By Christopher Cudworth
Ever since I started associating with this triathlon crowd, I’ve had a sense that there is something more to the sport than meets the eye.
Thanks to intensive research at the recent Racine 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon, I am now officially able to expose the truth about triathlons. I believe we are witnessing a giant series of scientific experiments.
If you study the sport carefully and with the right perspective, triathlons have all the elements of science in action. Science requires several things:
Numbers of participants: There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of test subjects in triathlons.
Controls: Experiments being conducted by the Ironman organization includes highly controlled processes, logistics and controls, guaranteeing consistent laboratory conditions.
Variables: Weather and temperature conditions during each individual triathlon provide variables necessary to test the performance and tolerance of each individual.
Data: Data chips are attached to each triathlete, documenting every movement by time, distance and transition.
So there you have it. All the elements in triathlons point to some sort of giant social or political experiment designed to test human stamina and functional capacity of all those involved in the sport.
To what end, you might ask?
All great experiments begin with a question. The easy question might be along the lines of something like, “How much can they take?”
Yet typically the triathlon experiment goes for something much, much deeper.
Living near the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory has given me something of a neighborly insight into the nature of science and the science of nature. Fermi scientists long used a particle accelerator to break down the elements of nature to its smallest components. Quarks and such.
There is recent evidence that the elusive Higgs Boson has been discovered in experiments at the Lucerne, Switzerland supercollider.
LiveScience describes the Higgs Boson this way: “The Higgs boson particle, which was detected for the first time in 2012, is essentially tossed around like a ball between two force-carrying particles known as W-bosons when they scatter, or bounce off of one another.”
So there you have it. Life is basically one big game of catch at a very, very small level.
Our very existence is both a game and an experiment, and triathlon starts with the process of bouncing people off each other in the water, proceeds to placing people on highly spinning wheels and finishes with a highly impactful exchange of energy with miles and miles of ground.
Just as important, we know that competition is the foundation of all nature. But it all starts with a chemical and energy exchange inside our bodies and proceeds in an arc all the way to the start of a triathlon with people swimming and kicking each other in the head so hard that some get concussions.
You’re lucky if you don’t sink to the bottom at that point. Anyone that has done an open water swim knows this elemental feeling of existing between the planes of water and sky. You are swimming for your very survival. If the water’s cold enough you wind up shivering and stiff, sitting in the medical tent where people say things like, “Here, drink this.” And then you start to wonder…who is really controlling all of this?
But if you make it past the swim segment you emerge and shed your second skin like some formidable amphibian. If you’re lucky there will be wetsuit strippers there to help you moult into another type of creature. A cyclist. Then a runner. It’s all transitions and time and movement. You breathe in. You breathe out. You execute thousands of swim and pedal strokes and take thousands of steps to complete the experiment.
It’s all going into a giant database, you know. Someday a brilliant scientist will publish the results. It will be a finding on the order of global warming, I predict. What will emerge are patterns that tell us things are changing. The world is changing and it is being caused by human beings. No amount of denial by fat cat ideological tyrants will change the fact that the human race is trying to wrest free from the petri dish fat bath we’ve created through ingesting huge amounts of sugar and fat.
And what else might be found when this large-scale triathlon experiment gathers enough information to reveal some new scientific truth?
I predict what we’ll find is the equivalent of the Higgs Boson of emotion and soul. That effort equals some form of elemental sustenance. That every athlete is a key component in the molecular foundation of society. We move energetically, just as electrons and protons and all those smaller components of the universe move. Yet through our movement, we are somehow holding all of society together. That from chaos order can evolve. It is true throughout all of creation. That is the tarsnake of all existence.
It may in fact be found that without such movement, society either congeals or dissolves. Hence the compelling nature of events that test the limits of human endurance. We are witnessing an experiment in holding the fabric of culture together.
This is vital because there are so many other forces try to pull us apart; politics, religion, money and conflicts of national and international interests.
Instead, the act of watching people reduced to elemental efforts is the last string of commonality, the Higgs Boson of human nature. It really is a beautiful thing to see, like watching penguins or seals at play in the ocean.
Yet even when it is ugly, difficult or painful to witness or endure, the Higgs Boson of triathlon is one of the ties that bind. It helps us recognize the tenuous structure of all matter––and, all things that matter. Which is being human, and recognizing both the individuality and interconnectedness of all things.