As a history major in college, i was always encouraged to go deeper into my explorations of people and events, to find the story behind the story, so as to really understand the roots and ramifications of people and their actions. That desire to understand , which was embedded in me lo those many years ago, still drives me to this day. It has led to the uncovering or many interesting discoveries in the world of triathlon. I have, through serious research and investigation, that the roots of triathlon began to take hold much earlier than the ’70s. Oh so much earlier.
A few examples that I have unearthed:
- The Marquis de Sade was a swim coach. We all know that the word sadism came from the Marquis de Sade, but do we really know why? The Marquis was notorious for putting together killer workouts, emphasis on killer. Drills, drills and more drills. Repeats with very little if any rest. Lap after lap of trying to push some silly kickboard across vast oceans of chlorine. And then, just when his swimmers were on the brink of being sent to the hospital from utter exhaustion, he would announce that warm-ups were complete and it was time to do the real workout.
- Jesus invented the wetsuit. Like so many of us, Jesus had a problem with drag in the pool. He just couldn’t get his rear end very high and it dragged in the water like a dead weight. He was all arms and no legs. But, thanks to some nifty engineering, he was able to design a device that not only gave him the buoyancy to bring down his stroke count and swim times, he found that with a little extra tinkering he could pull off the whole “walk on water” thing.
- Rene Descartes was uncoordinated. Prior to becoming a full-time mathematician and philosopher, Descartes dabbled in triathlon. But he was, among other things, a terrible swimmer. Most of us can quote his most famous line – Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am. But what most of us don’t know is that line was a refinement of his original – Subsido ergo sum (I sink, therefore I am.)
- Paul Revere invented aero bars. We all know about Paul Revere and his famous ride, warning the citizenry that the British were coming. What only came to light recently is how he managed to cover so much ground so quickly. As any good triathlete will attest, riding in an aero position will decrease resistance and help you achieve greater speed. Paul knew that too, and in the back of his pewter mug-making shop he fashioned a set of aero bars for his horse. With these bars mounted on his horse, Revere turned his historical ride into a PR and helped to change history in many ways.
- Julius Caesar was a three-sport man. In the days of Julius Caesar, less than 1% of the world’s population were literate enough to read and write. Therefore, most communication was verbal, passed along from one person to the next and prone to misinterpretation and reinterpretation. Those of us who have played telephone know that by the time as message has passed through a number of different ears and mouths, the original message often has no relation to the original. Thus it was that when, after winning the Paris Triathlon and proclaiming, “I Swam, I Biked, I Ran” by the time the message go to Rome, it came out as “Vini, Vidi, Vici” (I Came, I Saw, I Conquered).
- Marie Antoinette pioneered carbo-loading. Prior to becoming the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette was a sports nutritionist. Like most in her profession, the question she encountered most often was that of what an athlete should eat the night before a race. After long and in-depth research, she distilled the answer down to its four-word essence: “Let them eat cake.”
- The Buddha taught about triathlons. All Buddhist scholars are familiar with the Four Noble Truths, the teachings of the Buddha about the truth of suffering and the was out of suffering. Lesser known are the Four Noble Truths of Triathlon, also ascribed to the Buddha. The First Noble Truth of Triathlon: There is suffering. The Second Noble Truth of Triathlon: Suffering is caused by clinging to expectations of finish times. The Third Noble Truth of Triathlon: The cessation of suffering comes from letting go of those expectations. The Fourth Noble Truth of Triathlon: By following the Eightfold Path of triathlon training, you can achieve the end of suffering (and get a nifty shirt to wear to work the next day to show off to your colleagues.)
- Charles Darwin understood that triathlons represent the Evolution of the Species. It is a commonly accepted belief that life as we know it originated in water and that was the path that evolution followed. What Darwin, in his infinite wisdom foresaw, was that the evolutionary path actually had three stages. Life emerged from the water, got on a bike, rode around for awhile, dismounted and then took off running. The missing link was eventually found buried with the missing chain and rear derailleur.
- Phidippides was the first Double Ironman. We know that the Ironman is 140.6 miles and began in the late 1970s, with the final leg being the 26.2 mile marathon run. But in 490 BCE, Phidippides of Athen ran 140 miles from Athens to Sparta to deliver a message and then immediately ran 140 miles back to Athens. Though lauded at the time for his heroic effort, Phidippides lived the rest of his life very angry when he found out that he could have swum and biked a great deal of the way, saving his legs for a stronger finishing kick.
- Every woman who fought for Title IX.