"I wish someone would have warned me. I was caught totally off guard. It was disgusting!"
I've heard these comments from more than a few new triathletes and their loyal supporters. We often talk about the glamorous parts of triathlon—the great fitness, race achievements, camaraderie and beautiful race venues.
Few people, however, discuss the less attractive parts of the sport—until there is an incident. These incidents result in a lively discussion not fit for the tender ears of non-triathletes dining at your local lunch stop. Perhaps, some of the topics are not fit for a lunch-time discussion at all.
Before going into details, it's only fair to say that not all triathletes experience all of the grossest things about triathlon. That said, know that you may be waiting at the start of your next race in water that is...eeeewww!
The start of a race is nerve-wracking for most triathletes. A large case of nerves combined with pre-race hydration practices make some athletes feel the urge to urinate, even though they just visited the port-a-potty a few minutes before. Some athletes will urinate, wetsuit or no wetsuit, while standing in the water waiting for the race to begin.
You can imagine the water contamination issues if 2,000 athletes use the start area of the local triathlon as their personal toilets.
Once the swim is over and the bike ride has begun, some athletes don't want to waste time stopping at the port-a-potty. This is primarily an issue with long distance races, but it can be an issue during short races as well.
With little regard for the racers that follow them, some triathletes will relieve themselves while riding the bike, then follow the deed with a water bottle rinse off.
Riders following this athlete may notice, or feel, what appears to be water flying off of the athlete's body. It may or may not be just water.
What you can do about it: Discourage fellow athletes from using the swim start as a toilet, and be on alert for riders that appear to be shedding unusual amounts of fluid to avoid being caught in the splash.
#2: Farmer's Blow
Carrying a tissue during a workout or a race is not top priority for most triathletes. When it comes to blowing their noses, many athletes use a practice is known as the farmer's blow. It goes by several other nicknames, but this one is the least offensive. The farmer's blow is the practice of using one finger to close one side of the nose while forcefully blowing air and mucus out the other nostril.
In many cases, the farmer's blow is quite useful; however, when done in a group setting certain precautions should be taken. Considerate athletes look to see who is behind them before executing the move. Selfish and inconsiderate athletes don't care who catches the spray of their self-serving behavior.
What you can do about it: Politely inform inconsiderate athletes that practicing this behavior with no consideration for others is rude and inappropriate.
#3: Gastrointestinal (G.I.) Distress
There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a workout or a race and feeling your lower digestive tract become quite active. Gurgling noises and cramping mean you have little time to find a port-a-potty or public restroom.