Funny Stuff

Lee’s column was originally humorous pieces. Some of these were collected in his book Stumbling Toward the Finish Line.

It's nice to know that the Iron powers that be are always on the lookout for exciting new locations for races, and they've sure come up with some creatively off-the-beaten-path sites.

Of course, one man's exotic is another's ho-hum. Florida? Please. Their state bird is the Early Bird. And as for the championship of the world's #1 toughest endurance event, whose idea was it put it in the world's #1 tourist destination? That's like having "Survivor" in Disney World. When you step off the plane on your way to an Ironman, you should be dodging rhinos or poison darts, not local women draping flowers around your neck.

Having just pigged out on sixteen days of Vancouver glory (ask me anything about curling), I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between the Olympics and the Ford Ironman World Championship. There’s much to be learned, so I offer these lessons...

They call it "Everyman's Everest." Right. If by "Everyman" you mean anyone who can afford to pony up half a yard for the entry fee, fly to Kona and live there for a week.

In case you're not familiar with the term from Greek mythology, "ambrosia" was the food of the gods, carried to Olympus by doves, a divine exhalation of Earth itself that conferred immortality upon whoever drank it.

It makes sense, when you think about it: Spies can't exactly get on your standard, public social Website and just say, "GS13 black op's case officer on R&R from Afghanistan seeks 30-something mid-level staff spook for a bit of embedded input-output-input-output. Comfortable safe house with fully-vetted staff a must. Is Boris Badenov? Crack my code and find out. Please, no freaks, geeks or real names."

When we landed in Kona last week, my wife said, "Boy, it's just like Christmas, isn't it?" A lot of people who race Ironman think the World Championships are like Christmas in October. So why shouldn't The Big One have its very own Christmas-y songs?

I don't see the point of advice columns by Ironman champions. Just because you won doesn't mean you know how to win, at least not in ways that you can explain to others. Kind of reminds me of reporters asking those people in the Andes how they lived to be 120 years old, as if one of those people actually knew the reason. ("I never drink, I drink every day, I don't smoke, I smoke three packs a day, yada yada yada.")

Anybody who runs a leading edge business will tell you the same thing: "Innovate or die." Steven Jobs invents the Apple and by the time he's finished bragging about it, the company gets snatched away and given to some guy who used to sell soda. Took Jobs another ten years to figure out he needed an iPod a year to keep from losing it again. Did Bill Gates sit on MS-DOS? NASA on the Mercury capsule? No. They got creative and kept on going

There are nine thousand books and ten times that many magazine articles telling you how to train for the Ironman. Remarkably, there is nothing anywhere telling you how to watch the Ironman. What makes this so weird is that there are vastly greater numbers of people who watch the race than actually do it. Now, doesn't it strike you as odd that no one has as yet seen fit to address the needs of this neglected yet vital component of the Ironman ohana?

Actually, I should have called this "Pronouncing Hawaiian." As I said in Monday's blog, Kona locals are enraptured with the Hawaiian language. Everywhere you go you see words in Hawaiian: on posters, in newspaper editorials, on t-shirts, in the Aloha Airlines onboard magazine. A few years ago I decided to study a little Hawaiian because, spending as much time here as I did, I thought it would be nice to converse with the indigenous population in their own lingo.

After my little essay on the Hawaiian language was posted here yesterday, I received a scathing e-mail from my literary agent's assistant, Nikki Van De Car. Turns out Nikki grew up in Volcano, a little town right near the Kilauea crater where she apparently inhaled so much sulfur she forgot that you never insult the client.

After you! No, after you! No, please, you go ahead! No, no, you go ahead! No, really…!"

You call this a competition?

t's nice to know that the Iron powers that be are always on the lookout for exciting new locations for races, and they've sure come up with some creatively off-the-beaten-path sites. Of course, one man's exotic is another's ho-hum. Florida? Please.

There have been thousands of articles written about Ironman. Remarkably, they're all the same. I know, because I've written dozens of them by ripping off other writers. Interestingly, everybody who writes about Ironman thinks he's being original,

Several years ago a professional golfer named Casey Martin filed a discrimination lawsuit against the PGA Tour, which wouldn't allow him to ride in a cart despite a debilitating leg ailment because tour rules mandated that all golfers walk the course. The truth is, it wasn't that Martin was handicapped; it was that all the other golfers had an unfair advantage.

The same is true in IRONMAN, but we can fix it.

I know a lot about Ironman. After all, I've watched more of them than most people have done. So I have to kind of sit back and smile when I hear some of the answers to the age-old question, "Why do they do it?" They want to see what they're really made of. They want to find out if they have the right stuff. They want to push themselves to their limits. They want to break out of the ordinariness of everyday life and do something truly extraordinary. Yadda yadda yadda.

Please. It's all I can do to keep a straight face in the presence of so much psycho-falafel.

In my last column I wrote about why people do Ironman. That it was deadly accurate doesn't atone for the fact that I made it all up, so I decided that it might be a good idea to do a little actual research on the topic. Then I decided not to, because research is really annoying.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque nibh ante, efficitur ut consectetur vulputate, venenatis ac diam. Ut sed tellus a nulla consectetur aliquet. Integer eget congue tellus. Cras lobortis lobortis metus, posuere fermentum tortor lacinia a. Aenean at nibh ut sapien fringilla auctor ut ornare nisi.

I think I'm eminently qualified to comment on how the sport might be improved, if only those pig-iron-headed know-it-alls in WTC would wake up and smell the VOG.

If you’ve ever been involved with psychiatry or psychology – from either side of the couch – then you’re familiar with the reference book to end all reference books, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known fondly the world over as the DSM. Turns out that the 2013 edition of the DSM, set for release on October 12 (go figure), has an entire subsection devoted to the variety of afflictions known to beset Ironman triathletes.

You know how you think you know someone and then something happens to that person – a lethal disease, bankruptcy, a Nobel Prize, or you play a round of golf with him for the first time -- and only then you discover to your horror what that person is really like? It’s much the same when that person becomes a LOOPIE (Loved One Out to Participate in an Ironman Event)

There was a great headline last week: Ironman Winner Nearly Loses At Finish Line On Account Of Gloating. Great story, too, but what really got my attention was that the event at hand wasn’t a full Ironman; it was a 70.3. This was the first time I’d ever heard the word “Ironman” used to describe a 70.3 race without “70.3” next to it. Which got me thinking...

Ever wonder where some of those great Ironman triathlon words and phrases come from?

Me neither.

But, amateur etymologist that I am, I decided to do a bit of research anyway, and discovered that there is a great deal of misconception about the origins of some of the more popular terms in the sport. Here are a few examples, in no particular order...

Every great sporting event tries for an extra touch of class to make the tailgaters think they're really at the opera. The Super Bowl uses Roman numerals in its name (which is going to be a little tough to unravel 43 years from now when it's "Super Bowl LXXXVIII").

WTC really needs to do something along those lines as well, and my suggestion is that they declare Latin to be the official language of the Ironman. All else aside, they'll get a license fee every time somebody says "nostrum" or "peccadillo" on television.

What a sight it was as the participants lined up in Kailua-Apple Bay for one of the greatest sights in the world of sports: over 85,000 athletes in a single mass swim start, representing 89 of 90 states (Fairfax-Chernobyl having no remaining population, of course), all 9 countries of the United Nations, 158 U.S. protectorates and three planets.

Dear Lance:

I hear you're going to be doing Ironman.

Neat. But like those women who write their hotel room numbers on their underwear and throw them at Tom Jones, there are triathlon coaches everywhere who are going to be writing their email addresses on water bottles and heaving them in your direction.

Don't listen to any of them. Listen to me, a veteran, having watched dozens of these races from the sidelines.

They call it "Everyman's Everest."

Right. If by "Everyman" you mean anyone who can afford to pony up half a yard for the entry fee, fly to Kona and live there for a week.

But does it really need to be this way? In this era of downsizing, does Ironman really need to be a spectacle every time out? ("Eight million bananas! Forty-two billion pounds of ice! Enough volunteers to populate the entire town of Piscataway!")

There are nine thousand books and ten times that many magazine articles telling you how to train for the Ironman. Remarkably, there is nothing anywhere telling you how to watch the Ironman.

Loved ones, herewith a few tips to make your race day all you hoped it would be.

A tourist walks up to a native Hawaiian
and says, "So is it Hawai'i or Havai'i?"

     The native answers, "Havai'i."

"Thank you," says the tourist.

     "You're velcome," replies the native.

I wrote a whole book once about how golf equipment manufacturers long ago discovered that their customers will believe in, and pay big money for, anything they're told will improve their games, even though there was no evidence for it. So I got to thinking: Why not try the same with triathletes?

[Article pending...please revisit later!]

I don't see the point of advice columns by Ironman champions. Just because you won doesn't mean you know how to win, at least not in ways that you can explain to others. Kind of reminds me of reporters asking those people in the Andes how they lived to be 120 years old, as if one of those people actually knew the reason. ("I never drink, I drink every day, I don't smoke, I smoke three packs a day, yada yada yada.")

I decided to give some thought to how people actually win The Big One, the Ironman World Championship. If you follow these simple steps to the letter and don't overcomplicate things with a lot of extraneous gobbledygook, you will win. I guarantee it.

In a time when condo associations order the stoning death of residents who water their lawns during daylight hours, it's a wonder Greenpeace hasn't Zodiac'd its way onto the swim course at the Ford Ironman World Championship and jacked the turnaround boat. Could there possibly be a more blatantly nose-thumbing display of energy profligacy than the Ironman World Championship?

I've given WTC a lot of advice over the years. They've taken none of it. There are only two different meanings you can attach to that, and hey: I'm not the one who got sold, if you get my drift.

So I'm going to give the new owners the same opportunity I gave the old and see if they do a better job of paying attention when I offer up some free consulting.

What is "vog?" Well, let's say you wanted to make life really miserable for a lot of people but you lost your job as a mortgage banker and needed an alternative method of inflicting pain. One of the things you might consider is dropping sulfuric acid over a few hundred square miles from high altitude.

Last month in Kona someone asked me an interesting question.

"You obviously love everything about the sport," this person began, "so when are you going to do an Ironman yourself?" It was a reasonable question to ask and I considered it carefully prior to replying.

"Imagine," I eventually began, "that the entire Earth is a solid ball of brass. And imagine that, once every thousand years, a butterfly floats by and brushes it with its wings. When the planet has been worn down to the size of a macadamia nut, that's when I'll do Ironman."

Ah, just kidding. Of course you should let your children grow up to be triathletes.

It's just the kind of thing you want for the little tykes. The benefits are too numerous to count. Okay, not really…you can count them on one hand. But you know what I mean.

I've never done an Ironman, or at least not a full one. But I have done pieces. There was the Romper Room One-Mile Fun Walk in Rahway, NJ, the Trike-Around-the-Block fundraiser for victims of psoriasis in Aruba, and I've been to the Splish 'n' Splash Family Water Park in Palm Springs not once but twice, my friend.

I therefore feel fully qualified to dispense Ironman advice, and while it's not my habit to do so for free, I've decided to open the contents of my private mailbag to the general triathloning public for the very first time.

Blew it last year, didn't you?

Spent a whole year scheming and dreaming about The Big One, qualified on your third try, breathed several thousand miles of road dust and exhaust fumes, swallowed enough chlorine to disinfect Lake Superior and spent less time with your family than a Mir astronaut, then came to Kona and, just as you planned, left nothing out on the course but a stomach-full of Power Bars.

Except it was the swim course, because you never made it far enough up Pay 'n' Save Hill to make your first gear change before toppling over like Saddam's statue after the invasion. And now you have no idea why it happened.

LEE: I want you to tell me the names of the guys on the Australian team.

KEVIN: Who's in the red swim trunks, What's in the black, I Don't Know is in green---

LEE: You know the guys' names?

KEVIN: Yes.

LEE: Well, then, who's in the red trunks?

KEVIN: Yes.

LEE: I mean the athlete in the red trunks.

KEVIN: Who.

LEE: The guy in the red Speedo.

KEVIN: Who.

A few years ago I wrote an article for Competitor Magazine entitled "A Word to the Triathlon Widow(er)." It was a highly idealistic and somewhat romantic plea to the spouses or Significant Others of Ironman athletes, urging them to be as understanding as possible as their loved one pursues an idyllic and demanding dream.

A lot of people read that piece, copied it and passed it around, and to all of them I say this:

Please disregard it.

I've changed my mind.

Early in the first millennium, Polynesians "discovered" the Hawaiian islands.

Now, the Polynesians had no compass, no sextant, and didn't even know the earth was round. For water transportation, they used rafts. Considering that the Hawai'ian islands are three thousand miles from their native Tahiti, it's fairly safe to say that they "discovered" Hawai'i by getting lost and bumping into it by accident.

What's the in thing for the with-it Tri Guy, now that the Mark Allen Spiderman top has gone the way of the Nehru jacket? Am I crazy, or is anybody else seeing polyester retro ski-suit neon that says, "Sure I'm tough, but I'm not afraid to sweat, either." Little beads of perspiration that hit the camera like, ooooohhh, I don't know…a Paris Hilton brooch in a cheap home video (is there any other kind?). Anybody can wick, but it takes a real stud-muffin to cling and absorb.

I recently got to thinking about what the plural of "Ironman" might be. "Ironmans" doesn't do it for me. You don't need a lot of explanation there; just say it out loud and you sound like Damon Wayans doing "Men on Movies" on In Living Color.