Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Open Letter to the Very Important Triathlete

Hello. You may not think this letter is for you, but can do the following statements sound like something you’ve said?

·        I look with disdain upon the “average” person competing in the same races as me. Those who show up with a mere road or mountain bike with no endorsed racing kit and a happy look on their face (not a serious competition face).
·        People do not give me the space or respect I need. I have a very specific system for my transition area and you mere mortals who have no hope of seeing the podium should relinquish your space in transition for me.
·        Don’t speak to me about the course, your strategy or much of anything else for that matter. I’m way out of your league and we could not possibly have anything to discuss.
·        I should not have to wait in line to get body marked or checked into transition behind everyone else. I’m going to win my age group today and will definitely be in the top five of all finishers. Waiting is what the rest of the pack does.

If you honestly answered yes to any of the above, then we need to talk.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually have a lot of respect and admiration for you. I’m even a little envious because despite my best efforts to train, the podium is almost always going to be elusive to me. I think your bike with its race wheels and nearly weightless frame is really cool. Your racing kit looks sharp. Despite all of the high-end equipment you are clearly no “Fred.” You’ve proven you’re a serious competitor and I admire that.

Nevertheless, there are some things you’ve forgotten and I’m here to remind you of them.

One:  I paid the same entry fee you did. Today is my race day as well and while I may not make a splash in the rankings or leave the venue with any hardware, I’m still here to compete and do my best. It also means that I’m just as entitled to a spot in transition as you are. This is not the Olympic Trials, the NCAA championships nor the elite wave at Kona. So make a hole because I’m putting my bike here!

Two: I’ve trained very hard to be ready for this race. I gave up sleep, vacations, good food and wine and time with my wife to prepare. I’m also very emotionally invested in this event. I’ve had to overcome fear and self doubt to be ready to take this on. My hopes and fears ride on today’s outcome. My goals may be different, but my race is as important to me as yours is to you.

Three: Despite the rapid growth in our sport, triathlon remains a community. Compared to the overall population, very few of us are crazy enough to go out and swim, then bike and then run. A little friendly banter in transition as we set up is a good thing. By all means be focused on your goals, but loosen up.

Four: While you may be the best in our group, you’re also just an amateur like me. Do Craig Alexander or Chrissie Wellington get special treatment at their events? Yeah, probably. But none of us are them.

It’s actually a very good thing for the sport to have lots of people from diverse talent levels participating in races. No series or even single event will last long if the turnout isn’t good. It also validates your success. Beating a larger field is always more impressive than a smaller one.

I hope the rest of your season goes well and I hope even more that at least some of what I’ve said will be taken to heart.

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