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.