Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Branding and my M Dot Tattoo

       It's been a few weeks since finishing Ironman Texas, and it's taken that long to feel fully recovered, both physically and mentally!
      Physically, recovery wasn't as bad as I expected. When you walk most of a marathon (thanks, gargantuan blisters!) your legs tend to benefit. After the race, I rested for a few days, then did a short easy bike ride, followed by a longer 40 mile ride that Saturday. Bryce and I took our time, stopped for a snack at the Andice General Store (top 5 grilled cheese sandwiches in the country, in my opinion!) and even got down in the San Gabriel river to cool off. What're tri kits good for if you can't go on random swims in them?
We took a dip in the river to cool off!

      Although the high of being an Ironman never really wears off, it has finally sunk in as a new part of my reality. I get a little embarrassed when well-meaning friends ask me to "tell people what you did!" because I don't want to be that stereotypical finisher who lets everyone know what they did. Most of the time, those that I'm telling have no idea what I'm talking about, so I sound like a serious braggart. I'd rather let people just ask if they're curious, but it does make me feel good to have so many friends who are proud enough to shout it from the rooftops, even if I don't.

I did get this cute key chain to replace my marathon one!

And this is definitely hanging in my office! I couldn't bare to just add it to the pile of other medals on my wall at home! 
     My desire to not constantly talk about it probably directly contradicts my physical representations to the world around me though, especially since I finally got my wrist tattoo finished! 

    If you want to read a debate that has a lot of varied feelings behind it, join a conversation about Ironman Tattoos. Wow. Here are my thoughts on the basic arguments against tattoos AND more specifically, Ironman tattoos. 

1. Tattoos are tacky: Yea, so are your platform flip flops and giant blingy crosses on every part of your outfit. But hey, if it makes you happy, then you do you! And let me do me with the art I choose to put on my body. Simple as that.

2. Tattoos hurt your job chances: OK, yes. If I tattooed my neck I'd have a hell of a time getting a job as a bank teller. You should always carefully consider the placement of any body art you want. I work in non-profit development, so although I'm in social work, I do acknowledge that I interact with wealthy donors who perceive my company though me. A neck tat would't work for me, but it'd be fine for other lines of work. Most places can be covered easily with clothes. I am a grown woman who understands her desired career direction and know perfectly well that a visible tattoo will not (and HAS NOT) effected me for the past two jobs I've gotten. Be smart, think it through, and be honest with yourself about the work culture of your industry.

3. Tattoos are just a decision you'll regret when you're old: My rule is when I think of a piece I want (I have two, two more slated for the coming months) I sit on it for a year. If I still want it, I get it. I broke this rule when I got the Half IM tattoo on my wrist, and still don't regret it. I've never understood the "when you're older" argument- when I'm old, wrinkly, and retired, WHY would I suddenly care differently about what I look like? All of the seniors I know are certainly the opposite- they couldn't care less! If I'm still able to rock a bikini at 65, you'd better believe I will and my tattoo will still be a piece of art I love. Got something to say about it to 65 year old me? See if I care!

4. Ironman is a logo/brand, why advertise for them?: Ah, here we go: the first argument that I think should make you stop and think a bit. Yes, Ironman (with a big "I") is a brand name, owned by the World Triathlon Corporation, an organization that, for many reasons, kind of sucks. When it came to picking my design, I did stop and consider if I wanted the logo or something else. However, my idea was to get half of something (representing half of the distance done with my 70.3) and then complete it once I reached my ultimate goal. Therefore, numbers wouldn't work, they'd just have to be crossed out or covered up. The best I could come up with for something I truly wanted that would keep me motivated was what I got: Half of the M-Dot, to be completed as a full M-Dot once I covered those 140.6 miles.

I placed it on my right wrist on the inside so I could see it when I swam, biked, and ran during training. It was uneven from being incomplete, which drove Type-A me insane, providing further motivation. Now that it's done, it's there on the inside of my arm whenever I want to see it.

It's an M Dot. But it's not an advertisement for WTC.

To me and many others, an M Dot is an eponym for "full distance triathlon finisher." Just as you don't always mean "Asprin" when you say you need an asprin, or "Band-Aid" when you need to cover your boo-boo, you don't always mean "WTC Ironman-branded race." when you say you did an ironman. 

People don't look at it when it's placed on someone's car, body, or gear and think "Oh, that person spent $700 to enter a WTC race and supports their brand." They think, "That person finished a 140.6 mile triathlon" There is the Ironman with a big I that is trademarked for many reasons, but there is still ironman with a little i. I'm an Ironman because I happened to complete my race at a course put on my the WTC, but I am also an ironman for doing those 140.6 miles without quitting. 

Triathletes are Type A and frankly, can be kind of elitist, so the animosity toward mixing the big I and little i is annoying, but I get it. That doesn't change my mind, though.

I wanted a succinct, symbolic, clear way to express my accomplishment to myself and those that notice my tattoo, and this conveys my message clearly. It's a blurry line between corporate logo and symbolism, but it's one that I accepted because of what it means to ME. What it means to those who see it is up to them, but I don't regret it for a second.

Is an M-Dot race worth the money and moral quandaries? It's up to you! I chose IMTX because of its proximity to my family and friends. I'm choosing Ironman Boulder next year because of its proximity to my girlfriend who wants to do her first 140.6. Both of these races will be cheap to travel to and feature exciting courses I couldn't and can't wait to experience. 

For a great article on laying out whether or not an M-Dot "branded" race is for you, check out DC Rainmaker. I have done a non-branded 70.3 that was an excellent race ran by a great company that had good swag, great food, and awesome support. I'm most certainly not brand loyal, I just know what that M with a Dot over it represents, and wanted that where I could see it forever. If you complete a 140.6-mile triathlon, it doesn't matter where your entry fee went, you're an ironman and can convey that how you choose. (You just won't hear Mike Reilly say it!)

The original tat next to my now completed one. Love it!

TL:DR? Bottom line- STFU about any tattoos unless they're on your body. Then rock them or don't- your body is yours! 

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