Giving Back

Triathlon and running are extremely selfish pursuits. You may say to yourself, “I’m not selfish, what are you talking about? I don’t hoard the extra-large popcorn tub at the movies all to myself. I will occasionally share the remote with my spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate so that they may enjoy their stupid reality TV or sports programming. You’re crazy.” Well, think about it. How much time do you spend obsessing about “your” training plan, “your” diet, “your” 5k splits at your last marathon, or how much nicer “your” bike is than the bikes racked next to yours? If it’s half as much as me, then it’s way too much.

If you’re training for a marathon or an Ironman, then this selfishness increases exponentially, especially if it’s your first event. For that first Ironman, every waking moment from registration day to about two weeks post-race is spent devising a training plan; searching for and purchasing that one piece of gear that will help you qualify for Kona; worrying about how you’re going to pay for all the new gear, as well as plane tickets, hotel rooms, bike transport, and the growing grocery bills accompanying the increased training load; worrying about conquering the distance; the actual training and racing; and finally the soft post-race “look at me, I’m an Ironman” afterglow . Besides all the training, Ironman becomes such a self-absorbing endeavor that you can be sure that you will lose almost all contact with friends, relatives, coworkers, and the world around you. (side note: Thankfully, in both 2004 and 2007, I was either finished with or not training for an Ironman – otherwise I probably would have slept through the Red Sox winning the World Series).

Greatest day ever

In the light of all this selfish behavior, you would think that triathletes and runners would be considered as self-absorbed as supermodels or reality TV stars (care to bet which spends more time in front of a mirror?). However, this does not have to be the case. Many of us (myself included) completed our first triathlon or marathon as part of a fundraising group such as Team in Training or LiveStrong. Even though our main goal may have been to complete a triathlon or marathon and get into shape or lose a few pounds, the additional benefit of raising money for a worthy cause made the journey that much more rewarding. 

We interrupt this post as we proudly bring you a new and what will probably be a regular feature on SwimBikeRun called…

What the hell!

In What the hell!, the  truly bewildering aspects of our sport and the people who partake will be further picked apart so that hopefully someone may learn a valuable lesson or at least chortle at those around  them. In today’s installment, we’ll explore…

The Wheelsucker

Not the person behind me today, but all I could find on Google

My usual weekday ride takes place at Flatwoods Park in North Tampa. If you know the place, then you know that it’s an eleven-mile paved multi-use path frequented by cyclists, runners, walkers, rollerbladers (frickin’ rollerbladers!) and even those weird three wheel scooters. I usually ride solo after work, plug in the iPod, and head out for a few loops, usually zoning out as I ponder my next attempt at taking over the world.

Foiled again!

Today, on two (almost three) different occasions, a cyclist that I had just passed hopped right onto my back wheel and stayed there. Now I know that I should just continue on with my ride, but whenever this happens, I can’t help but wonder why these people would do this. Why would someone draft off of someone they’ve never ridden with before? Cycling is fraught with enough danger that even the slightest lapse in attention can cause a wreck and bring down everyone around you. And believe me, crashing at four miles an hour hurts just as much, if not more, as wrecking at twenty miles an hour.

Here’s where the problems arise:

When I ride by myself, I’m too busy rockin’ to the latest Lady Gaga joint to really pay attention to my surroundings, so I may slow quickly to watch an aardvark playfully scamper though the grass or swerve quickly to the other side of the path to avoid running over a trail of ants enjoying a scrumptious discarded gel packet. As this year has been terrible for allergies, I usually spend half the ride spitting or blowing snotrockets behind me which soemtimes causes me to swerve violently. With all the slowing, swerving, and snot racketeering, there’s a really good chance that someone riding too closely behind me might end up eating some pavement and possibly taking me down in the process. Being a triathlete, my bike-handling skills are next to zero, so anyone riding behind me, especially when I’m riding solo in my aerobars, head bobbing to “Bad Romance”, is really taking their lives into their own hands.

So please, if you’re passed by a lone cyclist wearing an iPod and weaving drunkenly, snot dangling from his nose and hands, fight the urge to jump onto his/her wheel. Stay a few lengths back. Save the paceline work for organized group rides or when riding with friends.  You’re getting a better workout by riding by yourself, and you won’t end up taking a booger bomb to the face.

Or I could just be that insecure about my athletic ability to let another cyclist stick to my wheel. Maybe that’s why I usually speed up when an interloper drafts off me. Nah, that’s not it.

Thanks for letting me rant. In the next post, I’ll continue with the whole “giving back” spiel.

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