Every athlete has an interesting story to tell. Actually, all people have interesting stories, but this is a blog about triathlon, so I’m going to stick to athletes for now.
I became aware of an athlete in my coaching group who was in a very strict lockdown for quite some time. Her conditions were far more restrictive than mine so I wanted to find out how she was coping. What resulted from the interview was not only a look at her life in the era of COVID-19, but an interesting story of how she became hooked on triathlon.
Since the interview, her restrictions have been eased, but not by much. If you have the time, I encourage you to listen to her story here and take a look at her pictures in the gallery below.
In the months and years to come, we look forward to seeing Jolinda at many more races. Until then…
Challenge Roth is a popular race: a very popular race.
Registration for Challenge Roth opened today at 10:00am Europe Central Time which is the same as 4:00am Eastern Daylight Time. As I write this, I am sitting in Eastern Daylight Time at 4:14am. It has taken me about 12 minutes to realize what just happened, because it happened so fast.
In less than 90 seconds the race sold out. 90 seconds? Come on! That’s the second time I’ve missed out on an entry to the famed Challenge Roth triathlon. I’m beginning to wonder if this race actually exists.
Or maybe it does exist and I’ve been thinking of it all wrong.
What if Challenge Roth is not really a triathlon in Roth Germany? What if it is actually a game devised by psychologists just to see how many people will jam the internet with requests to enter a triathlon? The real challenge here is not an ultra distance triathlon. The real challenge is quickly entering your name, birthdate, email and nationality into a web form. Maybe no one gets in. Maybe the standard reply to the application is a rejection web page.
And what’s up with “nationality?” Why do we have to scroll through the list of every known country on the planet? If you’re from Afghanistan or Armenia, you don’t have to scroll very far. But what if you’re from some obscure little country that begins with a U… like United States? You get to waste precious time scrolling to the bottom of the list. And keyboard shortcuts didn’t help much, because as soon as I typed ‘U’, it scrolled to United Arab Emirates. My brain had to adjust to the cursor’s jump down the list. It warped right past United States and it took me a while to realize that the UAE is listed after the US, even though the country names were fully spelled out.
I hope my sense of humor is not offensive. I actually feel really good knowing that there are races that create this kind of demand. Although my main goal over the next several years (or decades) is to qualify for Kona, entering Challenge Roth is another goal I hope to achieve.
Good luck to everyone who successfully entered the 2021 edition of the Challenge Roth triathlon.
I’m not an observant jew, but I like Passover and I do like eating Matza. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen matzoh at the grocery store so I had to resort to making my own.
It’s an old family recipe. Someone else’s family not mine. I found on the internet.
If you are not familiar with the story of matzah It all started when the Isrealites were tired of slavery in Egypt and left in a mighty big hurry.
I don’t read Hebrew so I can’t quote the Torah, but here’s a verse that I pulled from the King James Bible, Exodus 12:39
And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
Two simple ingredients: flour and water. You would think it should be easy to make, but you’d be wrong. At least in my case you’d be wrong. I mixed and kneaded and rolled and baked. What resulted was something incredibly crunchy and tasteless.
Actually I think I created a very authentic matzo. It tastes like it has been in the dessert for 40 years.
Sami and Mary love their athletes. The other day they sent out an email with a bingo card attached, but this wasn’t any ordinary bingo card. Instead of numbers and letters, each cell of the grid had an item written in it. These were items that you might see while out on a training run. The idea was quite simple: you run during your normal training and if you see one of the items on the bingo card you check it off. After you check off all cells in a row or column, you get bingo. And then something, something, something ( I think you get a prize, but I’m not sure).
Even if you don’t get a prize this is the coolest idea.
There’s only one problem for me. The bingo card that Sami gave us has typical items you might see in town: newspaper, flowers, fire hydrant, etc. I live so far out of town, it’s been said that Lewis and Clark were my realtors. But I want to play bingo too, so I made my own redneck, in-the-country bingo card. Here it is if you’re interested:
If you’d like, you can download your own copy here, but if you spread it around you have to give Fusion Endurance credit love, because Sami and Mary are the brains behind the original.
This post is what some people might call “puke on paper.” Not that it’s bad. It just may seem like several unconnected ideas barely tied together. Maybe it’s just a trail of thoughts. Whatever it is, I hope it will be an argument to encourage more people to try endurance sport.
I Have a Hypothesis
The desire to actively seek out difficult challenges is rooted in ambitious and driven personalities regardless of socio-economic status.
I’m not a sociologist or psychologist. But if that statement above is true, then what are the barriers to entering the world of endurance sport? Why do so many high school athletes grow up to be sedentary adults? Is a significant segment of the modern human population devoid of ambition and drive? If so, evolution is not working in our favor right now.
That hypothesis has not yet been tested and I’m just not sure how to get the data to test it. (To be honest, I’m pretty sure none of this matters and life will go on happily without anyone testing one of my crazy hypotheses).
Sometimes I wonder if triathlon is a sport of the rich. Next time you’re at a big race, look around at the bikes in the transition area. Look at the cars in the parking lot. If you don’t see what I see, then read no further, because I’m basing everything that follows on my repeated observations of very expensive bikes and cars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median full-time weekly earnings among a sample size of 60,000 households was $936 in the last quarter of 2019. That’s a yearly estimate of $48,672.
Now compare that to the over $100,000/year reported to be earned by 6,700 of the 10,217 respondents to a USAT survey in 2016. Because 6,700 is greater than half the sample size, that would put the median income of people affiliated with USAT over $100,000.
If that’s all you look at, then you might conclude that triathlon is, in fact, a sport available primarily to the upper middle and wealthier classes. But there are several problems with that conclusion.
751 respondents taking part in the survey were from non age-group athlete categories like race directors, professionals and coaches. However, we can not separate them out from the income categories, so we don’t know what impact their responses have on average income.
There are 362 respondents that make less than $30,000/year. Does this group include age-group triathletes? We don’t know.
Could there be some other factor besides wealth alone that might describe why I see so many high priced bikes and cars at triathlons.
Most all triathletes I know are driven to perform somehow. They either want to improve their own PRs or qualify for Boston and Kona or they want to see just how far they can push themselves and what amazing things they can do with their bodies.
Now, I must admit that I’ve been a bit biased in what I’ve told you so far. I actually have seen bikes racked at IRONMAN races that are probably less valuable than the running shoes racked next door. That’s usually an exception, yet it does exist. Does that mean that triathlon really is available to those with less resources?
Why This Might Matter
I believe that drive and ambition are what help to make people rich. I also believe that drive and ambition are behind age group triathletes who enjoy triathlon. If that’s true then triathlon does not have to be a sport of the wealthy: triathlon might transcend economic status. Yet there seems to be a lot of value placed on very expensive items such as bikes, watches, clothing, wetsuits, pneumatic recovery boots, etc.
So where am I going with all this?
I guess I want to believe that triathlon is the great equalizer of human achievement. I want to believe that I can race against the very best and a very diverse group on the same course and on the same day. I want to believe that performance matters regardless of how much each athlete can spend. I want to believe that all I need to qualify for Kona is a strong desire and a lot of work.
My father was born almost six years before The Great Crash of 1929. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), he grew up during the Great Depression. The one storyline I distinctly remember him telling me several times was about his father and the family’s good fortune during one of America’s most difficult eras.
His father, my grandfather, worked for the U.S. Postal Service which gave the family quite a bit of security knowing he had a job. Every now and then, I would ask dad about the depression and the only take-away messages I remember are:
there are no guarantees in life.
a secure job will keep food on the table.
He talked about how lucky the family was to have a regular income. Times were still tough, but not as tough as waiting in bread lines.
As I reflect back on those conversations more than 40 years ago, there were things he didn’t talk about. He didn’t talk about all the people out of work during the 1930’s. He didn’t talk about how hungry other kids in the neighborhood were. I learned all that in school and from old newspaper articles.
So here I am today, working in a decent job that allows me to put food on the table, keep a roof over my head and do the sport I love. I got here because this is what I planned on doing. Yet there’s something I didn’t plan on: heartache. I do not feel bad for attaining my current position in life. Instead, I feel guilty that I am still working while millions are predicted to be out of work soon due to the coronavirus pandemic. In my little sphere of influence already, people close to me have been laid off. It is heart wrenching to know that there are good people out there who want work, but can’t in the short term. Some times the short term is too long to wait for a recovery.
All of dad’s wisdom never prepared me for this.
And do you want to know what’s ironic? Dad left his secure job for one of the least secure professions in the world: show business.
But feeling terrible for the unfortunate doesn’t help anyone. I know what I have to do. I must keep working as long as I can to help our sagging economy and put food on my family’s table. I need to continue training for a race that was cancelled a week ago. Above all, I need to act in charitable ways. I hope you will too.
As both readers of this blog know, since December I’ve been training for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga with a target date of May 17, 2020. Now that the race has been rescheduled to August 23, 2020, I have a training decision to make:
Do I continue the race specific training which has me peaking around May 17? or
Do I scale back to a general prep (base) period?
If you are not familiar with the concept of periodization, race specific training is what athletes focus on as they get closer to a goal race. The workouts during this period resemble the target race pace. There will be a few intervals of higher intensity thrown in here and there, but for most workouts, race like intensity is the main focus.
The base period is a foundation of general preparation which precedes the race specific training. It usually consists of long, low intensity workouts.
The content of each phase actually depends on the athlete and the goal race. In my case, I was training for a long course race (IRONMAN 70.3) and following a somewhat traditional periodization plan.
Because my target race was moved farther out in the year, the training I’m doing now is probably not appropriate for the new race date. So here’s what I’m going to do and I hope it helps others make their decision of how to handle training for their new race dates.
Stay The Course
I’m going to train as though I will race on May 17 even though there is no official race on that day. This mean bringing my fitness to a race ready state. The alternative is to drop back to a general prep phase/period and focus my race build-up fitness 12 to 16 weeks out from my next race. The problem with that is two fold: 1) I don’t know what my next long course race is and 2) I don’t want to waste the long course fitness that I’ve gained already.
This actually presents a unique opportunity to test my training before an official race. On or about May 17 I plan to swim, bike and run all 70.3 miles as close to race pace as possible. There will be challenges such as motor vehicle traffic, no aid stations, no fancy finish line and no VIP tent for me to snub my nose at. If it works as I expect, I should have a good idea of how my training worked and what we can change for the next long course race which will probably be sometime in late summer or early fall. That should give me plenty of time to recover, start over in a general prep phase and then build up to a higher level of fitness.
Yes. COVID-19 sucks. It has taken many lives and threatens many more. It has caused incredible economic damage and is destroying livelihoods. To keep things in perspective, triathlon is not essential for the health of the world population at this time, so it is completely understandable that races are cancelled or rescheduled.
On the other hand, we individuals need to find the hope and motivation that will get us through these dark days. For me, that hope and motivation come from the dream to do great things as a triathlete and I know I’m not alone. A rescheduled race is not nearly as much of a challenge when you keep in mind that some people won’t make it through this epidemic at all. I wish the best for everyone.