Totally Awesome Gifts That Totally Suck For Triathletes

Just say no to the puppy.

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Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or just doing a gift exchange at your office party, chances are at some point this holiday season, you’re going to be opening presents in front of the people who bought them for you. And as we all know, doing that is pretty much the worst thing imaginable. Unless you are an Oscar-, Emmy- or Tony-nominated actor, you too loathe the idea of trying to convincingly pretend you really do like the kickstand uncle Tommy got you for your TT bike.

There are so many things during the holiday season that clearly expose the disconnect between you and your non-triathlete family, from your cousin’s “how’s your decathlon going?” to your grandpa’s disapproving head shake as you stroll out to ride in head-to-toe Lycra. Receiving presents is no different. Remember that time your mom bought you an XXL cycling kit because she was sure the medium you asked for looked like something a baby would wear to sleep? She tried. She’s disappointed too. She honestly wants to understand and support you and your decathlon goals. Small gifts like the kickstand and the wrong size cycling kit are easily fixable, and in reality, no big deal. Even those of us who aren’t classically trained performers can fake our way through an appreciative thank you and hug before deflecting awkwardness by asking for an eggnog refill.

But real, considerable, First World problems can occur if your family decides to shoot for the moon. What if they get you something big time that they think is great but just doesn’t make sense? Then you’re in a world of hurt, and it’s not the hurt you pretend to like because you’re a tri dork. In order to avoid these potentially very awkward, potentially very expensive situations this holiday season, I’ve compiled a small list that you can give potential present buyers ahead of time. These are otherwise totally awesome gifts that would really kind of suck for a triathlete. In no particular order:

A cute puppy
According to research, this is what 61 percent of young couples, 78 percent of singles ages 24 to 28, and 94 percent of children under 12 want for the holidays. Oh my gosh that puppy is cute as, well, a cute puppy, which is pretty much the standard for cute. But that puppy’s cuteness isn’t going to override the mess it’ll make in the pantry when it chews through your $97 bottle of protein powder. Cuteness won’t replace the three hours it’ll take to find your left cycling shoe under the porch, and it won’t make up for the poop it took in your running shoes that were perfectly laid out for your brick run. Super cuteness and unconditional love and kisses, or being able to leave your house for a swim, bike or run? You decide.

A bike storage solution
That bike rack that puts the bike on the wall in the garage, or that small, lockable storage shed that fits perfectly on the side of the house? Wow, that opens up a ton of space in the house and makes way more sense than wiping down a TT bike after every ride and placing it as the centerpiece of your living room. But then you can’t look at your TT bike multiple times a day. And you have to bring people out to the garage or storage shed to show off and talk about the bike. That’s not nearly as subtle as bringing people into the living room where it’ll naturally create conversation as you try to talk to each other looking around it.

A cruise
Hahaha. HAHAhaha. HAHAHAHAHA. Oh man, that’s a good one. I spend 2 to 6 hours a day outside training for my very important triathlon. During the time I’m not training, I’m consuming nutritious, calorically appropriate meals, staying out of the sun and off my feet. Oh yeah, and I sleep. A lot. Yes, I understand most cruise ships have a rooftop track that’s 27.5 laps to the mile and a really big pool that I’m sure you can swim laps in when there isn’t a water volleyball tournament or water aerobics class in it. As soon as we finally unload in the tourist capital of whatever island we visit, I’ll be running away as fast as I can—literally—using every moment we’re docked to move in open, unconfined space, trying desperately to make up for the lost training and the nine consecutive 3,000-calorie meals I just ate. In 2.5 days I’ll lose it and jump overboard to try to get in an open-water swim.

Tickets to that totally awesome show that starts after 8 p.m.
“OMG I love that band! I know every single one of their songs by heart! It’s the last show of their tour? It’s the only time they’ve played within 200 miles of me? It’s a super small venue? You got me a backstage pass? AMAZING!!!!! [Pauses. Looks closely at ticket.] Wait a second… it looks like the show starts at 8:30? Do you think that’s 8:30 at night? Oh, you think so? Wow, I uhhhh. I mean, I really appreciate it, but I uhhh … You know what, maybe I’ll go next time. Thanks!” Triathletes do very important things very early in the morning and do not function at night. Avoid this conversation and do not buy your triathlete tickets to that really awesome show that starts after 8 p.m.

Really cool stuff that isn’t made of carbon fiber
Cool stuff is really great for most people. But unless it’s made of carbon fiber, it’s not as good as it could be for triathletes. This of course applies to all kinds of normal triathlon stuff: handlebars, bike frames and wheels, shoes, helmets, whatever. But when it comes down to it, triathletes really prefer carbon fiber everything else as well. So if you’re deciding which steak knife set, placemat, bed stand light and/or refrigerator to get, just go with the one that has the most carbon fiber. It’ll probably be more expensive, but totally worth it for how much lighter and stiffer it is. Plus, it will always remind your triathlete that they have the best stuff and look really cool. Yep, this includes toilet paper that comes on a carbon fiber roll. Serious triathletes really don’t want to wipe with anything else.

Good luck and happy holidays to you all!

Jesse Thomas (@jessemthomas) is a six- time Wildflower Long Course champion, Ironman champion and the CEO of Picky Bars (

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