I can't believe I'm daring to post something on this forum.... hope
the flames don't get too hot!
One of the discussions going on here has to do with possibly limiting
the time on marathons; it then went into the whole discussion of
"real" athletes vs. people who are just doing events to finish, etc.
I'm sure you all remember it ... another one of those where a poster
declared anyone who wasn't dead should be able to do a 5K in 25 min.
(ok, it wasn't THAT extreme, but that gets the idea across). Up front,
I'll say I'm one of those who feels fairly fit but couldn't do a 5K in
25 min... I've done sprint tris and an Oly tri, and definitely am a
back of the packer. But I'm one of those whose goal has been to
finish; since I never jogged or swam laps before this year, I'm pretty
happy with my performance and certainly think I've earned the right to
say I did the triathlons! But I'm not fast... good endurance, but not
fast. And don't get me wrong - it's not that I'm slacking or not
trying! My heart rate stays at max the entire event. I go as hard as I
can. I take the event seriously. I'm just slow. But I still say that I
did the events; that I'm a triathlete. So I'm probably one of those
the other poster wouldn't want in his events.
So I was thinking that one of the things that's different about tris
(and maybe marathons) from some other sports is the lack of
"recreational" events as opposed to "race" events. I've been bicycling
for a few years now, and have done a lot of organized rides. In these
rides, you just go out and ride your distance - 100 mile, metric
century, half metric, whatever. There are some awesome cyclists who do
the 100 miles in 5 hours or less (they stop to eat too...); there are
the pure beginners who struggle to get through the half metrics. There
are those of us who maybe are comfortable at the metric century
distance but sometimes go for the full century (and take a lot longer
than 5 hours!) At any rate, no one cares that someone else finished
the same event in more time or less time; or that someone else who
would say they rode the same event maybe rode 75 miles less. But the
recreational riders don't show up at bike races. You don't see a
beginner on a mountain bike doing a bike race just to see if they can
finish it. It's understood that these are two different events; we
sort ourselves out as appropriate.
Or take bowling (since it got mentioned and it's a sport I enjoy; btw,
at least in California, smoking is banned inside bowling alleys) - if
you're a rank amateur, you stink, you're lucky to bowl 80 - you can
still go to your local bowling center and bowl. No one cares. You can
even join a league if you feel more motivated - with handicapped
leagues, your average isn't imporant; the handicap evens it out. So
handicapped leagues give beginners and experienced people a place to
bowl together. Now, scratch leagues are different - you don't even go
near those unless your average is around 200. Same with tournaments
and such. So once again, people sort themselves out into appropriate
events. And yet, anyone who bowls regularly calls themselves a bowler;
the averages are there to prove how good of one they are, as the times
are there for triathletes.
But triathlons don't really have this idea of recreational vs.
serious. Here in N. California, we have some sprint "tris for funs"; I
did a few of those, and they were packed. But most triathlons are
races. So "recreational" triathletes don't have any choice but to join
the same events that the racers join.
One proposal - What if more triathlons became "recreational" - the
understanding for these is that abilities would range all over the
place and none or very generous cutoff times. You could then also have
some tris that were more serious - that had tight time cutoffs and
enforced them on all three legs; that had lots of marshalls out on
course; etc. These would probably have to be more expensive than the
recreational ones because fewer people would do them, but the
"bragging rights" would be there. Most of us recreational people are
out there to improve our own times, not to beat others, so the other
tris would work for us.
My other thought - is what if there were "tri" courses like there are
golf courses? Right now, to do a tri you have to go to an event; it's
the only way to get the support to do all three sports at once (well,
you could do it on your own but it's more complicated). But if we took
land the size of a golf course... put a lake in the middle of it (with
a wave machine for making tougher courses if needed); a couple
criterium style bike courses around it (one flat, one hilly); and then
a couple run loops (flat & hilly again) as well - you could, just like
bowling, stop by and "do a tri". You could decide how long/how hard of
one you wanted to do. You could have tri leagues - both recreational
and hard core - meeting on regular nights. That way the events
wouldn't be the only tri outlets. Getting this to pay off would be the
hard part; but I think in some areas of the country there are enough
of us to support it. You could open the place up to people who just do
one or two of the sports as well....
Anyway, just some thoughts about ways to accomodate multiple types of
triathletes. Time to go hide from the flames....