Rites of passage

Chrissie Wellington talks rites of passage and traditions that people have to go through to earn the title 'triathlete'


Issue ID: February 269


We triathletes are a unique species, with many sub categories – the gotta-have-a-lot-of-gear crew; the what's-a-brick rookie; the see-my-bum-crack-white-Lycra worshipper; the adore-training-but-never-race adherent; the statistic-savvy-log-book lover. But despite this cross section of triathlon humanity there are a number of similarities that the majority of us share. For triathlon is not simply a sport; rather it's a religion with rites of passage and traditions that all disciplines must follow to earn the right to call themselves a bona-fide 'triathlete'. Here are just a few…

  • Your Christmas present list comprised solely of wicking, compressive, aero or carbon related products. Opening such gifts caused you to pant/moan/drool/all three. All other non go-faster gifts were sold quicker than you could say 'eBay'.
  • Seeing you in your Lycra get-up, your elderly neighbour politely asks if you're auditioning for the local ballet school's Swan Lake production. You laugh, and reply that the only lakes you've ever heard of are of the open-water variety. 
  • Beauty products are rendered obsolete. Perfume or cologne are replaced by the distinctive, slightly overpowering Eau du Chlorine that never needs reapplying.
  • Your idea of haute cuisine is a gloopy, glucose solution in a foil packet. This 'banana-strawberry delight' is washed down with a fine bottle of red: a full-bodied beverage with a rather overpowering aroma of cranberry and pomegranite, a splash of sodium and a large mound of undissolved glutinous powder at the bottom. You're also willing to consume any beverage that comes in a shade of blue.
  • You buy your loved one a box of chocolates on their birthday: they come in a pack of 20, are 50% protein and have a rubbery texture that resembles a flip-flop.
  • Every room in your house has been turned into a race site. The living rooms serves as a turbo/sweat sauna; the kitchen is a well-stocked aid station; and the hallway has long since become a T1 and T2, complete with a mount and dismount line. You park your bikes in the garage and use the driveway for your car. 
  • You remain dry-eyed watching Watership Down, but reach for the nearest box of Kleenex during replays of the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii.
  • Discussions about saddle sores, buttock numbness or nipple chafe are considered to be some of the most defining issues of our time. Remedies for these frictional war wounds are received with shouts of rapture and a cause for unbridled celebration.
  • You played truant from maths classes at school, but think nothing of using Stephen Hawking-like equations in order to accurately calculate your run splits or calorie intake. 
  • Your bookshelf is collapsing under of dog-eared copies of 'How to Swim like a Shark' and the entire 220 back catalogue. You use the Encyclopedia Britannica to prop up the front wheel of your turbo-mounted steed and your favourite  bedtime read is the enlightening self-help tome 'Top 10 Tip to Avoid Bonking.'
  • You often resemble a beetle: cramping so badly that you lie on your back, and wriggle your arms and legs in the air to relieve the offending muscle spasm.
  • You think it's daylight robbery to pay £70 for a pair of jeans, but think nothing of forking our £170 for postage stamp-sized Lycra shorts that come with promises of speed, PB times and freedom from the aforementioned frictional war wounds.
  • An ability to perform every bodily function while simultaneously partaking in swim/bike/run becomes your favourite party trick. On-the-go multi-tasking talents include: robing and disrobing; eating your own bodyweight in calories; showering yourself with any available fluids; blowing snot rockets; and, of course, watering the race course and/or the inside of your neoprene. And that's just the girls

If you recognised yourself in over half of these descriptions, congratulations – you can now call yourself a fully-fledged, bona-fide triathlete. Welcome to the club and wear your Lycra with pride.