Monday, August 09, 2010

softies on bikes [and other 21st century lazy athletes]

i'm a bicycle racer.

i have been since 1983, and am proud of it. although i'm 27 years older than when i began racing, i still think my best years of racing--and results--are ahead of me. i've competed hundreds--without thinking, maybe thousands?--of times, and have won many many times. i've won lots of small races, some bigger races, in every discipline of bike race i've entered, except bmx, dammit. i've competed in small, unsanctioned "citizen" races put on by small towns and committees during local festivals. i've competed in huge races promoted by large, national corporations whose business is putting on good, hard bicycle races.

i've had my ass handed to me in all sorts of circumstances, by all level of competitors. it always sucks. i've dished out my share [or more] of on-the-road testosterone invectives to fellow competitors who i felt weren't racing or working as hard as i thought they should. and i go around afterwards and tell them that it was in the heat of the battle, nothing personal. that's how heated i get sometimes.

folks who know me know i am opinionated and not shy about it.

i have always loved long, hard bike races. i LOVE racing under hot and humid conditions: brings out the tough guy in folks. if you can't take it, drop out. darwinian racing at its best.
i disdain--i LOATHE--wheel suckers and whiners who aren't here to work.

so this is nothing new, right? same old crap, mr. west.

here's what has me bugged:
1--hy-vee triathlon, bigge$t in the world, best triathletes around--near and far--train all YEAR to bust it out at hy-vee.
it rains, and they CANCEL the junior events. "sorry kids, too dangerous."
they shorten the open and elite events. "sorry, grown-ups, it's in your best interests."
2--big creek triathlon, an old event that has been run in late-july to mid-august for 30+ years. heat index above 100F. "gotta shorten it, too dangerous."
these are events for "athletes" who have trained months and years for these events.

counter those facts with these:
1--ragbrai 38 just ended. it's been held the last full week of july for, what, 35 years, and was in august before that? seven days of riding, rain, shine, hail, thunderstorms, freezing cold, whatever. a family affair for up to 20,000 people of various fitness levels. raining? take shelter, or not. use your judgment.
2--the iowa state [bicycle] road race championships were held the day before big creek. the category 1/2 and cat 3 race was 108 miles long. many other races were 81 and 57 miles long. it rained like a son of a bitch for the first 80 miles, then was a steam oven for the rest, over a very hilly course around west branch, iowa. it was run un-affected.
3--yesterday at high noon--long after the last big creek triathlete had finished, a friend and i took off on a 3-hour ride into the scorching heat of the day. long, tempo with hills. i'm 57; my friend 40. we were tired when we finished, but we were better cyclists for having done so. no whining, no bitching about it.

what's the point? it's this: just because you work out, that in and of itself does not make you an athlete. weekend warrior, maybe, but in my book, nothing more. if that's all you want, fine.
just don't go telling others within my earshot how tough you are.

and if you say, "well, the promoters are to blame," TELL THEM they woefully underestimate the abilities, desire, training, and self-knowledge of the folks who pay to do their events.
don't just sit around and say, "boy, i was really tough out there on that shortened course."
at least, not where i can hear you.

i know, you're gonna say, "hey, loudmouth, how come you're doing all this smack talking, and you do tandem and masters races. thought you were a big tough cat 1."
true, true. but i dedicated this season to trying another demanding type of racing, tandems. we aren't content to just be a cute couple riding a tandem. we want to be the best.
right now, we're not, we know it, and we continue to kick our asses to get to be the best.
it's not as easy as it seems. ask kim or brian eppen, if you don't believe me. THEY'RE the best.

now, a related topic:

races, race promoters, and the people who race

our team, zealous racing, is the biggest promoter of races in central iowa, and perhaps the entire state of iowa. we put on races all year long, from march through october. for years, we have had mid-week training races [the legendary elkhart time trial series, the flood-dependant water works park omniums, and last year's altoona criteriums]. they are cheap, fun, and GREAT opportunities to develop skills for beginners, and sharpen skills and fitness for the serious races that take place on weekends.

and we have for years put on large, significant weekend races: early season gravel races at mitchellville, the legendary altoona road race, the state fair crits, and numerous cyclocross races in september and october [including the state championship races long at pella and now for the past few years in altoona].
we promote these races for the sake of the sport, for the benefit of the host communities, and for the opportunities they present to race the visibility of bicycle racing to the unknowledgeable public, some of whom might be the ones who terrorize you on your daily training rides in their death cages.
for years, we have sponsored the "iowa cup," the season-long battle for individual supremacy in a pre-designated series of races of all sorts through-out the state.
as a team, and to an individual, we do NOT benefit financially from these race-promoting endeavors. it costs a ton of money to do this, and it takes a shit-load of behind the scenes time to make these happen. long hours are spent year-round mending fences, convincing residents that bike races are a good thing, attending meetings, glad-handing folks who only know about drunken revellers and lawsuits, but not the long years spent training on a bike because you love to ride and race bikes.

these are long hours that could be spent training but are diverted to race-promotion activities because we love the sport of bicycle racing and we want as many folks as possible to be able to take part in it.

you think it's easy, or profitable? put one on.

and yet--getting back to the "softies" theme--what do we get? complaints from a very few that we don't do enough. okay, when i began racing, you could get training sew-ups for $5, chains for $5, and entry fees were $10 to $20. you could do actual stage races in iowa. hotel rooms were $30 split 6 to 8 ways. and you won a few bucks in return.

now, weekend races cost $30 to $60 bucks. it cost $135 to do a 28km time trial at masters nationals for a tandem; same fee for a 72km road race. [which is why we went to michigan instead.]

training races? race like a girl is $10-$15; no prizes other than swag. elkhart? $15; $5 for juniors. prizes? IT'S A TRAINING SERIES! you want cash prizes, race on weekends or do the open men class. you spend long hours training, and spend big bucks on your tt bike, then race it where it counts. put your money where your mouth is.
we were content to do the tandem series this year, marking our improvement against the other teams, little-by-little, until we finally beat them. but not by enough.
next year, folks!

it's good to be back, readers. thanks for your patience. got busy, got married, got lots of irons in the fire. but i will post these musings more frequently.

apparently i have a bit on my chest.