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Team in Training and Triathlon Geeks

There is a group of our multi sport community, specially the kind that frequents online forums and blogs, that exhibit a certain disdain for the purple army of Team in Training. It is mostly based on the fact that TNT tends to attract newbie, unexperienced, rookies to our events. Sometimes they don’t have the right lingo, attire, strategy, swagger, or skills as the more veteran kind that are “true” triathlon geeks.

What the criticism or wink-wink condescension that “true” triathlon geeks exhibit implies one thing: that they showed up to their first triathlon season ever with shaved legs, a 35 minute 10k tri run, carbon forks, aero bottles, a five hour ironman bike ride, an aero helmet, a certified mafia membership to a $4k bike club, a 22 minute oly swim split, dimpled wheels, a kona slot, and the ability to complete a flying dismount (not even Lisa Bentley gets this one right). Unfortunately for them, not one single person in the world ever showed up as a triathlon geek on day one.

It was a process – a slow, embarrassing, costly (time/$/family), formative, challenging, and many times revolutionary process. Not even Stadler with his teenage success, Desiree Ficker with her Division 1 running, Andy Potts with his Olympic swim trials, or Faris Al Sultan with his sub-drinking-age-Ironman showed up looking the part on day one. We have all learned from mistakes, fallen after failing to unclip, have put helmets on the wrong way, refused to pee on the bike and have actually stopped on the side (gasp! seconds gone!), and have learned the many acronyms and terms we all take for granted: WTC, FTP, ITU, YAW, 70.3, LBS, STEEP, 10x 100s on 1:30, VO2, WATTS, T2, DRAG, and that is just some regular lingo apart from all the things that make the “true” triathlete stand out, like: ceramic bearings, $500 wetsuits, IM tattoos, aero wheels, etc, etc.

So what do I get in the mail yesterday? Some bills, a new REI catalog, and a nice little letter from Team in Training celebrating their 20 year anniversary.  Yes they tend to send a lot of mail and emails, but so does just about every organization you either donated to or partnered with. 
The numbers are quite simply, staggering:
-more than 360,000 TNT participants
-$850mm to fund research and help blood cancer patients live longer, better lives.
-more than 192 million miles have been covered
-more than 720,00 sneakers have been worn out
-TNT trains about 39,000 people a year to compete in triathlons, marathons, half marathons, and century bike rides (100 miles).
-20 million hits on their lls.org site in past two years.  That site hosts information, help, resources, etc.
-2007 numbers:  $64.7mm to support more than 480 researchers and projects in 15 countries on 5 continents.

Those in the condescending minority will one day be touched by cancer or another type of disease and will surely depend on the resources and guidance of one of the many nonprofit organizations that seek to help those in their time of need.  While TNT does it with a certain flair (and with those crazy purple jerseys), their basic mission is to help – not to be super aero, not to take your podium spot away, not to beat your bike split – but to help.
So next time you see someone in transition that happens to have some purple, chillout, relax, maybe even help them to tape their bike number correctly or give them a pointer or two.  The endurance community is much improved by having people around us that care more about completing their first event or raising funds than getting a PR. 
Go team.

*as a disclosure, out of the twenty triathlons I have raced, two have been with TNT, including my first one at the 2004 Lifetime Fitness Triathlon.

April 3, 2008 at 4:37 am
1 comment »
  • May 13, 2008 at 9:53 amPaulie

    I was one of those TNT purple wearing triathletes. If it wasn’t for TNT, I would never have done a triathlon, never have gotten hooked, never learned what it is to be cranky during a taper week, or how to properly do interval training, or swim in open water (before my first TNT Olympic tri, I couldn’t swim)

    Despite all the elitism, and the Zipp wheels and tri-bikes and $500 wetsuits, everyone typically races against themselves. With TNT, people race for something else, for somebody else, and that’s what makes the difference.

    Go Team!

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