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Staring Down the Barrel of the WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am

A new race is about to take place: The WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am.

One of the exciting things about triathlon is that age-groupers can compete on the same field and at the same time as the professionals. Well, not exactly at the same time, but a few minutes difference. Actually, I remember racing at Chicago in 2009 when the professional wave started AFTER the age-group waves. If I remember correctly, that’s the year that both Andy Potts and Julie Dibens went down on the bike trying to navigate the course through the age-group novices. Just another obstacle like potholes and roadkill, right? Maybe not.

Anyway, on October 17, 2020 AC (Anno Covidi), 55 athletes are going to gather in the little burg of White Lake, North Carolina for 70.3 miles of fun. It will be a mix of professionals, amateurs and one clueless blogger.

Sunrise over White Lake

Sunrise at White Lake, NC.

I think the race was intended primarily for professionals by invitation only, but for some reason it opened up and this age-grouper snuck in. Professional races are about finding the outliers. Observers and sponsors aren’t concerned about average athletes, because they are not notable. Actually, that’s BS because everyone has an interesting story, but our heroes (athletic and otherwise) are not average people. If they were, no one would look up to them or strive to be like them. Would you call Michael Jordan average? Neither would I even though his ghosts hang out near one of my training grounds (Laney High School in Wilmington, NC).

And Gordon Ramsey, the foul mouthed celebrity chef who completed the IRONMAN World Championship, was not lauded for his athletic performance. He was interviewed and photographed and put on display because he was already a celebrity. It just so happens that he can survive the 140.6 AND make a killer creme broule. I’d like to see him do both at the same time.

The key to all this is how you measure your outliers. If it’s race time that we are measuring, then I suspect Tim O’Donnell and Meredith Kessler will be our champion outliers at The WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am. Or maybe not. While they will likely finish the race in four hours and change, perhaps a six hour swim bike and run will be a greater outlier given this field of professionals. I will try to explain this without mathematical equations so hang with me here.

Most races for age-groupers are… well, full of age-groupers. When you add a high performing (I almost wrote functioning) professional to a race of 500 age-groupers, what is going to happen to the average finish time? The answer is, not much. The average will still reflect the average ability of the age-groupers. That professional, however, will undoubtedly be an outlier.

Let’s flip this scenario and add a couple of average age-groupers to a professional field. Those age-groupers are likely to be the outliers in that race. They’ll be on the wrong end of the distribution, but they’ll be outliers. See my logic? I expect to be an outlier by the time I cross the finish line at The WithoutLimits® Half Pro-Am race… that is, if Tom and his crew haven’t dismantled the finish line and gone home before I get there.

OK. So I’m being facetious. I’m going out there and giving it my best performance. My father was a runner and his philosophy was based on running for fun and fitness. And if others ranked higher in a race because of his participation, he felt good for helping them. The whole outlier argument, however, breaks down when you actually have two different populations competing in the same field. But that’s getting into statistics more than I wanted for this post.

I will also be an outlier in another way. At 56 years old, I’ll be the oldest male out there. There is a 58 year old woman in the participant list so I guess I have to take second place in the age competition. My only hope for notoriety at this race is to get hit by a deer on the bike course.

Oh wait. That already happened to my friend, Marty, in 2008. But that’s a story for another day.

Until next time…

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