Monday, August 13, 2012

wisdom to live by: NEVER do an inaugural race

i don't know if anyone caught the announcement from the World Triathlon Corporation regarding registration for the 2013 Ironman New York. apparently, they've suspended registration due to issues that arose with the inaugural 2012 race held this past weekend. you can reference:
 i don't know what happened. and i suspect we never will. at least not officially. i think that as in all things, the only transparency we'll ever get as to what really happened will be from those who participated in the race and are willing to share what they learned. in which case, all we'll have are the words of wisdom shared between athletes.

but that's probably the most important thing to consider.

there are certain words of wisdom that you pick up in endurance sports, wisdom that's rarely ever printed and certainly never stated to anything resembling the public or the press, but that's shared nonetheless among the community of competitors who have undertaken, are undertaking, and plan on undertaking endurance events. particularly with the big ones. it's understood that these words are just words, passed on verbally from one stranger to the next. as such, they're not rules and they're not official. and so you don't have to follow them. you can choose to ignore them. you can even deny them.

and many often do.

but being words of wisdom, they have a peculiar habit of persisting despite the intentions, negligence, or recklessness of everyone involved, and have an alarming tendency to be proven true at the most inopportune and most ignoble times.

and so they're understood to be the kind of things you ignore at your own peril.

one of them was something i learned when i first started in endurance sports from a friend of mine. a multi-Ironman veteran and seasoned endurance athlete, he told me that there were certain rules of endurance sports that he held to be absolute, and one of them was this: NEVER do an inaugural race.

it was partly in jest, partly out of superstition, but also deadly serious. his reasoning was that an inaugural event (i.e., a race being held for the first time) represents a learning experience for the race organizers and host community, and so entail a healthy supply of mistakes caused by people variously unfamiliar with an innumerable unnameable unexpected slew of issues, including the mechanics of doing a race, the logistics of operating public events, the chemistry of people new to working together, as well as the vagaries of the local geography, local weather, local society, local politics, and local gods of chaos, happenstance, misfortune, and accident.  there are many variables involved in the conducting of a race, and it does not help to compound them with the 1st-time growing pains that come from inaugural races.

are they insurmountable? no. are they impossible? no. are they insufferable? no. everyone, from competitors to volunteers to organizers to community, can work together to overcome them. the questions, however, are: what price will everyone pay to survive the growing pains? how will this affect everyone's experience and memories?

i admit, i've broken the rule a few times. but it was always in a situation where i figured that the price wouldn't be too high (i.e., i wasn't going to get injured...or worse), and the experience and memories would still be positive.

but every once in awhile i'm reminded of my friend's rule. and when i hear back from the people who've ignored that rule, i'm reminded of the perils that we have to recognize that comes from ignoring words of wisdom...and i'm glad that i didn't have to deal with them. because the bigger the race, the higher the stakes, the greater the presence of chaos, and the larger the consequences of whatever that befalls to you.

1 comment:

tim said...

good advice for any race.
I just finished reading Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn (new release). He talks about ugali just like your one post (and rice and beans),and rest...up to 16 hours a day. It was interesting as he ran with all the great Kenyans. Thin on advice but rich in flavor and heart.