The life of a Professional Triathlete can sometimes lead us down a road of narcissism and selfishness. My fellow board member Helle Frederiksen recently wrote an outstanding blog pointing this out. Well, now is not the time for us to be selfish, this isn’t a race for money or for popularity; it’s a race to save our sport. We all recognize that long course triathlon is an individual event but now is the time for us to band together and act like teammates!
First things first, this organization that has come to be know as the Pro Triathlon Union, is most likely not going to benefit some of us older athletes. By the time we get this off the ground most of us will likely be retired from racing. But this movement that we are trying to get going is not for us, it’s for the future generations! Its for the future stars, for the kids that look up to you at the pool, for the kids you sign autographs for at the finish lines, the Iron kids that race the day before you, who I might add, can only dream of being so lucky as you are, to one day race as a Professional Triathlete. So if you only care about what this is going to do for you and your career then don’t read any further! Don’t sign up for the PTU! Carry on doing what ever you do for you and your career and in a few years retire to your next life. But please, in the future, don’t try and stick around the sport that you were too self-centered to give a damn about back when you were relevant!
Maybe my words are a bit harsh but quite frankly I don’t care! The development side of this sport is near and dear to my heart. Perhaps that is because I am so heavily influenced by my ex-boss, Brett Sutton? As back in 2009 when the only skill I had was running, Brett gave me chance and developed me from the ground up and in 3 years I went from an age grouper to a podium chasing, working pro. Culminating with an 8:09 personal best at Ironman Florida in 2012, a race that I might add, no longer has a professional field... Love him or hate him Brett is amongst the minority in this sport when it comes to those that care about the development side of things.
Fast forward 3 years as I sit and write you, I am once again a development athlete. You see, the sport is changing, yes in part because there is more talent then ever but also because the purses have been pooled together and the fields are deeper then ever. But don’t say that to those controlling us as they will tell you there is more money then ever. True, but 15 years ago there were only a handful of pros racing while they were raking it in. Now there are hundreds of us and they want us all racing to pay for our vacation to Kona.
I thought that November of 2012 was just the beginning for me; I thought I was just scratching the surface, but in all honesty….I got lucky! Yes I was in the form of my life but I benefitted from the field on the day, average swimmers that could ride a bike. I found myself in the pack with just one lone man up the road, Andrew Starkykowicz. But the funny thing is, I didn’t even know he was up the road because unlike real sports we didn’t have a headset or team car telling us what is happening up the road. I thought I was sweet sitting in the pack. You might be asking why I am talking about this but trust me, there’s a point. You see, that was my shot to win, that might have been my only shot, I don’t know?? It was a fair race but for sure I, like others benefited from being in the group, and every man that has ever made the group will agree, at 10-12meters there is still a benefit, if only mentally? But with 30kms to go, after being dropped from the group several times but clawing my way back in, I lost contact. The 2 guys in front of me let a gap form and I had nothing left to close it. But like I said, I thought they were the leaders. But they weren’t, Starky was up the road. In those 30kms I lost 3 mins…I lost the race by 2.5mins and finished 3rd.
But I didn’t care because as another fellow pro in Beth Gerdes stated last month, after her race at Challenge Phuket “Some people have to win to be happy. For me, triathlon is about what I have on the day and getting the most out of myself with a smile because I never imagined I’d be here”.
This pretty much sums up how I felt and how I continue to feel. Florida 2012 wasn’t my best race but it was the one that mattered. Why? Because it was an M-dot against a field of 50 men and outside of a handful of others, the M-Dot rules and quite frankly that’s not fair! But I’d need an entire other blog to cover that topic so I digress.
I’ve had other stand out performances since that are more true to the spirit of the sport in that they were on challenging courses where it was me against the course and my competitors against the course, not luck or the field on the day affecting the outcome. It is what it is and like I said earlier I won’t be racing if and when changes are made. For me, I have to deal with the present moment and as my other fellow board member Dylan MacNeice pointed out in his blog, the fields are getting bigger and bigger so if you aren’t in position at certain points with the skills you possess it will either result in you making a pay check or losing another hand at the table. Yes folks, most of us are gambling out there! This is why I am once again a development athlete. With fields getting bigger and bigger the swim is now so much more important. And the guys coming up behind can all swim so I have had to take time out to become a swimmer or my career is over!
So, what does this have to do with the PTU?? Well, a lot! We are professionals that are racing for a living but outside circumstances are affecting the outcome. We all piss and moan about the rules, about 50 women to Kona, about start times, about prize money but we don’t have a seat at the table. You ever ask yourself why we don’t have a seat at the table?? Because the powers that be know full well that we are a bunch of self centered athletes that are under the spell of the Kona dream. As long as we carry on only caring about ourselves and continue to chase 30 slots or 50 slots or what ever the number, the sport will never evolve and we will continue to be the door mats that people step on; on their way to their own vacation in Hawaii.
I have always thought the sport of triathlon in some respects shadows the extreme sports world of surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, etc. What I mean is those sports are a culture, a lifestyle. Just like ours, the difference is, the Pros in extreme sports are used, marketed to feed the culture and they are paid quite well for that. Do you think we are used to sell the tri lifestyle? Of course we are? Do you think we should be rewarded for that? Of course we should be! Our sponsors should be up in arms that they are paying to be a part of race expos where your images are posted all over their booths but there is no chance of us racing such events where the money has been pulled. You are being used almost every weekend and you don’t even realize it! You sell the lifestyle day in and day out and millions of dollars of merchandise is being sold yet the Professionals see zero dollars from those, unlike other major sports of the world where merchandising sales are shared with the those that pump them.
Instead we are all happy to pony up our $800 something that is meant to go to drug testing yet we have no idea where that money is going. Is that money going towards off setting prize purses? Is it going to test age group athletes? Is it really going towards our own drug testing? If yes then we want complete transparency. Who is tested? Who has dodgy numbers? Who has failed a test and have there been any cover ups? Sorry folks but do you see what is going on in track & field and cycling. If you don’t think it’s going on in our sport then you are kidding yourselves!
So…Now that I have you so fired up, what’s next? Come January 1st it’s a new year and it’s our time! We need numbers! We need every pro out there to pitch in. If you can’t afford the $149 fee then ask for it as a Christmas present. Have family and friends that ask you what you want for Christmas? How about asking them to donate to the cause? Think we aren’t making any headway? Just this past month we have been helping athletes get money that is owed to them from race organizers. Think they are appreciative? You bet your arse they are! So guys and gals lets get moving! Head on over the PTU site, http://www.protriunion.com/ and be a part of the future! Stop getting taken advantage of and let’s help save the sport for the future generations!