Are you an athlete if you don’t compete?
Yoda said, “An athlete you are not if compete you must. An athlete you are if in yourself you trust.” However, on a personal note, I think I can take Yoda in a traditional 5K with illegal use of the force prohibited.
—Ingles Alexander, Independence, Va.
All athletes compete. Even if you’re not entering contests you are trying to improve your performance and you’re competing against yourself.
—Doug F., Hiram, Ga.
The athlete is in the heart and soul. We are all in our own race.
—Sean McLaren, Richmond, Va.
You can be an athlete without formal competition. Maybe not a professional athlete, but the only distinction there is money.
—Lauren, Roanoke, Va.
Being an athlete isn’t about besting another individual or team. It is overcoming opposition, not waging competition. We overcome our fears, pain threshold, topography, mechanical failures, and personal weaknesses. We are athletes because we get up, dress up, show up, and make the effort.
—Barron Smith, Waleska, Ga.
To be a real athlete you need to step up to the starting line. Competition will bring out the best in your performance and give you a new edge to set greater goals. Don’t be afraid to see what you’re made of.
—Dan Jensen, Greenville, S.C.
You are not an athlete if you don’t challenge yourself. That doesn’t necessarily require a race, but it does require setting goals and reaching for something deeper. Otherwise, it’s just exercise.
—Emily, Asheville, N.C.
Is an expensive bike an unfair advantage in a race?
Someone who can afford a sweet frame with high-end components is going to have an advantage over a competitor with similar athletic ability riding an inferior bike. When you’re grinding it for many miles, having the right equipment really makes a difference. There’s a reason some of these parts and frames cost so much.
—Dave McMann, Charlotte, N.C.
Expensive, custom-fitted bikes clearly provide a huge advantage. I think it is unfair to use money to get an advantage. This applies off the track as well, although it’s naïve to think the advantage isn’t there.
—Jorge de la Cova, Atlanta, Ga.
The only advantage an expensive bike might give is in saving a few grams of weight and that will be more than offset by rider skill, conditioning, and natural ability.
—Cliff, via e-mail
Just because one has money to buy a bike doesn’t mean they can ride it well. I’ve seen triathlons where folks with old beater bikes are knocking the socks off people with $5,000 tri bikes. The bike matters a little bit, but the engine is more important.
—Nathan, Glen Allen, Va.
There is no doubt that an expensive bike provides potential advantages, but the ability to exploit those advantages is what separates the pack. Regardless of how much I spend on a bike, it’s not going to get me to the podium without a lot of dedicated training and practice to go with it. It might push me past the person directly in front of me at the finish line, but in that case, all I got for my extra cash was 54th place instead of 55th.
—Greg R., Morristown, N.J.