Monday, October 27, 2008

The View my Bicycle [COLUMN]

It's a measure of the amount of time that has passed since I last participated in the Energade series...that I pitched up today at Rhoodeplaat dam in Pretoria...and got turned away on account of my handlebars. See I had tribars on (also known as aero bars), and these are now banned.

On the schedule there is a rule that states:
No helmet no ride.
No rule that states : Tribars no ride.
So, things have changed. Now you may no longer use triathlon bars in a triathlon (the shorter ones anyway).

So all for nothing:

- the entry fee
- Saturday's no training day
- R380 spent on transferring the bars and giving the bike a clean ahead of the race (I will now have to spend money putting the original bars back on)
- getting up at 7am on a Sunday
- driving 66km (it felt like more) to Pretoria

The question is, will I still do the event in Potch on the 7th? For me the charm of the triathlon is the timetrial section in the middle. Take that away and it's just an ordinary bike race with a swim and a run on either side. I know ordinary yocals won't mind - who just want to be able to say they did a triathlon. For me, it takes away the ethos of what triathlon is. I want to see if I can do 20km in under half an hour - on my own.

The other thing is it is quite disappointing that no one seemed aware of this change, or if they did, didn't felt like telling me about it. Not the oke at the bike shop. Not the people who I drove behind from Johannesburg (to get to the race). Not the people who watched me wheel my bike all the way to the transition area. So, not a pleasant experience getting all the way there, body marked, helmet on head [and clipped - as instructed], cap in hand, queuing to the transition areaq and then finally arriving at the chute..."Oh, you can't race with those bars, sorry."

During the drive home I thought I would turn a negative into a positive and do a traithlon in gym. I was quite hungry at 10am when I got home and just plain tired after driving for nearly 2 hours...anyway the upshot is that I didn't go to gym, and caught up on quite a bit of lost sleep over the last week...until the phone rang. Certainly not one of the happiest of days.

I believe the reason this sort of thing stings me quite a lot is I have committed large amounts of time, money and effort in the past - not only in triathlon - only to find, at the last moment, that I am denied the opportunity to participate. For whatever reason. This has sometimes, often, been due to poor admin (as in this case). If you are going to have a rule, it helps to publish it somewhere on your information.

Overall my triathlon career is something like The Bart Simpson Story - a story of underachievement. I managed, when at university, a body fat percentage of under 7%, and my heart rate at one point - resting - was around 35 bpm. This, by the way, is heading towards world class. In my first season I did a 2:00 standard triathlon (came 6th in the country), with a swim of around 20 minutes, a 1 hour cycle (averaging 40km/h) and a 37 minute run. Obviously I have to takesome responsibility for not improving on these results.

For starters, I bought expensive wheels which unfortunately did more to slow me down than speed me up (the frame was slightly bent, causing the wheels turn squew, and sometimes to rub against the frame). There was tremendous frustration in that too - the money sacrified, invested in wheels and then the many difficulties I had with what turned out to be defective equipment.

I also suffered many untimely bouts of flu, and my father was dead against me doing triathlon - he felt I needed to 'grow up'. The result was a large amount of stress-related sickness, often meagre amounts of cash - both of which contrived to stress my immunity enough to make performance when I was able to travel to races sub-par. I can really empathise with Roland Schoeman, who was training his gat off, but not knowing if he would even be able to afford to get to his next race. It's a horrible, horrible way to train, and it's one way to start killing your motivating.

One of the worst memories I have of a missed triathlon was following a period of really effective training I did in Johannesburg (at the time I was based in Bloem, but was staying in Jo'burg with a girlfriend). It was one of the few times I got my run sorted, and everything was looking perfectly primed for a possibly top 3 race in Jeffrey's Bay. When it came time to go, my father asked that I instead drive a roll bar down from Pretoria, for a jeep he was restoring. Then he delayed our departure (the family was going to Cape Town for a holiday, and the jeep was meant to go along) - and so I missed my race. In the end, the jeep was only repaired and ready several weeks later, and a training buddy of mine - as I recall - won the event.

This is not unlike a bad break up. Does the unpleasantness of the experience spoil the idea of getting involved again? Or does the love of the game trump the disappointment of the latest experience?

I will probably ask my friend's wife whether she enjoyed it and see whether that influences my decision. At this point though, I am inclined to say 'no thanks' to the Energade series.

During the drive home I noted that I had simply given up and gone home. I hadn't held any of the officials accountable, I hadn't mentioned my case [because potentially, being informed of my unhappy situation they could take precautions - announce on their entry forms - to avoid similar disappointment]. I have done this before - as I did with Free State cycling.

I've noticed that when you bring this sort of thing to the attention of organisers they respond in one of two ways:

- defensively
- constructively (meaning they will do something about it, and be helpful)

By acting constructively you demonstrate that you care about the person participating and you care about the sport. By being defensive, you care about your own ego, and you care about 'rightness' and setting an example. Yes, it's a sad indictment of us all, that politicians, bosses, administrators - most of us - act defensively.

I hate to say it, but the care less attitude I experience tends to rub off after a while. It has to... As I say, once upon a time I would have made an effort to participate regardless and called the organisers on their lack of communication. Today I just went home.


Unknown said...

Great piece nick!
I have experienced exactly the same in the past!It really makes me sad that there hasnt been any improvement till now aswell!!What i found is that the outdoor events like Xterra is much more organized with marshalls and organizers who are alot more friendly and helpful and organized than the road events with all their rule changing!

Nick said...

What annoys me is these officials will rather tell you to go home and kill the sport (for you anyway) than take a more flexible attitude. I think they have to look at that at the end of the day. I recently asked SA triathlon if I could do the event (even though I didn't know about the national selection) and they said, sorry, no. I'm not sure how that helps to grow the sport. I know in the past they used to have these races together with the public. I tend to think that the guys who make the rules either were never athletes themselves (and so don't see the link between the training investment and the racing) or they've forgotten them. I'm all for having rules and a system, but when you're turning away athletes who have done the training, I think it's a pathetic state of affairs. It's like telling a kid about to write matric he can't because he has a green pen instead of a blue pen. Isn't the point to test the person's ability, to showcase someone's talent, not whether he has followed your set of laws to every single letter?