The Under Appreciated Athlete

At the Y today I met a fellow from Michigan. He and his wife are retired schoolteachers. They moved to Elizabeth City, NC to be closer to their daughter who teaches in Chesapeake, VA. The fellow was preparing to swim, as was I, when I noticed he was wearing a one-piece triathlon suit.

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Me running in a one-piece triathlon suit. They’re designed to be used in the swim, bike and run without needing to change apparel.

These  suits are one-piece sports apparel that look a bit like the old swim suits of the late 1800’s. They are sleeveless tops connected to the short bottoms that zip up the front. When I noticed what he, Randy, was wearing  I asked if he was a triathlete. He said yes even though be was built more like a wrestler. In fact, I learned he had been a wrestler when he was in school. As a teacher, he taught math and physical education (two of my favorite subjects).

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This guy wearing a 1800’s version of a tri-suit

I further learned Randy, is 65. I have another friend, Paul, who is 76 and  training for an Ironman.

What I’m getting at is this, there are a lot of senior athletes training and competing at a high level.  A friend of mine, Bruce Buchanan has seven Ironman World Championship age group wins. But, he’s not famous like the pros that have won 6 times or even twice. Heck, even his finishing times weren’t much off the top pro times – and he’s beaten more than one pro. Unlike the pros he’s beaten he was a full time periodontist (now retired).

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Randy and Paul may never win an Ironman World Championship.  But, they’re out there putting it on the line.  A number of bonuses come from being active in sports: feeling better, looking better, sleeping better, becoming healthier, and improved cognitive function to name a few. Enjoying sports and working out is not just for kids and young people.  Randy, Paul, Bruce and only examples of a significant population of folks over 50 that are finding ways to stay active and become involved. I certainly appreciate their efforts.

 

Watching the Ironman World Championship

On Saturday October 10th on the Big Island of Hawaii they held the World Ironman Championship. That was one many Ironman events I completed. I watched this one via my computer.

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It’s a bit tough to watch, not being there. I raced it in 2008. It was like the Super Bowl of Triathlon. I haven’t done an Ironman race since 2013, that year I did two.

Ironman events are long races. I really enjoy doing triathlons. I really hate starting my day at 3:30 am. I think I was always more stressed about missing my alarm than I was about the race. Actually, I set three alarms and typically awoke before any alarm went off. It’s hard to sleep the night before one of these events.

I’ll do more triathlons. Currently, my swimming is better than ever – which isn’t saying much. My cycling is par as is my running. But, I think I’ll limit the distance to sprints.

I won a number of sprint triathlons. That’s because the swim wasn’t so long that the faster swimmers could build a huge lead. I could pass almost everyone on bike. Then, if I got far enough ahead of the decent runners while on the bike, I’d end up in the top 3.

Still, there’s that puke of dawn awake up call. But, for a short race I can sleep until 5:30 am. (I’m normally up at 6:00 am) I don’t need to eat as much so I can get up later.

One thing I really enjoy about archery tournaments – none of them start at 6:50 am.

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0 for 5

Over 40 years of competing in various sports, at times abroad and against top athletes I’ve learned how to lose and occasionally win.  The win/lose count isn’t why I enjoy competition. (Even though it is better to win)  I enjoy the people I met and folks with whom I get to train.  Along the way, I’ve met some very interesting people.

A friend of mine recently posted, on Facebook, “0 and 5”. He was referring to zero wins in 5 World Championship attempts. These have been in triathlon. He’s good, and is ranked number 1 in his class (which means he’s really good). In August he completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, held in Austria, in 5 hours and 8 minutes. That is, he swam 1.9 km in 31 minutes, cycled 56 miles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, and ran a half marathon in 1 hour and 45 minutes. The extra 2 minutes spent  were burnt during the transition. But, as fast as that was, it wasn’t fast enough for the win – this time. This was not his fasted time for the distance raced.

I met Dana while doing a swim training session at the YMCA in Easton, MD. He was in the lane next to me. I was carrying on a one sided conversation with him. I was talking and noticed he was so seriously into his swim training that he didn’t talk. I’ll admit, I was thinking, this guy might be a bit of a jerk not even bothering to acknowledge me.

Honestly, if I was bothering him or breaking his concentration I would understand if he simply explained that he couldn’t talk while training. That, however, wasn’t this issue. The fact of the matter is that Dana is deaf.

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Dana Dobbs

When he did finally see me trying to communicate Dana  let me know he was deaf. Over time I  learned he was a college decathlete and currently works as a teacher in Maryland, where his students have excelled.

What Dana has, aside from a 0-5 record for World Championships is an athletic drive that is incredible. It is that drive that is shared by athletes all over the globe. Even though Dana’s deaf – I often forget he is – it is  difficult to image he can’t hear.

Dana is a tremendous athlete and a big hearted man.  What he provides as a teacher is exhibited by the excellence in achievement by his students.  He’s one of those people that inspire as well as teach. A true champion his every sense of the word.

Hopefully, next year he’ll go 1-6 at a World Championship.

Moving, Shooting, Racing and Missing a few Great Events! Go Ben Go!

For the past four days we’ve been packing up our house in Easton, MD to make the permanent move to Hertford, NC. Hertford is the closest major “town” (2- traffic lights) but we’re actually in a smaller community, New Hope. Some of the local here refer to it as No Hope.

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Downtown Hertford

Because of all the packing and moving, which isn’t over, I’ve not shot in four days. I am feeling a bit antsy to get out and shoot. While in Easton I was able to get in some nice early morning running, but no cycling, swimming or shooting. Moving gets into the middle of the day and messes everything up.

When I finally had a chance to check out my emails, back in NC,  and review this website I read a comment from Ben that he and some other archers are doing the Ironman Timberman 70.3 in August. Ben invited me to join then in the race. Oh, the pain of it!

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70.3, my favorite distance to race

Timberman is one of the 70.3 races (I’ve done 11 at that distance) I haven’t done. 70.3 miles is a distance I really enjoy. I checked and discovered the race is still open, which means I could sign up and compete. It is killing me not to enter. However, the IBO World Championship is the week before and to do both I’d probably just stay in New York and Connecticut for the time prior to the IBO through the Ironman event.

August is also when my kids and grandkids are coming to visit us in NC. You know, I’d love to do all of the races and tournaments. Sadly this year I have to miss a few fun competitions. I am just going to have to be envious in 2015. Good luck Ben and please keep in informed. I’ll enjoy hearing about your Ironman adventure. Next year my friends, next year!

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Stay calm, there’s always another race

The Price to Play

During the past several months I have done zero triathlons. I still train for my next triathlon but haven’t decided in which race to compete. What has occurred to me is that I am getting my competitive fix through archery and archery is a lot less expensive.

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Start of a 2.4 mile swim

When I write that archery is a lot less expensive than triathlons that isn’t an exaggeration. For example a top end bow, top stabilizers, best scope/sight, high-end arrow rest might cost $2500 – $3000 for everything (except arrows). That is essentially the price of a nice set of racing wheels for a triathlete’s bicycle. Seriously, a nice HED tri-spoke front wheel can cost $1694.00 and a HED Disk rear wheel is around $1849.00. That is $3543.00 for wheels. Add an $8000.00 bike and the ride can cost $11,543.00. (When I raced bicycles in the 1970’s, my bike did cost more than my car!)

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There are less expensive bikes and wheels. A budget minded triathlete could get set-up to ride for around $2000.00. However, that is going to be a bike, which is a far cry from the top end racing models. An archer can get a lot of equipment for $11,543.00. And the bicycle price doesn’t include: wet suit, goggles, running shoes, cycling shoes, helmet and all the other bits and pieces needed to complete an Ironman. Next, there is the cost of an Ironman registration. The Lake Placid Ironman’s (one of my favorite events) entry fee is $750.00, if you are lucky enough to win a chance to pay the fee.

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The way Ironman registration works begins with the limited size of the field that can compete in an Ironman, between 1400 and 2300 athletes per event. The way registration is awarded is first come first serve. Once, the quota is reached there are a few spots for community charities (price is over $1000 for one of these) then that’s it. For the record, my fee for the USA Indoor National Archery Championships was $75.00 – expensive as go archery tournaments. Less expensive triathlons are available. A sprint triathlon can be as inexpensive as $120.00 and a ½ Ironman is ‘just’ $325.00. * Less expensive archery tournaments are also available; the last 3D tournament I competed in cost me $12.00 (I got the senior price, regular fee was $20.00).

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Testing oneself in athletic competition is exciting for a lot of people. Doing an Ironman, running a marathon, or completing an Ultra-distance event is a challenge to which many people aspire. Shorter distances are just as much fun and lots of athletes concentrate on speed making short distances their specialty.

Personally, it is the training and competition I enjoy most. I can still train by swimming, riding, and running. I believe those disciplines help with archery. But, the price to play in archery is truly a bargain and gives me my competitive fix.

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*A full Ironman distance (140.6 miles) is 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. A half Ironman is a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run (70.3 miles).

 

Petty Players

Chrissie Wellington was an amazing triathlete. She won every Ironman event she entered. Just as incredible, she won her first Ironman within months of deciding she wanted to compete in the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run race.

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Wellington winning in Kona

Along the way she became part of a team of professional athletes. She was the new girl on the team. Shortly after joining she was shunned by her fellow athletes. It hurt her, but not so badly that she didn’t go out and beat them in every attempt at the Ironman distance. She did however, eventually leave that team.

Standing next to Chrissie on the Big Island of Hawaii, I noted two things: how lean she was and how her smile never left.   Eventually, having surpassed all of her rivals, their personal distance narrowed and friendships or at least respective admiration developed. Chrissie had passed her competition and in turn, her competition would never pass the smiling champion.

I had a similar experience with a petty player during cycling training about 20 years ago, I felt like I was being punished. The group I was training with included national triathlon champions from several countries: a world cycling champion, RAAM team victors, two Ironman World champions, elite mountain bikers (training on their road bikes) and a heap of other champions.

I’d been off my bike for years while I completed my doctorate and law school. Getting back into shape was now a priority. I’d bought a second hand bike and began riding to lose what I dubbed “academic” weight. But, as yet, I hadn’t bought the removable leg and arm warmers worn by the better-equipped riders. I’d been invited to train with the group by Gabe Stanley of South Africa, an amazing athlete, coach and friend. I was the new boy in the mix.

When I realized this group held at least one petty player, we were in Georgia. The day started cool and most people were wearing heavier gear that could be pulled off and tucked into back jersey pockets as the day warmed up. Everyone that is, except me. And as often is the case in Georgia, the day did indeed, warm up. When the group paused to remove their cold weather gear one of them said to me, “We haven’t even gotten off of our inner chain rings, yet.” It wasn’t said with concern for my well-being, or even in a joking manner…like “what are you thinking!” It was stated rudely and clearly meant to demoralize me.

It was my first training ride with these elite athletes as I eased myself back into regular training and competing. We’d been averaging 23 miles per hour and had ridden about 40 miles and I remained part of the pack. I knew the pace would pick up once the cold blocking apparel was removed, at which point the ride would become more difficult. I also knew most people were already on their outer chain rings. I was dropped after another 10 miles. I’ve never forgotten the discourteous, bullying comment, but oddly, I have forgotten who said it.

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A far cry from being dropped

A year later, at the World 24-Hour Cycling Championship, I wrote taped that comment to my handlebars. It was with me when I marched in the parade of athletes as a member of Team USA for the World Championships where I competed in the long course duathlon, and it was with me at the World Ironman Championship on Kona, HI. I’d kept the unsportsmanlike statement with me as reminder petty individuals don’t belong and deserve less than victory. It reminds me that when training, winning or losing do it politely with good manners.

Since that experience, through decades of international competition and meeting all levels of coaches and athletes, I’ve learned to quickly spot the petty players. I’ve also learned to avoid them. Most of us have had experience with these types of people over the years, neighbors, teammates, work colleagues, even family members and in-laws for that matter. Most of them come and go in life, but when they are present, their barbs tend to be demeaning at best and maliciously hurtful at worst.

Beginner bow expert

A recent example comes to mind. Let’s say you’ve found a group of shooters; you’ve introduced yourself and received an invitation to shoot with them, which you delightedly accepted. After a few times practicing with the group, you begin feel ill-at-ease, more of a sixth sense at first, like a smell in the air that you can’t quite identify. What you’re sensing is not necessarily overt rudeness but a lack of interaction, a profound sense that you are considered an outsider—possibly even an interloper—despite your best efforts to be friendly and integrate into the group.

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If this happens, trust your instincts and move on. Find yourself a group where friendly competition, mutual respect and comradery exist. Let the petty players live on the weak side of sport. They’ll never be great, and they can’t have a negative impact on you if you don’t let them. Particularly in sports, the petty players seem to rise to a certain level but then they freeze at a point of mediocrity. Their attitude holds them back. I feel sorry for these folks, they truly miss out on the best of what sports have to offer. So if you happen to stumble into a mix of petty players, move on. Let them drag themselves down, not you.