Finding New Nerds
A nerd and a triathlete might seem like unlikely bedfellows, but this past weekend in Providence taught me otherwise. On Sunday, I raced in the Rhode Island Ironman 70.3 triathlon which entails a rough 1.2 mile ocean swim, followed by a brutal 56 mile bike, and concludes with a hilly 13.1 mile run. The professional competitors finished in four hours which is about twice as long as it took Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya to win the Beijing Olympic’s marathon. In fact, most endurance athletes consider a half Ironman to be about as challenging as two back-to-back marathons. Needless to say, this isn’t a place one would expect to find many nerds.
Despite the field of 1400 competitors consisting almost entirely of former high school and college athletic stars, this wasn’t the typical crowd of jocks. Instead, the field of 1400 was really a collection of extreme nerds who lack pocket protectors and Dungeons & Dragons t-shirts, but don high-tech wetsuits and NASA-inspired racing helmets. There are a number of different theories for the nerdiness found in triathletes, but I think it’s because of the diverse knowledgebase required to even get to the start line. During training, triathletes need to acquire an advanced understanding of a wide range of nerdy subjects including biological chemistry, meteorology, aero and hydrodynamics, mechanical engineering, and game theory.
In the starting area, I overheard a heated argument around the merits of different models of heart rate monitors (reminiscent of a Wii vs. PS3 vs. Xbox debate), chatted with a woman more loyal to her Cytomax sports drink than even the most diehard MacHeads are to Apple (she even says it helps her “reboot” better), and then there was the guy sketching (in the sand with his toe) how to leverage Bernoulli’s principle to be best positioned in a pack of swimmers.
Congrats computer geeks – some of those jocks that once crammed you into a locker are now envious of your nerdy knowledge.