Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Year of the Sports Bra

IM 70.3 NC

For those who know me, you already know this story.  

For those who don't, I can already hear you judging.  That's okay.  Trust me, I get it.  All I will say is that I am a triathlete and we will try ANYTHING. 

Here's the quick run down...

I wear a sports bra for WTC (Ironman branded) races.
WHY?!  ...you ask.
WTC has a rule that males need to wear a shirt for the bike and the run.
I have always known I run better with no shirt.
I wear a bra because it alleviates the affects of heat while satisfying WTC's shirt rule.
The bra (LG Powerbra) is rather comfortable!
Yes, I get looks and questions all the time.
Yes, I was self-conscious the first two times I did it.  After that, I embraced it.
I fully plan on continuing to wear it.  It's awesome!

Here's the run down story to the question I get at every race.

"Ok, I have to ask.  ...why the bra?"

IM 70.3 NC

Over the 2015-2016 winter, I set up my 2016 race schedule; three IM 70.3s (Eagleman, Timberman, and North Carolina) that would all have potentially hot conditions.  Knowing that my best performances have been in mild temperatures, I began looking for tactics to help with the inevitable race day heat.  As of late 2015, I exchanged my "No shirt if it's 50+ degreees" running rule for "You have to wear a shirt no matter what."  I began wearing a shirt on every run whether it was 30 degrees or 90.  That came with some not too enjoyable experiences, but all with the goal that I 'd be better on race day.  I also began cutting out the fan on trainer rides.  My monthly cost for Febreze and laundry quickly shot up.  All of this was in hopes of allowing me to deal better with the heat.

Then I began considering my race attire.  I have a variety of jerseys and I know which one provides the least heat impact, but I wanted to know if there was something better.  I began looking into the newer fabrics, into the sleeved jerseys, and others.  Some reviews argued that they weren't great to run in but were manageable.  I didn't want "manageable."  I wanted "great."  Looking at my inventory, I knew I could bike well in my Newington Bike jersey, but I much preferred running without a shirt altogether.  Unfortunately, WTC does not allow that.

WTC's rule states that a shirt must be worn at all times during the bike and run. 

I began looking at simple run singlets that I could cut short in order to limit the amount of fabric I had on me.  Somewhere in that venture, an idea took the smallest of roots and began to grow.  Of course at first, I laughed.  No way would I actually do that.  Would I?  I didn't even know who to ask about it.  Who could I talk to without it sounding crazy?  I asked my coach who was on board for giving it a try.  I also asked a fellow coach who was my previous coach.  She was ALL ABOUT IT!  Not only that, she swore that male pros used to wear their significant other's sports bra in races before, but it fell out of "trend." 

And the ball began to roll.

Trust me when I say that it was quite weird for me at first.  I am a heterosexual male who is voluntarily considering wearing a bra in public for everyone to see.  Oh, and it's not for Halloween!  But before I even considered buying one, I needed to make sure that WTC/IM would allow it.  The head referee at IM 70.3 Timberman had joked about it once, but I needed to know he was serious. 

I contacted WTC/IM and inquired about the details of the "no shirt" rule; what is the technical side of the rule and could a sports bra suffice as a shirt?  The Global Rules Director provided the following insight.

I had a green light from WTC/IM to give this a try.

I asked some close female friends for their recommendation on sports bras.  That got some interesting responses, but altogether they were supportive (while laughing).  In the end, I went with the brand I trust, Louis Garneau.  They make the jersey that I love, so I trusted them to make a bra I could handle.  I opted for the LG Powerbra. 

I tested it on two long runs under a dark colored shirt.  Those went fine.  The two hardest moments were the first time I wore it in a half marathon and the first time I wore it in a triathlon.  I am by no means immune to social norms and embarrassment.  I strongly considered leaving my throw away shirt on for that first half marathon.  What would people say?  What would they not say but think?  Is there another option I hadn't considered and am going to make a fool out of myself?  Why don't I just wait until race day at Eagleman and wear it then?!

*Sigh*  Off came the shirt before the start.  If I didn't do it then, I may never have.

After that race started the questions.  "Were you the guy with the bra?"  Yeah, that was me.  "Okay, I have to ask, why the bra?"  When I explained it, the spectators agreed that it made sense and the women even chimed in saying that they love wearing just their bra; it's great for the heat and to store ice in.  Great!!

I found the bra served another purpose as well - Motivation.  I did not want to be caught as a male wearing a bra while not looking fast.  Haha

Fast forward to IM 70.3 Eagleman.  In race mode, I found that I had zero qualms about what people thought.  In fact, I had some fun with it as I heard comments.  My favorite was from a volunteer in transition.

(*Running through transition with no shirt and the bra in my hand*)
VOLUNTEER:  Woah!!  Go back, you have to have a shirt.
ME:  (holding up the bra)  I have it right here.
VOLUNTEER:  Okay, but get it on quick.
(* I put on the bra while running through the exit chute *)
VOLUNTEER (to another):  Is that... a bra?
ME:  (yelling back)  Yes it is!
VOLUNTEER:  (*visibly and audibly laughing*)

On course, the bra was great!  Eagleman was super hot (90s heat wave) and I my run felt apart.  I ran aid station to aid station just trying to make it without walking in between.  At every station, I drank water, gatorade, and stuffed ice into the bra.  Those women were right - the bra was so useful!  Post-race, I found I had the 4th fastest run in my AG, a stat I have never been close to.  The bra was a staple right there and then!  I still pulled it off shortly after crossing the finish line though.

It was comfortable, useful, and let me run my own race the way I want to.
Enough said!!
IM 70.3 NC

Ahead to IM 70.3 Timberman.  This race didn't go as well, but the bra proved itself to be quite helpful in keeping me cool.  And the Betty girls who were cheering gave me a good laugh.

BETTY GIRL:  (quietly to the others) Here comes that guy in a bra again.

I just waved.

Finally, IM 70.3 NC.  At this point, the bra had become my habit and I was not phased by the idea of wearing it at all.  I actually wore it post-race for awhile because I was too tired to attempt the removal and wanted to use it as a place to store my gels, medal, etc.  The embarrassment was gone.  The other guys in the food tent didn't even ask about it.

Hey, how'd your race go?
Do you like those shoes?  I'm looking at something new.
What'd you think of that wind on the bike?  Brutal, right?!
Did you see the prom aid station?!  I was looking all over for a limo!

The two final 2016 nails in the sports bra coffin came after.  I placed 6th overall with the 6th fastest run of the day. BOOM!  And that allowed me to earn my slot to the 2017 WC in Chattanooga, TN.

IM 70.3 NC Awards (I'm in the middle)

At the end of the day, we are triathletes.  We were the first group to put pointed bars on our bikes so that we could bend forward out of the wind to save a few minutes.  We were the first to wear helmets that look like sperm on our head because it promised us faster times.  We nit pick every ounce of weight on our bikes despite the 10 pounds of water and gels we tape to it.  We argue over whether 23 or 25c tires are faster.  And we wear anything that is advertised as a faster material or equipment.

So why should a guy wearing a sports bra surprise ANYONE?!?

Fun Fact...  
The last time I raced at Beach 2 Battleship (now IMNC), I was the only guy in a pink kit.  My spectators told me I was super easy to pick out.  This year, there were at least half a dozen guys in pink. 

The next time I race there, I may not be the only guy in a bra!


1.  Guys, would you consider wearing a sports bra if it meant you'd be faster?

2.  Ladies, how much do you love your sports bra when you run?  

3.  Would you laugh if you saw a guy wearing a sports bra in a race?
If anyone has ever seen another guy wearing a sports bra in a race, I want to know!!  



Laura Longo said...

Congrats on your race ... Way to be a trend setter!

AdjustedReality said...

Ha! Seems silly that there's something wrong with wearing what is essentially a shorter tri top. Way to rock it out and congrats on qualifying!

Groomy said...

Wow. That was a hilarious post. I mean, sometimes I can be judgemental (I think rightly so), but here I see no reason to. You are an athelete, and you are wearing a sports bra for a reason. It’s not a joke. But I do get why people would find it hilarious though. No reason to pay heed to that. Keep rocking the bra bro, and the races!!