Jellyfish In The Swim And Other Triathlon Atrocities

While I’m on exercise restriction and have even less to talk about in terms of my workouts, I thought I’d let you in on some parts of triathlon that I didn’t understand at all when I signed on. One of those is the interaction between triathletes and nature.

Now, I’m on the record since forever as being indoorsy. I like the idea of nature, I like looking at it through a window, I even like limited, controlled, exposure. But I generally prefer an indoor, temperature- and lighting-controlled environment. Triathlon is decided not that.

I started thinking about this because I was reading race reports in various forums that I’m in about IRONMAN Maryland, which is known for having jellyfish in the swim portion. Seriously, actual living jellyfish.

In those race reports I read about people who went down to the water for the practice swim, but decided to skip it when they heard people already in the water screaming because of jellyfish stings. I read about people who knowingly broke the cardinal rule of racing (which is “nothing new on race day”) to wear sleeves they just bought in the hopes that they would cut down on the stings because, while they knew about the jellyfish (and still signed up for the race,) this year they were more plentiful and aggressive. Others nonchalantly talked about pouring vinegar on themselves in transition before they got on the bike. Oh yeah – remember, they swam 2.4 miles while being stung by jellyfish and that was just the prelude to biking 112 miles and running a marathon.

Having to wear a shit ton of spackle-esque sweat-proof make-up, and trying to appear as if I was not exerting myself at all while, in reality, working my ass off were definite cons of competitive ballroom dancing, but never once was I at risk for a jellyfish sting. Also, there was air conditioning, but that’s a discussion for another day.

When it comes to dealing with their surroundings, triathletes put up with a lot of, um…what’s the word I’m looking for here…bullshit, that’s it – bullshit. Shark bites, snake bikes, and other wildlife encounters. Running barefoot from wherever the swim happened to wherever their bike is (I have personally been at a pre-triathlon talk that included the words “be careful of the broken glass as you run through the parking lot to T1.”) For those who ride on the road (I confine myself to trails) there are the joys of biking over potholes and reflector bumps, and in and around traffic with plenty of drivers who resent them at best and aim for them at worst.

Then there’s the weather. Triathletes are like mail people…neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, not to mention wind – wind that makes it feel like you’re swimming in front of an industrial fan, makes it seem like the entire bike ride is uphill, and like you’re pulling a parachute behind you on the run.

And that’s just standard “road” triathlons. They also have triathlons that involve mountain biking and trail running – it’s way too much for this indoorsy girl to even contemplate! As someone who is a bucket-list triathlete (as opposed to a lifer) I can only stand in awe of people who fling themselves at nature the way that triathletes do. Still, I’ll pass on the jellyfish encounter.

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About Ragen Chastain

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be Iron-distance triathlete, Activist, Fat Person.
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1 Response to Jellyfish In The Swim And Other Triathlon Atrocities

  1. Stephanie says:

    Born & raised in Maryland and I went to college right on a sound connected to the Chesapeake bay. When I took sailing there we were required to capsize our boat & then get the boat back upright. I was in the water for less than 10 minutes and came out with at least 3 thankfully minor jellyfish stings.

    But I’ve also swam many many times in MD without being stung at all.

    Good Luck!!


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