August 28, 2013

Just working out some thoughts – I wanted to share with the team.

I just wanted to share some of thoughts on triathlon and your participation on Team Z, how expensive this sport could be, and pressure some of you may feel to enter events (Ironman is included, but even 5k’s and 10k’s).

I have overhead some (Some = just a few) people talking about feeling pressured to enter events early, in mass…essentially what it comes down to is that it can be expensive to enter these events and register for all of them.   Some people feel pressured to enter events that they can’t afford or don’t really want to do b/c of “peer pressure”.   And when you hear a few people talking, you know there can be more feeling the same way.

I wanted to remind people that Team Z was not built for the rich.   That’s why we charge less than half of what many coaches charge for a monthly fee (and then give you 10 times what many of them are capable of providing).   Yes, if you have the fortunate position of being advanced in age with a high paying job – it sure does eliminate some obstacles (in life, as well as in triathlon entry fee related issues).   As my dad always said “Money does not buy happiness, but it sure could eliminate some of the obstacles”.   🙂

But – we did not build this program to make people go to the poor house.   We did not build this program based on the premise of exclusion.   It is just the opposite.   We want to include everyone whenever and however we can.   This will always be true on this team.   Whether you feel that in your bones or not, I do – and I know Ryan and Alexis do as well.   We’ve staked our livelihood on it.

When we first started – there were 20 of us.   We all sat in a room and built our race calendar based on a round robin discussion – which included finances, travel costs, etc. It was in the back room of the Front Page I think.   Anyway – Since Ryan, Alexis, Fred – and other “staff members” (like Iwan, Nicolas, and Frank who work their arses off on our race weekends) have come on board – we’ve started to add more and more race opportunities to our calendar.   Then we bought a second trailer, a third – more tents and another grill.   Then a dedicated work truck – now we find ourselves supporting 3-4 times more “Team Z race events” each season than we did 8 years ago.

We have increased the calendar to increase opportunities for people to race.   It is that simple.  More races gives more choices.   We did not increase the calendar to make someone feel pressured to do everything we offer (it is just not possible).

We used to get pounded for “not doing” more travel events, or big time expensive events like 70.3 Eagleman – for example.   We fought it off for years until finally we had a large enough team and staff and equipment to support a strong showing and participation in a very diverse schedule of events.   We used to have 4 or 5 events in a summer – now there are TONS.   And while this has made some people very happy – it is obvious that it is also putting undo pressure on some of you.

Look – Ryan, Alexis and I can all relate.   Trust me.  We talk about it ALL THE TIME.

For me, I grew up very middling to poor.   I scrapped change together and turned it into dollar bills at the 7-eleven to get enough “cash” to go see a movie with my friends so I’d not be embarrassed dropping a pile of change on the counter for my ticket in front of them.  Don’t ask mom and dad for the money – cuz I knew they did not have it and I did not want them to feel bad b/c I asked.   I paid my own way through college and grad school (am still paying) – and there were times when I was so broke and out of cash that I would buy a box of ziplocs and asked my friends to bring me home food from the dining hall.   I remember coming out of school – and my first car which was needed for work, well the wheel fell off before I was 2 miles away from where I bought it.   Only 2 of the 4 doors opened – and if I gave you a ride you had to climb across the driver’s seat to get in the passenger compartment.   I had one blue suit, one black suit – and I rotated 3 shirts and 3 ties for almost two years.  Dry cleaning was out of the question – what a waste – $1 per shirt?   I’ll get an iron….

We know what it is like to get started in life.   We know what it is like to live month to month and hand to mouth.   And for those of you who have chosen altruistic professions that just don’t seem to pay enough – I SALUTE YOU.   Teachers, Social Workers, Soldiers – and the like – you have honorable professions and I’m proud to have you as a friend – our society is carried on your backs.   And let’s talk over a beer sometime – and we’ll include Ryan and Alexis in the conversation b/c trust me – coaches can relate!   And I want everyone to know that we are aware that this sport is expensive.   [and by the way – I also salute people who have worked for and achieved wild success.   I just want to make sure I said that before one of you makes fun of me]

We do not build our race calendars to make people go broke.   We build our race calendars so EVERYONE has the opportunity to race with us – in a venue and at a level that suits their individual situation/desire/interest.   Everyone.   Wealthy, not wealthy, never-to-be-wealthy, just-starting-out, heading-down-the-home-stretch-and-cashing-in-the-retirement account….This team is for everyone and nobody is going to be excluded b/c of what they want to do, have done, will do – With their careers, bike choices, race entry options – nothing.   P5, fat tire, chuck taylors – everyone is welcome here and we want to make sure that we offer a program that, as best we can, makes everyone feel welcome. Where else in your life have you seen 23 year olds become best friends with someone in their 60’s?   We are a unique organization – and I’m super super proud of it!

I don’t want people to feel pressured to enter the EX2 adventure series this winter if you are trying to prioritize races/budget.   Yes, if you want to race them you need to enter now – but as Ryan said below – if it were me and I was still in my $400 car – No way I’d be paying that entry fee to race a 5 mile run on a dirt trail.   Especially since I KNOW (and YOU know) that we will also have a no-cost group run on those days in other locations.   Or, better yet, I’d get up and go to the race – run early, then cheer on my teammates.  If I were looking forward to the winter, and 2014 – I would prioritize the races I wanted to do, and I would budget for and enter them.   Then – if I wanted to get more involved, I’d come to as many of our events as I could where I could camp – or drive to day off – and I’d simply hang out, cheer, take pictures, and support the team.

Luray is an example of that.   Do you have to race?   NO!   We have free camping, and for $40 you could eat breakfast lunch and dinner for three straight days (cost to eat with our grub fund).   You can hang out all weekend long with the team – and have a blast.   Trust me – I NEVER race with the team and I always have fun at our events.   Half Full, Waterman’s – drive to day of events.   Savageman – grab a camp site and come stand with me on Killer Miller in your favorite costume as we make that hill feel like the tour-de-france.   It will cost you $5 for lunch, your gas, and camping fees.   But the experience will be off the hook – better than any day spent in Kings Dominion if you ask me!

This team is now, and always will be about inclusion.   And supporting each other.   And watching people achieve goals, dreams, a new level of fitness.   It makes me sad to hear that this team, or your participation on it, adds stress and un-needed pressure to your life.   This is supposed to be fun – and this team is supposed to fit into the nooks and crannies of your “normal world”.   Let this team and our races/events be there for you when it fits into your life, and your budget.   And if you start to feel pressured from me – or anyone else – to do something that you don’t want to do, or can’t afford to do – PLEASE TALK TO ME ABOUT IT (or Ryan, or Alexis).   Pick the 3, 4 or 5 triathlon events that you want to participate in each season and that should be enough.   There is NO WAY we expect anyone to be able to do even 1/2 of the annual events we participate in as a team.   That would be nuts!

And this goes for Ironman too.   I heard someone else say “I feel looked down upon b/c I don’t do Ironman”.   As Ryan said – only about 18% of our team will race Ironman this year (that includes both races – Lake Placid and Florida).   Yes – at times the energy that is driven from those races dominates our message boards.   And for good reason.   But – this team is not about Ironman either.  

We are about first race ever.   We are about first open water swim ever.   We are about high fives for the final finishers.   We are about falling over at stop signs and scraping our knees. We are about making sure you don’t put your wetsuit on backwards.   We are about 250 pounds of hand cut french fries to be consumed at Luray.   THIS is what Team Z was built on – and that will never change.   Do not put pressure on yourself (or let anyone else put pressure on you) to do something YOU do not want to do.   IF they do, let me know and I’ll go Nancy Kerrigan on them.   (that was a joke, just in case).   IF we happen to win the Division 1 Club Points Trophy at Ironman along the way – well that’s just icing on the cake.   But we certainly don’t go chasing those types of accolades.   We chase ones like the Mid-Atlantic club challenge which is based largely on PARTICIPATION, VOLUNTEERS, GIVING BACK TO THE SPORT – not performance.

Make this triathlon team fit YOUR life.   Make decisions based on your individual circumstances.   Be ok with your adult, mature decisions.   There are people on this team who are VERY active members of our community, some of my favorite teammates – who do not race (EVER – AT ALL – OR VERY RARELY).   And they have been here for years, and we’d not be who we are without them.   Don’t be a sheep and feel the need to do something b/c you *think* everyone else is.    Regardless of what events you decide to do and when, the one thing you can count on is that this team will be there for you.   And Alexis, Ryan, or I will be driving the truck.   🙂

Be yourself.   That is what makes this team so powerful.   We are a collection of everyone – all types, all models, all backgrounds.   Look around and tell me if you see any organization even remotely similar to us.   We are super special b/c of our diversity, each of you as individuals and what YOU bring to our table.   And I sincerely thank you for it.




Ed Zerkle