Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Discuss amongst yourselves...

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.


RunBubbaRun said...

I think in any sport or activity there will be some hard core
know-it-alls. But the rest of us (99%) are there to just finish our journey..

I guess you will find out soon enough, the IM race is just that, the journey towards it, is what it is all about.. Have fun and enjoy that day. Time splits and race stats all fade eventually.

Andy said...

I think I fall somewhere in between the two. I have been in this sport a couple of years now, and I would like to improve to the point where I might podium at some small local races, and then do well at larger ones. Then there is the other part of me that it is the satisfaction of just competing in this sport. I think you can get the latter from my most recent post (where I finished my worst Sprint time ever) and I was in good spirits.


Cliff said...

Good post.

I like Faris attitude of racing..he just goes hard straight from the start. If u hear Faris interview, he is rather a cool guy. He ain't worry about winning he just want to give it all.

In a sport, or any thing related to competition, there will be intimidation factor as ppl gunning for better times and better performance.

At the same time, it is imperative to show as a traithlete that this sport is a lot of fun.

We are all ambassador of this sport (and lifestyle). How we act on race day or when we act with our freinds reflect our attitude of the sport. If we treat triathlon as super competitive, ppl will pick that up. If we treat it as a fun good lifestyle, we acn show that too.

hmm..i love going long.

jameson said...

as someone who does show up to try and win I can honestly say I still have as much fun and somebody racing their first race. I think that's one of main reasons I will continue to focus on Xterra racing. The races are harder, the vibe is killer, and eveybody is cool and down for an ice cold beer after race. I don't train as hard as I do to not have fun on race day. It's the payoff for working hard and if you can't enjoy it's time to start over and find something that will make you happy.

Unknown said...

Great post! What the Macca's of the world fail to remember sometimes is that if it wasn't for that back-of-the-pack person willing to shell out the money to do the race, there would be no race to begin with and no prize money for him to win. Triathlon isn't the NFL, there is no billion dollar TV contract. The sport's survival lies in the agegroupers footing the bill so the elites have a place to play.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind people like you entering races. Just stay to the far right.