Monday, July 16, 2007

Swimming the Mendoza Line

In my last post, I mentioned the Mendoza Line for swimming in a triathlon.

I figured I should take a moment to explain it, seeing as I'm the one who coined the phrase, and it hasn't caught on as quickly as I'd hoped.

It comes from baseball, where the Mendoza Line refers to a .200 batting average. There's a wikipedia description of it here, although that seems to have been edited since I first saw it. People who follow baseball know that batting .200 really isn't very good – but anything below .200 is not only bad, it's eye-catchingly bad. I also think that the roundness of the number - .200, which baseball folks invariably refer to as "two hundred" and not "point two" – has a lot to do with it. When you see someone's stats and you see the "1" in the first digit, you know they're going to the minor leagues soon.

More generally, the term can be used outside of baseball to refer to "any level or acceptable mediocrity" or else the level that separates mediocre from straight-up poor.

In triathlon swimming, that level seems to be at around 2:00/100 yards.

I should note that for real swimmers, that would never work. I’m guessing that 1:30/100 meters would probably be more like it, but even that might be too slow. But triathlon swimming isn't normal swimming, it's much slower. And 2:00/100 yards is a nice round number.

Of course, 2:00/100 meters is an equally round number. And in many cases better, as an olympic distance swim is 1500 meters. So, there are two competing Mendoza Lines.

According to the metric one, I just missed it yesterday – I was under 31:00, and the metric Mendoza is 30 minutes for 1500 meters. According to the standard one, though, I was under – at 2:00/100 yards, 1500 meters takes 32:48. That left me with almost two minutes to spare!

I think the fastest swim split was around 21 minutes.

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