Some months ago I was reading a piece in Runner’s World (!) and in it, Marty Liquori explained the reason why his training group lived in Gainesville, FL: It was a cheap place to live, with good weather year-round and decent places to run. And I immediately thought, how many pro triathletes would be caught dead in Gainesville, let alone live there?
I coach athletes that live in Alabama and Louisiana. When they mention that, they might as well have said they lived in Iraq or Afghanistan, given the scorn they receive from other triathletes. It seems that in our sport, unless you are living in Boulder, San Diego or Tucson, you are a loser. If you can’t live in one of those places, then at least it needs to be a place with at least one Whole Foods (Boulder has FOUR!) and several independently owned coffee shops populated with thick-frame glasses hipsters and fixies. All this because, in triathlon, the established culture tells you that living the lifestyle is more important than performing. Living the lifestyle is more important than winning.
But let’s face it, unless your name is Matt Reed or Laura and Greg Bennett, or you work 60 hours a week or you’re independently wealthy, you can’t afford to live the “cool” lifestyle. If you coach a few athletes and you’re spending more money traveling to races than winning in prize-money, you can’t afford to live the lifestyle. And you end up having to make options in order to live the lifestyle. You compromise and every day you’re further away from your goals.
There is a lifestyle culture in triathlon that is detrimental to (high) performance. Because it tells you that being cool and living in the right place is more important than doing what it takes to be successful, to win races. But one thing I’ve come to realize, not every elite athlete is interested in winning, which is somewhat puzzling. The subject for a future blog.