The Lowdown
By Jeff Matlow

Back when I was a kid, triathlon was a lot different.
Kids today, in 2057, don’t realize how easy they have it. The wetsuits they wear are incredibly thin and pliant. It’s like another layer of skin (which is probably why they call it Skinlayer). They instantly react to your body temperature, keeping you warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. You don’t have to take off these Skinlayer suits for the entire event. In fact, since back in 2040, when the ITU approved the use of Skinlayers throughout all three sports, finish times in every discipline have gotten significantly faster. Some still claim that it’s an unfair advantage, but the virtual elimination in the sport of hypothermia and heat exhaustion are reason enough to rationalize the ITU decision.

Way back in 2017, wearing a wetsuit during the bike and run was definitely not a competitive advantage — it was a stupid idea.

Wetsuits were thicker and bulkier. If you ever wondered what it felt like to be a sausage packed in casing, you just had to put on a wetsuit from the early days. In fact, the mere acts of putting on and taking off the wetsuit were two of the most challenging parts of the entire race. Back when I was a kid, I once strained my back just trying to squeeze my arms into the suit.

I remember the time I bought my first wetsuit. I went to the store to try them on and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Trying to find the best wetsuit fit isn’t like trying on a few pairs of jeans. It’s more like doing 100 burpees in a sauna.

After just three suits — stuffing my body into the casing, walking around the hotter-than-I’d-like store, then peeling it off my sweat-soaked body and repeating all steps again — I was drained. My body hurt from the Twister-like moves I had to make to get the neoprene on, my brain was tired from the emotional strain of ensuring every movement of my hand didn’t cause a fingernail tear in the material and sweat was pouring from every pore in my body like an internal sprinkler had just gone off. It was more tiring than an actual triathlon.

Kids today, in 2057, also don’t realize what it’s like to have to really push yourself on the bike. In today’s triathlon, everything is about drafting and air resistance. It’s like a triathlon is one long draft line. Do people even remember that drafting used to be illegal?

Now there is no way of even competing without drafting. And thanks to all the pro cyclists who started racing triathlon in their offseason, the pushing and shoving that happens in the draft group reminds me of roller derby (a sport you’re far too young to remember, but believe me).

Triathlon has definitely become a more dangerous sport. But all the top spectator sports have a sense of danger. I suppose that’s why there are now more spectators than ever in the sport. There’s more to see, the athletes are moving faster and at any second there could be a wreck.

It was over 40 years ago when the new era in running shoes began. One company started using carbon fiber and other spring-like materials in shoes in order to break the 2-hour marathon barrier (a feat that no longer seems so difficult; it happens every race), and suddenly all the major shoe companies were granted the ability to do the same thing with their running shoes. Running times got significantly faster almost overnight. You simply can’t compete on the run if you wear shoes from 40-plus years ago. Not now. Not when people are running 3:30 miles and even triathletes are clocking 55 minutes for 13.1 miles.

It’s a different sport here in 2057. It’s exciting. It’s fast. It has vast improvements from when I was a kid. And I love it.

But sometimes I just get a little nostalgic for the old times, when wetsuits were tougher to get on and off, bikes were less aerodynamic and a 3:30 mile was a thing of dreams.


JEFF MATLOW definitely didn’t wear Mickey ears. Nope. or

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