Freewheelin'

author : Scott Tinley
comments : 3
by Scott Tinley
  
Ironman World Champion, 1982 & 1985
Ironman Hall of Famer; Triathlon Hall of Famer

          I wore my new running shoes today. They made me feel fresh and snappy and the hills weren’t as steep. I bought them at the big box store, Big 5. They were on sale for $49.95 plus tax. I try not to buy from the big chain stores, preferring the mom and pops. But I was on my way to a triathlon and my jogging shoes were 3 years old and I wasn’t running very well and there was that monolith shadowing a wine shop and a bagel place. They had a sign in the window: Running Shoes ½ Off.  My new shoes are called Asics Gel Something and to be honest, it’s the first pair of running shoes I’ve paid for since 1981. I’m sorry. Don’t hate me.  I should have bought new shoes a long time ago.  On sale or not.  I like my Gel Somethings and will probably buy another pair soon unless a pair of size 10 ½ show up on the front porch.  

          Back in high school, the only (long distance) option for running shoes was the Onitsuka Tiger Corsair and then later, Nike’s catalytic derivative, the leather and EVA-foam ship that launched a million Forest Gumps, the Nike Cortez. I bought a pair of Nike Cortez for my junior year of cross country running. They were admirable shoes and I ran a 4:41 mile in practice wearing those sweet red and white leather tanks.  Both of those shoes, the Tiger and the Cortez, were better for running than the Converse Chuck Taylors or suede ‘Indian’ moccasins my dad bought for me when I started running in junior high. He found them at a roadside outpost on a long drive home from Denver or Albuquerque.  Running shoes have come a long way, don’t you think? Why do so many runners want to go back to a single layer of thin rubber? I’ve read the science on minimalist running shoes and as one of my colleagues suggests, “barefoot and minimalist shoe running is a stimulus program for the physical therapy industry.”  I don’t like dangerous fads.   

          I was so happy in my new shoes that I decided to walk around in them on the night before the 18th Annual Tinley’s Adventures Races at Lake Lopez, CA. I wondered if I was wearing them out too soon and considered saving the groovy kicks for big events like the Ironman or the World Championships. But then I realized I’ll probably never do an Ironman again and would never qualify for any title beyond my neighborhood. So I kept walking past the local micro-brewery and the Schwinn shop and the boutique bed and breakfasts of downtown San Luis Obispo. Running shoes last, on average “500 ‘good’ miles before they lose their efficacy,” according to Rick and Carl at the ultra-core running store, Moving Shoes, in San Diego. 

          Full disclosure, I fabricated that quote to sound important, but it’s something that I believe Rick and Carl from Moving Shoes might say. They are core athletes from San Diego who’ve been helping runners in the area since the earth was cooling.  I like Rick and Carl. Before folks like them started mom and pop running stores in the mid-70s, there was only the underground pipeline for running shoes and clothes.  Before Frank Shorter won the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics, big boxes for fitness clothing did not exist. Little ones neither. 

          True story: I bought my first pair of Frank Shorter, nylon tricot running shorts from a guy at a stereo store. This cat had been to Boulder and brought back a suit case of Frank’s signature shorts. They were about seven bucks each and he offered me a 10% discount on a Marantz receiver and a turntable. The good thing about nylon tricot is that they didn’t chafe your thighs like the old navy blue canvas/cotton shorts that were issued to us in high school. But the downside of nylon tricot is that if you stopped off at a 7-11 for a quart of milk after a hot and sweaty run, the fabric stuck to your family units like a topographical map
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         Endurance events last a lot longer than shoes or nylon shorts. The Boston Marathon is slightly older than Tinley’s Adventures at 105 years old.  I’ve never raced the Boston Marathon. Nor the New York City Marathon, for that matter. It’s a failing of my career in endurance sports. But I suppose there is still time.  My marathon PR is 2:29. I ran that time in 1980 before triathlon altered the spirit and the spring in my step. There was some talk a few decades ago about just how fast triathletes could run and how fast runners could ride. I know Scott Molina has run well under 2:30 for the marathon and I think Mark Allen went under 30 minutes for the 10k. That doesn’t seem that fast compared to the times that some of the Olympic triathletes are running today. 

          Steve Scott, the American mile record holder for nearly three decades, thought he might be able to give up 3 or 4 minutes on the 40k ride of an Olympic distance event and make it all back plus several minutes on the run. I thought he could too; you know, just cruise an easy 29 minute 10k while the rest of us were hoping for 34 minutes off the bike on a good day. But Steve was perhaps a bit too late to that party and was surprised by how much a hard hour on the bike could take out of his legs. I’m not sure of the details in his short triathlon career but Steve has always been the very study of grace and humility.  I like Steve Scott. He’s had little problem running at a much slower pace in his mid-50s. For my money, as relatively slow as we both are now, he’s still the greatest American miler ever. 

          I didn’t used to like to run slow.  And I related walking to the leisurely geriatrics short-stepping their golden years along measured paths. But a funny thing can happen when you can’t run at all, when the ravages of time and abuse and incidental accidents steal away your ability to glide freely across terra firma. You begin to recalibrate your needs and wants and if-only you could jog an easy two miles, three times per week. You bargain at the crossroads for just a few more times around that hallowed quarter mile when you could do no wrong and the smell of fresh cut grass was in the air.  And if you are given that quarter by the gods, then you will want a little more than half. And why the hell not the full? We are greedy with our bodies and their capabilities. It has always been, and will always be that way. These days, I appreciate every pain-free running step I take. Running is a gift.

          I wore socks under my new Asics Gel Somethings. Heaven forbid the new shoes should get all skanky the first few years I own them.  I don’t want them to smell. My favorite pair of socks is from the Sock Guy and they have Steve Larsen’s name on them. I’ve never met the Sock Guy—I hear he’s a good dude-- but Steve Larsen was a friend who died during a track workout in May of 2009 and it pissed me off. He was the only athlete I’ve known that was dominant in road, mtn. and track cycling, and triathlon.  Steve and his wife, Carrie, had five kids. Five kids and he died while running around in circles perhaps partially in an effort to reduce the stress of chasing five kids. I’m pretty sure that I’m Facebook friends with his older daughter but then again I’m not really sure what it means to be a FB friend even though I have 5000 of them. Mark Zuckerberg won’t let me have anymore because he wants me to start a fan page. And I’m sure there is a motive there for him but it ain’t gonna happen with me. If the Sock Guy ever puts Mark Zuckerberg’s name on a pair of socks I don’t think I’ll wear them. With all apologies to my 5000 FB friends, I don’t like Facebook as much as I miss Steve Larsen and what he stood for.

          Steve was going to come to our off-road triathlon in San Luis Obispo before he died. I think he   might’ve done very well. People come to this event with low expectations because they are focused on what the event is focused on—old school, rootsy, family-style racing; a few hundred folks camping around the lake, rolling their bike down into the transition area after morning camp-coffee and when enough people are there, the gun is fired.  During the first few years of this event, however, it was very competitive. Hot shot off-road triathlon stars like Jimmy Riccitello, Ray Browning, Scott Schumacher, and Mike Smith were there to establish a beachhead in the emerging sport.  It was our own version of stage racing where we all raced 5 or 6 times over a 3 day weekend. Damn that was hard.

          This year, I decided to turn up the competitive dial just ever-so-slightly in the off-road sprint triathlon, mostly because I wanted to ride fast and get to the beach before the surf blew out. But a funny thing happened on the way to the beach—I didn’t suck on the run. Maybe it was the water I drank the night before (instead of beer) or the fact that for the great majority of the field, this was their first triathlon…ever.  Maybe it was the shoes. Maybe I was just freewheeling down a long easy hill.

          In any case, it felt good to be racing again and pushing myself passed the pedestrian flow of lava-speed.  Because speed is relative.  Because there is something very fulfilling when you are in the lead of a race, even if it is an old school, rootsy, family-style, off-road triathlon. It felt good to be running something less than 8 minute miles in my new shoes with the 12 people watching the race cheering for me and the 47 first time triathletes behind me lapping at my heels.

          It was good to feel like a king again, if only for a few minutes of athletic memory on a sweet Sunday in the fall of my life.

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date: October 24, 2012

Author


Scott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

Author

avatarScott Tinley

As the sport of triathlon gained in popularity Scott turned pro in 1983. Between those early years and his move back to the amateur ranks in 1999, Tinley competed in over 400 triathlons, winning close to 100 of them, making him one of the top three winning triathletes of all time.

He won the Ironman World Championship twice (1982, 1985) and the Ironman World Series three times. He was inducted into both the Triathlon and Ironman Hall of Fame upon retirement in 1999.

Near the end of his professional career he helped found and develop the sport of offroad triathlon and continues to co-own and manage the longest running offroad triathlon in the world, Scott Tinley’s Adventures in San Luis Obispo, California.

Scott Tinley's Website

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