Sprint triathlons are frowned upon (read: you will be laughed at if you race these distances).

No different than the cycling peloton of the 70s/80s, sign up for a Novice level race and the triathlon coach/club that you have turned to for training, for support, and for guidance will ‘laugh’ if you do not go for a “real” race. Do they literally laugh? No, of course not, but athlete aspirations are manipulated by the fact that recognition at these triathlon clubs is given when you complete your first 70.3/half or full iron distance triathlon and rarely with any other achievement. If you have not heard the words “you are an Ironman”, then within the typical club, you cannot be considered “one of them”.

Could you imagine what some of these triathlon clubs would do if one of their own showed up to a training session with a mountain bike. They would make it the most awkward moment in history! This is how egotism has taken over in triathlon, how common sense and common decency towards one another has turned the sport against itself.

Today, in triathlon its ego, ego, ego… you are not a triathlete unless you do an iron distance event, and unless you train totally decked out in top of the line triathlon gear with $10,000+ TT bike to match. Evidently all that matters is Ironman World Champs in Hawaii. Qualifying seems equivalent to immortality amongst triathletes, to the point that one triathlete let the air out of the tire of a competitors bike to ensure that they would win and qualify for Ironman Worlds. Other triathletes are doping to qualify, while others are course cutting to fake their times and finishing position all in an effort to qualify for Ironman Worlds and to win the recognition of fellow club athletes and coach.

And we call this healthy living, an healthy lifestyle.

Back when coaching a prior masters swim team (BMSC – Burlington Masters Swim Club), I recall a swimmer who shared the same mentality as today’s typical triathlete. She criticized my wife for doing a Try a Tri triathlon when she was getting started in the sport, stating that “you are a masters swimmers” you should be able to do at least a sprint triathlon. She also criticized the choices my wife made when competing at masters meets… the 50FR… that’s not even an event, you should do at least the 100 if not the 200FR, the 100IM wasn’t enough… you should be doing the 200IM. Nothing was ever enough. In the pool, this athlete was known by her lane mates as one who refused to stop and take breaks between reps, sometimes she wouldn’t take a break between sets… her mindset was harder is better, the more it hurts the better, rest is for the weak.

Funny isn’t it…

At the Olympics, the most anticipated race in Athletics is the 100m run. Stadiums which seat 60 or 70 or 80,000 are packed to the rafters with spectators in hopes of witnessing a race which takes more or less 10secs. When Usain Bolt won the 100m event at the last three Olympics, posed with his thunderbolt posture, took off his spikes to run around the track to celebrate… no one, not a single person in the entire stadium was thinking… what a stupid race… the 100m… real athletes would compete in the 5,000 or 10,000 or the marathon.

Before, during or after any of five (5) Olympics that Michael Phelps competed at, not once did I hear… what a hopeless athlete… why doesn’t Phelps swim in longer events? He keeps racing in the same events, Olympics after Olympics. Not once did anyone criticize Phelps for swimming 100m, 200m and 400m events and not the 1500m FR event. In fact, if you did you would have been considered ignorant, yet this is exactly the mindset amongst many in amateur sport.

Yet this is exactly what triathletes do… criticize one another because the event they are competing in, isn’t an iron distance triathlon.

Funny? No, not funny… its hurtful, its pride, its egotism at its best… or worst, whichever way you want to look at it.

BTW, that masters swimmer who criticized my wife now has a pacemaker. No connection you say… I say otherwise as does the medical literature (review medical research on the J-curve and the connection between HiiT and cardiac disease is not only known, its well known and understood as a risk factor).

So next time you think hanging out with people who criticize you for training right, for starting in sport right, for competing right, for respecting yourself, your current abilities, capacity, skill level… know that their go hard or go home mindset, their PR (personal record) or ER (emergency room) approach to training and racing… will eventually put them in a home or in an emergency room.

You are not missing out on anything, and you have nothing to fear about being left behind by these types because in the end… they will be unable to compete, unable to train, perhaps unable to do anything without medical supervision because when you live by the ego, you die at the hands of your ego too.

An article from…

Lennard Zinn, a world-renowned technical cycling guru, founder of Zinn Cycles, longtime member of the VeloNews staff, lover of long rides, and a former member of the U.S. national cycling team, was riding hard up his beloved Flagstaff Mountain, a ride he had done a thousand times before. But this time, it was different.His life was about to change forever. When his heart began to flop like a fish in his chest, and his heart rate jumped from 155 to 218 beats per minute and stayed pegged there, his first reaction was simple: “I went into denial.”

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