Sometimes, all it takes is a pair of jean shorts to start a revolution.
“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, USA Triathlon, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” – Henry David Thoreau
Now sure, I’ve obviously taken a few liberties with one of the most famous quotes from Henry David Throueau’s seminal Civil Disobedience but, nonetheless, it encapsulates rather well my quest this weekend to reintroduce a little bit of fun back into the sport of triathlon.
You see, I have a bit of of an axe to grind with the sport. Sure, triathlon always gets more than its fair share of derision from ‘hardcore’ cyclists, but I actually have good reason to pile on a bit of malcontent.
I used to be a triathlete.
Attracted to the sport in college when I witnessed how much fun the members of the collegiate triathlon team were having, I quickly caught the bug and dove in headfirst.
But when I finally realized I loved riding more than anything else, I couldn’t even fathom a move over to the collegiate cycling team. What made me stick to triathlon? Because, quite simply it was just a helluva lot more fun. Sure we took our racing and training seriously, but it wasn’t the be all and end all of our personalities.
But, over the years, I began noticing a change in the atmosphere at races—people were getting much more serious. I saw fewer smiles, fewer words of encouragement among racers, and altogether too much self-importance. Then at Ironman Canada in 2012, I was almost ready to throw in the towel completely. Suddenly bike racing seemed much more relaxed and carefree. The tables had turned.
What had happened to the days of garish speedos and gratuitous neon? Where did all of the beer sponsors go? What happened to the grassroots camaraderie that I had fallen in love with?
Fast forward almost two years and on a whim I decided to enter the very race that I had helped put on as a member of the Cal Poly Triathlon team. On another whim, I decided I’d try and inject a little bit of fun into the race. Be the change you wish to see in the world and all that jazz, seize the carp ya know?
But just how would I break people out of their shells and remind them that what they were doing was supposed to be fun?
Why, a little uncivilized disobedience of course.
After a minute or two of brainstorming and a quick look through the ol’ costume box, I realized, not a soul in the world can resist cracking up at a guy in jean shorts and a mullet on a town bike blasting horrible music—or at the very least resist cracking a smile.
The goal, prove that you can have fun and still go fast.
Sure, a disqualification was in order for breaking the USAT rule on amplified music—as well as an inordinate fine from the fashion police—but it definitely wasn’t all for naught. Having countless people come up to me after the race and thank me for making their race, for encouraging them to keep up their pace up the final hill, that made the chafing from those jean shorts totally worth it. Well, and this too:
Tales from the Tarmac is the weekly home of the stories, insights, opinions and occasional rants of Art’s Web Content Editor, Kevin Rouse. Read at your own risk, and please don’t ever take him seriously—it might just go to his head.