If you remember from my Oakdale Duathlon race report, I mentioned an incident in the first run and called it the "jerkiest thing ever". Let me set up the situation for you.
I started in the first wave (elites and teams), and immediately drifted to the back of my wave along with woman in the purple top (heretofore referred to as WITPT, pronounced wit'-put). Two minutes after we started, non-elite men under the age of 40 started.
A little over 1 mile into the run me and WITPT approached a gentle leftward curve that also went up a small incline. (I've included a diagram below that not only clarifies the situation, but demonstrates my world-class autoshape skills.) WITPT was on the inside line of the curve, and I was off her right shoulder, but still to the left of the imaginary centerline of the path. Heading up the hill, we hear from behind us "RUNNER ON YOUR LEFT!! RUNNER ON YOUR LEFT!!". The two fastest non-elite men under 40 we're hollering for us to move out of the way so they could go by on the left. I had no intention of moving over for them (they had the half of the path to my right to pass), but WITPT sharply moved right to accommodate, and I had to back off a bit to avoid tripping over her, thus letting the jerks pass us on the left.
I'm the red circle, WITPT is the purple circle, and the two people passing us are blue circles. Arrow shows direction of travel.
Why was this a problem? In running, you stay to the inside and pass to the outside (except for weird situations like the Dome, where it's reversed). Pretty simple.
Admittedly, this incident was pretty minor in the overall scheme of things, but it bothered me more than I thought it would. And while I hate generalizations, this seems to bring together a lot of thoughts that I've had about triathletes and duathletes. My intent is not to offend anyone (I know some very good people who are also triathletes), but to point out a major problem that led to this incident at the Oakdale Duathlon.
Most triathletes are over-the-top elitists.
There, I said it. But one can't help but feel that way when it's a competition where money buys victory. I understand that you don't need $10,000 bicycles, space helmets, or carbon fiber wheels to participate, but you're kidding yourself if you think you don't need those things to be competitive. Sure, everyone will tell you that you'll be just fine with your 10 year old mountain bike, but then they either (a) ask you when you're going to get a faster bike, or (b) assume that you'll be last, or close to it.
Before returning to the incident above, let me give you a few other anecdotal stories to support my thesis.
- The first story is also from the Oakdale Duathlon. The winners of the race finished a long time before the last people even finished the biking portion. Instead of waiting, the fast people cleared their bikes and gear out of transition even as people were still trying to race. On one occasion, there was a group of people chatting in transition, blocking the way through. A woman coming in from the biking segment had to yell at them to get out of the way so she could keep going.
- The second story comes from Oakdale too. After most people finished, they started the awards ceremony. Mind you, now, not everyone was finished. So here we are, congratulating people on a race well done, and some folks aren't even done yet. These people didn't get the spectator support that everyone else got, they didn't get their names announced at the finish, and they returned to a transition area that was almost completely disassembled.
- The third story is from the Lakefront Days triathlon that I did last summer. I was on a mountain bike, and on the rare occasions that I passed people, I liked to announce it ("On your left!") and even gave a friendly greeting. One person (besides friends) announced that he was passing. What was he riding? An old mountain bike.
Folks, I get it. I'm not as fast as you. I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on equipment so that that I can buy a podium spot. But I have a right to a great race as well. If you want to pass me, then do so—but don't yell at me to get out of your way. Everything is not about you, and if you ever want your community of athletes to have the same bond and connection that the running community has, you're going to have to change.
There are good people that do triathlons. They may be slow, and they may ride old mountain bikes. But if you want them to stick with it, if you want them to get the same enjoyment out of it that you do, if you want them to be successful, then show them that they are more valuable than any stupid pointy helmet.