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Where Have All The [Nice] Triathletes Gone?

To the tune of the Paula Cole song, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, I found myself asking the question:

“Where have all the [nice] triathletes gone?”

Here’s a group of them. ^^^

I also found myself interjected into a situation when I just wanted to work on a project, but instead I was dealing with jerks in triathlon Facebook land. And hell, I am glad to interject in these situations (I really am).  But the literal bullying of people on FB?  Man, I am dealing with that shit lately–from all ends, it seems.

Who ARE these people?

So here I was, at 10:30 at night, trying to calm down and go to bed, and I was messaging a group admin in a Facebook group, telling them to take down a horribly mean, self-created (not to mention potentially defamatory and illegal) meme of a person’s finisher pic–with some mean words about how said finisher didn’t actual “finish” the race.  And then I used a F-bomb version of “for Pete’s sake” and within 20 seconds, they took it down.

Great. Problemo solved.

Except. Well, it’s not.

In 2011, when I was the “fattest” girl on the 70.3 race course–no, really, I was–people would just openly laugh at me during the race.  Literally, stare and laugh–because I was HUGE at that time for participating in the sport (and I was a size 16).

Now, racers come in ALL shapes and sizes and abilities.  ALL sorts.

Spectators are now accustomed to seeing all shapes and sizes and so what. Right?  Well… it doesn’t seem that way.

Back in 2011, there wasn’t near the social media there is now, and certainly not surrounding triathletes. So yes, while I endured the giggles and the “hey fat girl” on the race course, I didn’t really get the internet mean stuff until everyone else started getting it too.

For the most part, triathletes are AMAZING.  And a really accepting group of people. So let’s start there.

I love this sport. And I really like most triathletes that I meet.


But there is a small faction of triathletes who are making it their mission to be Mean Girls (yes, for the sake of this stupidity, we will call the Boys also Mean Girls. Because well, it’s fitting.)

And I could give two shits about this small group of like-small-minded people. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t give them my energy. I don’t feed the trolls.  I do, sometimes, have fun with them (because they are EASY!) …but I don’t feed them for the purpose of their own arguments.

To sum up the list of arguments, here they are:

  • You didn’t finish {____} race within the cutoff time, and therefore, you are NOT a finisher.
  • You should not wear a {____} Finisher’s shirt when you were pulled off the run course, and therefore, did not “finish.”
  • You are NOT an Ironman if you crossed the finish line after the lights were off and the announcers were gone.
  • You are NOT an Ironman if they cancel the swim in an Ironman event, or if they cut the course any smidgen shorter than 140.6 miles.
  • If you DNF’d (did not finish) {____}, despite ridiculous conditions such as {____}, then you clearly didn’t train hard enough.
  • You cannot get an M-dot tattoo if you did not officially finish an Ironman.
  • You can never wear M-dot clothing unless you did a full, real, Ironman within the race’s time limit.
  • You are not a real Finisher if you cannot finish an Ironman race in under 12 hours.
    ^^^(My personal favorite. Grounded in no stitch of truth whatsoever.)

Okay. So here’s what I say about all of these so-called arguments.


Tony Robbins said in a recent podcast (I am paraphrasing) that in order for someone to be the tallest building on the block–there are two ways to achieve this end:

You can build the tallest building (which takes incredible time, money and energy), or you can blow up all the other surrounding buildings and hence, by virtue of destruction, there you stand–super tall building—which sure, might be faster, but destroys everyone around you in the process.

In this day and age, I just wish we would work harder on the process of building ourselves up, instead of tearing others down to make ourselves look and feel better.

And guess what?

If you are a nine-hour Ironman finisher tearing down a technical-DNF, seventeen hour and one minute, mom of three kids, who works full-time and who does this sport to find herself, her power and her sanity—then you are just the tallest building by virtue of blowing up the others.

Because a true tall building wouldn’t need to tear the others down.

[Not to mention, you’re just a jerk.]


We all have opinions and feelings about what constitutes a true “finisher.”  But a “Finisher” (as each of us defines it), has no bearing on the type of athlete, person, place or thing in this world. It’s an opinion(s) on one tiny sliver of the world, and that’s that.

And it doesn’t matter a hill of beans what I think (or what you think) about anyone else’s race. Not a hill. Or a bean. Or hills of beans. Or beany hills.


My opinions and your opinions and feelings, on no planet, should give us a sense of entitlement to reach out and make fun of, or degrade another human being.  In this internet day and age, it’s so easy to stand behind the keyboard and “say” horrible things.

Sometimes it appears that we are all forgetting that there is a HUMAN on the other end of the words.

Why don’t we just keep our eyes on our own yards, eh?

#BeBraveBeThankful #BeNice


  • Susan

    October 19, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Because a true tall building wouldn’t need to tear the others down.

    Amen. Well Said SBM.

    What is the point of being discouraging to other fellow athletes, even if they don’t “perform” at your level.

    Triathlon is something that many can work towards and achieve varying levels, but still feel satisfaction and pride no matter what the outcome.

    We are all finishers.

    • Erica

      October 19, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that someone would do that. They must be very insecure in their own abilities to feel the need to treat another human being so cruelly. I hope you don’t put value in such a small minded persons stupidity.

      • Courtney

        October 19, 2016 at 6:32 pm

        Bonnie you’re beautiful! Don’t ever forget it ❤️ I didn’t see the post or meme and don’t care to. I don’t need to see it to know whoever started it was a complete DNF’er of a true soul.

    • Nancy

      October 19, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      His goal is to beat everyone. Knowing there will always be someone faster, he’ll never reach his goal. You…you have an attainable goal to reach, and so happiness is within your reach. For him? A lifetime of unhappiness.

      And this is coming from a (hopefully) reformed a-hole.

  • Carol Tarby

    October 19, 2016 at 2:55 am

    This. made. me. cry. Due to illnesses (not serious, although currently trying to prevent my infections from turing to pneumonia) and injuries (also not serious) I have been judging myself as a fake athlete. I haven’t strung together 1 full week of workouts since mid August. I am no where near being able to do an Ironman. My dream is to complete an Olympic distance tri, and it is so hard to not compare myself to others, and it’s hard not to listen to my own mean girl in my head ( as you often talk about). Thank you for standing up for all of us out there: full time parents, full time employees, non elites; those of us who just show up for some weird sense of fun and a feeling of accomplishment., and who just want to cross the finish line, even if it’s in last place. And I do love the hats!

  • Andrea

    October 19, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Well said! I recently met a Triathlete who peppered me with questions to see if I actually knew what I was talking about because – hey, as a size 12, 40yo mother of 4 I could not possibly have done the same races as him. Well, I have and just because I finished in the back and he went home before I was even running doesn’t mean I didn’t train just as hard or earn it any less! KEEP MOVING FORWARD, everyone!

  • Kelly Rothwell

    October 19, 2016 at 6:52 am

    It’s so fitting you posted this, because I’ve been watching the reaction people are having to ironman nc and nc 70.3 being shortened because of flooding from hurricane Matthew and it’s been astounding. People can be mean, selfish, and thoughtless. I’m so very thankful for my nice triathlete friends who understand that finishing the race is an accomplishment no matter the distance. You are right we should all be out there encouraging each other.

  • Julie Schultz

    October 19, 2016 at 7:32 am

    This is a great post thank you for sharing. I read all the comments made about this poor woman. I couldn’t believe that people in our triathlon community could be so mean. Then I though that’s only a small percentage of jerks.

  • Jerry

    October 19, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Great post. Triatlon, as a sport, has so many accomplishments aside from the race that can be achieved- which is one of the many reason I love it. No matter how your race ends, there are so many good, little achievements along the way that are able to be built upon, or improved. You just need to be positive

  • Lori

    October 19, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I suppose I’ve just been lucky because I’m bigger than you are, but no one in the triathlete world has ever made me feel bad about it or laughed at me. I’ve never felt anything but encouragement. I guess everyone’s experience is different.

  • Jamie

    October 19, 2016 at 10:05 am

    I’ve been wondering this for a while. I remember doing a race in Emporia, Kansas, in 2008. There was a woman who was about 5’4″, probably just shy of 300 lbs, and she was one of the last finishers on the course. And everyone was encouraging her and cheering her and loving her. The next year, she came back about 60 lbs lighter. Everyone welcomed her to the community, and as a result, she stayed in the community and changed her life. I remember races where the winners would call out encouragement to slower races as they lapped us on the course. Now it seems like every triathlon I enter is full of dickheads with $8,000 bikes who look at everyone who doesn’t have shaved legs and a disc wheel as if they smell bad. Forget shouting encouragement to other racers; they won’t even say “On your left!” as they blow past on the bike course. I was at a race in New Jersey two years ago where a guy passed me in his aerobars close enough that I could have leaned my bike into him without so much as a “Passing!”

    So I left triathlon. Now I do road racing and cyclocross. And you know what? The roadies are a lot less snobby and mean than the triathletes, now. And you know you have a problem when you’re snobbier than the roadies.

    But screw them. Your journey to becoming a totally-legit Ironman was probably way harder than their journey to breaking 10 hours.

    • Swim Bike Mom

      October 19, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      “And you know you have a problem when you’re snobbier than the roadies.” Whew – that is the TRUTH! Thanks for sharing… cyclocross is intriguing to me! 🙂

  • Maria

    October 19, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Thank goodness for the Triathletes that are out there supporting and building up instead of tearing down others, because they far outnumber the mean ones!

    Thank you for your ever insightful posts!

    BTW, I Love, love the hats pic! You and your baby are gorgeous! 😉

  • Wendy

    October 19, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Sorry for interjecting you into the insanity but you have such a huge following and are so well respected throughout the community that I wanted you to be aware of the situation and handle it the SBM way. Thanks for being such a great inspiration to many.

  • Dorrie

    October 19, 2016 at 11:18 am

    What I see, as a relative newcomer to the sport, is some triathlons are becoming more welcoming of slower athletes and more relaxed about cut times. Others are not. It is possible to have a decent discussion of which is best for the sport. As more people participate in the sport and there is more competition for athletes (most races do not sell out anymore) I know what will happen eventually. In any event it is never appropriate to have that discussion in the context of the performance of a particular athlete. The discussions around the M-Dot tattoo are especially amusing. I’ve never heard of a tattoo artist caring one way or another. They want to take your money and make you happy. Not a bad business model.

  • Rene'

    October 19, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    For most of us participating in a 140.6 is years in the making. It’s easy to get wrapped up in aiming for certain times or thinking a DNF is the end of the world, but I always remind myself and my friends/clients that they’ve already succeeded and won by showing up to the start line because of making the commitment, the many sacrifices, and having the courage to challenge themselves mentally and physically to do something not everyone does. You can’t control everything that could happen on race day, but you can control your attitude. No matter the outcome BE proud of yourself. A dnf doesn’t tell the whole story of how hard a person has worked to get there. Think about all the pros that have had to drop out of races due to fluke mechanical or physical issues at KONA (their BIG A race…they’ve worked their butts off to perform and have more training and recovery than most age groupers…things happen). SBM you hit the nail on the head! Thanks for calling out the d-bags and keep being YOU.

  • JoeH

    October 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Yes, Yes, and more yes! All very well said. Unless you’re going for podium or Kona, there’s no need to be concerned with what any other athlete is doing. Any athlete that is overly concerned with other people (aside from those described above) need a serious examination of their own motives, and what they are trying to prove by tearing down others.

  • SoAnyway

    October 19, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Three things:
    1. I’m a little mad at you for getting that song stuck in my head
    2. Why does anyone ever make the effort to care about other people’s races? It seems like such a bizarre waste of energy. I *guess* if the person who just beat you out for a Kona spot was drafting you have a legitimate complaint. Otherwise, I agree with you: just shut up about it 🙂
    3. Hats!!!

  • Pina

    October 19, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Love this post ! Nothing nice to say then move along…ugh ! Why are people so mean ? I cannot believe that adults would treat fellow triathletes, runners etc that way. I was running just a little bit ago along my favorite trail thinking about my marathon on Sunday. I got to thinking how hard the last few miles can be, then I remember how fun it is to cheer each other along to the finish! Great job standing up to those that try to break others down 🙂

  • George Peters

    October 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    This is a great message. I agree with you 100%. I do triathlons to better myself. I judge myself on my effort on any given day. This is a power that I give myself. I won’t allow someone else to judge me (steal my power) because they have never been in my shoes. Thanks for the article, it was refreshing to see someone else feels this way.

  • Tracey

    October 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Where have all the nice triathletes gone? I’ll tell you where. They are in the back of the pack because that’s where I am and they are all encouraging me! It’s a welcoming place to be.I’m typically the caboose and have been last one in more than once! The only bully I’ve encountered or paid any attention to is the one inside of me telling me I can’t do it. I’m working on silencing that bully too!

  • Liz B

    October 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Great post. I love these two particular sentences because they apply to Just Being a Human and Doing Anything:

    “I just wish we would work harder on the process of building ourselves up, instead of tearing others down to make ourselves look and feel better.”

    And THIS: “My opinions and your opinions and feelings, on no planet, should give us a sense of entitlement to reach out and make fun of, or degrade another human being.”

    Thanks for writing. 🙂

  • Kecia

    October 19, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    You are the 2nd person I’ve heard talk about the FB bullying and it makes me SICK! What is wrong with people?! People should be encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring…anything else is NOT acceptable!

  • Kyle

    October 20, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    I appreciate this post and thank you for it. We need to do a better job as a triathlon community of being more open and welcoming. We can’t wonder why the sport isn’t growing like others or why we have a gender disparity issue when some–not all, not even most–triathletes are not encouraging and awesome like the rest. We’re already not a super newbie friendly sport. And we attract a certain…type…of personality. Thank you for taking a stand.

  • Tiffani Frost

    October 21, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    This speaks to me in so many ways, and you have said SO much in recent posts that I have wanted to say. I’m a (very recent) Ironman finisher, mom, wife, and…I want to be like you when I grow up. I’m sick of the mean-hearted people that suck the life out of triathlon and my love of the sport. I’m not a fast kid, never will be. I had to work so hard at what I’ve accomplished, and it breaks my heart that people are ripping other people’s efforts to shreds behind a keyboard. Your post nailed it, in every way. Much love to you, Meredith.

  • Anita Kilpatrick

    October 22, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Preach it, sista!
    I think we all determine our own Ironman. I am 54 years old, work full time, and mother of two very busy teenagers.
    Last year at IMFL, I DNF’d the swim. I was devasted. You posted a great comment about that and made me feel so much better. I decided, suck it up buttercup and went for it again. I did IMLOU and finished. I did not finish within the 16 hour cutoff but I finished, received a medal and a shirt, therefore I am a finisher. I am an Ironman! I probably will try again one day, who knows. What I do know is I set a goal for myself and finished. I even got the tatt to prove it haha. and no the tatt artist didn’t care a beany hill if I really did an Ironman or not.
    So, those mean girls can think and decide their Ironman, I’ll decide what mine is and we can all keep moving forward toward our own goals . I am happy and proud of my accomplishment and no stuck up dipstick ( trying not to cuss) is taking that from me!

  • Deanna Hamlyn

    October 25, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    You stuck up for me on a comment about my finish time from one of those jerks. Thank you! Her comment was that I obviously trained poorly to finish minutes after 16 hours for my first Ironman. I honestly worked so hard to achieve that. It stings for a bit until you consider how gross it would be to live in a mind that is full of anger and negativity….then you just feel sorry for them. I am so inspired by all of the athletes participating in these events, especially those with kind uplifting words. Your book helped keep me going during training. I will be cheering my husband on in his first Ironman in Cozumel in one month….not because a pro or elite level athlete inspired him…because this slow poke did! Life is good. ??

  • s olsen

    October 26, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Thank your so much for that post ! Im not much of a swimmer but I do DUs and any OCR I can get my hands on! I think those groups are a little more fun and less cut throat! That being said,
    Sadly even worse than us as adults fighting for our own self worth, positive body image, mental health and life balance, and stress release, what are we teaching our kids? I’m scared for the next generation when I hear how much more ruthless, unforgiving and just down right mean kids are to each other. And my kids aren’t even the “fat ones”. They have depression and anxiety from ADHD so they are disorganized, tomboyish girls who love the outdoors and sports and get teased by boys and girls simply for not playing the bullshit keep up with the Ashley’s and the fb/snapchat social media crap. What is wrong with society? I’m so fed up! We as parents need to do better for our kids and for our own hearts! Lets have tri/du/ocr be a positive vehicle for change! SBM you rock!


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