Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, June 12, 2015

One & Done?

By Kat Hunter

My first tri (which became a du for water conditions),
March 2009
The completitor, the bucketlister—these are a few of the derogatory terms used for someone "serious" athletes would describe as a tourist, a wannabe, a one-and-done visitor to a sport. Nothing riles up the elites more than when a completitor claims to have conquered the beast in a few short days or months of competition, ignoring the years of hard work it takes to really get to know it.

I used to look down on people who seemed like they were merely ticking accomplishments—marathons, triathlons, ironmans—off of a bulleted list, regardless of finish time, or whether they walked all or a portion of it. You’re not "really" doing a sport unless you’re doing it well, right?

But maybe all those naysayers, including me, were wrong. By now I’ve logged enough hours and won enough (bike) races to count myself among the faster, more serious set. I’m also experienced enough to look back and see where I missed what was truly important. You’re good at a sport? Great. You have the time and the money to do it? Fantastic. Now ask yourself whether you love it, and figure out how to keep loving it. Unless you’re making a very healthy salary being an athlete or winning gold medals, those are the only two things that matter. In some ways the one-and-doner gets more at the heart of amateur athletic competition than the veteran athlete does—participation may be short-lived, but it's always fun.

Human life, at some very fundamental level, is about learning. It’s what we were built for. We like to touch and see and taste new things. We like to take those things apart and put them back together again. We enjoy testing ourselves and finding out what we’re made of. And that’s why sport exists. It’s an expression of our humanity, a catchall for emotions and energy, a celebration of what makes us tick, physically and mentally. Yes, there’s honor in hard work and focus, but there’s also a great deal to be said for experimentation. It takes courage to try something new, especially if you suspect (or know) that you’re not particularly talented at it.

2015 TT nationals, photo by Ali Whittier
There’s also reality. Not everyone has the budget or the time to focus on a sport day in and day out, but they might be able to give it the six months or so it takes to accomplish that one race or goal. The experience of getting from point A to point B, whether you’re talking about the preceding training or race day itself, is a beautiful thing. Let those who seek that, have it. And not only that, enjoy it yourself if you’re one of those select mega-achieving athletes. Venture into something new—attempt kayaking, mountain biking, adventure racing, extreme Frisbee golf. Break up the road or tri season with cross training that keeps you excited about your principal sport and fitness in general.

Every echelon of endurance sport has something to learn from the others: The elites should recognize that their sport’s bread and butter is the masses. In bike races and multi-sport events, there’s only one winner for every 100 participants or so – the money that keeps the wheels turning is coming from the people who are doing it for the good times and the good stories. As an elite, you should respect their very important part in what you do. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, beginners should acknowledge that their investment and understanding do not necessarily equal that of an athlete who’s devoted body and soul to the sport. Consider experienced athletes an easy resource.

Most of us started from the same place, even if we no longer care to admit it. We saw a challenge and we thought, "hey, that would be cool." We went into it blundering and clueless, and somewhere along the way we found our feet. Wherever you’re at on that timeline and no matter how short it may be, hold on to the joy that was its reason for being and share it with others.