They Tri so Hard, They Really Do. . .

The governing body for multisport, USAT has made a big deal over the last couple of years about how they are trying to be more responsive to the needs of ordinary multisport athletes.  Much of this effort has involved trying to build a more robust national governance infrastructure which was long overdue.  I also give them full credit for getting squarely behind the sport of duathlon in the last couple of years by promoting qualifying events and making a concerted effort to turn the national championships into an event that was simultaneously accessible to ordinary athletes and a testing ground for the elites.  Naturally, there are still some problems.  Their website bites the wax tadpole in a big way, and I still have vivid memories of the catastrophic meltdown that the rankings system suffered a couple of years back when all results had to be entered by hand.

Every so often, however, I come across things that cause me to question just how aware the USAT is of the world of the “ordinary” multisport athlete.  The most recent issue of Triathlon Life, the official publication of the USAT, had an article on choosing a wetsuit.  I eagerly latched on to this because it is a dilemma I will be facing in the next few weeks (yikes!).  A lot of the advice seemed pretty useful.  Then I came to this section:

As the swim distance gets longer, the technology difference between high-end suits and entry-level suits for swimmers of the same ability becomes more apparent.  The high-end suits are made with different material and constructed in such a manner that they are simply more comfortable than the entry-level versions.  So, if you’re racing an Ironman [that’s me!  I thought] not only is a high-end suit faster, it is more comfortable [yay me!  I thought], and you probably want to be as comfrotable as possible when swimming for just around an hour.

Definitely! I. . .wait a minute. . .WTF?  Team Z has some pretty amazing athletes on it, people who have completed Ironman races in some very respectable times.  I know of only a handful of them who are doing the swim in “just around an hour” unless you interpret that rather liberally to mean “anything up to two hours.”

Am I being picky here?  Of course, it is what I do.  The article as a whole did have a few morsels of good advice, and it did shape that advice for different race expectations.  This comment doesn’t invalidate any of that.  However it is little slips like this that indicate, for me, where the heart of USAT still is, and why I don’t feel that their official publication really speaks to me.  When I read it, I always feel like the bulk of the publication is focused on people who have way more money than I do and way more free time (and I consider myself lucky to have as much of each as I do at the moment; many do not even have what I have).  I’d certainly love to be the target audience for this publication, but I’m not.  The vast majority of multisport athletes are not doing several Ironman races in a year, or trying to qualify for Nationals or Worlds in their age group or, indeed, even realistically hoping to podium in any event.  Myself, I count it a good day at the office when all my extensive training gets me a top third placing.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m grateful for all the work that USAT does in training event directors, insuring events, and ensuring that the vast majority of USAT sanctioned races I’ve entered over the years have been fun, well-organized, and above all safe.  However, you have to think that a tennis player, say, would expect a little more from the national body of their sport than just a well-run event. 


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