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 IronmanTM:
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 IronmanTM,
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.