A recent tweet from Ironman that had a phrase like this – 80miles with no turns, a triathletes dream and a good reason to sign up for IM CDA. My initial impression of that tweet was not fit for print or speaking, as I really hate the degradation of the sport to the lowest denominator (cancelling races because they have hills, or wind or cold water, etc).

I spent some time thinking about this and moved from a point of indignation to one where perhaps the idea of doing something only one or two steps from one’s current skill level is not bad and is more inclusive. That (and the revenue impact) may be where the tweet was going, but is it still a good idea? Why do we only aim to challenge ourselves slightly? Why is that in a skill based sport, we purposely avoid developing the skills to be competent? Is there such a rush to check the box, which developing a proper skill set becomes pointless? What does it say about us that we rush into doing these events despite not even having the slightest level of capability? Somewhere lies the intersection of triathlon as being a sport for anyone who is willing and the sport that is all about celebrating anyone who crosses the finish line. By creating such a low barrier to entry, and a culture of celebrating the most minimal achievement, has it become pointless to ask for a level of competency for safety and better performance?

People often ask me how to best prepare for the bike or the run or the swim of an Ironman or other long course triathlon. It always occurs to me that while the race is a event that merges the three and you have to race with a full SBR mental model (pacing, nutrition, etc), it also one that is made up of three distinct disciplines. Training for those disciplines is more than appropriate, it’s integral to being fully prepared. People will disagree and say they can prepare for an IM by only riding on their turbo trainer and running on a treadmill. Sure, the body can be trained for the work, but the skills will be woefully undeveloped. How is that good preparation? Who would ever say work hard, but don’t try to improve technique or skill? It’s madness to think that one can done without the other in a successful context.

People are successful in the sport of triathlon doing just that, however, and it is because the sport has not maintained the quality of the skills required over time. Courses are continually straightened, flattened and moved to places where skills are less and less needed. Surely this is because of the litigious society here in America, but it is also partly due to the sports endless desire to appeal to everyone.

It is very short sighted to do this. People will eventually move the next buck list item, as opposed to doing more difficult and challenging triathlons. The failure to adequately develop a strong set of skills poisons the confidence of triathletes, which in turn kills the participation in the best races and locations. By improving skills, confidence will improve and through that, races that are now defunct because they were too hard will become very popular and those watered down races will fall to the wayside. One can dream…

 

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