Friday, August 22, 2014

Senator Palpatine Wrote the Triathlon Rule Book

I've been dabbling in the dark wizardry of triathlon too much this summer. Sure, I've had some success, but I'll be glad to be moving on after the Hy Vee Triathlon coming up this Labor Day weekend.

Training for triathlons has made me feel like I've aged a lot over the past year. It's good for overall fitness, but the stress of doing only time trials feels harmful. Either that, or it's because of resisting evil and all the seemingly petulant USAT rules to abide by. In either case, I wouldn't be surprised if my blood contained an elevated level of cortisone in it. I can't blame anyone but myself for this. I mean, I put myself in harm's way by choosing this path. It's kinda like that scene in Star Wars Episode III where Senator Palpatine's evil force electricity is redirected back at him by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), wrinkling up his own face like an ugly old prune.

Lego scene: Lucas still has his grubby mitts on the royalty rights.

This summer, I've also come to realize that triathletes in general are not a fun bunch to be around. (I can say this because I'm one of them, and look how much belly-aching I've been doing lately.) Despite this, triathletes are among the most courteous and well-adjusted athletes I've encountered. It's odd. It's like we're friendly, yet passive aggressive -- nice on the surface, but boiling within. 

I've had a lot of time in the saddle and soloing down the road on my feet to think about this. I contend that it's not the triathlete that is naturally miserable, but it's the sport that has made them so.

It comes down to this that makes triathletes a depressed group:

1) Triathlons essentially mashup the least enjoyable parts of swimming, cycling and running as one race. It's basically back to back to back time trialing. I know of nobody who enjoys time trialing. Nobody. In fact, in road racing, most people suck at TT'ing because it's so dreadfully boring to train for. But as bad as it is -- and it's bad -- at least you're still riding a bicycle. For those who've done an hour time trial on a bicycle, imagine swimming your ass off for over 20 minutes beforehand, then jumping off the bike and running a 10K as fast as possible.

2) All those rules. It's bad enough that triathletes have to suffering through three time trials; why add so many rules? I'd agree with most of them if they were there to promote safety. But the rule book explicitly states that safety is not the reason for the rules. After the title, the very first words of the USAT rule book are:

The Competitive Rules are intended to provide for the orderly and consistent administration of events sanctioned by USA Triathlon and are not designed to establish standards of care for the safety of participants or other persons. 
If not to establish standards of care or safety, then for what? Order and consistent administration of events?  In short, I was penalized two minutes for being a slob with my swim cap. What a load of crap!

But that's not it. There are even more preposterous rules. Like this one:

5.1 Propulsion. All bicycles shall be propelled only by human force and human power. Other than pushing a bicycle, any propulsive action brought on by use of the hands is prohibited. Any violation of this section shall result in disqualification
Can somebody please tell me what this means? Other than pushing, how else could anyone gain an advantage propelling the bike forward with their hands? Can you picture it? I laugh when I do.

It gets better. Check this one out, under running conduct:

6.1 Permitted Conduct. A participant must run or walk the entire portion of the run course... A participant who gains forward progress by crawling or otherwise violates this Section and shall be disqualified.
Is it me, or does this even make sense? Since when does crawling or otherwise (what, like doing the 'worm or something?) become an advantage over walking or running?

Who wrote these rules?

I'll tell you who. Senator Palpatine did.

Oops! Wrong file. Let's try that again.

*Ahem* I'll tell you who wrote them. The Dark Lord Sith did:


Anyway, I've already moved on. As a result, my general disposition has changed for the better over the past week. It started when I raced a crit last weekend. The next day, I drilled it on a fast and furious 42 mile corporate cycling challenge group ride.

Then on Wednesday of this week, I announced that my focus has switched to cyclocross (cx):

That's 1.5 hours a day, four days of week of glorious 'lawn racing' over the next four months.

Speaking of 'cross, I jumped into cx practice this past Wednesday night. It was an oppressively hot and muggy afternoon, but for the two laps I completed before I broke yet another spoke, and had to pull the plug, I was enjoying myself on the bike. A lot.

The end of summer season means that a transition is naturally upon us. I'm not disappointed I raced triathlon this summer, for I achieved about as much as I hoped for. But now I'm ready for a change.

My friend Rafal summed it up best when he sent me an SMS comparing triathlon to cyclocross:

I think what he's trying to say is that I don't have to worry about being penalized for losing my swim cap at the Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup on September 20-21. Yeah, something like that. YPG.

Thanks for Reading. Happy Friday.


  1. I think they should make a rule that you can't use your hands to assist in propelling you during the swimming part.

  2. I see what they're doing. No hand propulsion while biking or "crawling" while running. This is obviously because in the early triathlon days, people would just swim the whole thing. But the Dark Lord says: "icksnay on that noise."

  3. Good suggestion, Fred.

    Personally, I'd like to see an uphill salmon ladder added to the swim course. Maybe XTERRA already has this. I should check it out

  4. ...and next to the salmon ladder, a grizzly bear.

    Imagine the crowds