As I once (perhaps mistakenly) told a past boyfriend: “You may be my boyfriend, but triathlon is my husband.” Needless to say, this did not go over very well.
All of those hours spent alone with ourselves in the meditative realm of Zone 2 really forces us to think about things like who we are, what we believe in, the meaning of life, what we’re going to eat immediately when we get home, and other critical themes. And so we find ourselves caught up in a committed relationship, legs intertwined with the goddess of multisport.
In fact, endurance junkies are some of the most quality people around. It serves us in ways other people or experiences have not or cannot.
I was mostly kidding, but I think we both knew it to largely be true. Here’s my theory, which is loosely based on my associations with triathlete and marathoning friends over the years: we just have a different sense of relativity, slightly different tolerance for solitude and independence, and frequently a radically different neurohormonal profile, than the general populous.
He replied with some snarky comment about “time spent in the saddle,” which I actually recall being quite clever and pun-ny. Sure, we may be the life of the party on the rare occasions we are out socializing. Or the fact that eventually, we need to balance out our 90% alone time with some human contact. I once saw a t-shirt at a local running shop that had the words “NO RUN = CRANKY + MOODY” printed on it in large block print. We like our friends to be people who understand the value of setting personal goals and doggedly going after them, with perhaps seeming disregard for other aspects of life.
This past summer and fall, in an attempt to unearth just what it is that makes us endurance junkies so “un-datable,” I conducted a rather unscientific social experiment: I went on 21 dates in 21 weeks, with 21 non-endurance athletes (a.k.a. Here’s what I discovered to be the top most misunderstood aspects of the endurance junkie’s lifestyle. We may seem extroverted because of our tendency to be outgoing when others are around. Either way, just be prepared for someone who likes to be a bit of a lone wolf. I felt relieved that clearly, I was not the only one to have experienced this phenomenon. A lot of triathlon lingo is centered around numbers, figures, and calculations. Needless to say, this typically isn’t considered very socially acceptable; women especially are deemed neglectful if they choose to pursue “hobbies” outside of family and even career.
It takes a certain type to spend hours alone running and cycling, and that certain type usually has a penchant for solitude that may be disturbing to others. Please, please, please don’t make us stay out late with you. We probably finished off that entire box of cereal. It takes a lot of fuel to power through several hours of cardio exercise every day. If you bring it to our attention that downing an entire box of Product 19 in a day is gross, we will feel sad, misunderstood and self conscious. Now where can I find a cute guy sporting said shirt? Do we expect you to understand when we toss around terms like “max cadence,” “wattage,” “millimeter offset,” and “Yasso 800s“? The thing about triathletes and endurance athletes is that many of us have rediscovered the power of positive motivation, encouragement, and coaching in our adult lives.
Our idea of “going out” involves literally going outdoors on foot or bicycle, preferably in the wee hours of Saturday morning when the rest of the world is sleeping off an impending hangover. The paradigm of pushing through personal boundaries to shatter past records and achieve new, previously unattainable goals is something many of us move away from after we graduate from high school sports teams.
If you make us stay out late with you at some sub-par Mexican restaurant, and hence compromise the quality or timing of our planned weekend long run/ride, we will resent you. We WILL spend more time swimming, biking, and running, than with you. It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that, well, we like SBR better. Vacations, dates, and trips centered around doing something physical and rugged are incredibly hot. It’s really, honestly, seriously not about the bike. The bike is just a vehicle for personal growth and change. …but if you HAVE to give us a gift, give us a bike! This lens–one of encouragement, big dreaming, and distinctive goal-setting–is the one through which we understand how to show love and affection.And eat all the chips and salsa without regard for the others at the table. Especially if you can keep up/only if you can keep up. Please don’t make comments about our choice of dress. Some multisport “hobbyists”, as I like to call them, are really just into gear: flashy bikes, fancy moisture-wicking apparel, gravity-defying running shoes. Okay, maybe not a bike (has anyone looked at the price tags on those things these days? ), but something we can use to make ourselves more comfortable, efficient, and/or entertained while slogging it out there. If one of my friends mentions a goal she’s been entertaining, you sure as hell bet I’ll be on her case about realizing that goal and surpassing it.We got up at am and ran 54 miles today, so yes, it’s gonna be another sweatpants day. Please don’t make comments about the state of our feet, or the strange rashes on our backs and butts. This comes off as annoying to some, but more often than not I’ve been met with appreciation.Listen, I’ve been working on those calluses for years. Perhaps most people don’t get enough of this on a regular basis.When was the last time you heard someone say something like, “I believe in you,” “You can do anything you set your mind to,” or “Dream big”?These are things we were liberally showered with as children, but such encouragement and belief in oneself falls by the wayside as we grow up and hide away behind our desk jobs. I think people who are drawn to things like endurance sports are people who have recognized that realistically, only a finite amount of achievement and goal realization is possible in the “real world”.