By Bill Plock
Matt Miller is a disrupter. He has built BASE Performance into a triathlon juggernaught and now I have seen and felt how and why. If you think BASE is about nutrition products, salt, and a growing line of custom cycling and triathlon clothing, you are right, but you are crazy wrong as well.
BASE is about people. People who try hard, have fun and care about each other. BASE is a growing triathlon family of over a thousand people from around the world officially on their team.
This past week, in surprisingly chilly, Orlando Florida, about a 120 teammates came to swim, bike, run, and have fun for four days. Athletes varied greatly in ability but it’s safe to say that the slowest, least skilled or in-experienced athlete felt every bit a part of this group as the fastest, most seasoned veterans. Here’s why. For this “family” it’s about the start line and how they get to the finish—not how fast they get there.
Besides training and having fun, the overriding goal was to re-connect with fellow BASE teammates and meet new ones. I felt a bit like I was at a high school reunion of a school I didn’t attend. But, that feeling dissipated quickly as this is the most welcoming group of athletes, maybe people, I have ever been around. If BASE was about building ego’s they would’ve been out of business years ago. BASE fuels love for the sport of triathlon by helping people build love for each other. Yes, that sounds lofty, probably corny and utopic, but it’s true.
Boulder based professional triathlete and coach at Baseline Multisport Coaching, Kristin Louderback, who made the trip to help athletes said, “there was no ego at this camp, it was a super fun group to coach and help.”
At the beach party after our last workout, Becky from Illinois summed it up best saying, “I did 15 hours of training at this camp and normally I do about seven per week. I was so excited, as I kept my face in the water for all my swims, I ran the longest run of my life at 10 miles, and I was so happy everyone waited for me at the end of the run. AND I made it up Sugar Loaf Mountain without stopping! I just don’t feel judged here and I can do more than ever with the help of my teammates!”
When Matt invited me to camp, he gave me no direction or assignment, and I guess he just wanted me to experience the camp and come to my own conclusions. I write this as unbiased as possible only being influenced by accepting a bed at the BASE house where I shared a room sleeping on a not-so-roomy twin bed appointed with not-so-luxurious Superman bedding. We were in Orlando after all, where housing developments chew up the land built mostly for tourists and Air B&Ber’s. It’s hard to not be a BASE fan. I wanted to resist and be neutral, but I can’t. This is a great group and I’m just telling you like it is!
BASE has come a long ways. A really long ways in a pretty short time. I first encountered BASE running on the Boulder creek path during the 2014 Boulder IRONMAN. Matt and a few of his early, enthusiastic adopters passed out BASE salt in small vials perfect for carrying. Of course I refused and thought each time I passed through the BASE “zone”, “what in the world are these guys doing passing out something not at an official aid station that I had never tried?” Who would take it I thought, that’s breaking the first rule of racing—don’t do something you have not practiced! I was somewhat shocked at their tenacity, but also impressed.
Then in 2015, at IRONMAN Boulder, there they were again, but this time as an official supplier of salt, and they had a booth, and it was a busy booth. Clearly they were growing. Now they are a significant partner with IRONMAN with booths and products on course at nearly all full and 70.3 races in North America. They sell a wide variety of high quality nutrition products and a line of cycling and triathlon clothing along with some fun lifestyle t-shirts.
The disruption comes in non conventional ways of offering quality products, either ones BASE makes or ones their partners offer to the team, normally at special prices. For example, Quintana Roo offers BASE members special buys on bikes and wetsuits. Last year BASE was one of QR’s biggest accounts. But more than that, members will often visit local bike shops and leave a BASE sample or a card hoping the store carries the product. Let’s face it if the people they love (BASE) are more successful, they can have more fun.
That is the magic sauce. Matt has built a company of believers who, I believe, want the company to succeed for reasons way beyond the product. They not only like Matt and the BASE Team, they want to keep seeing each other at BASE functions and at races. They want to know that when they are racing they will see others in BASE kits cheering them on.
It’s this selfish joy that bonds this group to do the utmost for each other so they can continue to be part of something bigger than themselves. The fun and a strong sense of belonging pulls them together to make them feel valued and included.
For me, this is a bright part of the future of triathlon where new people from all abilities are able to learn, to train, and become empowered to tackle things they never thought possible.
But it grew in a way I hadn’t anticipated or could’ve even predicted from those days when they were schlepping salt in Boulder, in nutrition terms, BASE’s growth is as Organic as possible.