Our Time: In Defense of MAMILs (sort of)

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 1

by Scott Tinley

  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

                  Somewhere there is a 37 year old triathlete with a 2014 BMC Time Machine or a Cervelo P5 or a Felt AR5. More money for two wheels, as he is apt to claim, than my father paid for four. The bike sits in the living room on a titanium stand with a single, canned, incandescent light trained on the top tube. It looks natural alongside the creamed leather sofa, the same color of calf hide as the interior of the BMW 735i inside the heated garage. Above the ultimate driving machine is a poster that reads “Work hard. Play harder.”

                  And he does.

                  This is a serious, devoted athlete, committed to the task of triathlon and the cause of…well, they might not be able to define it but they are committed. And there is that tax write-off. And the women are slender. The conversation on today’s ride had ranged from power meter adaptation values to the scarcity of Italian espresso and the outrageous qualifying standards for Kona. They had ridden 68.4 miles at an average speed of 18.2. Not bad considering the average temperature was 86.3. The barometric pressure had probably risen but no one on the ride had that app. Just poor planning, I suppose.

                  Somewhere this devoted and committed athlete is happy because his heart rate is low and his blood lactate is low and his portfolio is up and his chances in this year’s lottery are high. His coach and yoga consultant agree. He already knows who will do the tattoo work on his M-Dot when (not if) he finishes an Ironman.

                  The only thing that concerns him currently is whether the Ex will ask for half of any sponsorship he might gain finishing in the top ten of his age group at Worlds.

                  The devoted and committed athlete thought he was in love with the Ex until she gave away a 70.3 slot to some lady who was dying of cancer. Next thing he knew, the Ex was missing track workouts to go save the whales from thalidomide or something touchy and feely. But those electric blue Zoots she wore to Café Elite after Tidy Friday Glute workouts really did set her eyes off. He misses her when his workouts don’t go well.

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                  It’s easy to create clichés out of some triathletes; not hard to type-cast and totalize one segment of the tribe. Hard-driven toward success, enamored with data, conspicuously consumptive, relationally-challenged…behavioral traits that might add to endurance sports performance but are otherwise shot through with unsustainability. Many of us know the type and in some ways, share a small and secret desire to do the same: to document our every workout, measure every calorie, reward our efforts with high-end toys, and have a mate that matches our every calculated step—Barbie and Ken in a yellow Corvette with Thule racks on the way to the Malibu Triathlon where they will rack their Nytro-built carbon fiber TT bikes next to Matthew McConaughey, donate their finisher’s medal to widows and orphans from Biafra.

                  Branding triathlon with profiled images is just too easy. A little bit mean and kinda fun. Shame on us.

                  The image of our young, urban professional, egg-smooth body, his iPad-ed left hand ordering blue/green algae supplements while the right texts swim interval results to his nearly-famous online coach is catalyzed within realism and the ridiculous. He is a proud parody of himself. Still, there are as many triathletes who can cite last season’s split times for every competitor in their age group as there are those who don’t know, don’t care, and have a grand old time poking fun at the shiny cartoon figure who matches her compression socks with her hair highlights.

                  The image-mongers might just be a result of the efforts of the multisport industrial complex; those micro-sports manufacturers who have carefully crafted real and imaginary notions of success ideology. If you ain’t ruling the world then you ain’t trying hard enough. And (enter product there) will give you a leg up on the competition.

                  Even though desire can be constructed on glossy magazine pages, the transformation from casual to over-committed is rarely only the result of strategic marketing. It might be that the sport has simply attracted a sampling of the ultra-organized, the data-driven, and the narcissistic. But it would reek of sloppy research and self-indictment if we were to lump the beach cruiser-riding proletariat with the graphite bladed bourgeoisie. Some days, baggy cotton just feels better than form fitting spandex.

                  Perhaps it might just mean, as journalist, Brad Melekian said of the shifting ideological sands of surfing that “somehow, by means of a force that we didn’t ask for, our sport has become undeniably and incontrovertibly, cool.” And with any force of coolness comes the force of unique style and approach, the choice to invest in triathlon armed with three contributing coaches, a platinum card, and an attitude. Or from the rootsie-route on a police auction 10-speed, your board shorts flapping in the spokes like playing cards.

                  The branded styling of one’s approach to sport is part of the apotheosis of the New American Sporting Experience: our emerging personal challenges taken up without regard for class, gender, or zip code but laden with pre-judgment, profiling, and self-aggrandization. We want to jump off the new World Trade Center Tower but are concerned with how we’ll be judged, where we will sell our GoPro footage, and what color parachute to deploy. This is what we do as we look to physical culture to provide us the more earthy challenges that were buried along with the kick start motorcycle and walking seven miles in the snow to third grade. We place exterior conditions on the interior human experience.

                  In some failure to fully understand our deeply personal motives we apply shallow labels. And if the venture capital/private equity pals look to invest in free speed by virtue of an extra zero on their tax return, so be it. When it gets hot and windy, you either lower your head and breathe or you pack up and go home. A power meter will never replace sack and sweat.

                  Our relationship with MAMILs is ambiguous by virtue of our large membership in that group of Middle Aged Men In Lycra. We poke fun at them and go home and look up the color code for their new five figure time trial machine. Was it Evergreen Taupe or Sienna Chartreuse? Lovely pastels that match my silk V-neck worn with the black rayon blazer.

                  Lest we forget, this odd relational fact is not gender specific. At least MAMILs don’t take twenty minutes in transition to adjust their seat height in attempt to look shorter than the MAMIL they want to snag for Husband #5.

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date: May 20, 2014

Author


Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

Author

avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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