Weird Things Triathletes Do (That They Think Are Totally Normal)

How many of these are you guilty of?

Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

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Do you ever get the feeling your neighbors think you’re odd for running in circles around your street, using your garage for everything besides storing cars, or summoning Uber XLs for your large, unidentifiable luggage? Triathletes find none of these behaviors strange, nor their countless other bizarre habits. If your coworkers, family, or friends haven’t already called you out, we’re here to assure you we are, indeed, a little strange—or else we’ve gotten so used to the strangeness, we think it’s normal. Here are just a few “normal” things triathletes do that non-triathletes actually think are very weird.

Use household items for alternative purposes

In the days leading up to a race, a local grocery store might find themselves running out of cooking spray, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, petroleum jelly, trash bags, rubber bands, Preparation H, baby powder, and WD-40. But why, they think, do all these triathletes need so much duct tape? “That’s just plain weird,” spectators are often heard uttering as the spray cans are deployed throughout transition, helping us to pull up our wetsuits or swim skins. Little do they know, trash bags solve all pre-race-weather-related problems and duct tape – well, duct tape fixes anything.

Post photos that only make sense to us

“Hello, world. Meet my bib number.” This pre-race Instagram post might seem weird to non-athletes—why do you need to take a picture of your bib, aren’t you going to be wearing it?—but it’s a classic practice that is unique to endurance sport. Runners, however, don’t also make a habit out of posting the layout of all their race gear on the floor. (And for those who have started with the hotel bed/floor gear photo, they got it from us!) But it doesn’t stop with bibs and gear. We also just love to show the world that our bike is racked and where exactly it is in the transition zone. How fascinating! The crowning jewel of triathlete-specific posts that mean nothing to the real world, however, is the screenshot of workout metrics. Because even though that’s what Strava is for, what if someone not on Strava misses it?? It’d be like the workout never even happened!

Never go to brunch—or for hikes, or other “normal” activities

“Hey, want to grab brunch this Saturday?” The blunt answer would be: “No, because I can never go out to breakfast on the weekend, or really on the weekdays either, because I train every morning, duh.” While many of us are up and at it bright an early on the weekdays, weekends seem to especially divide us from normal society, as we ride past the local hotspot for Bloody Marys and biscuits. We only get slightly envious, but let’s face it, we actually feel a little dose of righteousness and a large dose of pride too. Of course, we don’t really go out to dinner much either, since we’re running early the next morning.

Nor do we go hiking. (Maybe that’s why so many of us picked it up during COVID!) In fact, we don’t even like to walk. Despite being one of the world’s most popular, accessible, and biomechanically healthy forms of exercise, triathletes rarely see the point of walking a trail that we could run. It’s non-negotiable that we must complete our training, and then after that we’re simply just too tired to hike. In fact, you know you’re a triathlete when going to concerts, clubs, museums, and sporting events sound completely exhausting.

We triathletes also don’t use our garages for normal purposes. In fact, why are they even called “two car garages?” All that particular, luxurious feature of a house means to us is that we can hang all of our bikes, set up a bike stand and maintenance corners, and keep our trainers permanently ready for us to jump on. Our cars and vans can stay outside; they cost less than our bikes anyway.

Show up to work with “goggle eyes”

Getting in all of our workouts means we’re always rushing into the office with wet hair and goggle eyes. They’re impossible to avoid. If you have to present a business deal to the Board of Trustees, you’re certainly going to dress your best, get a good night’s sleep, and prepare your presentation. But you’re not going to skip early morning Masters Swim practice, right? Of course not! You tell yourself that maybe this time your goggle and helmet lines  will disappear by the time you need to look professional, but it never works out that way.

That’s OK, it’s part of our inevitable aesthetic, including chunky GPS watches, wet hair, loud and unfashionable bags, remnants of temporary tattoos, and egregious tan lines. The upside is all of this is it makes it easier to spot one another as we line up for our flights home post-race, prompting the classic “How’d it go?” inquiry as you’re boarding your plane, which leads us to…

Navigate airports in a bizarre manner

As the proverbial water cooler for triathletes, Oversized Baggage is our de facto meetup place, along with golfers, surfers, and parents with colossal infant seats. Many of us even know our TSA officials by name at this point. We basically go against the flow at airports, showing up ridiculously early, heatedly arguing with the desk clerk about obscure airline bike policies we’ve read more times than they have, and beelining to the nearest purveyor of steel cut oats once we’re through security. Once we’ve landed, we let the masses rush to baggage claim, since we know we’ll be waiting with our brethren a bit longer. And while we’re just standing there over in oversized purgatory, we might as well stretch.

Stretch in socially inappropriate places

Multitaskers by nature, if we’re ever forced to wait and we’ve already checked Strava and Instagram, it’s time for a stretch. We have all gradually broadened our concept of where it’s socially acceptable to strike a down-dog, extending our urges from the privacy of our homes to the grocery store line. At some point, we also stopped noticing (or caring about) the people looking at us sideways as we do our pre-swim arm circles at the pharmacy. Unfortunately, along with stretching  and waving our arms around, many of us also pee pretty much anywhere and change clothes wherever we happen to be standing. What? A car counts as a changing room, we think.

Think all of this is completely normal

And, of course, we never stop talking about triathlon; even when we maybe should. In fact, most of our odd behaviors can be explained by the confluence of participating in a relatively rare sport, compounded by a fading sense of self-awareness, and a growing excitement about this crazy thing that takes up so much of our life. That’s why we seek each other out. Because we understand each other, keeping us blissfully unconcerned with what’s appropriate, let alone “normal” to other people. It’s normal to us.

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