If We Were Riding’ is a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter written by Kelly O’Mara and produced by Live Feisty MediaSubscribe to get it in your inbox every Wednesday morning. You can also read past issues. This episode is from Nov. 21, 2018.


The fire here is nearly contained. The rains are finally coming and the news crews have already moved on, at least until the next tragedy. And yet, the numbers still climb and hundreds are still missing. The rains we need so badly bring with them the threat of deadly mudslides and flooding, more havoc. That’s both statistically true and, I suppose, also something more. How can the death toll keep going up even after the flames are out? In California, the grass is greenest in winter. I’ve always found it a fitting metaphor, now more than ever.”

I drove to the mountains this weekend to escape the hazardous smoke conditions and it seemed like all of the Bay Area endurance community followed suit. A handful of runners put together their own 50K to replace the Northface championship race that got canceled, and they’ve raised $8,000 with Northface matching donations. Which, yes, made me choke up and cry a little because that’s where we’re at. And it’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and maybe everything makes me cry a little. And if we were riding this week, in the rain, it’d be short and sweet.

Some numbers presented without comment

Back in December, when Ironman announced its new Kona qualification process for pros, there was a lot of debate about the potential for the “floating slots.” These are the extra Kona slots awarded to some races, which can either go to the men or the women—either one extra slot for each or both the extra slots go to one gender, depending on how many pro men v. women start.

At the time, I suggested we could #TurnKonaPink and swamp the targeted races with female pros, driving up the qualification slot numbers. But that’s a hard sell for any pro—go to this race so someone else has a better chance to qualify for the World Championship. And, anyway, I mostly thought (as many do) that in the end we’ll still see unequal numbers at Kona in 2019—probably around 42-46 women and 54-58 men.

This weekend was Ironman Arizona, one of the first races with those extra floating slots, so it was finally possible to see it play out in real time per whatever algorithm Ironman uses and chooses not to disclose.

I now present you with some numbers from the pro race in Arizona. Draw whatever conclusions you will:

– 32 men, 15 women started
– 25 men, 13 women finished
– 3 men, 1 woman were awarded slots for 2019 Kona
– The last qualifying time for men was 8:09:53, for women it was 8:39:18

Fun fact: Carrie Lester went 8:44:13 and didn’t qualify.

Turkey trot through the holidays

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is the *most* popular day for running, by a long shot, it’s not even close. (Supposedly, 4th of July is second.) Turkey Trots have always been a thing—get out and burn off the calories in advance, or some other logic. But they actually only really exploded in popularity in the last ten years. I think there’s probably something to be said there about American psychology and the running boom and our desire for Big Events, but, eh, screw it, I’m running the super big 10,000-person Turkey Trot tomorrow too.

And then I’ll eat food and feel feelings and potentially trawl the mall late Thursday night to check out the Black Friday fuss which now happens before Friday.

In the vein of being grateful, though, and feeling all the feelings, this storystraight-up made me cry: He missed the high school cross-country state qualifying meet because his house was on fire, so they gave him the chance to run the course on his own two days later for time. He didn’t even have running shoes. And then, the local high school team, kids who didn’t even know him, showed up to run the course with him, to make sure he got the time he needed. We are better and stronger and more than the worst of things.


  • USAT sent out a press release this week saying they’re reinvesting the organization’s extra money into efforts to grow the sport. And I have to admit, I was super confused by this, because I’m not sure what they did with the extra money before? But Slowtwitch broke it down some and I’m slightly less confused now, though still a little…hmmm…
  • For those of us just wanting a bit more wacky in our Kona, I present Alyssa’s idea that you must turn over your qualification coin at some point during the race or forfeit a penalty.
  • Speaking of: Kona airs on NBC this weekend. See what you already know happens! Try to spot friends!
  • Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, also announced, on top of the minimum salaries for women’s teams there will now be required maternity leave: three months at full salary, five more at 50%. Which officially makes having a baby as a pro cyclist better than having one as a woman at almost any job in America.
  • In stories on the opposite end of the “yay” spectrum: This gay NCAA runner was disowned by her parents and suddenly unable to pay her bills, and was then told by the NCAA she had to give back the GoFundMe money or give up her spot on the team.
  • If you want to get super in the weeds about GPS watches, like before Christmas maybe, then you’ll want to read this comprehensive guide and recommendation list.
  • And in this week’s New York Times’ thing we already know about: people run multiple marathons in short periods. *gasp* Wait until the NYT finds about Ironman doubles.
  • However, per usual, of course we have to know some of those things are maybe not always totally 100% healthy for us, but that’s not the point. Like learning how to run with a stress fracture. I’m not saying I haven’t run through my share of injuries, but it’s not something I generally recommend. Persuade me.
  • This also may come as a shock to people, but I do *not* use an app to track my period and I probably never will. They just weird me out.
  • I kinda want to try this workout.
  • And as promised: a dart farting controversy.


Comments & thoughts

Some thoughts, emails, messages and notes from listeners and readers this week.

– Maurya thinks we should go with “Ironhuman.” We’re still talking votes — though everyone is a ‘no’ to Ironfolks.

– Anne-Cecile says she did some things in her 20s she couldn’t get away with now. “I ran a five days relay race and snapped my tibia at the beginning but finish all my relays. Could not walked, but I managed to run. Now, older, I would probably not do it. But at 20ish everything is possible.”

– And have you seen Sara’s audiogram of my mom’s insight? We got a lot of love for the fan favorite.

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