Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Too Legit to Quit

I always bury the lede, but today's news is so exciting that for once I'm just going to come right out with it. 

I have a sponsor. A real, live, actual, legitimate, sponsor. They give me money. And gear. And good vibes galore. I can hardly say it with a straight face. I am a sponsored athlete. 

"You realize you can't go to the Olympics now, right?" Sidecountry Sports co-owner Brian Kelly said with a grin, handing me my check as I jumped up and out down, clapping and squealing like I'd just won the Showcase Showdown. 

Andrew Dailey and Brian Kelly, co-owners of Sidecountry Sports bike, ski, and snowboard shop in Rockland, Maine

I've been a big fan of Sidecountry Sports in Rockland since I bought my first bike there seven years ago. If you're ever wondering why bumper stickers exhort you to shop locally, go see these guys. Co-owners Brian Kelly and Andrew Dailey exemplify small business leadership. They're knowledgeable, they're smart, and they care deeply about this community. They work really damn hard, and they are 100% focused on customer service. They hire good people. 

You can walk in their store without knowing a thing about what you're in there for, and they will take all the time in the world to help you learn. Without making you ever feel stupid. They'll meet you right where you are, so if you're some uber-biker (or skier) looking for high-level techie info, you can find enlightening conversation here. Alternatively, if you don't know an inner tube from outer space, you just walk in with a world of questions and they'll make you feel like you totally belong.


They're also invested in good things like getting beginners out on the road. They organize a family fun ride on Sunday mornings (all are welcome!) There's a no-drop group ride on Wednesday nights. They've hosted basic repair workshops for women (with wine! And snacks!). And so on. 

And finally, they support countless numbers of community groups, nonprofit organizations, and random individuals fulfilling a dream. During last year's Ironman training, these guys stepped up time and again to help me out with gear discounts, advise me, and cheer me on like I'd known them my whole life. I considered them my unofficial sponsor throughout.

The midcoast Maine contingent in Lake Placid, 2014

It's said that if you need to get something done, ask the busiest person you know. Similarly, if you need a donation, ask someone generous.

So when I realized that I needed a little financial boost for this year's race, I mustered up my gumption and wrote to Brian and Andrew. "I know sponsorship is usually reserved for athletes who actually win races, but if you have any interest in sponsoring a big, goofy, middle-aged woman who only wants to finish before the midnight cutoff, I would be honored to be your ambassador," I said.

I sent it off and then started to worry. All kinds of insecurities arose. Would they even WANT their logo on my big fat slow body? What if they're only nice to me because they think I'm crazy? Plus there's the whole issue where I don't even feel like a real athlete. I'm so far behind on my training that I don't even feel like a legitimate Ironman. How presumptuous this is. They're a small local business, working their asses off just to get by, too. That night I dreamed that they gave me $20 to politely make me go away. The next morning I wished I could withdraw the email. 

Andrew called me up that very day. "We'd be happy to help," he said. Just like that. 

Please, if you have bike- (or ski-) related needs, support these guys. They'll do well by you, and you'll be part of a really good thing. And if you're not shopping with them, please consider another local option. Most of these shops will custom order something you could get from the Amazon machine, but they'll put your dollars toward something good.

Like me!!! Hahahahaha. Can you even? I can't even.


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