Friday, May 9, 2008

WARNING! RANT AHEAD: Selfish & Ironman Athletes Mix

Some funny things have happened to me recently.  I've had people take credit for my ideas and inventions, others ask me to promote their events when we have never had a conversation, athletes who promised to "support you all the way" who are no shows (doing their own thing no doubt instead of following up on their commitment) and people looking to get themselves in the media for selfish reasons.

I'm so sick of the what's in it for me athlete.  Go away!  Team (your last name here) t-shirts, How self centered are you?  Have you EVER done something for someone for NO FEE, NO REWARD, NO EXPECTATION?  I doubt it.

Can you be part of a bigger cause because it is right?  Take raising money and awareness for ALS?  I don't know any current ALS patients (except for Aimee and Jim) but I met them THROUGH the ALS fundraiser we had already started.

OK - I get it that Ironman (or triathlon training) takes time and there is only so much in a day.  Here is the bottom line: don't promise to support something if you can't back it up.

Live up to your commitments
I coach a group of new triathletes.  Yes, I get paid a small hourly rate from the park district.  I will say that it is tremendously hard to be there every week.  I always have something that I "should be doing" so on the days I'm there - I have to plan starting the night before.  I said I'd be there...and I am with a smile on my face and a solid workout and genuine interest like I was coaching my family.  

How about announcing a team on Friday and then backing out on Tuesday?  (No sponsors named to protect the guilty.)

So if you promise to do something, do it.  You'll be remembered for your follow up or lack there of.  Still waiting on a call from Tony (big name coaching service)...this was in March.  I know what the answer is - NO, they do not want to coach me (for fear I will pass my learning on to my clients - even though I promised to sign a non-disclosure form).  Be man enough to call me and tell me.  I've lost a lot of respect for you guys as business men.  I also notice the web site has taken some language out about "fees".  Interesting.

Even with my grandmother in the hospital this week, I've managed to hit all my workouts, work a full week, talk to (and re-design) several of my athletes programs, mow my considerable lawn and tonight I will go running.  I know I'm an Ironman, but this cannot be super hero behavior.  

Taking credit for ideas that aren't yours
Nothing pisses me off more than someone taking credit for my moves.  

Give me credit for the idea damn it.  Everyone will know if you "took it to the next level" or not.  This has happened a lot at work - D A I L Y occurrences which cause me to walk down to the dock and kick a dumpster and cool down.  I can joke with the security guard a la Airplane, "I picked the wrong day to stop smoking cigarettes."  (as I walk a lap past all of the smokers (15' from the entrance) of the reflecting pond before returning to my desk) 

Additionally, there is a charity event that is claiming to be "the first national spinning event"; um...No, you are three YEARS TOO LATE!  That idea was hatched by John Wolski and Bob Mitera while running in October of 2005.  You guys are taking it to a different level, for different charities.  You aren't the first.  I doubt we were the first which is why we don't claim to be the first.

It's OK...but give credit where credit is due because the current situation is unacceptable.

Support you all the way
Right...In or out.  If you are out and you are willing to try and get your friends/colleagues/athletes involved - no hard feelings; but say it.  Don't blow sunshine up my ass - I don't like it and it is uncomfortable.    If you can't make it because your 7- year old son is in his first school play - tell me!  I'm totally cool with that.  Your son SHOULD BE your #1 concern.  Triathlon/workouts etc. should be far down the list.  If they aren't, I strongly suggest you reevaluate the balance of your life.  

The Media & Events that Call attention to You
In this reality show world where anyone can become tomorrow's talk show host, Lincoln spokeswoman, marry a supermodel I get the attraction.  My question to you, "Will you be happy with yourself once you get 'what you want'?"  Can you live with yourself, selling your soul to the Godless media for 15 minutes of fame?

If you do get that attention, do you live into your commitment that got you that temporary fame?  If you say you are motivated to help a charity, are you helping that charity when the TV lights and reporters have gone away?  If the answer is no, you are a FRAUD.  

This past March there was a story about Wolski and I in the Chicago Tribune.  We begged the author to focus on the disease and that here are two regular guys who committed to helping people we have no connection with other than - we are raising money to battle their disease because NOTHING has been done for patients of this disease for over 100 years.  That is unacceptable.  Long after that article has been under your bird or in the cat box, we will still be working to raise money for research on the disease.  No cameras needed to motivate us.

I openly question anyone's commitment to our event until they actually follow through with their promises.  We've been "stiffed" that much.

Ironman athletes are some of the most selfish individuals I've ever met.  Some cross over and all hope is not lost (thank you my friend Jon (from Australia) - puking or crapping in the lava fields together fires a strong friendship, Chrissie, Dede, Natasha to name just a few).  It doesn't have to be a charity.  "Charity begins in the home." Have you helped your children with their homework?  Have you taken your dad to the doctor because he won't go unless you drag him?  Have you gone to see your grandparents if you still have them?  When was the last time you worked out with your cousin?  (I'm probably running with Vince tomorrow. I will puke.  Vince will laugh at me as he runs away.)

If you aren't actually doing something for someone else (family included) I ask you...

Can you look at yourself in the mirror after the race is over, the music is off, the crowd sleeping, the medal tarnished?  Are you happy with who you are?  Lastly, "can you be in a room by yourself and be happy with the company you keep?'   - Jon Blais

Maybe I've been to too many funerals this year and I am looking too much at history and how I remember people.  One thing is for sure...

Days like these are hard to be around sport.  I apologize for the rant on a Friday evening, but now I can get on with it.


  1. I always get a little nervous when checking your posts... sometimes they freak me out (you are VERY honest), other times they convict me, and other times I breathe a sigh of relief that I am not on your bad list. I am not 100% with you on every topic/opinion you have but let me tell you I sure understand what you mean by reaching out within the home (your example to ask your cousin to workout)also has me motivated. In fact I rode with my sister today after (we are very different paces) and it was so refreshing and needed.

    Anyways, thanks for the slaps, bunches, angriness ect. that your posts always bring when I need them. & thanks for the great tips on St. Croix... they helped a bunch!

  2. Hi Bree -

    It was a real tough week last week and I needed to vent a bit.

    I am sure you are getting hit from all sides with requests. What I'm trying to say in this blog entry (to everyone)'s OK to say "No, I cannot commit to that because of fill in the blank here." People will respect you for your commitment to whatever it is you need to do and your honesty. You'll also never have anyone saying, "She blew us off. Hollywood attitude."

    Keep on rockin'!

  3. Found your article because a friend of mine commented the other day saying that she thought Tri-Athletes are some of the most selfish people she knows. You seem to share this sentiment! Anymore thoughts on that?

  4. Hi Shelton - As I've gotten older in the sport of triathlon, I've seen how "one sided" relationships are in the sport and families. This particular rant was regarding several triathletes who backed out of helping others because it didn't fit their schedule (although they promised they would and they told MANY people that they "Supported" the activity.) Actions speak louder than words.

    I am very careful to balance my life with triathlon (more so than the early days) AND I don't stretch beyond where I can. If I promise something, I make good on the promise. There are SO MANY great causes to support and nobody can help them all. I give whatever I can in time, money or blog power to what I have time to support. There is only so much time/money.

    If I cannot support someone in an effort, I often try to "hook them up" with my contacts to help them.

    Not everyone thinks that way - I'm not saying that is the "right" or "only" way to do things, but it makes sense to me for my affairs.

    In my opinion, if you stay true to your beliefs and values you are at least following your faith and belief system. People may disagree with you, your beliefs, etc but they cannot say that you were "full of it" because you lived to your beliefs.

    Lately, in the pro levels of the sport, we seem to see more and more professionals helping out. This is a wonderful trend in my opinion. I hope that the amateur athletes can find time (at least once a year) to help a local charity some how/ some way.

  5. Oh... one more thing. The other part of this rant was the Spinning folks having their "first ever global spin a thon". Perhaps in name alone. Ours was the first global event. As far as spin a thons... that goes to a local group in IL who had a spin a thon for a paralyzed athlete and mother of three. They get credit for the idea which (for us) became something we could do for ALS.

    Give credit where credit is due. Honor the history and people who came before you in ideas.

    Live life with honor.

  6. Bob, from a long time athlete/triathlete... I completely agree with you! I found myself getting selfish just training for sprint triathlons. I wish that people would focus on shorter, less time consuming races for fun. But instead, my local sports community only tends to reward the longer distances (i.e. running clinics are only big for marathon distances, prize money for longer races is much, much more than shorter races). It's like the local stores act as if 5k and 10k means nothing compared to the marathon. I wish marathons and Ironmans would disappear!