Most people are aware of the triathlon the includes long-distance swimming, biking, and running which will be referred to here as FeMan, but how many have heard of the indoor test of creative endurance known as the Irony Man? After comparing the two competitions, the reader can decide which event is more trying to body and soul.
FeMen often train six months or longer before the big day. Irony Men spend years studying dramatic irony in the works of Sophocles and other playwrights and comic irony by viewing reruns of Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies.
FeMen enjoy fresh air and pleasant scenery whereas Irony Men are locked in a stuffy room with snide contestants, most of them adopting dandy poses like that of Eustace Tilley on the cover of The New Yorker.
FeMen just dive right in and paddle their way until the 2.4 mile swim is over. At the drop of a goose quill, Irony Men have to elbow their way to the podium, grab one of the official pens, race to a desk, and begin composing a dozen sonnets. Not only do the poems need to be laden with romantic irony but four must be Petrarchan (rhyme pattern abba abba cde cde), four Shakespearean (abab cdcd efef gg), and four Flintstonian (yabba dabba doo).
While biking 112 miles numerous FeMen complain of muscle spasms and become discouraged when lapped by speedier athletes. Writer’s cramp is seldom a problem during the composition of the three-act play because most seasoned Irony Men are ambidextrous. As these switch bitters are thinking of their next Wildean epigram, they often are seen flipping their pens back and forth between hands to keep their fingers and minds limber.
More than a handful of FeMen shuffle or trot during portions of the 26.2 mile run as fatigue begins to slow them down. Irony Men are known for keeping poker faces to the very end, although head-scratching in a pensive Twain manner while contemplating how to put the right spin on the next witticism or astringent remark during the 2,000-word story competition is allowed.
Along the course FeMen nourish themselves with energy bars, salt tablets, and chicken broth. Irony Men truly endure a grueling experience because every three hours a woman garbed as a muse comes by each desk to plop a helping of porridge in a small bowl. Any contestant asking for more is given the Dickens.
FeMen reputedly train their bladders to go the distance, although unsubstantiated accounts of accidents during the swim portion have been reported. Although Irony Men may use the washroom in the back of the hall as often as needed, transposing graffiti found in the stalls to the written pages is considered bad form and grounds for possible disqualification.
Accounts of the final struggles of winners are laden with heroic images such as those describing two-time FeMan winner Macca: “At that point he closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and went for it.” (How he found the finish line with eyes shut is not explained.) Mocka, recent Irony Man champion, amazed the judges by finishing his story titled “An End to Blood Shed” with a sketch of a shed drawn in his own blood.
Anyone who fails to complete the triathlon during the period of 17 hours receives a “did not finish” classification instead of a “Finisher” medal. Any Irony Man not done writing at the end of twelve hours is given a garment with this lettering on the front: “Scribbling all day and all I got was this itchy hair shirt.” Those completing all three parts of the composition are presented with a big button reading “A Finished Writer.”
Whatever the prize for claiming the FeMan championship it cannot be more appropriate than the award given to the #1 Irony Man: the Shoemaker Trophy in the shape of a human foot which bears the inscription “The Last Shall Be First.”