Training Week 14: Feb. 2 – 8

Last week was all about getting un-sick. And, it mostly worked. Fingers crossed, but this may be the first time I’ve gotten a cold and not also gotten a debilitating cough for weeks after.

The frustrating half of that was, obviously, the fact that I basically can’t seem to get back into a training groove since school started. I spend all my time, instead, having mild panic attacks about how many things are due and how I may have overbooked myself but it’s too late to cut anything loose.

But—and it’s a big but—I’m changing my peak focus for the spring, so I have a few more weeks to get ready.

It’s official, now: I’m going to race collegiate triathlon nationals at the end of April with The Kids. It’ll be fun and fast, hopefully, and it means that I’m not going to focus as much on the L.A. Marathon. I’m still planning to run it, but I’m spending more of my training re-learning Olympic distance race pace. I hope. And, anyway, I was doing a heavy cross-training marathon plan, so it should all work out. You know, hopefully.

Monday

Swam 1,000 yards after the Race That Sucked.

Tuesday

God, I still felt awful. Nothing.

Wednesday

Woke up with a cold, so didn’t do the long ride I was planning. Alternatively, just rode 20 miles easy on the bike path.

Swam about 1,500 yards with The Kids in the evening. I was going to do the whole practice, but I felt pretty awful, so I went home and coughed myself awake all night instead.

Thursday

Ran a bit over 5 miles easy with Natalie in the morning. It felt like death.

Friday

Since I felt like death, I slept 11 hours Thursday night and did nothing Friday.

Saturday

Rode 24 hilly-ish miles in Palos Verdes with The Kids. I was going to run after, because I was going to try to get back on schedule and test my legs. But, we started from this house on top of a hill, so I didn’t really feel like running downhill and then back up. Oh well.

Sunday

UCLA Aquathlon. Given what the rest of my week looked like, in retrospect, I’m surprised I kept it together for this actually at all. Plus a couple miles running before and after, and a few minutes of swimming warm-up.

TOTAL: 5:15

Haha. Yeah.

Race Report: UCLA Aquath(al)on?

The quick version before I go back to bed:

Today was the first race of the official collegiate season. Evidently, that one in the fall was a fake-out, or a warm-up, whatever. Today’s was an aquathon (or aquathalon—disputing opinions) at UCLA.

I was kidding around with one of The Kids afterwards that if you could invent a race that I was going to hate it would have been this one. But, actually, I might not have been kidding. It was a 500m swim, mass start, around buoys in an Olympic-sized pool. This is basically my nightmare swimming scenario. It’s too many people and not enough space. Then, it was a very hilly 5K run, with everyone super close together and sprinting for the finish. Oh, right, and I still have a cold and couldn’t breathe good. Yay.

The swim was fine, though far from my best ever. (Notably, not my worst ever either.) I couldn’t breathe well, which was partially because I can’t breathe good right now and partially because people kept hitting me in the face. I swam on one of my teammate’s feet for a little while and then I decided that was probably annoying the shit out of her, so I tried to go around, but succeeded only in running into her.

I almost fell over pulling myself out of the pool and then I was sprinting onto the run, because THERE ARE PEOPLE TO RUN DOWN!

The run was painful and wheezy from the start, which was uphill. By the top of the hill, though, I could see the girls who had probably come out of the water first. They only had about 30 seconds on me and there was maybe a half-dozen of them spread out at varying speeds. There was a long downhill and I run downhills fast (generally), so I decided I was just going to have to go for it and hope that I could hold on. I caught some of them, but I could not close on the last UCLA girl in front of me. We made the loop at the turnaround and I felt like I was still running hard, but the gap was staying at about 30 feet or something.

Side note, here: I can never close the last little gap on people. There’s something about them being in front of me that screws with my head and makes me assume they must be faster than me, even if I’ve closed minutes on them. That last 5-10 seconds is impossible.

I started to think I just didn’t have it today. This was too short for me to really be good; it wasn’t enough things. I’ve been too sick lately. Perhaps, it is no surprise that, even though I was still running hard, this is when people I had passed started to catch back up to me.

I could hear one girl right on my shoulder as we started back uphill to the finish, and I was pretty sure there was another one right behind her. I definitely didn’t want a sprint finish today. (While I usually feel confident in my sprinting abilities against adults and the general triathlete population, against college kids today I did not feel confident.) So, instead, I tried to break her. Except, I did a really shitty job of it. I ran the long uphill hard, but I never made any decisive move; I just let her stay right on my shoulder. The effort was killing me too, which showed. You don’t really want it to show, if you’re trying to convince someone they can’t beat you.

We crested the hill and there was a short little downhill to the finish and I thought I had it. I started kicking hard. I came around the corner, but then, oh no, there’s another corner to go around! It’s another 150m! And, I just couldn’t hold it. She kicked past me. In the end, the UCLA girl was just steps ahead, and all four of us finished within maybe 15-20 seconds. But, this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades, right? Close doesn’t count.

This is where I THOUGHT the finish line was. But, it wasn't and that little girl passed me like five seconds later.
This is where I THOUGHT the finish line was. But, it wasn’t and that girl passed me like five seconds later.

Basically, that is everything about how not to beat someone.

And, then, anyway, it turned out there was last year’s national champion like a minute ahead of us, so oh well, anyway.

Obviously, I was all worried that I got in my head, that I could have found 10 seconds somewhere, that I need to toughen up. Could I have gone harder?? But, then I thought about right after the finish, when I was seeing stars and wobbling and coughing things up and snot was everywhere and I decided: No, I was pretty messed up at the end, that was probably as hard as I had today.

Things We Could Add to Triathlon

Sunday, I’m racing an aquathon with The Kids—that is a swim + run. I’m not actually, probably, going to do that well, especially since I’m currently knocking myself out with Nyquil to avoid this cold turning into bronchitis again, because my body basically decided things were just going too easy lately.

But, really, the problem is that I do better the more things that are added to a race. I do better in any of the two disciplines than in a stand-alone race. I do best in triathlon. I’m pretty sure I would do even better if you added another leg to triathlon. It almost doesn’t even matter what it is, because if you had to swim and bike and run first, then we’re already weeding out most people. And, my specialty is being pretty good at lots of things, but never really good at any one thing, so the more the better.

So far, in terms of things that could be added to a triathlon that would make me like one of the best, I have:

  • Some kind of weight-lifting/Crossfit
  • A reading or writing test
  • A math test
  • OK, screw it, any kind of test that isn’t foreign language or chemistry
  • A wine-drinking contest (for volume, not speed)
  • Maybe cross-country skiing if you give me a few more tries to get good

Any other ideas?

Training Week 4: Nov. 17-23

This week was a recovery week, even though it’s not like I have a whole ton to recover from in my first three weeks of training again. Still. You know it’s time when it’s time.

Recovery weeks work different for everyone. Hell, training works different for everyone. For me, recovery usually involves four to five days of very little activity, light workouts, and a rest day or two. Then, back at it. So, that’s what this week was. And, Friday, we were back at it.

We were really back at it over the weekend, when we (the USC tri team) did a mock race duathlon thing against UCLA at the Rose Bowl — after having ridden moderately hard on Saturday. The kids and I may have to have a talk about taking it easy when it’s time to go easy and hard when it’s time to go hard. And, not trying to win everything. Also, the discussion might include my belief that race mode is an extra mode above what you’re capable of in a workout, and you’ve only got so many times you can go into that place. Use those times wisely.

Monday

Nothing. Unless you count lying on the floor as a thing.

Tuesday

Ran four miles easy with Natalie in the morning. “Played” some underwater hockey in the evening — in quotes because I mostly kicked around on the surface and tried to remember how to snorkel.

Wednesday

Yoga. Or, part of a yoga class, because I was so bored. Bored, bored, bored. Oh my god, is this over yet?

Thursday

Swam 1,600 meters between work and interviews. Pretty easy. Very tired from the talking.

Friday

Slept in, which meant I had to run in the afternoon. Usually, I avoid scheduling workouts on Friday afternoons/evenings, because I tend to come up with reasons not to do them. (This is also true for work. Basically, don’t expect much of me after about 3 p.m. on Fridays.) This time was no different. I was not excited about the run and delayed getting out the door. But, once I was going, it was fine. Actually, it was great. I ran about 7 1/2 miles with [5 x 5 minutes at goal marathon pace, 1 minute jog in between] and it wasn’t even hard. I ran all the efforts right around 7:00-7:05 pace — which, FYI, is faster than my goal marathon pace, but it just felt so easy. And, that’s why you take rest/recovery weeks.

Light core, PT, and stretching after I got home.

Also, I didn’t swim as a reward for being awesome.

Saturday

Surprisingly, my legs were kind of feeling the run from the day before. Shock. But, I was meeting the kids in Malibu to ride the PCH. (Booooo, the PCH.) So, off I went. Before we even made the turn on to the road, though, everyone had taken off and was all spread out and blown apart. Silly triathletes; group rides are supposed to be in groups. I rode with a couple of girls at a perfectly fine pace for a totally enjoyable ride until we made the turnaround. Then, I realized I needed to haul to get back and get to Venice by noon. It stopped being enjoyable, then, and was a little bit exhausting instead. And, because of the wind, all my killing myself only got me back about two minutes faster than it’d taken to go out.

Sunday

Fake duathlon around the Rose Bowl: four laps biking (a bit over 12 miles) and one lap running (about a 5K). I was 100 percent sure I was not “racing” this. I was prepared for a hard workout, but that’s it. And, when we started on our first little 3/4 mile run before jumping on our bikes, it was clear that I was not ready for anything resembling a race. My legs were beaten up and I was wheezing.

So, I got on my bike — not my nice race bike — and started riding moderately hard. I got passed by a UCLA girl. Then, I got passed by another USC girl. I felt like I was riding reasonably hard, but not hard hard. Also, I felt tired and like my bike is old. I was pretty unfocused and sort of thinking about the mental difference between “races” and races, and about how that’s exactly why I always do so badly in aerobic testing, and about what I was going to eat for lunch and if I need new tires on my bike, and about the fact that, man, that girl hella dropped me. Then, I was getting off my bike and talking to the people with the stopwatches and taking my time to brush the dirt off my socks and changing out of my bike jersey. Honesty, I don’t know what I was doing. I think I had checked out so much that I was creating reasons to not go fast. But, then, I started running.

I didn’t really intend to run hard. I just was focusing on turnover and breathing. It didn’t feel that hard at first; it just felt like very fast tempo and I figured it’d be good practice. Once I started to catch people, though, I definitely wasn’t going to slow down. And, it started to get faster and faster (and, then, oh, ouch, slower). It actually hurt for maybe five minutes in the middle, but not badly. It just felt like a hard, strong run. Only, it turns out I ran in the mid-19:00s for that 5K. Since my 5K PR is 18:58, that’s actually pretty fast for me. So, oops. Either I’m getting fitter and faster at running, or I accidentally ran really hard and am getting better at lying to myself. Both bode well.

Then, I cooled down with another lap running and swam 900 meters easy.

TOTAL: 6:50

I fell asleep shortly after 9 p.m. both nights this weekend. But, the fatigue isn’t all from training. Mostly, I’m just counting down until I can turn off my brain, play with Tupac the Cat, and run on Marin trails. 32 hours.

Collegiate Triathlon: A Race Report

The kids (and me) getting ready to go.
The kids (and me) getting ready to go.

I am officially a collegiate racer again. And a collegiate race winner! (Oops, should have buried the lead more.) Oh, how the times have changed — except not really.

Yesterday was the UCLA IronBruin Triathlon. I raced it with the USC team for fun, because collegiate triathlon is fun; it’s supposed to be fun. But, I wasn’t particularly excited about it. I’ve been a scared bike handler since smashing my teeth out back in April. Usually that kind of fear passes, but it hasn’t yet. So, the last thing that sounded appealing was a four-loop bike course with a ton of downhill turns, filled with a lot of people who are just learning to ride their bikes. There’s nothing wrong with just learning to ride a bike. I fell a lot when I was learning to ride my bike on the Cal triathlon team. I was also terrified, then, of crashing or of crashing someone else out.

But, no one crashed (badly) yesterday. And, I did not fall off my bike while trying to dismount this time. The race wasn’t terrible, though it hurt terribly.

For all that collegiate triathlon is growing, it’s still pretty grassroots-y. We swam eight laps up and down a pool, ducking under the lane lines at each end, with five seconds between people starting. I passed one guy who started ahead of me and was passed by two girls behind me, though I just jumped on the feet of the second girl as she went by and that worked pretty well.

The bike hurt, but it’s supposed to hurt. And, anyway, I’m pretty sure my limiter was technical, not aerobic. There were so many sharp turns that I braked so poorly and swore a lot going into. The only thing that kept me pushing it at the end — instead of getting distracted thinking about how to dismount on a downhill — was one girl I had caught coming back on me.

She hit the start of the run right ahead of me too. Apparently, my super fast transition and speed skills are super fast compared to adult Ironman athletes, but not so much compared to 19-year-olds. It was just as well, though. We were both pushing each other to run really hard at the start. Even though, with the five second gaps between start times, I was technically already about a minute ahead of her, I was so worried she would make it up. So, I just hung right next to her. And it hurt. I thought I couldn’t hold it and worried that, with my lack of fitness, I should have started more conservatively. Then, slowly, I started to pull away from her and go with one of the guys on our team, who was right ahead of me. But, I was scared. I was scared she would catch me and I’d blow up. When I caught another girl, who was actually beating me by 10 seconds (with the weird start times), I was scared I wouldn’t be able to gap her enough to make up the time difference. I was scared someone else out there, who I couldn’t see, was probably beating me. I just kept trying to run as fast as I could. I race well when I race scared.

And I would have sworn to you I was running crazy fast, especially as it started downhill in the last mile. But I wasn’t. I was running a 20:15 5K. I definitely benefited during the race from not having a watch going and from not knowing how exactly I was stacking up. These are some high-level mental tricks at their finest.

In the end I won by 35 seconds over some high school girl I never saw, who will probably be much, much faster than me soon.

image
Getting fancy for the relay

Then I took the aerobars off my bike, re-set my transition, and ran with my bike back up the hill to get to the start of the draft-legal mixed team relay on time. (Fortunately, it did not start on time. Unfortunately, no one told me that was going to be the case before I ran my bike up the hill with just seconds to spare.) It was insanely rough. I swam the hardest 200m of my life and I came out of the water last, which meant I was on my bike last, which meant I was sprinting to make up time over the entire 17 minute race, which meant I really did want to throw up when I finally finished.

Collegiate triathlon has changed some since I last did it in 2007. It’s attracted more money and people. The top racers were always good, but there’s more of them now and, on the aggregate, they’re faster. Some of those fast people are now doing the draft-legal stuff that’s been added, which I think meant that many of them did not do the regular collegiate race I did. And, there’s more racers across-the-board, at every level, which changes the nature of the small homegrown triathlon.

It’s changed, but I’ve changed more. Sure, I’ve gotten better and I know a stupid amount about triathlon and training now, but I’d like to think what I’ve also learned is when to get serious and when not to. Oh, and one last thing has changed. I raced in a really short pair of spandex shorts, which I’ve done before but not in a few years, since I usually have uniform shorts for races. It’s uncomfortable — because they’re short and the seam rubs on the bike seat and the inside of your thighs — but it wasn’t a problem the last time I raced in them. This time, however, I finished with four inches of chafing down the inside of each thigh, so bad it’s oozy and slightly bleeding and hurts to wear pants (and also shorts and dresses). Apparently, my thighs have gotten larger since I last raced in these shorts. So, that’s new too.

LA Marathon Training Week 1: Oct. 27 – Nov. 2

Well, I made it to and through week one of training. My schedule for the L.A. Marathon started on Monday. I’ve also added to the plan Collegiate Triathlon Nationals in South Carolina in April, which I’m really hoping to race. You don’t get many chances in life to try again at something and, hopefully, not screw it up this time.

I’m not really back to a regular training volume, but I finally stopped feeling like death. The bronchitis is gone. The overwhelming fatigue is mostly gone. I’m still exhausted and not sleeping much and falling behind on all my projects, but in an almost-normal way. So watch out.

Monday

Swam 1,300 yards with the USC tri team in the evening. Really, I only made it through the warm-up and first set — and it’s a little amazing I even made it through that since I had driven down from San Francisco at 6 a.m. after flying back from Turkey Thursday night and then driving back up to the Bay Area on Friday. I may not have been at my best for a few days there.

Tuesday

Ran track with the tri team in the morning. Fortunately, they were recovering from their race over the weekend. We did a pretty low-key 3 x [4 x 100m, followed by 800m], with warm-up and cooldown. Only added up to a bit over four miles in the end.

Some light strength work, PT, and TRX.

Wednesday

Rode the 11 miles to school in the morning. This is not the most pleasant ride ever, it turns out.

Swam 3,000 yards with the tri team in the evening. Lots of 400s — which we were weirdly dropping in the 5:20s, no problem. (I continue to think the indoor PED pool on campus is oddly short or fast.)

Thursday

Ran 7.5 miles in the morning with 10 x 1-minute pick-ups. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem like it should be hard, but kind of is. And, if someone could please let me know somewhere to run that isn’t the creek/beach bike path, that’d be great.

Friday

Ran 2.5 miles easy on the treadmill and followed it up with some throwing weights around. As not a 20-year-old guy, getting my pump on in the USC gym is a strange experience. I have to keep asking ripped guys in their ripped t-shirts, “Sorry, can I use that?” And, they sort of look at me like they’re not sure if I’ll hurt myself if they let me use the bar.

Swam 800 yards really easy just to shake things out after all that squatting and jumping.

Saturday

Transition Clinic with the tri team.

Ran five miles easy on the JPL trail, which is pretty nice and may actually meet my trail standards.

Sunday

Rode about 28 miles with Steve and Justin, which is almost always a recipe for a hard ride. Add to that the fact that I am not in super amazing shape and that Justin warned me there’d be “a half mile at about a 10 percent grade.” I don’t know if he was right about the grade and length, but I had to walk my bike up part of it. If I’m honest with myself it was partially in my head. We’d been going uphill for awhile before we hit the steep part — even up a section that I thought was the steep part. And, I managed to make it up the first sharp stretch of 200 yards or so. It wound around, then it leveled off a bit. I did it! No problems! Then, there was another section: straight and up, up, up for another 100-200 yards. I was standing and my wheel was slipping a bit in the dirt patches. I didn’t quite have enough momentum to get over the top of the pedals and began to tip on the incline. Walking my bike up the hill in bike shoes, though, wasn’t a whole lot easier. It was so steep I couldn’t get any traction and just kept sliding backwards. So that was fun.

TOTAL: 8:40

Week one done. On to week two.

Week two includes me racing the collegiate triathlon at UCLA, for which I am woefully unfit. But, why not? Collegiate triathlon is fun and cheap. I even agreed to do a mixed team relay with three of the kids. What won’t be hilarious about me doing flying mounts and trying to out-kick collegiate runners over a 1,000 meter? Basically, if you’re in L.A., you should come watch it.

Oh, Collegiate Triathlon

The last time I did collegiate nationals in 2007.
The last time I did collegiate nationals in 2007.

 

I have officially joined USC Triathlon. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone on the Cal team.) I’m still not sure if I’m going to race, since I’m still not sure if I feel like training for races. I wanted to do nationals, but it turns out nationals are as far away as you can get from Southern California and still be in the U.S. So, for now, the team just provides training partners and fun and a reminder that collegiate triathlon is ridiculous.

Yes, collegiate triathlon has gotten way more competitive since I graduated and the national championship is no joke and, while I have my concerns about making it pseudo-NCAA (or “an emerging sport,” if you want to get technical), that move has brought more money, legitimacy, and maybe talent into the sport.

But, man, it’s still ridiculous.

At the heart of the ridiculousness is that these are still college kids and college kids don’t know anything, no matter what college or what sport. Even the serious NCAA athletes around the gym and facilities seem so cute and unfocused to me right now, despite the fact that they may be way faster and more accomplished than I am. Plus, for triathlon, they’re college kids in a club sport, which means it’s not as much about the sport and more about the club. Back at Berkeley, I thought we were so serious and hardcore and dedicated, but now it’s obvious that we weren’t really. USC’s team is basically the same as Berkeley’s, same kind of workouts, same work hard, party hard mentality. But, I see it through a different lens now.

Now, the totally crowded swim workouts seem crazy to me. The overheated pool and crammed flailing lanes feels like chaos — fun chaos, but chaos. Suddenly, with so many people missing flip-turns and running into each other, I start missing half my flip-turns too and colliding with other swimmers coming off the wall. It’s like I forget how to swim. On the track, we run in the fourth lane, outside of the barriers, and the extra two to three seconds each lap kills me. One day, I asked, “Where’s a good place to bike?” The kids basically told me to ride down to the bike path by my house and along the beach on PCH. Oh, college kids.

 

Why Collegiate Triathlon Should Not Be NCAA

I think this was from Collegiate Nationals in Reno, where we stayed at a casino hotel and the swim got cancelled and I got altitude sick. Why would you want to change that??
I think this was from Collegiate Nationals in Reno, where we stayed at a casino hotel and the swim got cancelled and I got altitude sick. Why would you want to change that??

There’s a proposal currently being considered to make collegiate triathlon an NCAA sport. Sorta. The actual proposal is to make just women’s triathlon an official “emerging sport” sanctioned under the NCAA – presumably because there’s no way in hell colleges can take on another men’s sport when across the country they’re cutting men’s cross-country, gymnastics, and volleyball in order to make quotas.

Since collegiate nationals happened a few weeks ago there’s been a lot of talk about this proposal because the assumption is it’ll be great for the sport — bring in money, support, athletes, attention. But, the more I think about it the more I’m not sure getting triathlon sanctioned by NCAA is the way to solve any of it’s problems. And, it could easily create a few new ones.

There won’t be an influx of money into NCAA triathlon

One of the main presumptions is that sanctioning triathlon will make it more accessible because schools will fully fund the program, thus allowing more would-be triathletes to afford it. The problem of financial accessibility is a very real one and the hurdle of buying a bike, equipment, race entries, and race travel can be overwhelming for college students, especially those who may come from low-income backgrounds and are working multiple jobs just to pay for college.

But, here’s the thing.

Schools could fund club triathlon programs now. Some do, to a degree, just like they fund other club activities and sports. Oregon’s club cycling team was notoriously well-funded by the school, with support vans and the like. Most schools don’t do this because they don’t have the money or because they choose to spend it elsewhere. They won’t suddenly get the money simply because it’s an NCAA sport.

I suppose the underlying argument is that the schools already have the money, but because spending it on a club sport doesn’t meet certain requirements, making it an NCAA sport will force the funds. Maybe. But, certainly not for the men’s club teams that will remain unsanctioned, not for the schools who opt not to sanction their triathlon teams (and if the proposal gets approved, they’ll have ten years to get 40 schools to sanction teams in order to create an official NCAA national championship), and not for the athletes who won’t meet the new requirements and goals of the newly-sanctioned NCAA program — which will be a LOT of athletes.

There’s also an argument out there that the schools sanctioning the teams will be able to make money by putting on triathlon races. Again, maybe. There’s certainly a demand for triathlon races. But, being a race director is a whole other thing from being an athletic director for a school. And, putting on races takes time and effort, which costs money. Most new races aren’t profitable for years and plenty of them never make money before they disappear.

At Cal, we certainly had a problem figuring out how to pay for everything on the triathlon team. To that end, we received some money from the school based on our club participation level and got lots of bulk discounts and did fundraising and worked with local sponsors who wanted to contribute to a local team. We also did put on a race, which was a lot of work and which made a small amount of money only because we all volunteered our time.

From the best I can tell, most of these things would no longer be possible on a grassroots level for an NCAA sport. Sponsors (and bulk buying and fundraisers, I suppose) are tightly regulated by NCAA. And, maybe I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that the men’s club teams will no longer have the support of having a women’s side — they’ll have less money from the school, fewer bulk discounts and group fundraisers, and less overall support, sponsors will be less inclined to support just a men’s side. On the whole, it appears to me, the men’s club will have less financial resources than they did before. And, the women’s side might possibly have more, but only certain athletes and only within certain parameters.

The new NCAA resources will hurt triathlon diversity, not help it

The second assumption seems to be that these new resources will go to the underrepresented in the sport and encourage mass participation, because the NCAA is just so well-known for encouraging diversity?

But, if there do end up being scholarships and funding and resources, would schools spend that money on new students who have never tried triathlon? Would they reach out into communities and areas who have not had a chance to be introduced to this sport? No, they would give the funding to students who are already talented and successful, because that’s lower risk. And, how do you get talented and successful at triathlon by age 18? You have the resources and funding to do so from a younger age.

It seems to me like this isn’t an outreach effort as much as it simply passes the buck back up down the road. By the time NCAA athletes get to college, they have years of experience. NCAA is not set up to teach newbies or introduce people to a sport. NCAA isn’t designed to be inclusive or diverse. That’s not a criticism, really, it’s just a fact. It’s a large organization with lots and lots and lots of money, which naturally then wants the best athletes for that money.

There is right now an idea on the Cal triathlon team to make the team fully-inclusive and find a way to make it possible for more disabled athletes to participate. I don’t know how fleshed out that idea is or if it’ll be successful, but would it even be possible in NCAA sports? I’ve never seen a blind NCAA basketball player. I’ve seen plenty of blind triathletes competing.

The NCAA proposal on the table is to have a Varsity draft-legal team (in addition to some kind of JV team?), because that cuts down on bike costs for the school and allows them to create smaller courses for races, but also because it helps prepare people for the draft-legal Olympics. I think this is unfortunate, though I understand why they’re doing it. Focusing that early on draft-legal triathlon can and probably will discourage a certain segment of people. It would have stopped me. And, making collegiate triathlon an NCAA sport with limited spots on the team will cut out a lot of people who do collegiate triathlon now.

Right now, anyone can do collegiate triathlon. Some of those people won’t go on to win anything, but they may love the sport or they’ll be triathletes for life or they’ll work in the field. And, having that wide a range of abilities and interests and talents on the team is part of what makes collegiate triathlon an important and valuable experience — and what makes it fun.

Right now, collegiate triathlon is fun

Why do people like collegiate triathlon? Because it’s fun.

That’s what people say again and again and what you see in all the pictures coming out of collegiate nationals. That’s what you hear about. When people talk about Cal Tri, yes they talk about winning nationals (and coming second all those years), but they also talk about Tri Prom and Beer Mile and the Christmas Party and trying to slide down the Chancellor’s lawn in the rain using plastic garbage bags and that time you streaked through the library only to learn the hard way that when you run up spiral stairs everyone can watch you going around and around and around. No, that didn’t happen to me.

This guy from Cal Poly was really into triathlon.
This guy from Cal Poly was really into triathlon. From Triathlete
The closest to an appropriate picture I have from parties in college.
The closest to an appropriate picture I have from parties in college. Me and Justin doing our best WTF.

Yes, I know that NCAA sports still have fun to a degree. I went to some of their parties. And, yes, I know club sports have to follow the same school rules to a degree. But, there was a reason that the triathlon team became the refuge of people who had quit the NCAA water polo team or the NCAA cross-country team. Because, collegiate triathlon was more fun. It was more laid-back and welcoming.

I ended up on the triathlon team because it didn’t have cuts, because I didn’t have to convince anyone to give me a spot, because I wanted a serious sport but I wanted to do other things too. I talked to the cross-country/track coach, but I had mono and by the time I didn’t have mono I wasn’t interested in running so much every day that I’d end up hurt and spending another few hours each day listening to lectures about running. I wasn’t interested in everything that came with an NCAA sport. Triathlon was something different to try.

If it is truly an NCAA sport that will change. Maybe people want that to change. I could see why some administrators do. Maybe it has to change anyway, because it’s gotten too big. But, nowhere in the debate about making it NCAA sanctioned has anyone mentioned that the fundamental spirit and core of collegiate triathlon will be different if it’s an NCAA sport. It will be smaller and more systematic, less spontaneous and far-reaching. It will be less fun.

Do you think triathlon should become an NCAA sport?