In May of 2011, after just started my triathlon racing and training, I wrote a blogpost called Clydesdale (found here). In the post, which was meant to be tongue in cheek, I railed agains the fact that men over 200 pounds were called “fat, hairy footed horses” while women over 150 pounds were called “Athena”, warrior goddesses.
Over the past year not much has changed in my view point, I still think it’s a bit unflattering, but I have learned to kind of embrace the name. What is bugging me more is not the actual name, but the men who race within this category.
It seems to me that there are more and more men listing themselves in this category because they know it is the province of the shorter and heavier males. That way, a man who is 6’2″ and 205 pounds can race in the same group as a man who is 5’8″ and 205 pounds, and will more than likely beat him and place. But these men also know that if they raced in their age group, they would be competing against men their same height and weight, and they would probably lose.
While Ironman events, rightfully so, have no category like this, the smaller sprints and olympic distances do have them. It is very evident in a race we do mostly now for fun in Crystal River. Crystal River has an annual series, usually during or around the three holidays in the summer (Memorials Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) with another Twilight race in the July time frame. These are 400m swims, 15 mile bikes, and 3 mile runs. Nice, fun little race, that is done under two hours, with a nice crowd and good support.
Last years in Crystal River 1 my time was over 2 hours (it was my third race). This year I knocked almost 20 minutes of my time. And, when the results came out, I was still last in the Clydesdale group. When they called the top 5 to the podium they looked liked olympians. 25 years old. 6’2 to 6’4. Maybe 210 pounds tops. I am 5’10 and 235 pounds. I am NEVER going to break into that top 5. Ever. I am twice their age, with only a couple of years under my belt, and 30 pounds heavier running on arthritic knees. The Athena group, on the other hand, is represented as it was meant to be. Jennifer broke into the top 5 this year, which is outstanding and well deserved. She has worked hard. When that group took the stage, all of the women looked like Jenny. 5’5 to 5’6, 150 pounds plus. That’s the group it is mean to be. You don’t see other women who were out there and could have raced as Athena’s racing in that category to get on the podium. They faced their equals in the age grouping. The men, showing their inner, I will say cowardice, don’t face their competitive equals and race against those they know they can beat. Doesn’t make me proud of my sex, I will say that.
I have thought about not racing in the category any longer and just going into the age grouping, but the only thing that stops me is that this series is the only one that Jennifer and I can starting in the same group (Crystal River is the only race that startes Clydesdale’s and Athena’s together). So it’s more fun to compete head to head (although I have never beaten her). So I will stay in the Clydesdale group the rest of this year, and next year, when my age group changes to the 50-54 year old group, I will start racing there. Not because I think I can beat them, because I doubt seriously I am ever podium bound, but because it will be my age group and where I should race. I want to compare myself directly beside my peers, not because I think I can beat that group.