Since December I've been mulling over the idea of a big race. For a long while, I thought I had decided on a half Ironman (70.3). I started following the Boulder Ironman 70.3 club on Strava. I toyed with the idea in my mind. I even told a few people. But then I got uncomfortable with it. I had some weird anxiety dreams, and a few times felt like I was actually panicking about it before I had even signed up. Finally, finally, I realized it didn't feel right because it's so massive. So corporate. When I lived in NYC, I got overwhelmed with racing and took a year off from entering any event. In NYC the races were enormous fields (tens of thousands of people), and sold out in a matter of seconds, 4-5 months in advance of race day. To me, that's not fun. I realized that's what was giving me stress. So I did a search for locally owned and operated races. I found a series with an 800-participant cap that includes 3 events throughout the summer for the same price as one Ironman event. Now I'm excited to compete. I'm excited to keep my money local, and support people who live in my community. Ironman was bought by a billionaire in China a couple years ago, and while that's not necessarily bad for the sport or the brand, I like my money and support going to the grassroots folks. I spent most of last summer living in Buena Vista and Leadville: two towns with populations under 3,000 people. Everything in these alpine towns is local. Everything is mom-and-pop. Leadville is known for high-altitude endurance sporting events, and the town takes pride in the fact that they support world-class athletes. When I had my bike shipped from NYC, the locally-owned bike shop took better care of it than I've experienced anywhere else. I've been back to that shop, for gear and gifts, because I like the people who run it.
Sometimes it's impossible to avoid the big-box places, but not very often. I've found--maybe especially in Colorado--that if you look around a bit, you can find a small business version of just about anything you're looking for. And those people take pride in what they're doing: like artists, they're doing it because of passion. I can support passion any day. Bring on the (local) race season!