An Open Letter to Triathletes - 52 Weeks to Mont Tremblant - Week 25

Dear Triathlete,

We are in the midst of a crisis. Our sport has lost its sense of community. What was once an open society of health-conscious athletes has devolved into a social media pissing contest and non-Ironman finishers need not apply.

Tattoo to celebrate a 70.3? Idiot.

Full Ironman without training? Disrespectful.

Setting out to complete 50 Ironmans in 50 days and failing? Immediate lifetime ban.

Something needs to change.

Why are we quick to criticize and pass judgment and awfully slow to offer advice or encouragement? When did we all become disrespectful idiots who must shame others into triathlon retirement? We were all beginners at one time, right? We all needed to rely on others to provide useful advice at some point. It’s imperative we look to one another to help grow this amazing sport. Otherwise, we’ll continue to see races come and go, athletes too afraid to try, and the same vitriol on social media. The barrier to entry into this sport is high enough, why are the athletes themselves making it even higher?

News flash for those Ironman gatekeepers checking finishing times at the door: To become an Ironman one must pay the $800 registration fee, have a bike, and train a few hours per week. Just because your wetsuit costs more than your monthly rent, you log century ride after century ride on your $10,000 Ventum, and follow that up with a 20-mile brick run above race pace doesn’t make you better. It makes you a seemingly wealthy person with a lot of time and a desire to improve. Keep doing you! Just don’t forget to encourage your fellow triathlete in the process.

There is hope for the future of this sport, however.

For every detractor there are a dozen more positive athletes quietly going about their business in the best way. They don’t need to be recognized and they certainly don’t need to jump into the fray and lash out on social media at some newbie asking how to properly set up their indoor smart trainer. For every wise ass there are a dozen more athletes swimming, biking, and running their way to weight loss, positive mental health, and a better outlook on life.

Triathlon is arguably the most rewarding sport in the world. Lives are forever changed at the finish line. Hell, even along the way, in the process. And not just Ironman finish lines. Sprints, super sprints, relays, Olympic and half distance races too. We don’t know what it took someone to get there. So instead of saying, “it’s just a sprint,” maybe, try a different approach.

We choose to participate in an individual sport. It’s us and only us out there on race day. However, we have countless others helping us get to the start line, many of whom we don’t know, have never seen before, and will only see for a split second as they share a word or two of encouragement along the way. Triathlon is a selfish sport, but we’re not the only ones in it.

Not sure how to connect your smart trainer to bluetooth? Google.com will tell you, but one of your fellow triathletes can tell you, too. Is it really so hard?

Searching for tattoo designs after your sprint triathlon? Congrats, you’ve earned it!

Trained your tail off for a race, but missed your PR? No worries, learn from it, improve, and get it next time.

Whether you’ve completed a sprint race or an Ironman, we’re all triathletes working toward the same goal: to be better than we were. What ‘better’ means to you is for you, and only you, to decide. Keep it positive and keep it light. Calm down, train hard, have fun, and let’s grow this sport the right way.

See you at the races,

Jim Gazzale