by Michael Robinson
Speed. Yes, we all want more of it. We secretly covet it from our training colleagues. We cruise the newest gadgets and gizmos online, or at the store. We gently stroke the grip tape of the newest tri bike. You know the one; it has the electronic shifters and that slick looking paint job. Speed. Why is the price tag always so high? I’m stuck on my entry level bike and my G-SHOCK watch while everyone else flies by at 20+ mph checking their 920xt’s. Speed. If only I could afford it….
It’s unfortunate, my friends and athletes, that there is a price tag on the one thing that can make you feel incredible and maybe earn you a podium spot. Speed is expensive; it does have a cost. There is a price tag on getting faster, but you may be surprised to find out that it has little to do with what is in your wallet and more to do with what is in your mind. Speed. It costs heart. Speed. It costs dedication. Speed. It costs mental fortitude. Speed, and probably the most expensive drain on us age groupers, costs time. Some may argue that all of those things could be tied to money in one way shape or form, but what I am saying is that the bulk of your speed (and your improvements) come from YOU not your equipment.
The message is two-fold: Gear doesn’t make you fast and money doesn’t buy speed.
I was tired of coming in the back quarter at Kerrville every year, so I set a race goal to get in the top 5 (and keep my fingers crossed that JZ was planning on not playing that day). Coming off of the bike onto the run I felt fairly confident that I was there. I didn’t see anyone in my age group around me, so even if I wasn’t, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I felt great and was having fun. At the last turnaround, with a little over .5 miles to go, I see a guy (who I picked out to be my guy to watch for at the swim start) coming up fast wearing cut-off Levis and a white cotton tee. “Are you kidding me!?!” I saw him at the swim start and thought to myself, A guy who wears JORTS (jeans shorts) in a triathlon is either crazy or has nothing to lose. What do you know, there he was. I am in my super-fast, hi-tech race kit, so I dug in. In my mind, I went to the Olympics, but I could still hear the swish, swish, swish of the JORTS closing the gap. I switched to the Tour de France…. swish, swish, swish ….I tried to think of any inspirational thought or scenario looking for that extra speed. Seconds later the swish grew quieter the further he pulled away. Watching the 47 on his calf grow smaller, I knew in my heart that I lost my 5 spot and had been beat. After the race I congratulated him on a good run. As I was telling him the story, he interrupted me as the realization hit him. “Wait, do you meant to tell me I got 5th place!?” I shook my head, “yeah man! Solid race! Gratz!” He couldn’t believe it! His sister convinced him to do the race. He explained to me that he had no idea what to wear in a triathlon, but since he always swam in that river with jeans shorts he figured they would work. He showed me his $100 old school road bike that he bought on Craig’s List just for this event. I was glad he was so happy. I couldn’t think of a greater way to fail at my race goal than this. I almost felt foolish standing there in T2 talking to him with my aero helmet on and a bike that is worth more than my car. This guy trained, had a blast and he beat me. It wasn’t about his gear. It was about what was on the inside.
When asking yourself whether or not to do a race, don’t look at your equipment and say I wish. Look at your schedule and ask yourself, do I have the time? If so, do I have the intestinal fortitude to not only push myself further and challenge myself more, but keep it fun and exciting at the same time?
Triathlon should be fun. When it stops being that, take some time off and go mountain biking or rock climbing. Don’t overcommit your time and or money only to regret it later.
Happy Training! See ya at Happy Hour!