Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If you can't swim, are you a triathlete?

At Barb's race, I passed about two or three people in the river. Not because they were slowly swimming, but because they were walking. I'd heard a couple people talking ahead of time about their intent to walk during the swim if they got tired.

Last week at Socorro's pool swim, I thought I noticed someone walking in another lane. Another participant confirmed this later: a competitor was walking down one of the lanes.

Earlier in the season, I saw people stand up and walk around the buoy at the Milkman Sprint.

I also saw people walking during the Jay Benson Triathlon. Now, I know that swimming is hard. and I don't have a problem with someone stopping and resting. I don't have a problem with someone getting to the end of a lane and stopping for a breath.
But walking down the river? down the swim lane?

how can this be legal, or fair?

I googled this and found the following:
USA Swimming Rules and
Regulations stated, “...a swimmer must not leave the pool, or walk, or spring from the bottom.”

USAT, meanwhile, states: "...Excluding the bottom, a participant shall not use any inanimate object to gain forward progress."
so is this USAT's way of saying, "Go ahead: you can walk"?

So am I really bitchy for saying, dude, if you can't swim, why aren't you doing a duathlon? then I thought, okay, I walk during the run, and I've walked my bike up a hill, so should I even care about this? but then I thought, that's not even comparable.

The original intent of the triathlon was to see which was the better athlete: the swimmer, the runner, or the cyclist. Triathlon, then, is about being able to handl three sports: swimming, cycling, and running. I have to say that I feel a little cheated that people who can't swim then hop on their bikes and then procede to beat me in a "triathlon" when they haven't finished the swim.
As far as I'm concerned, they didn't beat me in a triathlon, they're just better cyclists and maybe better runners than I am. How can you call yourself a triathlete if you can't do one of the three things that are in the event?

or should I care?

I've been perseverating on this for a couple weeks now, and it still bugs me. I'm worried that, if we don't nip this in the bud, that we'll just see hoards of people walking during the swim and we'll have to swim around them.

...

48 comments:

  1. I agree with you 1000%. When I decided to do this sport two years ago, I could not swim. Seriously.

    It took me 55 minutes to dogpaddle and lurch my way through my first 750 meter open water swim. I hung onto kayaks. Many times. I had a kayaker escort me in and say very encouraging things. But I made it. The whole way.

    Now Lake Mead is deep so we don't have the walker issue and I've never done a pool triathlon. I actually don't know how prevalent this situation is since I've never been exposed to it. And, like you I'm not opposed to folks resting. Wouldn't have made it through my first tri without resting.

    But there is NO WAY that people should be allowed to walk. Absolutely freaking NOT. From someone who has been DFL out of the water more than once, SWIM OR GO HOME.

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  2. Boy that's a tough one. Especially for me. I am not a strong swimmer and being able to touch the bottom really eases my swim fears.
    I would be o.k. with the USAT saying that you could stop and stand and rest but not move forward unless you were swimming, but that's not what the rules say and it would probably make things worse as there would be stationary people that you would have to swim around. I probably someday will feel the same way you do after I have honed my swim skills, but right now I like the rule.
    I don't sign up for triathlons based on how deep the swim water is. If I have to swim in water that I can't touch in, I'll have no choice but to do it and I will. But if I can touch the botom and the swim isn't going so well for me, and the panic sets in, then I may be aqua jogging.
    Like I said it's a tough subject and I can totally understand your point of view.
    If the rules change it will for sure keep people who can't swim or are poor swimmers from signing up knowing they have to swim.
    I don't really call myself a triathlete anyway, I just do triathlons the best I can.

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  3. I suppose it's hard to forbid any contact with the bottom when you're in very shallow water...but thinking it through, there should be some rule about more than 2 or 3 consecutive steps (?) is a dq - the difference between the swim and the bike is that for some people there is an advantage to be gained by walking the swim. That conversation about intending to walk is the lamest thing I've ever heard, BTW

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  4. I don't think that people should be allowed to walk the swim, it's unfair to those of us that are swimming.

    I'm a slow swimmer when it comes to swimming distances, I probably could walk/swim/spring from the bottom of the pool faster than I can full out swim 400m at this point; but that doesn't make it appropriate to do so.

    I think it's completely out of line to gain distance by doing anything but swimming, In fact, I just kind of thought that we couldn't gain distance if we weren't swimming. The bottom of the pool, except to stand up and catch my breath at the end of the pool lanes was very much off limits in my head (of course, that just goes to show how much I didn't read the official rules, but then again, it wouldn't hurt for all participants to have that mentality)

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  5. hmmm... at Vineman 70.3 my goggles fogged up right at the turn around and when I stopped to tread water and clear them I found myself standing in 3 feet of water. I cleared the goggles and than ran about 4 or 5 steps around the crowd and dove back in and swam the rest. I felt a little guilty but the short trot seemed better than diving into the washing machine.

    I agree that prolonged walking should count the same as propelling yourself forward along a kayak. Not allowed. What I did should have been illegal, too.

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  6. Of the three, the only one I'm good at is the swim, so I'm only going to be ahead of someone for a little while. I guess that walking might be faster than swimming, but it's also much more tiring. If someone is taking a break from swimming and walks, I don't really care if they want to waste all that energy walking through the water. However, if someone intends to walk the whole leg rather than swim, I don't think that should be allowed. Maybe I'd feel differently if I saw it in a race.

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  7. The only running/walking that should be allowed during the swim leg is the 6 or so steps you take to get into the water and the umpteen steps you take to get to transition after the swim exit. If you can't swim or are not comfortable, then practice-practice-practice and get some coaching. If panic sets in, roll over and float on your back. It's not much of a problem in in Florida, the vast majority of our races are open water.

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  8. I walked a lot of the swim leg of my first triathlon. It was in a shallow lake, I was a lousy swimmer and paranoid in open water. Believe me, walking doesn't help anyone's time - if they stick with the sport they'll be swimming soon enough.

    If I were going to ban something in triathlon I'd bad expensive carbon before I'd ban walking. :-)

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  9. Good topic. I joke all the time about my lack of interest in swimming as compared to my love of cycling and running, but I did take swimming seriously enough to hire not one, but two coaches to teach me to swim properly, and I do swim a ton when master's swim is in session. And I swim when I'm in the water.

    One of my friends walked a portion of the swim at IM Lou last year -- over by the inlet - because she has panic attacks in the water. She then promptly trounced my butt on the bike and the swim. And has not done a tri since. So I guess we have her answer.

    I think a lot of people get caught up in the rising popularity of the sport and figure it's OK to cheat or fake it or whatever, but I think they'll learn real fast this isn't for them or they'll begin to take it seriously and learn to swim.

    Bottom line: Swim! It's a friggin' triathlon!

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  10. I meant run. She blew by my on the bike and run too. Finished 3 hours ahead of me.

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  11. Oh, don't get me started! I totally agree with you..

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  12. No...you shouldn't care.

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  13. Hoards of non-swimmers like me, overtaking triathlons. I'm six feet four, so I'll have an advantage in deeper water. I'll also have an advantage in T1, because I'll be wearing my bike shoes.

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  14. I dont' think it matters one way or the other. I doesn't really help your time. The walkers are usually beginner triathletes and they will eventually learn how to swim. They are probably just trying out the sport to see if they like it. Learning to swim when you are older is pretty intimidating and I think people put it off as much as possible.

    But, don't get me started on drafting... :(

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  15. I'm not a great swimmer, but then again I have never completed a triathlon. I do want to complete one, but since I am not good at swimming, I have been working on that.

    I agree with you though. What's the point of doing a triathlon when you're not even swimming??!!!

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  16. I hate the swim as much or more than about anyone I have ever met or read about in the tri world and it seriously pissed me off when I was passed by walkers at Barb's when I stopped to clear my googles, sight, or rest. But I NEVER walked in the water. Not one step. I didn't even stand up. I know I can walk 1.2 miles, I am here to SWIM 1.2 miles as part of a TRI-athlon.

    If it is okay to walk, is it okay to go to the shore and run as long as your feet are still in the water? Where is the line? That was actually doable for a decent stretch of Barb's. I saw people walking in 1-1/2 feet of water at points. I was close to last out of the water. I had a lot of time to ponder these things!:o)

    Sorry if this sounds bitchy but that is my opinion.

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  17. I have had this happen many times, including a first time indoor tri where half the people "walked" the swim. However, the next indoor tri, this was not allowed, so they were forced to dog paddle and side stroke their way through it. Needless to say, they did not continue on with triathlon. There are times when the swim is so shallow that gives people the idea it will be easier to walk, but I still think it is easier to swim and not use my legs before I have to wading through water.

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  18. The picture cracked me up!!

    I would feel too guilty walking the swim part.

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  19. I have to agree. I want to do a tri next fall and I'm learning to swim now. I would be mortified if I couldn't swim well enough to swim the entire distance. What is the point of doing a triathalon if you can't swim it? If they are going to allow people to do that, where is the motivation to learn a new skill, to get in good enough shape to do it? What I love about my goal of my first triathalon is that it is giving me motivation to do something that I might not otherwise do - learn to swim properly. I am busting my ass to do this and it irks that someone can "complete" a tri without doing the same.

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  20. Wow I've never seen that and would never, ever have thought about someone doing it. I think it is wrong for someone to do it but I think for the avg age-grouper the "winning" is in the completion of the tri. If I "cheated" and walked the swim that win would be significantly diminished. I can't imagine the effort in an open water swim to police it.

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  21. Right or wrong I love seeing the people in the pool who are walking the swim but are bent over and stroking AS IF they are swimming, looking around with a guilty lokk on their faces.

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  22. Don't care what anyone else does out there or how they do it. I'm there for fun & fitness, not to jealously protect the label of triathlete so that only the truly worthy can claim it.

    I've seen people only do one loop of a two-loop course and still claim their finisher's medal. I've read of charity runners being loaded into a van and driven miles down the course so that they could make the finish line in time who still call themselves, "Marathon Finishers." I think that's wrong, but it's their problem. It doesn't diminish my legitimate finish.

    Wading the swim portion of an event isn't against the rules and it's not a speed advantage. If someone does so and still labels themselves a triathlete, do they deserve it? Are they worthy? Do they belong? Do they properly represent the hallowed and glorious sport that is TRIATHLON????

    Neh. Don't care.

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  23. I gotta say that if you walk your bike up a hill or walk on the run, what is the difference if you walk part of the swim. If you pick on one, then you MUST pick on the others - how is it not the same thing?
    I'm a good swimmer - so it's not an issue with me and I've never had to walk my bike, BUT I pretty much have to walk part of the run on anything longer than a sprint distance race.
    I've heard many people say that walking is not running and the third leg of the triathlon is a run.
    On a totally different subject - have you seen these?
    http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/

    Thought they may be right up your alley and did someone at a tri ride and run in these things.

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  24. Apparently, I haven't done the right tri's. I haven't done one tri where I could touch the bottom and walk. So this whole thing blows my mind.....walking? uh....not sure I can comment.

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  25. Wow, I've only just completed my first sprint (in open water), I've done a couple of open water (750meter) Swim and runs and I am so NOT a swimmer...In fact I am just now learning how to put my face in the water and breath. I guess I figure no matter what anyone else does, I'm proud of this non-swimmer for swimming that far in open water. And it will only get better from here!

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  26. Easy solution: hold tri swim legs in water 6 feet or deeper. It'll self regulate pretty quickly. Am I totally missing something here because most lakes in my area are glacier carved and therefore go from 0' to 30' (or 100' or 1000') deep pretty quick? Are many open water tri's held in water shallow enough to actually stand up over most of the swim course? I am incredulous.

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  27. Misty:

    How do you feel about this in regards to walking during the "run"? I guess you could compare walking to treading water for a bit, but you're still moving forward when you walk. Do you think it's a letter of the law issue, or a spirit of the law issue?

    I just noticed the new masthead. Congratulations again!

    Erin

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  28. I guess I feel like a triathlon is a whole body thing, and the swim is where you propel yourself through water using your upper body, not your legs, and so you shouldn't be walking. The rest of the triathlon uses your legs, so the walking isn't as big a deal.

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  29. I say if it's not banned it's perfectly legal and ethical. It's usually not police-able anyway (same reason that drafting on the swim isn't banned). Besides, it's not an overall advantage to anyone.

    I think drafting on the bike is a far, far bigger concern - clearly against the rules and seems nearly universal - and people seem to accept it as "almost ethical" as long as you don't get caught. Just like cutting the buoys, which happens all the time in mass-start IM swims.

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  30. DUDE!! I'm PEEVED!

    NO YOU DO NOT GET TO WALK.

    It's one thing if you get in the water and freak out. It's quite another to PLAN AND TRAIN to WALK.

    Losers. Get out of my way. I hope your next race is in deep water.

    In the end, they know they didn't **really** do it and the shame alone should get them moving.

    I don't like heights so I don't skydive. If you don't like to swim don't do triathlons.

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  31. you weren't at buffalo springs this year.

    this year, they have figured out that it's legal to run the swim - and so there were dozens of triathletes running along the bank of the lake as far as they could before they had to get into the water. This is legal. it's dopey, but legal.

    I have noticed that I make better time swimming than walking, in those few instances where I have stood up to clear goggles or freak out. So I figure walkers just won't do as well.

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  32. I heard about that. I also heard about the people who got out of the lake at the wrong place at the Bottomless Lakes triathlon and then ran down the beach to the "swim finish".
    Then afterwards, at such evens, most of the time they get on their bikes and win a least a finisher's medal, sometimes an award.
    My question is, does someone finish a triathlon if they don't finish one of the three events?

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  33. Pee Ess: I'm not questioning whether it is legal; I know i's "legal".

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  34. I've seen people walk in the swim of a local sprint race.

    When I compete I am racing myself, so I don't care about someone walking during any part of a tri.

    I guess I'd support someone walking during any part of his or her first race if it gave them confidence to enter and do it.

    Triathlon is an experience. It changes peoples' lives. I'd encourage anyone, even a swim-walker, to sign up and do something that intimidates them.

    cool pic.

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  35. Great question. I personally think you should be able to swim to do a triathlon, that is part of the allure of the triathlon, getting good at the three disciplines. If it is about resting that is different, to me. I have never done a shallow enough lake, so I haven't seen this in action.

    As this is my worst part of the race, as I am not a terrific swimmer, I think that is what makes it fun... learning new things!

    Em

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  36. It has taken me until my FIFTH season to become confident in the swim. To me, it was VERY important to conquer that fear. My first triathlon I got in and panicked big time. I was told I could walk at any time. While I was in the water, the kayaker told me I could walk. I refused. Why? Because to me that would not have been completing the swim portion. I'm not proud that I did most of it on my back and 400 yards became about 1200 yards because I don't have eyes on the top of my head (I went SO off course). I'm not proud of my 42 minute finish. Yes, forty-two for four hundred yards. But I am proud that I finished the entire thing under my own steam and that I did not let it stop me.

    I agree that if someone panics, stops, finds footing and gains control and continues, that is one thing. But to intentionally plan to do it is not in the spirit of the sport. I also think that maybe it would be prudent NOT to do a half IM or full IM if you're not feeling at least semi-confident that you can do the distance in open water. I practically sprouted GILLS swimming in the lake this year to prepare for my first HIM because my number one goal was to finish the swim without stopping a single time.

    I don't think equating getting off the bike or walking on the run is the same thing. Most won't get off the bike, but if the point is get off the bike or wobble up a hill that has taken you by surprise and possibly fall causing a dangerous situation for you and others, get off the bike. If you're heading into a hill and walking gets up there, you are still moving under your own steam on your legs during the "move on your legs through the course" portion of the race. But walking on the swim could actually cause problems for the other swimmers.

    Now I've never seen it on a triathlon, but I have seen dangerous situations on marathons with walkers who will walk 4-5 abreast and all stop at once causing a back up behind them. That grates on my last nerve, but I do definitely support the right of people to take walk breaks or walk marathons (or other races). I run walk myself on marathons, but I'm always VERY careful not to stop in front of another runner.

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  37. I tend to agree with you. You should have to swim, or at least support yourself without walking, the swim portion.

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  38. Wow! What a thread!!!

    From a hydrodynamic point of view, all that surface area trying to move through perpendicular to the surface is quite inefficient and I kinda doubt that there is any speed advantage.

    I've been coached to swim as long as possible when I approach the swim finish.

    So, water walkers in races really don't bother me.

    But I agree with you that they should enter the du instead if one is offered.

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  39. I've never thought or believed that walking in the swim gives you a time advantage. My problem was that if you can't finish the swim, then you can't finish a triathlon. In my opinion.

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  40. I can see your point, and I agree that walking during the swim doesn't really give a time advantage. And I also agree if you can't do the swim, then its sort of misses the point, yeah?

    But I have to wonder the same thing about walking during a marathon (I tried to read all the comments but there were so many so someone might have commented on this already).

    Like you said, a tri is about the ability to swim, bike and run. But yet there is a lot of walking on the run portion, particularly during an IM (self included here). So would that same logic apply to people that walk parts of the run? If you can't do the whole run, should you not be considered a triathlete? Or even do the race in the first place? Becuase walking is not the same as running.

    OR how about people that walk their bikes up really big hills? Should they not be considered triathletes as well?

    I guess my point is that everyone has some weaknesses, and sometimes, for whatever reasons, we needs to stop, slow down, or walk. But if you honestly can't do the entire portion (like walking the WHOLE swim or the WHOLE run), then maybe you should keep training.

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  41. Because in the swim, you are pulling yourself through the water with your upper body - triathlons are about using the whole body, not just the legs. Again, in my opinion.

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  42. How do you feel about wearing a wetsuit in the swim?

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  43. Although I do see your point, I must say if they are that good of a cyclist &
    runner, they are just hurting themselves if they don't practice swimming They're
    not hurting anyone but themselves. Keep in mind they are limited to pool swims,
    so if they get to you to much just invite them to an open water swim. If the
    safety personel on the swim aren't paying attention you'll never have to worry
    about competing against them again;)

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  44. I do a sprint tri in Illinois where the swim is in a converted resevoir. You have to walk at certain points becasue it goes shallow, deep, shallow, deep. It's crazy. Maybe better swimmers don't walk in the shallow parts, but for the most part everyone does. I welcomed the break as a newbie and really didn't care that I had to walk. I was still very proud of myself for finishing adn I do call myself a triathlete. When it was deep I swam, so if I did a tri in deep water I would have made it.

    A perspective you might want to think about as I do when I'm huffing and puffing at my tris is that person is out there being active and not staying in bed. They are bettering their lives. To say that I shouldn't do triathlon cause I walk the swim is hurtful. Would you rather I stay in that day and not do anything at all. I love the biking and am starting to run a little now. For those of you who say I shouldn't do a tri if I have to walk part of the swim is wrong. I chose Triathlon because it is three different skills. If I just did running I would have quit by now. Too boring by itself. I NEVER even would have thought about learning to swim in and of itself. Biking maybe. So please be kind to me if I have to walk for a few minutes and don't think ill of me because I might have to.

    I do not not plan to walk, but in the case where I do my tri you cannot help it at some points.

    From someone losing over 100 pounds and not waiting till I lose my weight to get active please cut me some slack. There is always two sides to a story.

    For those of you where this is a problem maybe you could do a different triathlon where the water is deeper or maybe you shouldn't be doing triathlon and do a duathlon so you don't have to see us walkers.

    See how ridiculous that sounds? So does telling someone else they shouldn't be doing tris cause maybe they have to walk a little.

    When I'm out there all I think of is myself and finishing. Maybe that's what all of us should be doing.

    I walk part of the swims, I bike, and I walk most of my run portion, but I still call myself a triathlon.

    GO ME!!

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  45. I do a sprint tri in Illinois where the swim is in a converted resevoir. You have to walk at certain points becasue it goes shallow, deep, shallow, deep. It's crazy. Maybe better swimmers don't walk in the shallow parts, but for the most part everyone does. I welcomed the break as a newbie and really didn't care that I had to walk. I was still very proud of myself for finishing adn I do call myself a triathlete. When it was deep I swam, so if I did a tri in deep water I would have made it.

    A perspective you might want to think about as I do when I'm huffing and puffing at my tris is that person is out there being active and not staying in bed. They are bettering their lives. To say that I shouldn't do triathlon cause I walk the swim is hurtful. Would you rather I stay in that day and not do anything at all. I love the biking and am starting to run a little now. For those of you who say I shouldn't do a tri if I have to walk part of the swim is wrong. I chose Triathlon because it is three different skills. If I just did running I would have quit by now. Too boring by itself. I NEVER even would have thought about learning to swim in and of itself. Biking maybe. So please be kind to me if I have to walk for a few minutes and don't think ill of me because I might have to.

    I do not not plan to walk, but in the case where I do my tri you cannot help it at some points.

    From someone losing over 100 pounds and not waiting till I lose my weight to get active please cut me some slack. There is always two sides to a story.

    For those of you where this is a problem maybe you could do a different triathlon where the water is deeper or maybe you shouldn't be doing triathlon and do a duathlon so you don't have to see us walkers.

    See how ridiculous that sounds? So does telling someone else they shouldn't be doing tris cause maybe they have to walk a little.

    When I'm out there all I think of is myself and finishing. Maybe that's what all of us should be doing.

    I walk part of the swims, I bike, and I walk most of my run portion, but I still call myself a triathlon.

    GO ME!!

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  46. I do a sprint tri in Illinois where the swim is in a converted resevoir. You have to walk at certain points becasue it goes shallow, deep, shallow, deep. It's crazy. Maybe better swimmers don't walk in the shallow parts, but for the most part everyone does. I welcomed the break as a newbie and really didn't care that I had to walk. I was still very proud of myself for finishing adn I do call myself a triathlete. When it was deep I swam, so if I did a tri in deep water I would have made it.

    A perspective you might want to think about as I do when I'm huffing and puffing at my tris is that person is out there being active and not staying in bed. They are bettering their lives. To say that I shouldn't do triathlon cause I walk the swim is hurtful. Would you rather I stay in that day and not do anything at all. I love the biking and am starting to run a little now. For those of you who say I shouldn't do a tri if I have to walk part of the swim is wrong. I chose Triathlon because it is three different skills. If I just did running I would have quit by now. Too boring by itself. I NEVER even would have thought about learning to swim in and of itself. Biking maybe. So please be kind to me if I have to walk for a few minutes and don't think ill of me because I might have to.

    I do not not plan to walk, but in the case where I do my tri you cannot help it at some points.

    From someone losing over 100 pounds and not waiting till I lose my weight to get active please cut me some slack. There is always two sides to a story.

    For those of you where this is a problem maybe you could do a different triathlon where the water is deeper or maybe you shouldn't be doing triathlon and do a duathlon so you don't have to see us walkers.

    See how ridiculous that sounds? So does telling someone else they shouldn't be doing tris cause maybe they have to walk a little.

    When I'm out there all I think of is myself and finishing. Maybe that's what all of us should be doing.

    I walk part of the swims, I bike, and I walk most of my run portion, but I still call myself a triathlon.

    GO ME!!

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  47. oops, sorry about posting three times.

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  48. oops again, I just reread my post and I do not call myself a triathlon I call myself a triathlete.

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