As most people know, the thing that first piqued my interest about triathlon was body marking. Something about being in a sport extreme enough that your race number had to written in big, black numerals on your arms and legs (and your age on your calf so you can scope out your age group competition on the run) was just compelling. Even the words "body marking" send a shiver down my spine. So, this Sunday at the Tucson Triathlon, I actually got to wield the pen myself for the first time, and mark up some bodies. This experience taught me a number of things...
#1 being: If I were single and looking (or if you are), I think body marking is an excellent way to go shopping. First of all, I'll state the obvious, which is that not only are most triathletes in pretty good shape, but also, you get to get up close and personal without it really being personal. At this triathlon, we had to write the race number on both upper arms and just above both knees, and also the person's age on the back calf. Triathletes, for the most part, seem to be pretty cool with having total strangers manhandle their bodies. Not only that, but most people are either nervous or excited about the race, so they are really pleased to see someone smiling at them and being friendly, especially if that person expresses an interest in whatever pre-race thoughts or anxieties are flitting through the triathlete's head. I would think it would be perfectly possible and possibly even acceptable to engage in some light flirting. Not that I did this, but you could!
#2: It's equally hard to write on extremely flabby untoned limbs and extremely cut limbs. 70-year-old skin is so yielding that it's hard to make straight lines with the pen. But on the other hand, those huge guys who spend too much time in the gym and have softball-sized arm muscles make it just as difficult. YOU try writing a big 3-digit number on the upper arm of a body-builder and have it come out straight!
#3: People with too much ink -- also hard to write on. I love tattoos, but from now on I have to remember that very big forearm tattoos are probably not a good idea if I want to stick with triathlon.
#4: The hardest people of all to write on: those who have just put on sunscreen and/or lotion. I feel bad for that one girl who had just slathered herself with so much sunscreen I could still see it, all white and goopy, all over her arms and legs. It took me several minutes and two different pens to get a (barely) legible number on her. If you're going to put it on -- and of course you should -- let it dry before coming to body marking!
#5: I don't feel so old anymore. I have no idea what the average age of triathletes is, but I do know that I only marked a handful of people younger than me. There were so many people in their 40's, 50's, and even older that it made me feel young at 35. (Much like being a patient at the Southwest Blind Rehab Center can make a 70-year-old feel young.)
#6: I never want to do what this one woman did: she said, "Sorry about my cellulite" as I was marking her. Didn't she realize that that would make me feel awkward? I can't very well say, "Oh, you don't have any cellulite," when she very obviously did. I said something along the lines of, "Oh no, ha ha," while wishing she had professionally not mentioned it and I would have professionally pretended not to see it.
#7: The whole experience made me wish that I was participating in the triathlon instead of just body marking people. I can't wait for the Firecracker Triathlon in July!