Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is The Clydesdale/Athena Category Bogus?

The Clydesdale/Athena classifications for running, biking and triathlon events are 200 for men and 150 for women. This is an actual argument with a friend.

Me: Wow, you should see the Clydesdale results for the Utah Valley Marathon last year.

Friend: What were the times?


No Clydesdale ran it over 3:36. I would really like to know the actual weight of these guys.

Friend: There will be a result over 3:36 when you run it.

Me: Ouch, but true.

Friend: I think it is a bogus classification. I mean, so what, you weigh more than other runners.

Me: What about sex categories. Should those be done away with as well.

Friend: No. That is different.

Me: I don't see how. 

Friend: You can't change your sex, but you can change your weight. 

Me: What about age classifications? 

Friend: Same as sex. 

Me: You are suggesting that if you are 6'6" tall with an average build that you can ever get your weight as low as someone who is 5'8" with an average build?

Friend: No

Me: Then you are limited in how much you can change your weight and for more reasons than your height. Look at all of the elite runners. None of them are heavy. There is an advantage to running at a lower weight. I think there should be a classification for that. You are at a greater running burden than Meb at a higher weight, just like you are if you are female or significantly older. 

Friend: And what about non-Kenyan? Should we have a classification for that? And what about body types and people with chronic health issues or anatomical challenges? Should we have classifications for all of those? Why not make it perfect and have a classification for every person.

Me: Well, they kind of do. Everyone gets a shirt and a medal. But Clydesdale/Athena is a classification I would keep, maybe 'cause I am one, but I think that it normally encourages heavier people to participate, and that is a good thing.

Friend: Until they see the results you showed me. Those are intimidating. Your normal Clydesdale running his first marathon will look pretty bad by comparison. 

When I got into mountain bike racing eight years ago, I thought I was pretty fast. I had the choice of signing up as a beginner or a Clydesdale. I opted for Clydesdale, thinking I would show those fatties a thing or two. I got to the starting line of the Cholla Challenge, part of the Intermountain Cup and looked at the other seven riders in my division. There was not a fatty to be found among them. I was the heaviest one there by far weighing 240 at the time. The other guys weighed about 210, had monster quads, about 10% body fat and I did not see three of them for the rest of the race within a minute of the starting gun. I took a lowly fifth out of eight and was humbled. I fared better on my next race at Soldier Hollow when I competed as a beginner. I came in 15th out of about 50 in my age group.

My friend's point is well taken. If you have a bunch of sand baggers, guys who weigh 205 with 6% body fat and huge aerobic engines, the classification is bogus. I still think that because weight is at least as big a factor as age and sex in determining outcomes of aerobic events, there ought to be weight classifications in aerobic events like there are in boxing or MMA, just not quite as many. It encourages participation, and that is good. 

For myself, I don't really care if there is a weight classification for me or not. I am less motivated competitive results than I ever have been. 

Please leave your thoughts on whether or not you think there ought to be weight classifications and what they should be.
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