Controlling our arrogance

Sarah and I just got back from a Lifetime Fitness cycling camp in Scottsdale that was held from Thursday to Sunday. We were excited to go and happy to ride outside after spending months either on a trainer or a spin bike in order to complete our cycling workouts. We have a number of observations (some of them decidedly negative) which I will review in a later post but one theme jumped out that deserves some consideration.

A while back I posted a blog about “New Years Resolutioners” and how we treat newbies when they come into the gym in the January time frame. I would like to address how we treat newbies coming into endurance sports for the first time or after a long absence. Generally, we treat them poorly and with a healthy dose of arrogance; which initially surprised me. I weight lifted for 10 years before entering endurance athletics and one would expect, with all the muscle heads involved in that sport, that arrogance and narcissism would reign supreme. While that can certainly be true it is not nearly as pronounced as it is in endurance sports. A short 145 pound man who hits the weight room will shock no one when he is incapable of lifting as much weight as a 200 pound 6 foot tall cross fit veteran. My experience has been that the experienced weightlifters are all too willing to help newbies with tips and encouraging words. Not only that, they will often train with new people without too much complaint. It is not uncommon to see people share a bench press where the plates (the 45 pound weights) are shed and re-added after each set because one person is much stronger than the other.

This ties into my experience at the camp because we observed that the C level riders were left as somewhat of an after-though to the camp staff and it bothered some of them greatly enough that they complained about it. The problem was that they split the riders up by speed – which left bona fide ironman triathletes who simply rode at a slower pace with real beginners who just put on clipless pedals on their bikes. You don’t want the experienced riders to have a bad experience because of their pace and you don’t want beginner riders to be constantly dropped on roads that they are unfamiliar with riding on equipment that is new to them.

The solution is simple, break the C group into two or three groups and cater to the needs on a smaller group basis. This eventually happened organically but the ride leads were unpaid volunteers who were unfamiliar with the route and generally did a poor job. Meanwhile the A and B groups had a better experience and I had a better experience when I rode with those groups on other rides later in the camp. The message was clear – less experienced athletes or slower athletes have less value and that annoys people. We aren’t playing varsity high school sports – these people who you are annoying are often professional adults who can (and will) take their considerable recreation budget to some other more welcoming activity.

This topic has been touched upon by a popular blogger (swim bike mom, some of you are familiar with her) who, despite being an ironman and multiple 70.3 finisher, still feels shunned sometimes by her fellow endurance athletes. I can tell you with certainty that a weigh lifter who can lift the weight earns the respect of his/her fellow athletes regardless of how they look, how long they have been doing the sport, or whether or not they sport the “right” gear.

Meanwhile I had a good time over the weekend, I got three days of outdoor cycling in (one in the rain), two swims and two runs. Sarah and I were exhausted by Monday and were in desperate need of a rest day. I was also able to put a demo bike (a Trek Domane 5.2) through its paces, which I am going to write about later. We also experienced flying with bikes, which is interesting and I will also write about that later, it deserves its own post.

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