Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Athenas and Clydes-the great debate

Nah, I don't want to talk about goddesses and horses (although that would be a fun post!)  Shockingly, this is another triathlon post.  Yep, I know. What can I say?  I kinda like the sport.
Quick and dirty-double workout today = speed work (6 x 400) and a 2 hour ride.  My legs hurt and so does my tush.  I'm hoping the hubster will address one of those later.  Preferably legs, but hey, who's gonna be picky?
Now, onto weightier matters (I jest, I jest).  Kinda.  If you're new to to the sport of triathlon, it's similar to road races in many ways in terms of "divisions".  Obviously, there are male and female divisions, as well as age divisions (usually in 5 year increments: 25-29, 30-34, etc.).  One difference is that your age for triathlon is what your age is at the end of the year (so, this year, I am aged up to the 30-34, even though I don't turn 30 until October-thank you USAT) whereas with running, your age is what it is on the day of the run. 

The power of Clydes

Another difference in divisions?  Weight.  Certain races allow for "Athena" and "Clydesdale" divisions-for women over 150 pounds and men over 200 pounds, respectively.  Athletes compete in this division in lieu of age groups-Athena is one group and Clydesdale's as one group.  Therefore, you might see a 205 pound 60 year old man competing against a 230 pound 30 year old. 
The rationale?  It takes more energy to carry more weight, therefore, these athletes should be in a different class.  Before I get into my take on this, let's talk about ch-ch-changes.
As of January 2013, USAT will be changing the weight classes-Athena's will now be women 165 pounds and above, and Clydes will be men 220 pounds and above.  According to USAT minutes from March 8th:
Athena/Clydesdale Weight Limit Proposed Change-

XXX presented the committee with a draft of a resolution he had prepared for the Board that would raise the weight minimum for Athena athletes from 150 to 165 pounds and for Clydesdale athletes from 200 to 220 pounds. XXX stated that this increase in no way is being proposed in a derogatory context, but that athletes today are bigger and stronger (and consequently heavier) than they werein the past. In discussion, XXX also indicated that the RDC has already signed off on this proposal.  XXX indicated that he had no objection to the change, however, for clarity he had suggested that the terms “Clydesdale” and “Athena” be changed in the rule book to “Weight Classification Athletes”. This in no way would impact a race directors desire to continue to use the former terms at their events. XXX stated that the RDC did not oppose the proposal and they believed that the current weight minimums are on the light side. They did stipulate that the weight increase be proportionate for men and women rather than a flat amount of weight. XXX forwarded by email to the committee an article appearing in the LA Times on November 28, 2011 that discussed the weight gain of the average American over the past 20 years, indicating that the average “self reported” weight for men and women was 196 pounds and 160 pounds, respectively; an increase of about 20 pounds in both sexes.\In discussion, the committee was concerned about the timing of this proposal going into effect and XXX resubmitted the proposed policy with a January 1, 2013 effective date. 
Following discussion, the following motion was made: That the proposed minimum weight changes included in the draft resolution submitted by XXX be endorsed by this committee at 165 pounds for women and 220 pounds for men and that this change take effect on January 1, 2013.

Well, there ya go.  Looking for a great perspective from an Athena?  Check out SwimBikeMom-Athena athlete and proud of it.  I think her attitude is great, and makes sense.  If USAT allows for weight to be a factor, then you should go for it.  After all, I don't race in the men's category to prove a point, do I?  Nope.
Typically, though, most "Athenas" will choose to race in their respective age group categories rather than disclose the fact that they weigh 150 or 165 pounds-chalk it up to the media and America's obsession with being "model skinny".  If only the scale were banned....there are so many better ways to determine "fit" than the number on the scale! ....but that's another story. 
What about Clydes?  Well, I'd like to use the hubster as an example (he said it was okay!).  The hubster is a former football player...and is built like one.  Solid upper body, muscular legs....and would look super scary if he weighed much less.  He clocks in a 220-225, so will most likely always be a Clyde.  He wears it well, and enters the division on occasion.  Does he place?  Sometimes.  But, according to him, he has no issues being a Clyde (he's 5'11") but wonders at the fairness of the 6'5" dude who is stick skinny (built like a runner) and waxes everyone.  Is he a "Clyde"?  According to USAT, he is.  So what's fair?  Well, he's not sure.  That's why he often opts to enter the 30-34 division and call it a day.
My Take?  Well, this is hard.  I'm not an Athena, but am borderline-with the old requirements.  I weigh in at 140-145 depending on the time of the season, whether or not I am Ironman/marathon training (I tend to gain a bit) and how many cookies I ate last night.  Could I be an Athena?  Sure, if I ate a big breakfast the morning of a race and carb loaded like a champ....at least, according to the old guidelines.  But I won't.  And it has nothing to do with being afraid of weighing 150 pounds or having people look at me differently (cause really, triathletes are for the most part the most awesome, non judgemental, inclusive group I've ever met).  So why wouldn't I be an Athena?  Well, I think you have to draw the line somewhere.  I can get behind men and women competing separately-that's a pretty easy divide (unless you could transgendered athletes or those that have had a sex change, but thats a whole other ball o wax).  Age groups?  okay.  I can understand that someone who is 30 might not be on the same level as someone who is 60.  (However, people peak later in tri's-usually the late 30s, early 40s are the fastest groups).  But at what point are we splitting hairs?  Sure, you can say that someone who weighs 200 pounds will have more weight to carry when they run or bike but.....
I have more time to train and sleep than my friend Karin, who has several young kids.  Does that mean there should be a "mommy" division?  (Please say no.  She kicks my butt as it is).
My friend Rob is currently unemployed.  I work 40 hours a week, so theoretically, he has more time to train than me.  Should there be a separate division for people who have jobs?
I'm a social worker.  Lovely job, but it doesn't pay.  My friend Jay is a lawyer.  He makes serious bank, and can afford a better bike, a coach, and a power meter.  Should there be a separate division for that?  His equipment is much better than my beater bike and DIY $20 Internet plan.
Am I splitting hairs?  Probably.  Bottom line, USAT can do whatever they like-I'm still gonna play because I love the sport.  And really, I could care less who beats me or who I beat...it might sound trite, but the next time I toe the line at Ironman....I'm not going to try to beat Athenas, or Clydes (which is good, becuase WTC doesn't do those!) or my friends.  I'm going to beat 12:50, my old PR.  And that's that.

Whats your take on the whole Athena/Clyde thing?  Does it change anything for you in 2013?


  1. I proudly race Athena - I'm 5'8" and have a swimmer's build, and I rarely drop below 150 unless very sick. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, my weight is no secret at a triathlon anyway since we're hanging out in spandex all day. Second, I like being able to show that women can be heavier without being "fat" (which some people equate with Athenas) and can also race (relatively) fast no matter what their weight is.

    And finally, it's an option for me (until the weight limit gets raised), and I take it. Nobody has to do it. It's like any other special division offered at a race (e.g. military, novice). Great, more awards. In the end, all of us are racing against the clock.

    1. I think that's great. If it's offered, why not take it? I just think it's wrong that somehow it's contstrued that 150 is "bigger"- it's not. People are always amazed at what I weigh, it's alot of muscle, which is denser, and most athletes are the same way. Food for thought!

  2. I'm 6'3" and weigh 205 and by the way I'm 63. I quit age group and moved to Clydesdale because most of the athletes left in my age group seemed to weigh under 130 and I couldn't compete, giving up 70lbs. Now in Clydesdale I do really well because I'm at the lower end of the weight limit. Matter of fact I've been called "Speedy Gonzalez". I don't feel it's right for people to have to give up alot of weight becuse it's the same position I was in when I was in age group. But I have given up anywhere from 11 to 34 years. I don't know what the answer is but I think you compete at where you do best. USAT determines the categories,I just race-em!