elite addendum


Wow, yesterday’s post has generated quite a buzz. Glad I could facilitate and stimulate. [insert dirty joke here].

Few issues were brought to my attention since then.


My dragon boat racing friend I mentioned in the original post was actually able to clarify things regarding the professional vs. amateur status.

Professional athletes get paid for doing their sport. It’s their profession. Think NFL, NHL, NBA. They get a salary (not just endorsements, sponsorships and prize money) for their work in their chosen sport.

Everyone else is an amateur athlete, no matter how high of a level. For example, Olympians have historically been amateur athletes (performing at an elite (!) level). Currently, both professional and amateur athletes compete in the Olympics.

Elite (aka really good) athletes can be either pro and get paid to train and compete at a high level, or they can be amateur and not get paid and compete at a high level. Unfortunately, the latter may just go broke while competing… Amateur elite.”

[Thanks, Lee!]


I messed up in trying to explain what age grading is. In all honesty, I have not heard of this concept, until someone in the discussion brought it up, and I simply did not do my homework, assuming it is the same thing as percentiles in statistics.

Thank you, Alec and Walter for pointing this out, and clearing up the confusion. Let me try this again.

Age grading is a way of comparing all race participants to each other. For example, if I run a 5k in 21:12 and my 25-year old brother runs a 5k in 21:12, I have actually performed better than my brother (as men tend to be faster).

The age-graded score is the ratio of the world-record time for your age and gender divided by your actual time. In other words, if you are the current world-record holder for any given distance for your age and gender, then you age-graded score would be 100%.

In the prior example, my score would be 69.81%, while my brother’s score would be 60.85%. Notice how age grading can be used to compare performance across different ages and sexes, and even to track your own performance over time and over different distances.

I still do not really have a feel of how good 69.81% is, but at least it gives me one way to compare my own performance across different distances. For example, last year I ran 10km in 42:56, resulting in age-graded score of 70.65%, very similar performance.

This, of course, can only apply to standard road distances, rather than obstacle races. In our unpredictable un-standardized sport, we are stuck with simply comparing people to other participants on the same course. At least for now. In either case, it does not seem to be a very commonly used statistic. [Unless, I’m in all the wrong circles.]

Many pointed out that the “real” elites simply have not discovered OCR yet. Well… no. That’s the point. As Joshua Gustin Grant points out, you can only judge the elite in any sport by those who participate. Some athletic skills translate, some don’t. I have beaten plenty of road runners on an obstacle course, who would smoke me out of the water on a flat pavement course.


Many racers commented on the post, saying how much they hated the word “elite”. It’s elitist. It has a negative connotation.

Now I may be beating a dead horse here (there is an expression like that, right?), but please let me remind you that there is nothing wrong with the word “elite”. The word is not “elitist”. It’s a word.

It means a certain thing, and there are no issues with the word if it is used in context.

For example, “gay” is a term that refers to a homosexual person. There is nothing offensive about the word itself. However, if you start using that word out of context, it becomes offensive. As in, “that is so gay!” to describe something one dislikes.

At some point, the discussion actually shifted from what “elite” means to what “obstacle racing” means. For some, it’s fun. Others – competition. Family event. Chance to meet friends. Chance to displace some aggression.

Some wondered why the need to define things at all. There IS already a dictionary, after all. Why label things? We don’t need titles, do we?

Maybe, I’m just not quite as free of a spirit as those guys. Maybe, it’s just my social sciences background talking – where it’s impossible to really research anything until it has been defined and operationalized.  Maybe, it’s my passion for words and a good argument (preferably over a beer).

However, this conversation from the movie “City of Angels” (1998) comes to mind:

Seth: What does it taste like?
Maggie: You don’t know what a pear tastes like?
Seth: I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you.

I am curious about what “elite” means to you. What “obstacle racing” means to you. There are as many answers as there are racers.

And I love that.

P.S. 13.5 sucked. Thank you for asking. And not even in a good way. But in a “I don’t do freaking kipping pull-ups, especially chest to anything pull-ups” way. Ugh. What kind of workout lasts 4 minutes any way? [off to pout]

Signing off,

Posted April 5, 2013

6 responses to “elite addendum”

  1. Amy Lawson says:

    To me, elite is the best of the best. To me a true elite is as humble as he/she is talented. I think elite is a measure of both physical and mental toughness. Navy Seals, Green Berets, etc. are the ultimate elite, and I believe they are probably elite in everything (maybe that’s just a little fantasy, but I’ve heard that they really don’t train for marathons, they just show up and run them– my husband has worked with some who have confirmed it to be true). An elite athlete is in top physical shape and is among the best in his/her sport, but I think the truly elite will be good at most physical challenges, given their physical shape. I don’t believe “elite” is a measure of how many Spartan races one has won or how high on the point system they rank. A true elite OC racer is elite in any and every OCR– it’s not determined by how many races he/she can travel to. On a side note, I love the term elite (but the fact that Spartan is now naming a whole heat “elite” is an abuse of the term– one can’t pay a fee to earn that title). My trainer and I often use the term to encourage dedication (sometimes a little tongue in cheek), as in… “No, we’re not having pizza tonight– we’re trying to be elite!”
    On another side note– I agree with you on 13.5. I returned to the weightroom about an hour after it for a *real* workout to rebuild some confidence.

    • Solo says:

      Thanks, Amy. However, I do not think being humble is necessarily part of being elite… It’s nice when it does happen! Buts lots of “geniuses” in whatever field can also be arrogant, and real jerks. Also, is showing up to a marathon without training really a measure of elite? No elite athlete would ever do that.

  2. John Wall says:

    I tend to agree with you about the word “elite”. For me, it doesn’t really matter though whether you use elite, best or some other word to describe them. My problem is the same as Amy’s with respect to the “elite heat” itself. There should be some minimum standard to be able to sign up for that. Otherwise you need to rename it…something like the “we-charge-more-for-this-heat heat”. Whatever the criteria, someone won’t like it…oh well…but if you don’t make some effort towards qualifying, it really isn’t very “elite” then after all.
    Would love to respond to Part B on “obstacle racing”, but I’m not sure what you’re asking. Maybe during your next shower you could blog on that and explain…lol.

    PS – sorry about 13.5

  3. helena! says:

    humble as…”God-poral” francis?…the guy of soldiers of fitness..OMG…just stay with him for 5 minutes…and you will get sick of your stomach..about ego!

  4. Solo says:

    Hmmm… “God-poral”, eh? 🙂 Haven’t heard that one before, but maybe it’ll stick. I know him as CF. And to be honest, with CF, a bit of ego is warranted. He is one of the very few trainers I know (or heard of) who can take a group of 20 people (or 50, or 100) of absolutely different athletic abilities and fitness levels, and manage to design a workout in such a way that every single one of them is pushed to their absolute limit. He is one of the people responsible for the athlete I am today.

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