I take what I call a journalistic interest in a variety of sports. If I didn't write, I wouldn't waste my time learning about them. But when you are a writer, you learn everything about everything. In the case of various sports, I can tell you all sorts of things about surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, bowling, scuba diving, or what have you. I learn a lot about these activities, and I talk with people who do them. Every one of the people I have talked to have been charitable types willing to indulge my curiosity. But there is an exception. Triathletes are that exception.
Triathletes are douchebags. If you doubt this, go to any messageboard for any single sport like running, swimming, and cycling and declare that you are a proud triathlete. You will be showered with invective. People will hate on you, and you will think it might be envy. But it isn't. Triathletes are huge fucking assholes. The sport and the douchebag personality go together.
Triathlon began as a sport in the 70's concurrent with the running boom that took off and remains with us today. Those early triathletes were pretty cool people. Basically, they could swim and took up either running or cycling as a second sport. In those early days, triathletes were kinda weird and gnarly much like ultrarunners are today. It was during this time that the famous Ironman Triathlon was created and would go on to become the most recognized tri-event in the world. The M-dot logo would become a valuable trademark, and that is where things began to turn wrong in that sport.
Nobody has a copyright on the word "marathon." But imagine if someone did. Imagine if you had a 26.2 mile race, but you had to pay to call it a marathon. Suddenly, you are in a shitty deal. Now imagine you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but you have to run a marathon in order to do it. The only marathons recognized are the ones that paid to be called a marathon. Suddenly, you have control. A group of people are going to get rich off of a trademark that no one else can use. Of course, this scenario is ridiculous. But this is the deal in triathlon. You can't use the Ironman name much less the logo without paying for the privilege. You might say this is no big deal, but the reality is that everyone wants to complete an Ironman event for the bragging rights.
The result of this arrangement is that entry fees for these events are high--very high. With other events like marathons and 5K's, the money made goes to charitable endeavors and maintaining the race. This is one reason why municipalities are willing to let organizers use their streets. It is for a good cause and promotes health. An Ironman is different. It is about profit. This is why marathoning is so egalitarian while triathlon is elitist.
Without a doubt, triathlon and the Ironman are well organized. But those events are expensive. The entry fee for last year's Hawaii Ironman was $550. The entry fee for the Boston Marathon is $130. The entry fee for the New York City Marathon is $196. The entry fee for Western States is $295. Now, these races aren't cheap. They require a lot of logistical support, aid, refreshments, and the like. But you can run Boston for less than your electric bill. Plus, you can drive or take the bus. You can't do that with the Hawaii Ironman unless you live in Hawaii. You automatically have to tack on airfare for the Ironman.
The next barrier is the time needed to train for triathlon. World class runners train for less than 20 hours per week. An amateur triathlete needs 20 hours per week just to be decent. The optimum is 25+ hours per week. This is a heavy time commitment. Only someone extremely dedicated is going to pull this off or has sponsorship enabling them to quit their day job.
The next aspect is the cost of training and equipment. Triathletes drop $4000-$5000 on the bike, and $400 on the wet suit. This does not include all the accessories that go with this shit like a cycling computer, membership at the Y, etc. Between time, entry fees, and costs of gear, who can afford to do this sport or even want to do it?
The average salary of a tri-geek is $150,000. So, you guessed who wants to do this sport--elitist pricks with bullshit jobs and money to burn. And since they often go to the same places as runners, swimmers, and cyclists, they run into these other people who don't make $150K a year with their MBA or JD and leave a very bad impression. The bottom line is that triathlon is a contrived piece of shit sport peopled with colossal assholes who want to claim another accomplishment for their resumes. Since they buy so much expensive shit, equipment makers line up to market to these twits.
If you come away with the impression that triathlon is the McMansion of sports, you would be correct. Triathlon makes golf look cheap and egalitarian by comparison. There are dirtbag runners, mountain bikers, rock climbers, surfers, etc. Ultrarunner Anton Krupicka often lives out of the back of his pickup in order to indulge his sport. But there are no dirtbag triathletes. Triathlon is a money sport. Supporters of triathlon will tell you that you can do a triathlon with a mountain bike you got from Walmart. But don't think they won't be laughing at you because they will.
Of course, triathletes are silly fuckers anyway. You can see by the way they dress for the event:
I realize that all sports require wearing some silly stuff. But this takes the cake. This outfit would look cool on a chick. It doesn't look so good on a dude. I know. This is a cheap shot. But I wanted to get that lick in before I took my beating in the comments section.
Triathlon isn't really a sport but the narcissistic indulgence of rich assholes. The competition can't be that fierce since your annual salary is as much a factor as your genetics and your training. It is a status symbol. That's it. These rich assholes do this sport instead of opting for one of the single sports because it seems so awesome that they can suck at three disciplines instead of one. It is like getting a 2.0 at Harvard. People just hear Harvard and assume you're smart instead of being the brat of well-connected rich parents. The symbol is what matters not what it signifies. Triathlon is a way that pricks can tell the world that they are awesome and rich and better than you. Now you know why all the other cyclists want to kick the triathlete's ass at the century ride.
UPDATE: This post has generated a great deal of feedback thanks to somebody posting the link over at Slowtwitch. The overwhelming response just indicates to me that I hit my target. I'm not apologizing for anything I've written. Triathletes are assholes.
I'm weird, but I don't admire sports where the outcome can be determined by one's income. Poor people might participate in triathlon, but I suspect they are denigrated by their wealthier peers in the sport. Every triathlete I have ever met has been a carbon copy of the Brad Pitt character in Burn After Reading--a douche.
I also like this video for some reason:
UPDATE 2: More videos.
UPDATE 3: This post continues to rake in the hate. The comments are pretty harsh, but the voting here and on Reddit are on my side. I interpret this to mean that the silent majority agrees with me. The vocal minority flails wildly trying to land some counterblow against me. But I don't think anything is going to equal that picture of the guy running in the Speedo and the bra.
Other people point out that cyclists are real assholes and douchebags, too. But cyclists are a real diverse bunch. You have fixed gear folks who I think are really cool. You have the mountain bikers who I think are friendly except if you are walking on a trail they are riding. Road cyclists tend to be more prickish. But I have never found any that were just overt snobs. Granted, many cyclists have some really expensive rides, but I find them strapped to roof racks on 20-year-old cars. The bike is worth more than the car.
I find runners and ultrarunners to be the antithesis of triathletes. They have a minimal amount of gear, and no trace of vanity coming from the fact that they are so damn skinny. Plus, they bitch a lot about entry fees and are always looking for discounts on shoes. Running appeals to tightwads, and none of them get upset when I point out this fact. They just laugh and idolize someone like Krupicka who is often literally homeless.
I tossed the original essay off in a writing binge on a Thursday night and was at work all day Friday as it blew up. Had I known the reaction it would get, I would have spent more time on it but only to make it meaner and more insulting. I have had coworkers who were triathletes and met some outside of work. Every damn one of them was a prick. I used to think this was just a few bad apples until other people told me they thought the same things I did. Cyclists seem to have a special antipathy towards triathletes, but I'm not a cyclist.
I've also gotten slammed for calling the triathletes out on having bullshit jobs. I don't see these guys doing neurosurgery. Most of them work in marketing and sales or work for law firms, financial services, and the upper rungs of middle management. I already despise these people even if they aren't triathletes because they tend to be slimebags. The reason I point this out is that a real job requires real commitment. In order to do triathlon, it helps to have a job that pays well but is rather shallow in the social contribution department. This provides both the time and the funds to be a triathlete with the attendant moral vacuum and narcissism. I present the first commenter on the thread of hate at the end of this post as Exhibit A--Denis Oakley. You can look that guy in the eye and see that he is a complete prick. Naturally, he has an MBA and works in marketing.
I've also heard from poor triathletes who say they sacrifice for their sport. Why? Why not go run marathons or ride the trails than get beat by some douche who can afford a better bike than you? This strikes me as an athletic form of sycophancy. You probably also wash and wax the rich triathlete's BMW after the race. Do yourself a favor and pick another sport.
Finally, people probably wonder why I pick on triathletes. Regular readers of my blog know why. It is the socioeconomic aspect of it than the sport itself. I could have picked golf, but I know a lot of blue collar golfers. I could go after tennis, but the only people playing tennis today are rich middle-aged housewives. But all you need is a racket and some balls to play tennis. There are a lot of empty tennis courts in my town. (Very few basketball courts.) The fact is that just about any sport out there is open to regular people like me including running, swimming, and cycling. Triathlon makes itself exclusive by combining three sports. I don't think this was planned in the same way that I don't believe in Intelligent Design. But triathlon has evolved as a money sport for rich narcissistic pricks.
Can triathlon be changed? I don't know, and I don't even care. Should it be changed? The libertarian in me recoils at that notion. People have a right to be pricks. I also have the right to call them pricks. I have just held up a mirror to a subculture, and the tri-pricks have responded to what they saw. The ones I respect are the ones who don't deny being pricks but embrace it. They know what they are. The ones I don't understand are the idiots who want to be in the company of such pricks.
As for me, I think the finest sport ever invented is bowling. Any sport that allows you to drink beer during the competition has to be the best thing ever in the athletic world. Plus, they have the coolest shirts. Fuck Spandex. Go with Rayon.
How Triathlon Became the New Status Symbol
Triathlon Is An Expensive Sport
Why I Hate Triathletes
Why Cyclists Hate Triathletes
Are Triathletes Deserving of a Bad Reputation?
Diminutive Dissertation 1.0 (apparently I'm a douchebag)
Headlines, Bylines, and Why-lines
Is Triathlon a Stupid Sport?
Enjoy the Ride: Triathlon Is a Stupid Sport
Why Do People HATE Triathletes?
Why Running Is the Perfect Sport (Almost)