Athletes are gross by nature. Wrestlers are famous for their cachectic frames and ringworm scattered over their bodies. High school, college, and professional locker rooms are all breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA. Then there is always jock itch and athlete’s foot. Triathletes and endurance athletes of all types definitely rank high on the “vulgar habits” spectrum. While running the Philadelphia Marathon this was all I could think of for 26.2 miles (or according to my watch, 27 miles). What is it that makes us lack inhibition? Why do we have no shame?
A nurse by profession, bodily fluids never really disturbed me. I have smelled bodies rotting in the intensive care unit for weeks, dead limbs, bloody stool, and have visited the morgue on more than one occasion. But I vividly remember the porta potties at my first half Ironman™: nothing compared to the stench coming out of those suckers at 6am. At first smell, there was no way I was going in those things. I literally could have vomited. Imagine the smell of London in the 1400s with its common use of the chamber pot, and multiple it by at least 1000; that was what was coming from the aisles of porta potties lined up along beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee. I opted to warm up by peeing in the lake and holding my morning BM, which I learned at mile 6 of the run was not the best choice. Since then I have overcome my fear of the stink and make it a habit to hit those babies up like everyone else.
I have heard my friends describe some crazy gross sh** that they have done just to finish a race or even a training session. The stories that come with some of these races would blow the average person’s mind. When completing Miami 70.3 last year, my friend was determined to finish, even if it was 90⁰ with 100% humidity. Upon entering a porta potty on the run he nearly fainted. It was covered in sh** from wall to wall. He went in, vomited all over himself, had a healthy BM, then continued to run with vomit and sh** all over him.
Stopping for me, even to pee in transition, is never an option. During Lake Placid Ironman™, I learned the wonderful trick of peeing on the bike. I am not going to lie–I was probably only able to do this because it was pouring rain and I knew I would only half smell like piss for the next 8 hours. Triathletes love this skill that most people would find utterly foul. I was recently describing this sought-after talent to a friend of mine when I noticed a look of absolute horror on her face…I giggled.
I love endurance athletes, but we really are disgusting people. Athletes by nature are crude, or they learn to be so very quickly. I tend to run diagonally behind my friend and at least 3 times during a run he blows “snot rockets” in my direction. This does not phase me in the least. I have become accustomed to yelling “again!” at him, since I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut.
There is no doubt about it–we have no shame. I guess we are all in the same boat: we are or become shameless at some point in our triathlon career. We are all aware of the toll the endurance race takes on our intestinal and urinary tracts, and know that 140.6 miles is a long way to go carrying the extra baggage. None of us see anything wrong with dropping our shorts and taking a sh** in the middle of the woods, if it means getting to the finish line quicker.