Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Supirior Thoughts on Triathlete Supriority Complex

There are two extremes within the Triathlon Community - "That Guy" and "Jaded Guy".  I used "guy" but that guy can also be a girl.

These two groups are at war and if you read Slowtwitch,com and BeginnerTriathlete.com you will pretty soon be able to identify them in the wild.  Let me warn you, be careful approaching either group in the wild because it may zap not only your time but energy.

As any good scientist (okay, person pretending to be a scientist) it is important to observe not only appearance, and sounds, but behavior and social patterns.  


The easiest way to identify "That Guy" is to first look at what they are wearing.  If they are in a business or social setting most likely they are wearing three or more of the following items:
  • Exercise Sunglasses
  • Compression Socks
  • Garmin or other watch with GPS functions
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Finisher shirt, socks, jacket or hat
  • You may only see the top of the ribbon of their finishers medal if they are wearing a jacket
When you spot "That Guy" training you will also notice the following:
  • Wearing compression socks
  • Wearing race suit
  • When biking will have aero helmet
  • All clothing choices will accentuate the Ironman Tattoo
  • When the pace increases, there is a good chance they will stop for an equipment problem.
  • They will be using about 3 items of technology at any given time.
"That Guy" will liberally sprinkle, "During Ironman...." into nearly every conversation but will tend to omit actual race times.    They refer to professional triathletes using their nicknames. They will also talk about VO2, Watts, and paces without being too specific.


Jaded guy is a bit harder to identify because they are working very hard to appear as normal as possible.  Just like "That Guy" they want people to identify them as "hardcore" but don't want any similarities to the the brands and methods of "That Guy".

You may need to observe them a bit longer but they do the following to mark their identity:
  • Well groomed tan lines - they make sure the lines on the legs, arms and sunglasses are well defined.
  • Jeans, t-shirt and flip flops - one item will be European
  • If they have a race shirt on, it will be from 1987 or earlier.
  • Water bottle on Tri bike will be between the forearms
  • They will be using at least 4 zip ties
  • They always wear bibs when on the bike
  • They will spend a significant amount of time doing subtle stretching
  • They may walk with discomfort due to running in old shoes and riding vintage bikes.
  • They show up to races late, bring minimal gear and push other peoples bikes to the side.
  • They will also be letting out a sort of hissing sound every time "That Guy" walks by.]
  • They will not be wearing a watch, bike computer or logging any of their training.

You probably won't be able to engage Jaded Guy in a conversation but if you overhear them talking with another of their species, you will most likely hear them ridiculing  That Guy, talking about Lance Armstrong, complaining about rolling resistance of tires, and complaining about drafting. 

I notice that depending on the day, I'm kind of both, not necessarily because of choice but because I'm cheap.  I train in shirts that I get at races.  So, on a typical day to the pool, run or bike, I'll have on some sort of race shirt on.  If wearing a hat it will have the IM logo on it.  I use a GPS and use my Iphone to log my running miles.  I will use Strava only when I think I have a chance to win.

I have a great bike and really expensive bike shoes that I bought on Craigslist.  I'd love to have a power meeter and have thought about wearing my HR monitor at night to see what my heart rate dips to.

Yet I also prefer independent and smaller races and try to keep things simple.  I don't have a tattoo and don't plan on getting one.  I try not to talk about triathlon with random people.

One thing that I do believe is that triathlon has room for all sorts of people and I hope more people get involved.

I recently was reminded about the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) which deals with how we explain others behavior and our own behavior.  When we evaluate our own behavior we tend to accept situational or environmental explanations.  For example, when I miss a day of training, I will attribute it to having a lot of work, family needs and lack of sleep.  When another person misses their training, I will tend to blame their behavior on character and personality.  So they are lazy, unmotivated, ignorant, or just plain stupid.

The good thing about knowing the the FAE is that I can be a bit more forgiving to people that are toward the polar extremes on the GUY continuum (wow that sounds fancy).

I was tested in this area as a beginner triathlon class came to the pool during my swim this morning.  One of the guys was wearing a one piece tri suit and another was wearing board shorts.  I immediately felt superior and wished I could point them out to another cynical person but no one was around.  I left the pool and sat in the steam room for a few minutes and the FAE came to mind, I guess I just don't know why they are doing what they are doing and I'd probably benefit from giving the benefit of doubt rather than treating them poorly.

I'm better off if I don't judge.  At least races bring us together for a short time.

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