No matter how many photographs and videos record the drama, excitement and emotion of this sport, we call upon words to give the passing parade of triathlon its context and to let the soul speak directly of its meaning. Presented for your consideration are some words which resonated to me - inspiring or infuriating, insightful or blind, celebratory or rueful - and they all came from triathlon in 2013.
No other subject finds triathletes so bereft of the willingness to forgive or forget. And no sin in the sport is so hard to atone.
"During a climb on the bike around 40k [at the Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Wiesbaden, Germany] Tamsin [Lewis] and I were together. Deep inside me has been the desire to contact her and other athletes, but I was hesitant because I feared rejection. I always looked for a quiet personal moment where I would be alone - in this case with Tamsin. And then I told her during the race that I am very sorry about my past, that I am now a different person, have a son now who means everything to me, that I can't change my past and this all occurred more than 5.5 years ago. Everything that I did is still sitting heavy on my shoulders, but I have changed. We then continued that conversation after we finished. I then told her again with tears in my eyes that I am very sorry about all of that and that I have changed indeed." -- Lisa Hütthaler, Austrian pro triathlete who served a 2 year suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
"As with every doper, including you, Lisa: we'll forgive you when you give back all the money you stole from clean athletes." - Doug MacLean, commenting on Lisa Hütthaler's Slowtwitch interview.
"The truth isn't what I said, and now it's gone - this story was so perfect for so long….You overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times. You have a happy marriage, you have children. I mean, it's just this mythic perfect story, and it wasn't true." -- Lance Armstrong during Oprah Winfrey television interview.
"Thank you for not buying the bullshit." - Betsy Andreu, target of vicious verbal attacks by Lance Armstrong, speaking to documentary filmmaker Alexa Gibney at premier of The Armstrong Lie.
"I don’t know how prevalent accidental doping is, but for all intentional doping, I think the golden standard should be a lifetime ban. Cheaters don’t belong in sports." -- Ironman winner Äsa Lundstrom on appropriate punishment for dopers.
“Well, believe it or not, a crew of people contacted him recently – because I know he can’t race anybody, but I said ‘you know what, I’ll race you mate! I’ll race you. Only because – I don’t care if there are no accolades, I just want to race you. Just two old blokes, there’s no excuses, let’s just have a race.'” -- 2-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack tweeting to Lance Armstrong.
“Hey @MaccaNow – if you’re serious then gimme a call. Let’s discuss,” -- Lance Armstrong tweet responding to McCormack.
"I am here to stand up and apologize. Throughout my career I have [passed] hundreds of controls and has always been clear that I played fair. Now, at the end of my career, I have fallen in the worst mistake in which an athlete can fall." -- Virginia Berasategui statement after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
"Lie and cheat brings a lot of anger, rage and sadness. High emotions in our girls squad this AM, to watch that makes me very thoughtful #life time ban for cheating.-- Caroline Steffen, tweeting about Berasategui's positive.
"The decision contradicts NADA's Legal Commission and the judgment of Vienna's state prosecutor and is founded solely on one individual's verbal accusation with no factual evidence which dates back to 2005… I maintain my innocence." -- Michael Weiss, Austrian triathlete in his blog on acceptance of his 2-year ban.
"Why does he have to explain anything? For most of you guys even a straight out admission isn't going to be enough. You won't stop until he's lying at your feet, bleeding and groveling for forgiveness while you stomp on his face. He got caught and has served his sentence per the rules. He doesn't owe you guys a damned thing." -- RZ December 6 Slowtwitch Forum.
"Whatever I have to say now will not serve to change history, and it surely will not change the minds of those folks who want to continue to discredit me and believe I don’t deserve to compete. I get that. There will still be folks who want more from me. I’ve given my all on the matter and it’s all out there in public for people to come to their own conclusions on." -- Michael Weiss Slowtwitch Forum.
"You keep using weasel words. "I don't want to look to the past" or "I accepted the decision." You clearly aren't contrite at all, since you only "regret the disrespect [your] suspension brought on triathlon. Accepting the decision is irrelevant, you are a convicted doper, no matter how much that hurts to say. And it wasn't your suspension that brought disrespect on triathlon - it was your actions that did so." -- dwesley Slowtwitch Forum.
Hit by car
"I am not American by culture and the last thing I want to do is run out and sue somebody. But because the legal system didn’t do me right, it's the only avenue I've got. If I don’t pursue this, the Boulder Sheriffs have had a warning from this guy. It is not a matter of if but a matter of when he will do this again. If he takes an incident like this to this extreme, the next time there could easily be a death." -- Multiple Ironman 70.3 and Rev3 winner Richie Cunningham commenting on the driver who ran into him and injured him in Boulder, Colorado.
"Russ insisted I could avoid harm by assuming that every driver was 'a mouth-breathing drug addict with a murderous hatred for cyclists.'” -- Daniel Duane, writing Op Ed essay "Is it O.K . to Kill Cyclists" in The New York Times.
"It was awesome, but tough backing up so quickly after Lake Stevens 70.3! There were some points on the bike course where I felt like a drunk man trying to round up cats on a motor bike - out of control. I was probably riding 10% above my ability level at the time. -- New Zealand pro triathlete Guy Crawford.
"There does seem to be a fair amount of confusion with things like 'Tough Guy' and 'Tough Mudder' which are challenging in their own way but don't really claim to be pure sport. People seem surprised when I say that's not really my kind of thing… my dad quite aptly likened it to people wondering why track and field athletes don't participate in the egg and spoon race!" -- Top Ironman Hawaii woman age group competitor Catherine Faux.
"I started off as quite the tyrant. I was mischievous, stubborn, and difficult until about 12. My mom always said that my hard headedness would eventually be a good thing and I guess she was right." -- Rising U.S. ITU star Katie Hursey.
"I just couldn't stop crying as I was running back and pro men were running towards me on the way to the finish. I got back on course, made it to mile 10 almost 2 miles later, then mile 11 and saw my friend Mike. Up till that point I held the situation together pretty good despite the tears, but when I saw him I just broke down. It was near an aid station. I walked right through it and fell apart, almost to the ground in disbelief. He told me to get moving because 4th place is coming. At this point I was 4:30 back from the lead and fell from winning to 3rd." -- Bree Wee talking about going off course while leading Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.
"Everybody is thinking that I am the development coach. I find that hilarious that I am the only coach in the world who produces athletes all the time. Superstars like Dave Scott can't produce something from nothing. I keep coming up with people that nobody has ever heard of. But I am the development coach and they are the real guys? Mark Allen couldn’t teach a fish to swim. -- Brett Sutton outspoken triathlon coach.
"I like to try to figure out every one’s emotional temperament. It is a huge part to make sure that things psychologically and emotionally flow along well. Athletes are not just robots. They are all dear people who are a genuine joy to work with. I frankly think and worry about them all the time and try to be as diligent as I can with them. I don’t say I am a guiding light. But I want to do everything I can to help them reach their potential." -- Dave Scott, 6-time Ironman Hawaii winner and coach of Chrissie Wellington and Rachel Joyce.
"He is much closer to being a communist than a capitalist. He saw in me the converted banker and thought: ‘Converted bankers are very dangerous people. They bite their old species.’ In a way he sees me kicking against the system he never believed in and respected me for leaving that comfortable money.” -- Team TBB partner Alex Bok on Brett Sutton.
"Their 'farm' goal was to be a self-sufficient family. My mother designed a 'green' house far ahead of its time. We raised cows (never more than 3 at a time) for our own beef consumption, chickens for eggs, and every year we would have some kind of small garden growing in the back. It taught [my brother] Dustin and I the real value and origin of food. Our cows had names, we feed the chickens scraps and they gave us eggs. We knew that potatoes came out of the ground and corn grows on stalks. The farm raised two children who understood and appreciated the earth." -- Pro Sara McLarty talking about growing up on her family's DeLand, Florida family farm.
"I grew up in mid-Wales (UK) running around the fields, cycling to the local stream for picnics and building dens on the hill with my sisters. My parents took us climbing, canoeing, caving, hiking and generally adventuring whenever they could. They are also keen gardeners so fresh fruit and vegetables were daily diet - it was pretty idyllic really! It really instilled in me not only a healthy and active outlook, but also the adventuring spirit, the ability to look beyond the horizon and work towards something that may have seemed beyond possible." - Corinne Abraham, winner of Ironman Melbourne.
"The first 18 years of my life I lived on a grain farm just outside of Durbanville called Philadelphia. When I was quite young I started a little mountain biking and I ran every day on a gravel road with the dogs. That was how it all started for me. I was still running barefoot in those days -- I didn’t have shoes. Yeah I have to wear shoes now. I wish we didn't have to race with shoes, because I wouldn't." - South African ITU star Richard Murray.
"My dad and my mum have built this up back then when we decided to no longer work with Ironman, and they basically built this up with blood, sweat and tears. My dad actually died over this and I then had to jump on board. These are sentimental reasons and things that can’t be bought with money. Money will also not buy what I promised my dad on his deathbed that I will take care of it. It just isn’t up for discussion and that is something that Ironman or Providence Partners seem to have a hard time grasping." -- Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshofer speaking about World Triathlon Corporation race takeovers.
Aches and pains and really bad breaks
"What haven’t I done? I had hip surgery. They thought that was it. I had torn labrums in both hips. They fixed that up. But that actually made the cramping worse. That was at the end of 2009. Then I had a muscle biopsy. They thought I had some missing enzymes or something. But they were on the wrong track. Didn’t have that. They thought I had exoiliac artery compression. It’s a main artery. It was getting compressed every time I jumped on the bike. The doctor I saw said, ‘You’ve definitely got that.’ Then I booked for surgery in Melbourne. I flew to Melbourne and met the surgeon. He wanted me to bring the cramping on. I was running and it was really bad because it hurt so bad. But he said, ‘Nope. It's not that.’ So that was heartbreaking, devastating." -- Australian triathlete Kat Baker.
"I understand that this case was high risk and the worst case trauma concussion aka moderate brain injury I am told. It is scary to think about being blindsided by an age group male going the opposite direction and landing directly on my head with my eyes rolled back and many hours before I came to. It is nutty to think about how a few seconds here or there, this could have been avoided but it is life and you can’t avoid these random scenarios." - Multiple Ironman 70.3 and Ironman winner Meredith Kessler talking about her brain injury at Eagleman 70.3.
"Six weeks prior to the race I was the victim of a self-induced bicycle accident. Although I wish I could conjure up some sexy story about dodging an 18-wheeler, I cannot tell a lie. Complete buffoonery on my part. Pre-sunrise Vegas ride in preparation for IMAZ and I end up hitting a rock going 30mph. Shattered my clavicle in four places. The injury was bearable; however, the subsequent demolition of my bike by a pickup going 70mph that didn’t stop, completely crushed my will to live. The police delivered my trusty steed to me in the ER in a garbage bag. With surgery the following week, I spent the majority of my time getting ready for AZ on a recumbent stationary bike on loan from my good friend Dr. Keith. The irony of the whole story is the swim volunteer at IMAZ dislocated my other good shoulder pulling me out of the water. Good thing you don’t need arms for the bike/run…" -- Scott Poteet, US Air Force pilot based in Italy on his bike crash before the 2012 Ironman Arizona.
"The family tells me that Camilla is still very tired and confused in the very short moments she is awake. She sleeps most of the time after this very serious accident but it's of course very positive that she can slowly start her rehabilitation in the hands of specialists at Hammel Neuro Center. The process of rehabilitation will take time and patience but luckily Camilla has shown many times that she is a great fighter.” -- Janni Moller Thomsen on the long recovery from a bike crash of her friend, Ironman Frankfurt winner Camilla Pedersen.
"…After finishing last year on such a high I was actually waiting for something bad to happen. It sounds really odd that some of us just assume we do not deserve good things to happen to us. I’m not sure why I felt this way. Maybe that old saying that “all good things must come to an end” has embedded itself in my head. In any case I put it out there into the universe that the wave I was riding would crash sooner or later, and it did late February when I started to get severe hamstring pain." -- 2012 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Champion Leanda Cave, writing in her blog on the injuries which plagued her 2013 season.
"Realizing I have not been this unfit since I before I started triathlon in 1999. The next few months are going to HURT. #bringItOn -- Mirinda Carfrae, 2013 Ironman World Champion, tweets about her decline in fitness after her wedding to Timothy O'Donnell.
The fire inside
"Our family’s philosophy is different, in that, actions speak louder than words. This is what was behind the wearing of the full gear for the marathon portion of the Ironman races. It symbolizes the service, the strength and the pride that the fire service is about and I am yet one person of this great service with the honor of showing others in these competitions what is possible in this challenging world. The fire gear and symbolism of it brings up many different emotions to each individual and for that moment during the race, everything has a deeper meaning. -- Fireman Rob Verhelst on his unique triathlon kit.
Dealing with it
"Doing things that scare me and facing my fears makes me feel alive and helps me to push myself to new levels. I think that in order to continue to improve you have to overcome fear and obstacles to have more confidence. My logo stems more from the fact that women can be both strong and beautiful. Just because we push ourselves and get dirty, we are still feminine." - Betty Designs owner Kristin Mayer.
"You think, ''Yes I can! No I can't. Yes I can! No I can't!' You are exhausted and in so much pain and you just want to finish. Then you see it's possible and you think, ' I can do it!' It is back and forth and all the while my dad was shouting at me, 'Get your heart sign!' You just have to put it in maximum and give your all - and have no regret." -- Two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson on her struggle with pain at the end of this year's Maui race.
"I’ve made a few mistakes in some races to support other racers only to be handed a big slap in the face and beaten at my own game. I’ve since learned that a race is far more than just swimming, biking and running fast - tactics are important. And one of these includes disclosing nothing of how you’re feeling and playing the game of competition: (wo)man against (wo)man. -- Multiple Ironman 70,3 winner Angela Naeth.
"Whoever invented this sport must be out of his mind…. But I sure had a lot of fun doing it." - Cycling pro Axel Merckx on his first Ironman 70.3 race.
Battle of the sexes
"I once answered a booty call from an Ironman world champion at his hotel room (purposefully leaving the door cracked in case I needed to yell for help). When the champion informed me that I had not 'finished the job,' I told him that, considering his world title, he could finish the job himself." -- Amanda McCracken, Boulder Colorado freelance writer, coach and massage therapist, writing a Private Lives essay in The New York Times.
"There is no equality between the genders in Israel. In reality, still more men are in managerial and leadership positions and women need to fight much more to get into a position of leadership. This is one of the things that are very important for me. Which is why I always emphasize being 5th overall including the men at the Full Israman in 2010. Because to me strength and mental ability have nothing to do with gender. It’s where you are here (POINTS TO HER HEAD AND HEART) So this is why it is important to emphasize that everyone is equal." -- Nina Pekerman, Israel's only woman professional triathlete.
"I've finished this race in 5th, 4th, 3rd and now 2nd," smiled Jackson, who called upon a poker metaphor to define her ambition. "I'd really like to complete a five card straight next year." -- Heather Jackson on her numerically improving string of results at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
"Honestly it is my most important win because if you stop believing in yourself, you lose your best weapon. If you stop believing in yourself, you can ask yourself how it feels when you have some trouble and you will not have the same strength of will." -- Sebastian Kienle talking about his win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship after a season plagued by injuries and illness.
Ignorance is bliss
"This was my first triathlon ever so I was excited, nervous, but also unsure how I would handle the different transitions. I have to admit that I did not know what I was heading into. My main goal was to make it to Gaustatoppen and get the black [finisher] t-shirt. The last 30 minutes was just a hard struggle to move forward. I had to start walking, almost lost my balance sometimes, and tripped on some of the big rocks on the trail. It was foggy and no visibility, so I could not see how far it was to the top, so none of us knew until I had about 150 [meters] left. Then I just stumbled to the finish and collapsed in the arms of my support knowing that I reached my goal of the black t-shirt. It is only afterwards I realized that I also had won one of the hardest triathlon competition in my triathlon debut." -- Inger Liv Bjerkreim Nilsen, on winning her very first triathlon, the Norseman Extreme.
“'The problem is there are now no canyons to run up, no more climbing,' said United Healthcare’s Ben Day, whose own home was isolated by the flooding. 'So many people live in Boulder for the amazing roads we have and the ability to access the mountains, but now there’s no access.'” -- Cyclist Ben Day quoted in Velo News on how Boulder's big September flood affected endurance athletes.
Matters of taste
"The only thing I didn't like was the food. You know when you're 89-K-ing on the bike and you start smelling hot dogs with caramelized onions, and everyone's offering you a bite or a hamburger or a chicken wing? Do you want to see a chicken wing when you're 10 miles in? No." -- Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay quoted in Vegas Eater, on his appetite during the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
"That’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. One that comes to mind would be roast lamb with roast veggies washed down with a chocolate self-saucing pudding. It's great fuel for a long Saturday morning brick session, the downside is the risk of a coronary and potential onset of diabetes from the amount of sugar in the dessert." New Zealand pro Callum Millward on the consequences of his favorite foods.