Recently there has been much to do about the change in the swim rules by the WTC in Ironman races. It has been interesting to read the comments on Facebook, on blogs, and listen to them on podcasts, especially today on Vinnie Tortorich’s. Everyone has their own take on it, but it seems to be divided along the lines of experienced endurance athletes and novices/beginners. I don’t need to explain which side each of them fall on I am sure. My initial reaction was actually on the side of the endurance athlete, even though I am a novice (and probably always will be). I’ve had a few days to let this sink in so I will join in the fray and give my two cents. I am sure you were waiting for this.
Since I touched on it in my last post I will attempt to rectify my writing in this one, since I received a couple of comments that the previous entry was “disjointed and hard to follow”.
Let me start by commenting on a few things stated by Vinnie in his podcast. Far be it from me to correct him, but there were a couple of things he said that probably need clarification. Number one, the swim is 2.4 miles, not 2.2 (never cheat a triathlete out of mileage Vinnie!!). The second thing was he stated that the new “rest rafts” were being placed on the course for swimmers to hang onto. Triathlon rules have ALWAYS allowed a swimmer to hang on to a non moving object, for example a marker buoy or a kayak. That rule has not changed. These rafts they are now placing will allow the swimmer to actually get out of the water. This is where I have a problem with this change. As most of you know, and as most triathletes experience at some point, the swim is the most anxiety provoking event, so I have no problem with being able to grab a buoy or kayak for a few minutes to get your head together. This has NO bearing, for the most part, on your ability as a swimmer. This is a head thing. But, that being said, getting OUT of the water to rest should not be allowed.
Even though I disagree with this specific change, I also see it this way. Triathlon’s have a time cut-off. For the swim (correct me if I am wrong) it is 2 hours and 20 minutes in a full 140.6 race. If you can make that cut off even with resting, than you are meeting the requirements of the race. You getting out of the water is not going to affect my race at all. You won’t be placing. You won’t be medaling and standing on the podium if you’re stopping, so why should it matter to the elite level triathlete? Does it somehow “cheapen” the whole race? Maybe. I don’t know. I guess the same can be said of a marathon finisher that walks more than runs but still finishes the race. Does it matter that they did not RUN the whole thing? When I started triathlons a couple of years ago I felt that I could not call myself a triathlete because I was not running the entire way. I did feel like I was cheapening the race for others to put myself in that same classification (much in the same way I have a hard time labeling myself a “cancer survivor” because I never had chemotherapy, just radiation). What I am finding interesting is that some of the people that were adamant about the fact that I WAS a triathlete just because I finished are the same people railing about this change cheapening the sport.
So maybe there needs to be separate races. A pro/elite race on one day (and I say to make it so they REALLY deserve the title they should run it with NO support except for what they can carry). An Age Group race, where they have aide stations, and (shudder) rest rafts. And then, a Lazy Triathlon. The Lazy Triathlon would consist of this:
You would enlist the help of an elite or pro level triathlete. You would attach a harness to their torso which then connects to an inner tube, where you would sit and be pulled though the course. If you do not dip your hands in the water at least once every fifth stroke of the pro you would be disqualified.
Of course, it doesn’t need to be said that wetsuits are required.
One word … rickshaws. You and your assigned pro would exit the water where you would attach the harness to a two wheel rickshaw. The pro would then ride their bike, pulling you through the course. Helmets are mandatory to the rickshaw, but not for the pro, since they are tough enough to handle any potential falls.
This is where you would lose the pro and actually be on your own. Each athlete would be assigned a segway (these will be provided because we would not want to inconvenience the athlete by putting an undue financial burden on them) and they would complete the course, making sure to stop at the aid stations to both stay hydrated and to recharge.
The sad thing is, all that is obviously tongue in cheek, but there are already “triathlon’s” in this area of Florida where you can use inner tubes. No lie.
(Post note: There is a website called Lazy Triathlon (www.lazytriathlon.com) which deals with doing the distances but spaced out of more than one day. This was not intended to “steal” the idea.)