Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some notes from the back of the pack.

Planning for our Half Ironman in August, I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve been reading some race reports posted on blogs. Some of the people are like me, beginners/amateurs who are taking on the biggest physical challenge of their lives. Others, are professional (or should be) and finish these events in half the time I expect it will take me.

I tend to focus on the reports from the people like me – the ones who take 7 or 8 hours to complete the event. When I see a finish time in the 4 or 5 hours, I usually just move on. I have taken the time to read a few of the elite reports and I have some things I’d like to tell them….the elites….

You don’t know me and you don’t know what I’ve gone through to get here. Those of us at the back of the pack are a different breed, but the same beast as you. We all have the desire to push our limits. We all start and end the race alone.

The swim starts are always in waves – by age group, not by pace. This means that the elites will always find themselves swimming over the slow swimmers that start in previous waves. Believe me, this is more stressful for us than it is for you. You may find it annoying that we are in your way…we find it frightening. So, please, give us a break. We aren’t trying to be in your way. Many of us are just trying to survive.

When you pass us on the bike, you are doing your second loop – we are still on our first. You pass us and think “out of the way, you are slow”…we think “wow – look at you go!”

When you are crossing the finish line, we are either still on our bike ride or just coming in to start our run. While you are meandering through the transition to cool down, we are gearing up for another two hours on the road. Now, you can pay us back for the swim by getting in our way!

When we smile and yell at you “good job”, it wouldn’t kill you to smile back and say “you too”. I know that the front of the pack is serious business, but come on.

I always joke that anyone can go and workout for a few hours, it’s the real athletes that can keep at it for 6 hours or more! I can’t imagine what it is like to finish these events in the times you finish….just like you can’t imagine what it is like for me to take the time it takes me.

Those of us at the back of the pack may not be natural athletes. Some of us were overweight or still are, some of us are just slower. We’ve prepared, just like you. We’ve sacrificed and struggled, just like you. Many hours have been spent alone in the pool, on the bike, on the run. We’ve gone to bed early and gotten up before dawn. We’ve had to explain ourselves to our friends and families who totally don’t understand what we are doing.

Some of us are scared of the swim, the bike, the run. Some are scared of all three. I am scared every time I get in the water…and just about every minute in between.

We feel the overwhelming rush of accomplishment when we cross the finish line, but we don’t get to stand on the podium. Many times, the podium has been taken down when we cross the finish line. The elite wouldn’t wait around two or three hours to get their medals.

We may not have the right equipment, we may not know the right way to do things, but we know that we’ve done something great. We know that you’ve done something great. Don’t think less of us just because it takes us longer to do it. And we won’t think less of you because you’re faster.

We’d love to be like you someday, instead we are just struggling to be us. There’s room out here for all of us.

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