Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Didn't Get an Apology from Athlinks, but I Got This!

Athlinks sent out an email to athletes the other day saying we as a whole are getting slower and we needed to get it in gear and get faster.

I blogged about the email, and asked for an apology for those of us that are out their moving it as fast as we can. We don't need to be beaten over the head just because we aren't fast. We are moving and that should be enough.

In case you missed the blog about the email you can click the link above and read it.

Today I got a reply from Troy from Athlinks.
A reply.
NOT an apology.

Hey there – this the Troy Busot, the author of the original email from Athlinks
Let me answer a few of your points above: (You'll have to read the previous blog to know what points he is talking about)
Endurance sports absolutely have grown tremendously over the past decades. I think that there are more than enough voices on that side of the aisle – and we celebrate them daily. I believe that our role, however, is to encourage smart, intense, purposeful training with the goal of achieving ones best performances on race day. I do not accept as fact that we must collectively get slower as we grow. Logical, true, but definitely not written in stone. In fact, 2008 is a very notable exception – participation AND performance were both sharply up over the previous few years
Also, I don’t think that fast and happy have to be mutually exclusive. Sure, it’s tough breaking through the speed barrier, but once you’re able to get there, man that’s hella fun!
There have been several years, 2008 being the most notable, where participation AND performance (decreased average times) were both present. In our data, we show that Marathon is actually doing better than it was four years ago. This is because of the hard-coded time goals built into the sport by the Boston Marathon Qualifying Times. I would bet dollars to donuts that the average marathon times next year (2013) will the best ever. Why? Because humans are very adaptable to limits – either real or imagined. Our data shows this very explicitly. There are huge spikes in finisher times surrounding artificial barriers like 20 minutes for a 5K, 40 for 10K, 2 hour for half marathon, etc
The most dramatic increase in female participation has been in Marathon – which saw average times drop.

Our data shows that excluding elites, who max out in their mid to late thirties, most of us who casually enter the sport get progressively faster up into our sixties. Further, our data actually shows that folks speed up AFTER joining Athlinks or similar fitness communities. They are also 85% more likely to repeat a race from their past after joining Athlinks as well. Why? Because they like/want to compare their times against previous years' results.
Walkers were excluded from the averages (for the most part). You’d be surprised at how difficult this one is as some walkers are actually pretty quick. In each of our distances, we compared times with a floor of the world record at each distances, and a ceiling of roughly 3-4 times that based on the distance. So 5K went from the record out to 4x the record and marathon was up to 3x.

This all stemmed originally from Marathon times. We are going to be sharing an infographic that shows these huge spikes in finishers around artificial barriers like 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, etc.
Then, there are these other huge spires that we couldn’t explain until we looked at them age-group by age-group. It turned out that they were the Boston Qual times. That’s why you see such rigid consistency in Marathon only. If you tell someone that they need to run a 7:00 mile, they will run about a 7:00 mile
Listen, we love you and others who have come from the couch to the start line. The email was sent with a large, large dose of satirical, hyperbolic, campaign-style rhetoric. But I would never apologize for pushing people to perform - on the contrary, there are days when I feel like apologizing to the community for NOT doing more with the data that we have. This wasn't the end of the line for this type of push from us. We want more kids, more moms, more retired people, etc. - and we will use data to push people farther, faster, and longer.



Here's my reply to Troy's reply: I wrote my blog with a large, large dose of satire.
I do wish I could become faster.
But as I get older I am happy if I can continue to run, bike and swim at the same pace (if not a little faster) than the previous year WITHOUT getting an injury.

I may even compete at the same event year after year, but still it is unfair to compare one year to the next because every year is different. Rain one year, dry the next. Cold one year, hot the next.

I am satisfied if I get out there and give it my best.
But thanks for keeping track for me, Troy!



  1. Hi there....I missed the article from Troy, thanks for sharing. today's epidemic of obesity and diabetes, you would think a big entity like athlinks would be encouraging those participating. Think he's looking at the wrong group.....maybe put out some "hyperbolic" reteric out to those still on the couch? Glad you responded. Anyway....out here in number is 1082.....and yes, Troy....this is my fourth ironman and I WILL be slower.....but I'll be out there! Paula

  2. Hey Paula - thanks for joining the conversation started here. Again, we weren't out to exclude anyone and CERTAINLY not out to embarrass or shame anyone. My times have slipped dramatically from when I started racing. Was it because I turned 41 this year? No - I don't think that it is. I think that it is because in my first year of triathlon, I had to learn how to swim and bike and as such I devoured every article, every stat, every minute of training with zeal. Simply put - I TRIED to get faster. Now, with two kids in school, and business that is growing, and my focus on other things, I just flat out don't try hard enough to get fast now. But - I know that if I want them to be, my best days are ahead of me in terms of speed.

    So, please do not mistake our call to arms as something that it was not. I want to get folks off the couch. I'm just saying that as a company, Athlinks doesn't think that it has to stop there. I really believe that anyone who says that they don't want to get faster is fooling themselves. All things being equal (a big leap), we'd all love to get fitter, faster, etc. After all, in endurance sports, speed = fitness and vice versa. Nobody ever woke up and complained that they felt TOO fit.