Our man Caspar on the idiosyncrasies and obsessive traits of triathletes
Whether it’s the sight of man peddling furiously in Speedos, a crop top and a meteor helmet to improve aerodynamics despite being a little overweight and riding on his hoods, or someone trundling through a 5km wearing a 10 strong grenade style bottle belt almost in defiance of the numerous on route water stations, triathlon exposes and indeed nurtures many idiosyncrasies and obsessive traits. When, though, is it time to ask yourself, am I a little obsessed myself?
Two weeks ago, I got a whack from my girlfriend for ogling a female cyclist who had pulled up at the lights. It was only when I looked up did I see that she was indeed attractive as I had actually, and embarrassingly, been gazing longingly at her Cervelo. Two weeks ago, whilst topping up my Oyster Card, I glanced at the kiosk clock. It read 10:22:09 which didn’t register with me as Greenwich Mean Time but as a potentially impressive Ironman finish. Later that day, I found myself barefooted with my bike on Clapham Common, clad in Lycra, tying my shoes to the frame with pieces of grass as I’d forgotten the elastic bands. Needless to say, my transition practice related behaviour elicited many an odd look.
This week, as a laid out my kit for the London Hyde Park ITU Triathlon and meticulously checked off the aero wheels, the pointy helmet, the one strap cycle shoes and the Garmin, and began to remove the “drag inducing” water bottle cage with a lightweight Allen key, it finally dawned on me that I too was obsessed. The next morning, bobbing about in the Serpentine, I knew that all around Hyde Park, men in Speedos would later be frowning at my compression socks and shaking their heads at my slip on trainers.
After a PB in the swim, my pantomime cycle season continued with a spectacular crash into some hay bails and a strategically placed buoy, which saw me nose dive over the metal barrier into the spectators. But, with nothing more than a bruised ego and cramp, I clambered back on the bike. The crowd cheered yet I cursed as I realised I’d buckled my back wheel. The last three laps of five were, therefore, slow and wobbly. On the plus side, though, I mastered the elastic band trick and pro-style dismount before registering a 34.47mins on the run. I finished just outside my target time of 2:10hr. Having admitted my addiction earlier in the day, I stayed to watch the elites for another fix.
On reflection, and from my limited experience, it appears that for most triathletes an obsessive streak is either a symptom or a cause of their involvement in the sport. With so many gadgets to be had, marketeers would make you believe that it’s possible to improve your performance without dipping your toe in a pool, getting on your bike or hitting the roads. Next stop London then, where, as a mass participation race, there’ll no doubt be some first timers rolling their eyeballs at my elastic bands. I’m sure they’ll be back, though, this time with just a little bit more kit than the year before.