Slowtwitch - "When the Shite Gets Brown"


Written by: Dan Empfield

Publisher’s note: We typically place Jordan Rapp’s “victory” speeches on Slowtwitch, as he has received considerable comment and notoriety specifically for these. Below is his speech at the Triathlon Business International conference just concluded, where he was the male athlete receiving the Ron Smith award for 2012. As will be apparent upon its reading, I publish this with humility and gratitude. Go Rappstar.
Typically when I give speeches, it’s because I happened to be the guy that swam, biked, and ran 140.6 miles faster than a bunch of other people. It is a privilege and an honor to be up here not because of a performance against the clock, but it also makes it a lot harder to know what to say. I think the most appropriate sentiment is, “Thank you.”

I did not know Ron Smith, but thanks to Dan Empfield, who has been my mentor and my historian as I’ve become a part of the triathlon community, I am glad that I know of Ron Smith. When Ron passed in 2011, Dan published a powerful piece on Slowtwitch, written by Mike Plant. That was my introduction to Ron Smith and to the legacy that this award was designed to honor.

The most compelling part of the article is the phrase of Ron’s that Mike chalks up to Ron’s days as a UDT Frogman, “…when the shit gets brown.” Ron was a guy that was there when his friends needed him. And I have found that be the rule within this sport. Triathlon is a community of people who will be there for each other when the shit gets brown. I think that sense of community is why we are all here. And it is that sense of community that I have endeavored to honor both on and off the racecourse.

I tried to pay homage to that idea, that sense of triathlon as a community rather than a sport, after the Ironman US Championships in New York. I gave a speech inspired by the Sir Isaac Newton quotation, “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Many giants are part of this organization. But I would like to say a special thank you to Dan Empfield, who has not only let me stand on his shoulders, but who has lifted me up onto them, more times than I can count. Thank you, Dan.

I am proud to say that I have a career as a professional triathlete. I make a living for myself and my wife and son. And I do that because too many people to count were there for me when I needed help. I’ve led an unbelievably fortunate life. I would say that, by Ron Smith standards, there was probably only once in my life when the shit got really brown. But no matter how small – or how big – the hand-up I needed was, there was always someone from within this community ready to offer it.

Mike Plant wrote of Ron Smith that he treated everyone equally. From CEOs to janitors, he treated them, Mike wrote, simply as people. And I think what binds us all together in this community is that we are all a particular kind of people. We are triathletes. We all swim. We all bike. We all run. We all suffer. But we suffer together. That shared passion and community is our greatest legacy, and it is one I am proud to be a part of. Thank you.

Courtesy of