"Ironman"?

Don't get me wrong - I'm proud of my Ironman finish, even if it was slow, and I'm excited to do the race again in September, but I hate being introduced as "Jason - the guy who did the Ironman". Here's a fun article from x-tri about the same sort of thing. The rest of the article is about a fourth type of person - the know-it-all - which I've never actually run into. Funny stuff, but the first few paragraphs are really the only ones relevant for the point I want to make.
It usually starts off innocently enough; a co-worker or friend introduces you to someone as, "This is the guy that does Ironman." While the thought of something like that sounds somewhat ancient Greek (not that there's anything wrong with that), you smile and wait to see where things will go next.

There are several options:
1. They'll nod, smile, and actually recognize the event. This is something along the lines of, "Oh, wow! Like the one in Hawaii, right?" These people are usually well-versed enough by knowing someone who has done one, or have themselves seen the NBC coverage and actually watched the entire thing.

2. They'll nod, smile, and nearly get it right. "Oh, wow! That's like where you swim 10 miles, ride 150, and run 50, right?" This person usually has seen the NBC coverage once and thought it was great, but have lost touch with the memories somewhat.

3. They'll nod, smile, and then say, "Really? I'm an athlete too. I just ran my first 5K. So how far is this Ironman?" This last one is always trouble.

Throughout my career I have always tried to be somewhat benevolent when the conversation of triathlon and racing comes up. I'm well aware that anyone near me pretty much knows my obsession (and how much time it takes up), so I try and move the conversation along or somehow get myself out of the spotlight. Even after all these years (and how many columns?), when talking about my racing in a small group, I always feel awkward - like there's no way to explain what I do without sounding like, "WORSHIP ME, FOR I AM BOB - IRONMAN BOB!"

There's a nice little lesson at the end of the article too -
For every know-it-all I've met, there are 9 other people who have stopped what they were talking about to hear how I made the transformation from 250-pound band-geek to where I am now. They almost believe it when I tell them that anyone can do it if I could do it.

When they say, "I'd love to do a triathlon, but I can't swim…" I tell them about the first time I tried to flip turn, flipped 360 degrees, and head-butted the gutter (with quite a satisfying "WHANG!").

When they say, "I could never run a marathon…" I tell them how I swore to all of my friends that I'd NEVER run that far without being chased by a bear/tsunamteppanyaki chef, but now I've run 20 marathons. I try to teach that it's all mental, and that you just have to DO, without thinking.

3 comments:

Spice said...

I think many hobbies/occupations are open to annoying conversations. Take two examples from my own experiences:

1. "Oh, you're a political scientist. When are you going to run for office? What do you think about X?" (where X is some governmental something - American or otherwise - I know nothing about).

2. "Oh, you're in education. Do you teach? What do you think about X?" (where X is some curriculum used at the person's child's school).

I don't think having it be "Oh, you did the Ironman - you must be an awesome athlete!" would be so bad - I think I will have to start introducing you as "Jason - the guy who did the Ironman" just to annoy you.

J.Bro said...

And I will say to the person, "Nice to meet you, but doing an ironman is really nothing compared to running for Senate, like Spice is planning to do! Ask her about her plan to revise the Clean Air act!"

Mister Vertigo said...

Spice, I know what you mean. Here are my conversations:

Me: Hi, I work with computers. I'm a PC Technician.
Them: Oh really? That's great! I have this Dell at home, it's only a year old, and it's running REALLY slow. How do I fix it??
Me: --Place hands around their neck and squeeze--

Seriously though, when anyone finds out what someone else does for a living, they assume that you know everything there is to know about that field. They don't realize how people specialize in something specific (like you and J.Bro) or in my case how there is no way I can know why their PC is slow without LOTS more information. They assume that we know everything about everything and we store all that info in our oversized brains.

I had a get-together a few months ago and J.Bro was there. They knew he was a political scientist, and I think they understood for the most part what that meant, instead of asking him what he thought about the election. I'm sure that is a rare occurrence though...