Friday, December 08, 2006

Confessions of a Triathlon Groupie - Submitted by Nichole Matelich

Article Submitted by: Nichole Matelich

Groupies v. Stalkers

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is PC, and I’m a groupie. I have made my way through elite triathlon circles to be one-degree shy of greats Faris al-Sultan and Paula Newby-Fraser. I’m a junkie, when you get right down to it. I admire people that are driven, competitive, physically fit and disciplined. Having shaved legs certainly doesn’t hurt, hence my affinity for triathletes. My friends call me a groupie as an insult, and though I act outraged, we all know it’s true. In a way, it makes me smile. I have worked long and hard to know the people I know and have my face recognized. I have trained and kept pace, for a little while at least, with the best triathlon has to offer. In certain local scenes, I have an entourage all my own, but we know that when push comes to shove, I am a groupie at heart and I take pride in it. It carries a label that has a negative connotation, but I am out to change all that. Single-handedly, if need be. And let’s be honest: triathletes are not commonly known amongst the general population. Having groupies puts them on the map.

I feel compelled to point out that there are some requirements to being a triathlon groupie. These are self-imposed, but we have to start somewhere. First, you must be somewhat attractive and fit. By this I mean you must be able to secure a date before last call at Martini Ranch. You must have competed in a least one triathlon and finished with a respectable time; respectable being the top 50% of your age group. You must know that the Wildflower run is arguably the most grueling around. It is preferable if you have traveled to Kona, even if you had to apply to the lottery because you’d never qualify on your own. You must know what state Buffalo Springs is in. You must own a wetsuit. You must be able to change your own flat. You must not be afraid to run naked on Ali'i Drive after Kona Ironman. Most importantly, you must have dated a professional triathlete. Ok, let’s be honest: several. Otherwise, they wouldn’t call us groupies, would they?

Why set a standard, you ask? A groupie is a hanger-on. A wannabe, if you will. This is why: recently a debate ensued in my circle over the attributes of a qualified groupie vs. a stalker. Most of us groupies draw the line at being considered stalkers. A few of us are actually decent athletes in our own right, and have had significant relationships that have developed out of our love for those shaved legs.

An example to illustrate the difference between a groupie and a stalker: (The names change, but this is not the first case of stalker-dom, nor will it be the last.) This case involves a local SoCal pro who is arguably one of the nicest people the sport has to offer. He has had a distinguished career from a very early age. He offers his advice and wisdom to anyone who asks, and is always handy to help with bike repairs or refinement of a swim stroke. He’s also got a nice set of thighs. A few years ago, he was approached at our local pool by a woman wanting some swim coaching.

Difference #1: a groupie never asks for “coaching.” We are quite clear on where our intentions lie. If we meet you at the pool, we are more likely to pull you into our lane by your Speedo strings than we are to solicit help with the pretense of paying you for it. Needless to say, after exchanging phone numbers and her promise pay him for his expertise, she started clogging his lane at master’s swim, even after getting lapped, more than once!

Difference #2: A groupie doesn’t compete outside their league. We aren’t professionals and we know it. We know you’re superior to us, but we certainly won’t let you see it, let alone have the satisfaction of lapping us! The situation at the pool got so ridiculous that this pro changed his schedule to swim at a different time and temporarily quit his master’s program. Even more annoying than her clogging the lanes at the pool was the clogging of his voicemail on a daily basis. Mindless, rambling dialogue about random, insignificant events, fragmented thoughts and vocalized longings of dinner dates that have run so long they have become our own little comedy show on those nights when we need a good laugh.

Difference #3: Groupies can take a hint. If you aren’t interested, there are hundreds more out there. If it’s the body type that gets our attention, most of you have the same one, fitted with a different face.

With that said, we come to the heart of the matter. This is really what separates the respectable groupies from the pathetic stalkers: Groupies take pride in the fact that they aren’t the best any sport has to offer, but their other attributes - be it physical beauty, cutting wit or a wicked sense of humor - make them people that are welcomed into the inner circle of any set of elite athletes. Or, if you are like me, you have all of these qualities and are able to remain humble, as well. We groupies have our own set of standards. We travel to races with our significant others and are the life of the party. We have found a way to bask in the glory without taking the physical beating. Groupies respect the hard work, dedication and the training, and we don’t steal the limelight at the finish line. We don’t win the medals, but we provide the entertainment and the support. And if we’re really good, we secure shwag and sponsorships. Stalkers don’t just travel to the races, they enter them. They finish Olympic distance triathlons in the time it takes us groupies to run a marathon, take a shower, dry our hair, flirt with the bartender (male or female) and order a margarita. Stalkers don’t recognize rejection, while groupies loathe it. Stalkers repel crowds, groupies draw them. Stalkers yell at the object of their desire from behind barriers along the course, while groupies charm their way to greet elites at the finish line.

How do you know if you’re a groupie or a stalker? If you have left messages on a pro’s phone, ranging in frequency from daily to every other day, for 5-18 months, and have not received a return call, you are a stalker. If you try to make conversation at a pre-race dinner and the pro avoids eye contact and leaves the area after 1 minute of your mindless banter, you are a stalker. If you sign up with Carmichael Coaching and you become worse, you are a stalker. If you don’t know what the fourth event of triathlon is, you are a stalker. Finally, if you check the participant list of a race before you register, you are a stalker.

So, to all stalkers who seem intent on ruining the good name of tri-groupies everywhere, may you never get a good seal on your goggles, may you get lapped by the next wave, may you ride your bike with saddle sores without your custom-ordered seat while drafting a beach cruiser and may you please, for the love of Queen K, stop entering races and let the real athletes compete. You are muddying the water. You may mock us groupies from afar, but realize the object of your desire probably belongs to one of us.

“PC,” short for "Politically Correct," is a joke nickname bestowed upon the author by professional speed climber Hans Florine of Yosemite Valley. She has also earned the nickname “Chopper” from Jurgen Zack.

Submitted by: Nichole Matelich