In May of 2011 I wrote a post called “Clydesdale ???” on the original blog website. In the post, which was meant to be tongue in cheek, I railed against the fact that men over 200 pounds (now 220 pounds) were called “fat, hairy footed horses” while women over 150 pounds were called “Athena”, warrior goddesses. Over the past three years not much has changed. I still think it’s a bit unflattering, but I have learned to 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 6’4″ and 225 pounds can race in the same group as a man who is 5’8″ and 250 pounds, and will more than likely beat him. 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 not see the podium.
While Ironman events, rightfully so, have no category like this, the smaller sprints and olympic distances do have them. It is evident in races in Crystal River. Crystal River has an annual series, usually during or around the three holidays in the summer (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) with another Twilight race in July. 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.
In 2011 my Crystal River 1 time was over 2 hours. In 2012 I knocked almost 20 minutes off 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 220 pounds tops. I am 5’10 and 250 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 in a few races, which is outstanding and well deserved. She 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.
This is something my co-host at Back of Pack Endurance disagree on. Andrew feels that the men racing Clydesdale, if they meet the qualifications, should take advantage of that. I know the intent of Ironman, and USAT, was not to group “fat guys”, but I still feel it goes against the spirit of the law, if not the letter. Currently most races split the group in by ages, normally 39 and under and 40 and over. Maybe they need to split it be weight. The weight cutoff is now 220 pounds, so perhaps they should split it 220-240 pounds, and Over 240. That way the true Age Groupers will be separate from the true Clydesdale.
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 start in the same group (Crystal River is the only race that starts 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 for the forseeable future. Not because I think I can beat them, because I doubt seriously I am ever podium bound, but because it is where I should race. I want to compare myself directly beside my peers, not because I think I can win easily.