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confessions of an age-grouper
We Are Family
by holly bennett
I travel frequently, and I’m addicted to people-watching while on the road. The Denver International Airport hosts my favorite consortium of strangers, perhaps because of the intrinsic closeness I feel toward so many of them. Colorado is a hub of outdoor activity, thus the fit folk passing through DIA far outnumber the non-athletes, filling me with a strong sense of familiarity—even if I’m not on a firstname basis with a single traveler aboard the inter-terminal train. Often I find myself smiling with abnormal intimacy at a strange man in the security line. It’s not that I’m flirting; it’s just that I feel a curious pull toward him. It’s as though we might be second cousins (though it’s most certainly a different sort of pull than if we hailed from the backwoods of West Virginia!). It’s a familial feel, a deep bond of commonality and recognition. He and I are members of the same tribe. You know his type—heck, he might even be staring back when you look in the mirror. The closely shaved head, topped with a pair of Rudy Project sunglasses. The slightly hollowed cheeks and eternally flushed skin. Maybe he’s clad in an Ironman finisher’s shirt, or a less obvious but equally legit Endurance Conspiracy tee or Art of Tri hoodie. I know without looking that when he pulls off his K-Swiss shoes for the security scan he’ll expose a tight pair of 2XU compression socks. And his quart-size Ziploc bag holds at least one packet of Gu. This is Triathlete Guy, and while we don’t actually know one another, we’re family all the same. Of course, as in any family, we tribe members have our differences. While to the untrained eye all fitness aficionados might meld together in a blur of muscle tone, slight distinctions exist. Roadie Guy is perhaps the most akin to Triathlete Guy, though a wee bit leaner and with his nose buried deep in the latest issue of VeloNews. Look closely and you’ll spot the telltale bike grease residue under his fingernails. You could safely wager your life savings that he’s sporting a Road ID and shouldering a Timbuk2 messenger bag. Outdoor Guy sets himself further apart with his North Face jacket, Vasque hiking boots and Kelty backpack. Guaranteed he works at one of Boulder’s many outdoor-industry companies, follows a gluten-free diet, is a card-carrying member of REI and frequents the climbing gym. And then there’s Runner Guy, the single-sport purist and a triathlete’s version of the red-headed stepchild. His waif-thin frame, slightly baggy ’70s-era clothing and shaggy, unkempt ‘do practically scream out for someone to take him home and feed him a real meal, topped with a thick slab of butter. But despite our subtle differences, these guys and I are indeed a closeknit—if unacquainted—clan of athletic individuals. If ever we do meet, it’s a foregone conclusion we’ll have more in common than our average airplane neighbor in seat 15B. So next time you see me at the airport, come on over and give your cousin a warm hello. I’ll be the one in the pink Newtons scaling the stairs instead of riding the escalator, with a Triathlete magazine tucked in my carry-on and an oddly familiar smile on my face.
triathlete.com | May 2011