This month in Triathlete's Point-Counterpoint, Cameron Elford and Rebecca Roozen discuss whether "serious athletes should receive special treatment on race day, or should everyone just lighten up for Pete's sake." This struck a chord with me, and I was curious on your opinions as well. Do you think slower ("less serious") athletes slow you down on race day, or are you more annoyed by the hard-core ("more serious"), aggressive athletes yelling at you to get out of the way?
Elford writes, "practically all of us have been thrown off, perhaps even frustrated, by a fellow competitor (and I use the term here loosely) as he or she lollygags through the race without a hint of urgency, content in the serene, peaceful state of being a fool."
On the other hand, Roozen argues, "if you haven't made the cut and aren't carded as a pro, turns out you're just like the rest of us age groupers. So you might as well loosen up and have a little fun."
I have to agree whole-heartedly with Roozen. Triathlons are intimidating enough with the slick space-age tri bikes, disc wheels, and rocket helmets. I wish it were more beginner-friendly. I want more people to see what I've discovered--how fun it is to be healthy. The world would be a better place (and certainly a lot lighter) if we all participated in triathlon. It's nerve-racking enough on race day without the hard-core pro-wannabes elbowing at the swim start and yelling aggressively on the bike course. I may not be fast, but I certainly train as much as the next guy, and I like to think of myself as a "serious" athlete. When I'm out there on the race course, I'm suffering just as much as the next guy. Only thing is...I just may be having a little more fun. What's my secret?
I had to swallow my pride a long time ago as fellow tri club members zipped past me on the swim, bike, and run. If I were in this to win, or even PR at every race, I would have given up a long time ago. In fact, I had to dig a little deeper and find out the true meaning of why I go out there and race. It's become more of a spiritual journey and an adventure than a race to win.
I was listening to an interview with Chris (Macca) McCormack (Ironman Talk) and he said confidently that he shows up on the start line expecting to win. He then retorically asked why other athletes show up if they don't expect to win. Of course, Macca is gifted so he hasn't had to search for an alternative reason for racing. But I don't show up expecting to win the race, not even come close. I show up on race day expecting to have fun, get some good exercise out of it, and maybe even learn something about myself or my place in the world through the struggle of getting to the finish line.
Then, I listened to an interview between Roman Mica and Mark Allen (on 3/30/06 at http://www.everymantri.com/), an absolute legend. In the first part of the interview they talk about spirituality and triathlon, and it really hit home for me. He said that most athletes are preoccupied with their lactate threshold, heart rates, and VO2 max but that on race day, none of that matters. How you will perform is up to you, as a person. Mark Allen comments on the importance of mental toughness: "Especially in the longer races, like an Ironman. You have a thousand moments where you want to quite and a thousand moments where you don't feel good. You question what you're doing out there and what your motivation is. Being able to draw strength from somewhere in those moments to make it past them is really what peak performance is all about."
Fit Body Workshop
To hear an Ironman legend like Mark Allen speak about the spirituality in triathlon made me actualize why I'm out there every day, kicking my ass (slowly). It's not about the speed. It's not about the finish line. It's about the adventure along the way.