Friday, February 23, 2007

It's All About Participation

A certain well known blog friend likes to say that it's all about the bike. After all, we tend to spend most of our time in a race on the bike, and blowing up on the bike leaves us ill prepared for the run. A poorly fitted bike can leave our legs wasted on the run. Poor nutrition on the bike leaves our energy reserves tapped as we head into the final stage of the race.

Of course, we all know he's wrong. (No, say you DIDN'T just call the one and only P-Dawg Leader WRONG! The consequences of such an action are unknown, but certainly foreseeable. How could you make such a rash comment?). A triathlon is all about three disciplines. Become a master of only one discipline and the best you can hope for is a record in that portion of the race. Yes, the bike is important. But give up 20 minutes in the swim and an hour in the marathon, and you had better be able to make Lance Armstrong look like he's using training wheels. Because you'll need that kind of lead to hold off the elites who excel at all three disciplines.

Of course, I'm wrong, too. It isn't really about the swim, the bike, or the run. At the end of the day, it's all about the participation. Few of us are ever going to be elite level athletes. In fact, many of us have few hopes of being truly competitive in our age groups. For most triathletes toeing the line at any given race, motivation must come from something other than a podium finish. For them, participation is the key. They are there because they want to be there.

Usually, they have something to prove to themselves. Perhaps they want to test their limits. Sometimes, they just need a "light" at the end of a training tunnel. They win just by showing up.

Perhaps some in our sport, including the leadership in the companies that oversee the pinnacle events in triathlon, need a refresher on that subject. A video from NA Sports (thanks for posting it, Comm) attempts to highlight the Ford Ironman triathlon. Unfortunately, it seems every image on the video is from the IM World Championship in Kona. Watching this video, one would think that the only 140.6 mile race in existence is in Hawaii.

It is little wonder that outsiders are unaware there are races all over the world. And while NA Sports may have little motivation to promote non-Ford IM events, they might do well to at least advertise those.

And beyond that, they might do well to remember that triathlon is about far more than Ironman. Just as Ironman is about more than the bike, most triathlons are something other than 140.6 miles, and most triathletes have yet to become an Ironman. Many never will.

As someone relatively new to the sport, I can safely say that the image outsiders see is that of the 140.6 mile race over the hot lava fields in Hawaii. I was surprised to learn there were lots of alternatives, many of them shorter than the marathons I have already completed. Perhaps it's time to market those shorter events and grow the sport from the ground up. That will be far more successful than attempting to find newbies interested in going the full 140.6 miles.


Duane said...

Good post!

WADDLER26.2 said...

Good thoughts.

a.maria said...

i think this is a fantastic post, and i can't agree more, but at the same time, after looking at the comments on comm's site.. i'm a little confused at why there's so much negativity towards this video.

its titled a "ford ironman video"... anyone that knows anything about ford ironman would, for all intents and purposes, dream to achieve the opportunity of racing at kona.. wouldn't they? so where's the harm in taking footage of the sport's pinnacle race?!?

i don't know why i keep defending this.. probably because i'm looking at it from a design/advertising perspective AND because of pms, but.. i dunno, anyway...

my two cents...

Cliff said...


I am with you. To me, IM there is only one discipline, mental toughness.

Nytro said...

nice post.

you know bold's going to kill you, right?

Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

I love your blog! It just makes sense. That's why I keep coming back and lurking on the sides. This time though, I'm with Nytro, you know Bold's gonna kill you, right?

Deb said...

Well said. The IM can (and is) such an overwhelming event, (even to seasoned racers) that if we don't look beyond 'the big one' it will remain just another elusive sport.

Iron Pol said...

Bold, being a sensible and mature person, will have little choice but to see my logic.

And kill might be a little strong. He may declare how "ON" it is, or consider coming to Louisville just to set pace for me on the bike. But kill! Certainly not in the face of such overwhelming logic.

Nytro said...

you're right... kill is a strong word, and should only be used for special occasions... like: i'm going to kill that woodpecker in the backyard if he keeps banging on the damn tree!

would annihilate suit you better?

cuz, man.. you know bolder's going to annihilate you, right?

Comm's said...

like I have said, get your IM out of the way now before Oprah does it and then it jumped the shark, so to speak.

It is odd that after a decade outsiders still only recognize Kona as THE Ironman, as if there is no other.