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Salty Triathlete: Virtually Weirdos

Adapting to the “new normal” maybe isn’t so hard for triathletes.

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It’s been a weird year. There used to be a time back when I had never seen the inside of my workout buddies’ home offices or wondered if they were wearing pants. Back in pre-quarantine days, those long ago times of…March, the phrase “Zoom strength workout” would have sparked only confusion.

But now we’ve all squinted at laptops while dripping sweat on our carpets. We’ve all leaned in way too close to the camera in the middle of an interval. Pro tip: No one needs to see your pores while you’re hammering on the trainer. Bonus pro tip: Don’t bring your phone with you if you have to pee.

This is sort of awkward to admit, but apparently I’d been preparing for social distancing my entire life. I’ve always preferred solo workouts, and the global COVID-19 pandemic has one upside: I now have an excuse to not talk to my neighbors. “Oh, what an interesting story about your rash you want to lay out in detail for me. Too bad I have to stand way over here and leave now. That’s a shame.”

So at first things were pretty normal. Then they started to get weird.

You see, having drinks with friends after a hard workout is fun! Social! Carefree! But drinking by yourself in your living room, instead, is just kind of sad.

Waving to other cyclists when you pass them is normal. Passing with a six-foot-wide radius (while looking judgmental about people riding in groups during quarantine) was trickier—especially when we’re all trying to play a six-foot game of frogger on the bike path. Swerve, dodge, duck, and hold your breath.

And shouting a social distanced “Hello!” to friends as they bike by on the far side of the road just isn’t quite the same as a long ride chat.

Maybe the reality is we were all able to ignore the sweaty weirdness of our hobbies back before we were forced to acknowledge how they fit in with the rest of the world, back when we were all stuffed together in one room, biking as hard as we could while someone blasted music and yelled at us. Back then, you were no weirder than anyone else in the room.

But by yourself, at home, squinting at a tiny avatar on your laptop, with another laptop set up for chatting, and a third for watching movies, well, you’re definitely the weirdest person in the room. You’re the only person in the room.

Even as things return to normal, or quasi-normal, or as normal as they can be (now with masks?), they’ve stayed weird: Did that person just run in front of a car to avoid me? Did someone on this trail cough?! Sprint away and call it speed work!

And even when things return to completely normal, after races come back, and we can travel to be with thousands of our closest triathlete friends, they’ll never really be completely normal again. Because now we know: We’re the weirdos. We just need to be with other weirdos too.