Culture

We’re triathletes. We’re passionate people. Type A. Intense. Go-getters. And all those other words they probably use in your office instead of telling you to chill out. “He’s very direct,” they say.

There’s passionate and then there’s too passionate.

Have weirdly strong feelings about people wearing watches in pools? You might be a triathlete. Find yourself apoplectic over changes to your favorite race course? You may need to regain some perspective. Have to take an emotional break from too much TV news? OK, that’s actually everyone these days. It’s a fine line between caring and caring too much—and no one can really draw that line for you. You’ll find it by trial and error, by emoting way past the line one too many times.

Once, when I was crying over a disaster of a race gone badly, a non-triathlon friend said to me, “I wish I cared about something that much.” And I had never thought about it that way before. It’s a privilege to care deeply and chase your goals hard. You just can’t expect your friends and family to care as much as you; it’s not their goal.

It’s like when a co-worker outlines every detail of their kid’s sleeping schedule. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just I don’t care that much. It’s not my kid. And I’m sure they care just as little about the details of my long-ride bonk and marathon pacing strategies.

And so we, triathletes, find ourselves sometimes having to use our “indoor voices,” to tone it down for the regular people, to dispense our intensity in doses. I was once told to “Bring the 11 down to a six or seven,” and I thought, “This is me at a six or seven.” We have to remember that our scale is different, that just because we’re training for an Ironman doesn’t mean everyone else wants to know about it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves a little too loud for the quiet section, a little too much for the Monday morning meetings.

But that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with being too much. That’s why you do three sports, because one wasn’t enough. So when you’re around other triathletes, you let your passion flag fly. And when you aren’t, just remember that not everyone’s scale is set to triathlete levels.

Featured illustration by Matt Collins