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A Woman’s World: A Man’s Take on Women’s Triathlon

June 2014
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My wife swam, cycled and ran in her first triathlon over the weekend. While we men were few, there were plenty of us about, snapping pictures of our wives, daughters or girlfriends.  In fact, my two daughters were with me to cheer on my wife.  The Tri, being a sprint, had everything…  Athletes of all shapes and sizes, costly tri kits to bathing suits and cotton tee shirts, high-priced running shoes to sneakers, high-end carbon tri and road bikes (even an S-Works Shiv with Zipp 80’s) to mountain bikes, knobby tires and all.

Afterwards my wife was speaking with another participant who mentioned how nice it was that there were no men because that meant no pressure.

On one hand, I do get it so I’m going to let the whole sexism side of that go, even if the woman was a school teacher (and don’t try to hit me with that “women can’t be sexist” baloney, I’ll allow you the right to be wrong).  On the other hand, and much to my surprise, there really are men only triathlons too so I guess we can call that even.  Well, at least till the NAGs take aim at the male only version as “sexist” and make it one of their “women should be allowed to participate too” causes of idiocy while ignoring the fact that women have their own, vastly more common, version – don’t forget the Boy Scouts…

Now, with that out of the way, here’s what I saw:  I saw a safe place for women to dip their toes into triathlon.  They had a staggered start for the swim – rather than send everyone off all at once, they changed it to a one person out the shoot every three seconds.  This spread everyone out enough that the swim was generally well mannered (my wife later confirmed what I saw from shore, though she added that there were a few kicks and hits along the way – even with all of that space).  In general, I really liked the way they did this…  It made the swim a swim, not a death struggle for space.  It wasn’t quite as exciting as watching 500-600 women hit the water all at once (and don’t dirty this up by mistaking that sentence for something it isn’t – that would be “people” if it weren’t a women-specific tri), but I really do believe it made the swim better.  Two points for them on that.

The bike:  There are a lot of women out there who need a good, basic bike maintenance course (or a more attentive husband).  Honest to God, I heard more squeaky bikes leaving transition…  My wife has me, and I do maintain her bike (and it was whisper quiet and in perfect working order for her race with a meticulously cleaned and lubed drivetrain), but ladies, cleaning a bike and a bike chain takes minutes every other week.   My wife said the constant squeaking from so many bikes was so bad it was tough to ride with all of noise messing up the great scenery…  She still averaged 18 mph (!) though.

The run:  Nothing out of the ordinary here, just like any other 5k.

Overall the triathlon was really well put on.  In fact, watching it had me Jonesing to get back into it, which got Mrs. Bgddy and I to talking about doing one together.  I did my best to make the occasion an enjoyable one for my wife and we all had a good time.  Truth be told though, I had to do a lot of work in my head to keep from being spiteful of the whole “women only” notion as all too often “men only” is frowned upon as a way to keep women down.  While it’s okay for women to believe that they should have a place free of male induced pressure, for men to say they wish to have a place free of female induced pressure is sexist and horrendous.  Or, “what’s good for me is unfair for thee”.  “Let them eat cake”, she said.

However, once I let go of that (at least for the time being), I can see its usefulness.  Women and men should both have their specific tri’s and the one my wife raced in over the weekend was quite well done.  Once I let the politics go.

Finally, if you’re wondering, would I participate in a male only triathlon?  Well I can’t rule it out but I certainly won’t go out of my way to do it.  I’m okay with me so I can fit in anywhere.

 

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26 Comments

  1. Kecia says:

    I can definitely see the benefits of a “women only” triathlon or running race for those women who are intimidated to try something new and even more so when men (who are often times faster) are around. People have different mindsets in situations like that…I look at it as an opportunity to try to “chick” as many guys as I can and hold on with some of those men who are faster than me so that I can hopefully get faster over time as well. Not everyone has this mindset, however. If it takes a women only triathlon to get more women off their butts and out the door, then I am fine with having a women’s only triathlon. I’m glad your wife had fun and I can’t wait to read her race report 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’m right with you Kecia (though I don’t think I’m allowed to say “if it gets more women off their butts”). I do get that part about women being intimidated by faster men and I LOVE the way you handle that pressure (use it to your advantage).

      • Kecia says:

        My parents raised me to be a very independent woman. As a result, I’m not intimidated by faster men and do try to use it to my advantage. While there are times my husband thinks I might be too independent, it has served me very well over the years. Raise those daughters of yours to be independent so they have the same mindset I do 😉

      • bgddyjim says:

        Believe me I do. We work for a good balance.

      • Kecia says:

        Perfect!! 😉

  2. tischcaylor says:

    Great job — clearly you guys need to do one of these together!

  3. elisariva says:

    So you know I am going to comment! First – congratulations to your wife!! Women only tri’s are great to get a first experience. That said, they are a bit like training wheels – good to get the hang of it, but if you really want to do it, the wheels have to go.

    I have only competed in coed races. Yes we start in waves based on sex and age group. In September I am doing an Ironman that is time trail start every 3 seconds – but coed. I am competing against the women in my age group, but I cannot deny it is a definite confidence boost to have a guy tell me in transition “good swim!” When I got out of the water ahead of him and he started before me. I train with men and women and I like racing with them too. We keep each other on our toes. My swim partner is a woman who can hold the line on the bike with the best of the men. She averages over 22 mph on 30+ mile courses with a minimum elevation gain of 1700 feet. The guys keep her pushing and I am sure she keeps them going – it would be tough to get dropped by a girl…

    • bgddyjim says:

      Actually it is not tough to get dropped by a girl. I have admiration for anyone who can drop me. I got beat by HUNDRDS of girls when I was running the Crim regularly (Ten miles) – it’s happens a lot less frequently on a bike but I do ride with a chick or two who can eat my lunch.

      Now, maybe I’m slightly more evolved than the average man but I doubt it. I think a lot of the “pressure” originates more in the person who feels it which is why you, Kecia and I don’t much have a care about it while others do.

      • elisariva says:

        Good points.

        So what is the male equivelant to chick?? 😉

      • bgddyjim says:

        I don’t know but we need to come up with something. The exact equivalent is “guy”. See, most people mistakenly believe the equivalent to “guy” is girl but it’s not. The equivalent to girl is boy. SO, guy and chick are equivalents but not very good ones. I’m open to suggestions.

        Truth is, I forgot you hated “chick” and I apologize. Sometimes it just rolls off of my melon and right onto my keyboard. I hope you know that how I use the word “chick” and the way that it grates you are two very different intended meanings. You knows I respect the ladies. That notwithstanding, my sincerest apologies.

      • elisariva says:

        I don’t hate chick, I am just very “aware” of it. Guy opposite is gal, not chick. Dude??

      • bgddyjim says:

        Dude works though it’s a little ’80’s and gal is so… southern or something. I always looked at gal as more “derogatory” than chick… I have refused to use “gal” because I don’t like the way it rolls off the tongue. For the lack of a better term, the young kid term for it would be “icky”.

        In my little world,
        Chick = the woman is in some way Awesome.
        Gal= Not Awesome.

        I should probably pick another one word phrase. Sorry dude.

        😛

      • elisariva says:

        No worries chick 🙂

      • bgddyjim says:

        First time I’ve ever really laughed out loud, for REAL, at a comment. Now that’s a classic right there. I wondered if you’d pick up on that, but the comeback, now that was much better than anticipated. Two points for you!

        Thanks for the laugh sister.

  4. Sue Slaght says:

    As Kecia said I can see that for women who are intimidated by having the men around, the female only events are good. However I have always felt that there can be great learning from a mix. I’m one of the slowest in anything i sign up for. I think a lot of it is in the mindset.
    Congrats again to your wife and good for you and the kids to be there to support her.

  5. Chatter says:

    Congratulations to your wife. I really am uncertain about the idea of gender specific races. In some ways it encourages women who are insecure about racing with men and the entire bravado that sometimes goes with them. I am curious how many frequent triathlete women participate in these events versus first time women trying out the sport for the first time.

    At my last race the one thing that amazed me were how many people had difficulty putting their chains back on.
    Another good quality post that will have me thinking for at least another hour. Way to go to Mrs BDJ.

    • bgddyjim says:

      There was some talent out there but better than HALF of the field was first-timers according to the announcement. In other words, it’s used as it is intended: (as Elisa said) as training wheels.

  6. I was thinking as I watched American Ninja a Warrior that they should have a separate female competition with slightly different obstacles. I just find it sad that whenever I see a woman about to make an attempt, my attitude is “oh, a female — she’ll never make it through.” It’s not that I think women aren’t capable of being a ninja warrior but our bodies do different things better.

  7. The Guat says:

    First off congrats to your wife! How awesome that must have been to finish her first Tri. High five her for that one! Sounded like she did well and that you and your daughters were proud. NICE!

    Secondly I’d never heard of women only Tri, but that doesn’t really bother me and men having men-only Triathlons doesn’t faze me either. Some women do feel kind of weirded out when going to gyms or doing events … I guess they feel they’re gonna be judged on appearance or the fact that they might be just starting the bike portion when some dude is already finishing his run. But it’s all good everyone operates differently and as long as everyone is exercising and having fun it’s all good.

    Me? I don’t care if I got Mr. IronMan himself next to me or in front me because the race isn’t really about or for him … it’s for me. But how funny that you wrote about this, because my son and I are doing triathlons this weekend. They have a kids one right after the adults. It’s pretty cool. Should be fun. Wish me luck … my knees are gonna need it 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      Good luck, well wishes (and a quick prayer because that’s how I roll) are on the way… Should get there in three…two…one… Three quarters (California is a long way)… There.

      Now, I can see the gym, confined space, you just want to get your workout in without getting ogled, hit on or whatever else goes on… I get that. On the other hand I was groped all of the time before I put a wedding ring on my finger (yeah physically groped, usually an ass-grab) and it didn’t bother me all that much.

      In the end, my wife was happy and proud and she finished strong (and did quite well on the bike leg). That’s what matters. The rest is just stuff to think about and kick around. I appreciate what you added to the discussion. You helped me to see things a little clearer.

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