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What Triathletes Really Want This Holiday Season

Professional triathlete and "Triathlife" columnist Jesse Thomas shares some real (and many hypothetical) gifts appropriate for triathletes.

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It’s safe to say that while growing up my little brother Joel was the black sheep of the family. Waylon, Darren and I (four boys total) were equally enthralled by the typical sports of the neighborhood—basketball, soccer, baseball. We played, wore our favorite teams’ jerseys and traded our favorite players’ cards. Joel, on the other hand, marched to the beat of his own drum. You could call his activities more rotational in nature. He had intense interest in things ranging from cooking and pottery to karate and face painting—each for 2–4 weeks at a time.

So during Christmas, my parents had a tougher time figuring out what present to get Joel. Waylon, Darren and I were stoked with a Joe Montana or Michael Jordan anything, but Joel was a tough one to pin. And unfortunately for Joel, like a lot of large families on a not-so-large budget, our parents typically spent the majority of the Christmas present funds on one “big present,” which was shared among the four of us.

One Christmas, we four boys impatiently waited to open the big present, which was always the grand finale of the morning. My parents were good about misleadingly wrapping presents—stuffing them with random paraphernalia from around the house so that the size, shape and texture was incomprehensible to our young minds, making it impossible for us to guess what the present was ahead of time.

So when the moment finally arrived, we tore into that thing like a typical bunch of 5- to 7-year-old wild animals. It only took two seconds before Waylon (the oldest) reaffirmed his place atop the child hierarchy by being the first to scream the identity of the present: “It’s an electric football gaaaaaaaaame!” (while shaking a metal football field with tiny plastic players). Darren and I immediately and simultaneously joined the celebration with an emphatic “radical!”

RELATED – Triathlife With Jesse Thomas: Tri Speak

Joel, on the other hand, looked silently and unimpressively at the game for a few moments. He then noticed, among the demolished wrapping paper, a wide-brimmed fishing hat my dad had stuffed on top of the present to help disguise it. And instead of scream-crying about the awesomeness of Walter Payton shaking his way down the football field, Joel put the hat on his head, stood up, pointed his index fingers and said, “Howdy partna!” He then proceeded to walk around the house pretending to be a cowboy (in a fishing hat) for the next hour. My dad didn’t have the heart to tell him that the hat was just a disguise, something Joel probably should have guessed given that the hat had been in plain sight hanging in the living room for the last two years. But my dad let him keep it, and it was Joel’s favorite present—at least for a week or so.

Fast-forward to now, and somehow, things have flipped. My pursuit of triathlon has clearly made me the black sheep of the family. As I’ve written about the last couple of holiday seasons (read here and here), my family doesn’t quite understand this whole “decathlon thing” I spend soooooo much of my time doing. And certainly, that lack of understanding now extends to an inability to determine what to buy me for Christmas. As my wife gently puts it, “Nobody has any *bleep*-ing idea what to buy you.” Previous presents include:

“Tools for your bike,” aka a large screw wrench and a hammer and drill bits

A Stanford football poncho, for “those rainy bike rides.”

A 9-pound 100% gel saddle from my mom because she: “Just can’t imagine it’s comfortable to sit on that thing all day.”

So this year, to help them (and me) save time and energy searching for that random lucky hat, I decided to put together the Ultimate Triathlete Wish List. And as is typical, I got some help from my readers and Twitter/Facebook followers.

What you’ll see below are some real (and many hypothetical) gifts appropriate for triathletes. So if you are a tri dork, share this with your family, or if you’re a family member trying to navigate the mysterious world of supporting a “pentathlete,” read on for some gift ideas to get you started!

RELATED – Triathlife: Family Holiday Etiquette Guide

Time savers

Triathlon’s biggest problem is that it takes a lot of time. Anything you can do to help your tri guy or gal save time is the best gift you can give. Some ideas:

“A full-time house cleaner!”
—Michelle Dinsdale

“Beer, bacon and hot wing ranch smoothie. Saves time.” —@AngryDalty


Speed makers

We all want to get faster. Some ways to do that are better coaching, a camp or—of course—fast equipment. Anything that saves time will bring a smile to your triathlete.

“A trip to the Specialized Win Tunnel” —Justin A. Green.

“Three sets of interchangeable legs; long and lean for running, strong and powerful for biking, buoyant with webbed feet for swimming.” —Michael Emmerling.

“300 more watts and a box of donuts!” —Brennan Alvarez. I like the idea of anything including donuts.

Injury preventers

Helping triathletes deal with or prevent injury is of huge value. General ideas: physical therapy, massage, a foam roller or (my favorite) a lacrosse ball. Or:

“‘Miracle Injury Recovery Gel.’ Rub on any area of injury. Wait 15 mins. Presto! Permanently fixes injury.”
—Emile Levisetti.

“Bionic [undercarriage] so I never get a saddle sore again” —@UMassIronman.

Training stimulators

Spicing up training with a Masters swim pass or a camp can keep a triathlete going. Or opt for the more extravagant gifts:

“Swim lessons from the Brownlee brothers, or maybe Meredith Kessler if they were busy. Oh and a mansion and a yacht.” —Jamie P Tierney

“Picky Bars to come to Canada! Hand delivered to my house by Jesse who then says, ‘I brought some friends, let’s go do some training’ as he motions behind himself to Simon Whitfield, Rinny, Rappstar, Macca, Crowie, the Wurteles, Brownlees and Javier Gomez ready to rock. Boom.” —Christopher Brignall I can’t confirm others, but I’m pretty sure Trevor and Jordan are in.

Random awesomeness creators

Ideas that were too good not to include.

“The ability to give my excess body weight to my competitors to see if they can do any better.” —Chris Hutton

“A date with Lauren Goss!” —Nicholas Anthony To which Luis Bonilla replied, “No Paula Findlay!”

“Aero monkey for my cat to ride around (saddle included)” —Darren Henry

“Terenzo in a Santa suit.” —Joanne Baxas

“Talent.” —Mark Machell

“Compression bed sheets ….and a life-sized Matt Lieto cardboard cutout.” —Derek Weyhrauch. If you find that cutout, I want one also.

Hopefully one of these gifts or categories sparks an idea for you or your family’s triathlete. Good luck finding that magical fishing hat!

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

RELATED: Triathlete’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

More “Triathlife” from Jesse Thomas.

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