Sunday, January 30, 2011

I quite like my slow-ass, thank you very much.

According to the first findings from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), a comprehensive national survey to determine fitness levels, between 1981 and 2009 fitness levels of Canadian children, youth and adults declined significantly.  In adults, the reported decrease in fitness levels over this period were particularly pronounced for those aged 20 to 39 and even more alarming, for 2007-2009 just under 38% of adults were estimated to be at a “healthy” weight. Approximately 1% were considered underweight, 37% were overweight and 24% were considered obese.

Only 32% of Canadian men and women aged 15 to 69 were considered to have "good" health benefit levels based on their aerobic fitness ratings. Sadly, more adults received a fair or needs improvement rating (40% of men and 47% of women) compared to those who received either an excellent or very good rating (27% of men and 22% of women).

We can of course argue semantics about the methodologies used for testing and the basis for categorizing people according to their fitness or health (BMI, etc).   Regardless of deviations in statistical measurement, the trend is clear and it is disturbing. 

Proposed Canadian guidelines recommend that to obtain substantial health benefits, adults are to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week.  According to the data from the CHMS, it is estimated that only 15% of Canadian adults currently attain this level of activity.

150 minutes a week.  That’s not even 3 HOURS of exercise, and we are not talking about intense workouts here....just moderate forms of exercise.  Walking, gardening, yoga, anything.  Just moving at least 30 minutes for 5 days a week.  How glorious, that is TWO WHOLE rest days a week! J

You are probably wondering where I am going with this.

In this day, where our country is apparently turning sedentary, it is my view that we should be lauding everyone who is out there putting in the time to stay healthy and fit.  I am not talking about training to break any records or for the Olympics, but for any reason – health, stress reduction, a life “bucket” list goal – just getting out there a few times a week. 

So I was really saddened / frustrated / angry this week when I came across a message board of apparently “elite” runners who were tearing down a girl who just recently finished the HURT 100 trail race, an insane, humid, difficult 100 mile race on Oahu.

The stated goal of the website is to cover the “elite level part of the sport properly”.  They self-proclaim that they have grown into the #1 internet site for the so-called *serious* runner and that their message board is “THE place that runners from all over the world go for the latest news, results and gossip in the running world”.

Seriously?  So does this also necessitate elitist, conceited rants about amateur athletes? 

The general gist of the message board in question, save for the kind souls who chimed in with more reasonable views, was essentially that the average person has no business running (or jogging for that matter).  We are referred to as the “also-rans”.  One poster said “I have thought for a long time now that the hobby joggers and ultra joggers have taken over Letsrun. Because of this, more elite/sub-elite runners will get less of a contract so jogger nobody can brag about their 5 hour 50K. It's the stupid "give everyone a medal" mentality that has over-taken our slow-ass country.


First of all, I must preface the discussion by providing some background on the poor girl who these elitist snots decided to dig into.  She is not exactly *slow-ass* (their word, not mine) and I have an incredible amount of respect for her.  Not only did she complete the HURT 100 in a very respectable time, in reportedly terribly humid conditions where most of the field DNF’d (32 finishers out of 111 starts), but she clocked just over 11 hours in Kona this year and followed that up with a 10:46 at Ironman Florida only four weeks later.  Slow ass, my ass.  This girl is a talented age-group triathlete who is upbeat, bubbly and willing to share her story.  She is a role model and an inspiration, and quite frankly, something our sedentary society needs a little more of. 

The fact that these narcissistic, conceited, self-absorbed, so-called “elites” decided that it was necessary to call her down is pretty pathetic.  Elite?  I think not.  Just elitist.

We are all obviously entitled to our opinions, and the internet is a playground for every view on life whether you choose to agree with it or not.  However, what is firstly bothersome to me is that these so-called elites are not limiting their clawing and narcissistic criticism to their competitors, but that they have chosen instead to lash out at someone who is not even their rival. 

It also disturbs me that this attitude is displayed by people who are presumably winning races and perhaps are *best in class* at their short distances.  It seems to me that they should endeavour to be ambassadors to the sport rather than disparaging it.

And, to bring me back full circle to alarming state of our sedentary nation, why are those who should be ambassadors in sport choosing to detract from anyone who is getting out there?  Obviously there are people who should not run or participate in vigorous sports, such as those with health difficulties, but in my view anyone who dares call themselves an elite should carry an attitude that is similarly winning and tolerant of everyone.

Most of us do not have the natural talent or ability to win at the local level, never mind on a national or world scale.  Moreover, most of us are not deluded enough to think that we could ever compete on that level.  Instead, we define our victories by our own personal terms.  That’s why we shoot for PRs, not WRs.  Knocking off a 16-minute 10k is out of reach for the majority of us and yet, in my view, this does not make the physical training and cognitive effort required at any level of sport any lesser than the elites.  While I realize that my amateur goals must be simply mundane to an elite runner or triathlete, we should not need a reason or defense as to why we are out there. 

It is bad enough that the statistics show that physical activity is on the decline, but completely pathetic that people who are supposedly elite (though self-proclaimed) in their particular sport are choosing to discourage participation.  I realize that this is probably not the view of the majority (case in point: I celebrate people like Chrissie Wellington and Scott Jurek, who make a point of congratulating every participant regardless of finish time).  However, the mere fact that this narcissistic view is paraded out there by persons daring to label themselves elite in sport really chafes me.  And unfortunately, no amount of Body-Glide is going to relieve it!

So, Miss Frayed Laces, good on you for showing the class and tenacity to laugh these elitist asses away.  And good on you for being an inspiration to our sport.  We can use a little more of your brand of inspiration...cuz for the sake of our society we all need to get off our slow-asses, be proud of them and get them out there! :)
More info on the CHMS:


  1. Richele, sadly, the attitude the "elites" on that board display is one that I have seen before. I have noticed a tendency in the almost winners to denigrate those who are not capable of achieving the level that they do. I have seen it with runners and cyclists.

    My personal observation is that it isn't the actual winners of races who seem quite genuine and down to earth, but the ones who are almost there, just not quite.

    It is a shame that these people are unable to be the examples we would want them to be to those who are growing into the sport or would consider dedicating their time.

    I am heartened personally though by the folks like yourself and so many that I have swam, biked and run with over the past few years. You and they are the people I hold up to my kids and to new athletes as examples of what to strive for.

  2. Richele, thank you so much for this amazing post. In the past few days I've received an incredible outpouring of support. I think Sean nailed it on the head with

    "it isn't the actual winners of races who seem quite genuine and down to earth, but the ones who are almost there, just not quite."

    I know their comments stem from jealousy. It's a shame they can't have the passion we all share for our sport.

  3. Ok, now I am depressed. A 5 hour 50k race is considered to be "slow ass"? I was so happy to break 6 hours at TNFC SFO last year but now I see that I should have been happy that no one heckled me at the finish line.

  4. I have to say, I'm a first time visitor to your blog, and WAY TO FREAKIN' GO!

    Frayed Laces is undoubtedly an inspiration to all of us - after all, who rocks out 2 Ironmans and the HURT 100 while getting a PhD?! I just finished 2 Masters degrees, and barely survived PERIOD, much less qualified for Kona.

    I'd rather have her winning attitude and "slow ass" than those blowhards' cynical assholery any day.

  5. Great post! Frayed Laces is an inspiration to many people. I had the chance to meet her in person last year at the Hawaii 70.3 and she is not only sweet, and totally ready to share any knowledge/experience she has, but she's also hilarious. The posts are totally contrary to her nature, and nothing short of mean. Knowing FL tho, she will use their comments as fuel to her fire.

  6. Well said. Frayed Laces is the type of person who should be championing our sports, not these self-appointed "elites". The thread on Lets Run smacked repeatedly of people who can only make themselves feel better by tearing down other people. Unfortunately, some people never grow out of this mentality and have found a home on discussion boards.

  7. And to think when I read FL's race report last week, i was totally in awe of her accomplishment! What hopeless nutbars those posters are.