Text by Kelly O’Mara
‘If We Were Riding’ is a weekly triathlon-ish newsletter written by Kelly O’Mara and produced by Live Feisty Media. Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Wednesday morning. You can also read past issues. This episode is from May 23, 2018.
In the last week at least two top-level pros told me in passing that they were nursing injuries—crossing their fingers they’d be able to race despite not having run in weeks. It’s just that time of year: Friends are canceling race plans because of pulled muscles and freak stress fractures, and everyone seems to be hopping from fancy doctor to fancy doctor, hoping for a magic cure. (I’m no exception, with a sudden calf strain sending me ping-ponging from ice baths to acupuncture.) When you start to think about it, it’s a little amazing we aren’t all crippled all the time. At least my swimming’s getting faster, and I’m riding a lot instead right now.
Where do pro triathletes go when they retire?
Ironman and 70.3 World Champion Leanda Cave announced her retirement this week. (pictured above) She’s the most recent, and the most high-profile, in a string of retirement announcements over the off-season and pre-season.
So, what happens to all these athletes when they’re done racing?
Most of them transition to something else within the sport—working for a retailer or manufacturer, coaching, doing talks and management and consulting, maybe write a book or run a team if they’re really popular. Leanda will be doing almost all of those things. For others, they simply move on to something completely different (especially for those who have skills outside of sports): finish med school and become a doctor, train as a firefighter, star on a TV show. And, let’s be real, what even is “retiring” for so many pro triathletes and cyclists and runners? Most of them will keep doing some combo of those things anyway. That’s not true of regular jobs you retire from; you don’t show back up casually just for fun.
But none of it is easy—emotionally, physically, or logistically. We know that a ton of crazy rich NFL athletes go broke. We’re learning more all the time about the struggle Olympians go through post-Games—whether they win or lose. Once you’ve been among the best in the world, once you’ve had all facets of your life managed and scheduled and you’ve always known exactly what your goal was, what do you do when it’s all gone?
To pro or not to pro
Speaking of what it even means to be a pro triathlete. At least once per week someone says to me some variation of: “Well, there are just too many pros. That person shouldn’t go pro. She went pro too early. It should be harder to race pro.”
Make a list, check it twice
For a big story coming up in Triathlete Mag, I was interviewing Flora Duffy the other day, and she mentioned having a list back in the day of the things it would take to elevate her to world-class: eight hours of sleep every night, weekly massages, cut out extra sugar and junk food. And I thought about the idea of a list a lot this week, just working my way through it one thing at a time. Like all that’s keeping me from being a world champion is the failure to make a list. What would be on your list?
- Ironman has now officially moved into the ultra-running space with the purchase of Ultra-Trail Australia. I’ve written before about the Wanda Group and their sports domination plans—though, honestly, I had been a bit under the impression some of those plans were currently in limbo or on hold. Apparently not?
- USA Triathlon also announced the Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach, which will start as an age group race and eventually become an ITU World Cup and then an ITU World Triathlon Series race in the lead-up to the L.A. Olympics. I don’t actually know how this race is different from other races. I do know, however, that there was so much hoopla leading up to the announcement that I was kinda let down when it wasn’t a WTS race from the start.
- If you’re following the Ironman Texas overcrowding saga, USA Triathlon also responded to upset tweets. They’re in “close communication” with race directors and Ironman about the event.
- Ironman also says don’t cancel your Hawaii racing plans. As if triathletes would let a volcano and public safety get in the way of their Kona dreams.
- Meredith Kessler topped the Ironman 40th anniversary poll for ‘the greatest American female triathlete of all time.’
- Everybody loves Meredith. Galen Rupp? Not so much.
- Phil Gaimon will race Fabian Cancellara up a mountain later this summer. And the fact that both of them are retired is probably (part of) why cycling is having a hard time creating fans these days. Besides Sagan, who else is a fun personality? Who is a top-tier contender and interesting and makes you want to yell at them or for them?
- Kittie Weston-Knauer raced her first bike race at 40. Now, at 70, she’s the oldest BMX racer in the country.
- Ironman champion Angela Naeth was diagnosed with Lyme Disease—which is a personal giant fear of mine—and now she’s documenting her rehab and recovery.
- If you’re just in the mood for a funny and odd interview with a dose of history, legend Scott Tinley always delivers.
- Police used Strava to find a suspect who hit another cyclist on a bike path. A similar thing happened here a few years ago when a cyclist plowed down an elderly woman and then posted to Strava. There are lots of reasons auto-sync sucks, but if you’re going to do terrible things, then add that to the list of reasons.
- OK, I will 100% fully admit I did not completely understand this article. But what I *did* understand is that the way we do statistics in sports research might be really flawed.
- Is social media making dangerous climbing and expedition trips seem less dangerous and encouraging people to do things that get them killed? (Yes, the answer is yes.)
- Did you know burl poaching from giant redwood trees is a thing and that it is illegal?
- And triathlon is getting the full documentary treatment. Watch the trailer if that’s your kind of thing, and it’ll be premiered at the Challenge Championship race in June.