Andrew Raynor Dover
By Mike Tarrolly for Crushing Iron
Last year, the day after I raced Ironman Louisville, I limped into a convenience store and the cashier gave me a dirty look before saying, “YOU, you, you!” I said, “What??” “That damn Ironman had me stuck in traffic for over an hour yesterday!” I smiled and said something about “it’s a great way to work on patience” with a laugh. She actually kind of chuckled, we talked for a few minutes, then ended up exchanging numbers. We text all the time now about fluctuating pastry and coffee prices. Well, not really, but it was great to connect with a Louisville resident and make them feel just a tad bit better about hosting Ironman in their city.
If you’ve been following my “Road to Ironman Louisville” video series, you probably know that I have a big place in my heart for that race, and the city. It was the first Ironman I ever spectated and this will be my third time on the course. Yet it seems like every year, but there are rumblings of this possibly being the last year for Ironman Louisville.
One of the things I hear a lot is that the city of Louisville (and maybe more accurately, surrounding cities) isn’t completely sold on giving up their town for such a long race. Reports estimate the race brings around 8 million in revenue to Louisville each year, but the question becomes, is this enough for a major city to shut down major roads for a majority of the day?
Locals Hate The Traffic Problems
Eight million sounds like a lot of money, but I’m sure the right convention or whatever would to the same without road closures, which I think are the main reason people don’t like races like these. I’m pretty sure my cashier friend isn’t alone.
I sense that events like this are a big deal to a community at first, but after a while it starts wearing on their nerves because it “seems” like all these outsiders traipse into town and no one gives a shit about the people who live there. That’s why I’m suggesting everyone who races or spectates do their best to change the impression.
1. Find A Way To Say Thanks
We are guests in Louisville, and I think people want to be acknowledged. I live in one of the most visited places there is, Nashville, and know the feeling. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m cut off or have to wait for tourists blindly crossing the street with no idea where they’re going. It can really start getting on your nerves. It’s a little like someone walking into your house and going straight to the fridge to help themselves.
I mean this in the truest sense of the word. Find a way to thank the people of Louisville for letting us into their home to live our crazy dreams. Realize that people are doing things they normally do and we are interrupting that daily process. Talk to them, be nice and thank them. It’s easy for a triathlete to think they are coming in town to deliver the Super Bowl, but in reality nobody cares much about what we are doing. Acting like we are some kind of super-athlete is ridiculous. They are giving us their ROADS for a safe place to do this little race.
2. Be Genuine
One thing that grates me about living in Nashville is the number of people that yell “I LOVE Nashville.” I don’t know why, but I think it’s partially because (and this is old curmudgeon stuff here) I always think they love the tourist part of Nashville and that is exactly that part that can wear you thin.
What I do like is when people seem to be interested in me as a person living here in Nashville. The ones that treat locals like people, not zoo animals from a different world. Strike up conversation, and yes, thank them, too.
Here’s how that might look:
You: I know this race is probably a hassle for you, I just want to thank you for letting us do this in your town.
Them: Oh, no, not really (this means it kind of bugs them). I mean, it’s cool. It’s not so bad.
You: Yeah, but I know how it is, we have the Doppleganger Festival every year in Chetaquinan, and people seem to walk all over us.
Them: What is Chetaquinan?
You: It’s a little place up north near the Upper Pennensuila in Michigan.
Them: Oh, we go fishing up off Mackinaw Island every year.
You: Really? We do, too. Big family trip.
Them: What’s your name?
You: I’m Bob Stetensonhoffer.
Them: Are you any relation to Phil Stetensonhoffer?
You: YES! That’s my brother!
3. Be Gracious
There’s nothing worse than the person who says something like, “We give them a lot of money, they need to deal with it.”
This always reminds me of the days when I used to work at a pizza place in LaCrosse, Wisconsin during college. Every year the big Octoberfest would roll into town and make my life hell. Drunks everywhere screaming for more pizza and beer, all leaving bad tips. I hated it, but the weekend made a ton of money for the owner.
Remember that when you walk into a restaurants in Louisville with 10 other triathletes order 11 waters with 3 refills. Imagine those waters are beer and will add 10-15 bucks to your bill. Leave a good tip and treat the staff with respect. They are the ones who leave at night and go out and start negative strains about how cheap Ironman athletes are.
4. Be Visible
Many people make cardboard signs to support their athlete during the race. What if this year, for every sign that was made, we take a few more minutes to make another one that says, “Thank You Louisville.”
It would be awesome to see them all over the course. Hundreds of them that make it seem like a campaign!
I know local media well enough to know they will NOT be able to resist getting video of this stuff. They will probably interview some of you and ask what it is about Louisville. People at home that are pissed off and watching news will see the story and think, “Oh, maybe them their Ironmen ain’t all that bad afterall.”
We Play Triathlon
We are not professionals. We are just people wanting to be in better shape that use carrots like Ironman events to be rewarded once in a while for the hard work.
While it does bring a lot of money to cities, I think it’s important we realize that most of these places don’t NEED us. They are making a compromise on many levels. We take a some money and give you are town for a day.
I think Ironman has a great thing going with Louisville because it is a bigger city and the race is right downtown. I remember the first time I watched Louisville in 2012. The downtown was kind of sleepy and it seemed like nobody was even around. Now, (and possibly because of Ironman on some level) the city has grown. More restaurants, condos, and action. On some level I think people there might feel like they don’t need Ironman anymore, and it’s probably true.
So, this year, make the people WANT Ironman. Make it a good experience for THEM. Be nice, buy stuff, and say thanks. Hopefully with thousands of signs so they know you mean it.
Thanks for supporting C26 Triathlon and Louisville, Kentucky.
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