Skip to main content

Be kind to newbies

Those of you who have read the blog for awhile know I have a special pet peeve about those who aren't nice to the new and the slow in endurance sports. Even with my own complaining about the way some races have turned into glorified parties, I still think there is room in the sport for the non-competitive, recreational athlete.

This rubs a few people in the sport the wrong way.

Don't get me wrong, it's a few. Not all. Not even really most. Not even 50-50. Most people you encounter in endurance sports are amazingly helpful if you have questions, supportive, and want to see you succeed. We'd rather have you racing with us than on the couch.

But for a select few there is definitely an elitism at work. And I'm not talking about elite athletes. More like a certain segment of the demographic who looks down at the way that marathons or Ironman has become a "bucket list" celebration of accomplishment. And less something people only compete in if they're training to win. They're both a-holes and poor ambassadors for the sport. We should be encouraging and happy so many people want to get involved in what they perceive to be a test of not only personal fitness but personal toughness. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

At some point, you were a newbie, too. Someone probably gave you a hand up. Someone probably showed you the ropes. Answered your stupid questions. I was fairly encouraged to see this morning one of the more snobby message forums include numerous words of encouragement to someone (not unlike me) with an endurance background but weak swim hoping to finish and Olympic distance triathlon in 90 days. There were a few "don't drowns." But mostly it was positive "go for it." That's the right attitude. (Though, yes, I understand that we also need to encourage people to take fitness, health, and racing seriously enough to not die on the course but that's another topic, in my opinion.)

Anyway, that's not why I'm really writing this today...we picked up Kelly's Scott CR1 Team road bike from getting maintenance at a very reputable local shop the other day. Yes, this is the CR1 that she's given me permission to ride during Ironman Wisconsin and my training next season. For those of you not into bikes, this a fairly fast, lightweight, carbon road bike with aerobars and extra bottle cages that she rode when she was doing some serious cycling.

It's been sitting collecting dust in the trainer in the basement for a couple years. But we've gotten the bike trailer and I have my flat-bar and we've committed to riding together as a family in addition to me getting more serious about my cycling. Hopefully, we're headed out together for the first time this evening! So she knows what she's doing...probably going to be a bit wobbly getting back in the saddle at first.

I'm not going to mention the name of the business because it wasn't the owner we dealt with. And they did great work otherwise. The cranks shine like the day the bike came home, the cassette teeth are shiny, the new tires look gorgeous. But when we picked up the bike, the employee says something along the lines of "you know not to use those around people, right?" Those, meaning the aerobars. Around people, meaning a a general rule it's not polite or safe to be in the aerobars when riding as a group. Especially if you're with roadies, not triathletes. Or when you're around casual riders.

There was a condescending, unasked-for advice quality about it. Generally, unless someone asks, you don't offer up rudimentary information assuming they know nothing. It's rude. And perhaps he meant it as a PSA, of sorts. But he just as easily could have asked if we knew aerobar etiquette. Though, granted, he already asked if we wanted them taken off when she first brought the bike to explain to the wrench-guy at the local shop that the bike serves multiple purposes within the family? She's riding it this season. I'm racing it next season.

The nice thing is at least the tires are the type--25mm Gatorskins for those of you who care--that I can train in until closer to IMWI. I'm probably going to put a pair of 23mm Michelin Pro 4's on for next summer, but I currently have 25's on my bike, too. Plenty adequate. So really all I'm looking at is needing a good bike fit and it's almost all setup for next summer.

Back to newbies though. Be kind to them. Point them to good resources. And always remember that dead last is better than DNF! And to all my middle and back of the pack friends...remember it's our race, too! Don't let the podium spots get all the glory.