If We Were Riding – Episode 8 – November 8th, 2017

I am definitely not riding this week. Not even a little bit. We’ve all got our own things going on and for me that means finally having a procedure to address a longstanding heart arrhythmia, which included about 24 hours in a hospital and way too much time laying flat on my back without moving—not something I recommend, in case you were considering it. This week’s newsletter is mostly quick hits, since it turns out when you’re not allowed to get out of bed, you end up reading a lot on your phone. Plus, I’m trying out different things: Do you like the shorter bits or want a longer section? Do you have enough context to know what’s going on or what more explanation? FYI, so far I’ve responded to everyone who’s written me.

-Kelly O’Mara

 

Meanwhile in Arizona

You know there was another race this weekend, besides the one in New York. Oh, you didn’t know? You weren’t watching the third annual Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship? You’re like: Wait, anyway, I thought there have been collegiate national championships for way more than three years??

Right, well.

This weekend’s race was part of the ongoing effort to turn women’s triathlon into an NCAA sport. Draft-legal sprint triathlon was approved as an “emerging sport for women” in 2014. That means organizers (of which USA Triathlon is a major promoter and funder, with major medal interests invested in the project’s success) have until 2024 to get 40 schools to sign on to creating a varsity team. The 19th school, triathlon powerhouse (*maybe, side eye, who knows*) Davis & Elkins College, actually just signed on last week, so.

However, in the meantime, we’re in this weird transitional phase. Club triathlon, which includes men and women, has been around for decades, is hella fun, and hosts a championship every spring. NCAA triathlon will not include men, will be draft-legal, and will definitely not be the same as club triathlon or include the same athletes—for better or worse. Right now, though, until there are 40 teams signed up, the NCAA(ish) national championship race has to include a mix of varsity and club athletes from a variety of schools, which is giving it this mixed-up confused feeling. This weekend that meant just over 80 female athletes from 11 varsity and 10 club teams. ASU won, sweeping 1-2-3, which sorta seems inevitable since they’re still the only Div. I school with a varsity team and an elite-level coaching staff. In the results, there was also a decent, which sorta makes sense too since recruitment and funding varies drastically during this transition period. Still, progress?

I completely understand the appeal of NCAA funding and scholarships, the desire for an Olympic pipeline, and the excitement of motivating youth with something to chase. It’s true there will be more high school athletes who go from elite juniors programs into collegiate triathlon programs instead of running or swimming. It also just sounds kind of fun. But I’ve written before about some of my concerns over what we might lose too with the gutting of the club programs: the introduction of the sport to non-NCAA elite athletes, the all-comers are welcome approach. If women’s triathlon ultimately becomes an NCAA sport it will come with all the pros and cons of being an NCAA sport.

 

Big in the Big Apple

If you didn’t watch the New York City Marathon on Sunday, it really only takes a look at this picture to understand what everyone was so excited about. Shalane Flanagan didn’t just come back from having to pull out of Boston with an injury earlier this year. The Olympic silver medalist didn’t just finally win a World Majors Marathon after getting second here before, and she didn’t just become the first American woman to win the race in 40 years. On Sunday Shalane Flanagan fucking won and it was deserved and everyone on my twitter was crying. Most of the time the training and the pain and the sacrifices and everything don’t add up. But sometimes it’s all totally worth it.

Her performance was just one of many impressive runs from American women(not just this weekend, but this year). Allie Kieffer’s 20+ minute PR and fifth place stands out among the four U.S. women in the top ten.

Other notes: Did the new Nike Vaporflys really make Flanagan 4% faster? Meb Keflezighi finished his career and 26th marathon with an exhausting 11th place. And the New York Road Runners tweeted at me that I’m not allowed to use a half-marathon time from within a half-Ironman to qualify for next year’s race. Even though they just let Gwen Jorgensen run the marathon last year. Guess I have to be a gold medalist first.

 

Gwen goes running

Speaking of. Apparently, us regular spectators weren’t the only people who caught marathon madness this weekend. The Rio gold medalist in triathlon announced her optimistic plans yesterday to now win a gold in the marathon too. It’s not that Gwen Jorgensen can’t do it—it’d take about a 15-minute PR from her debut marathon post-Rio, which (in all fairness) she ran solely off of triathlon training. It’s just unlikely. Of course, one could argue her story was always unlikely and running has clearly been her first love. She’s still coming back to fitness post-baby now and she doesn’t have a running coach yet, so this doesn’t sound fully-formed yet. But I have to say I think the comparison to Michael Jordan isn’t completely inaccurate. I’m just sad we’re not going to see Gwen face-off against the improved women who have been killing it on the ITU Olympic circuit while she was out pregnant (*cough* Flora Duffy).

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If We Were Riding’ is a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter written by Kelly O’MaraSubscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning. You can also see past issues here. And if you like what you read, please help us spread the word and forward to a friend. To share any comments or thoughts, just email Kelly- kellydomara@gmail.com 

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