First, what defines a Clydesdale? From the USAT rules, “Clydesdale and Athena athletes: Minimum weight standards for this category are 200 pounds for men, 150 pounds for women respectively, to be monitored by the local race director. The age breakdown will be 39 years of age and under and 40 years of age and over.” Most people just refer to this division as the ‘Clyde’ division in general.I used to run marathons in my age division. One of the consequences of repeatedly placing among the slowest is that I came to believe that I was an awful runner. Indeed, I had less confidence in my running ability after completing 8 marathons than I did before I ran them. What is wrong with this picture?One of the great benefits of triathlon is that so many races have Clydesdale divisions. I always wonder why large women race in age groups when there is a Clyde division available. I know the idea of being identified with a large draft horse may be “indelicate.” But let's face it, no matter how wise your wardrobe decisions, you are not fooling anyone if you are a large woman. Some women are Clydes because they are tall, or very muscular. Others have body fat issues. It doesn’t matter why you are a Clyde. What matters is realizing that there are important advantages to competing in the Clyde division. Besides getting a true measure of where you stand among your peers, you will be assigned a spot in the transition area among other large women and men. What a great way to meet other like-minded folks that have size issues in common! Clothing, equipment and training are hot topics for all Triathletes, but Clydes have unique needs in these areas. Who knows, you may find a new training partner.A large body is harder to move than a small one. Clydesdale women ARE ALL slower than average-sized runners. Look at the Clyde results of every race distance from sprint to Ironman, and you will notice that the fastest run pace for a sprint is in the vicinity of 8 ½ minutes per mile. Most of the runners in the top three run over 9 min. miles and often are in 10 or 11 minute-range. The paces are even slower for the Ironman. So perhaps you are not such a lousy runner after all! Indeed, there are so few women in these divisions that your chances of placing in the top three are much better than in age divisions. Yes, YOU COULD WIN A MEDAL!If you are fit and large, no amount of training will transform you into a small person so embrace your Clydesdaleness! Reframe your idea of what a “fast” and “slow” runner is according to your physiology. Imagine how you would train differently if you considered yourself a good runner, rather than one that is embarrassingly slow. Would your running posture be better? Would you spend more time developing flexibility and strength? Would you invest more playful enthusiasm into your running? Would you be less reluctant to run with others or to hire a coach? Imagine what these changes would do for your running, your fitness, and your self-esteem. At the very least, you might just enjoy the run portion of your race more. Maybe you would stop telling yourself you are a slogger, and instead call yourself a runner.
Author of the latest in the Ironman Series of books,
"Ironplanner: Iron-distance organizer for triathletes", USAT level 1 coach.