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 June 27, 2018.


If we were actually riding, like in real life, we’d probably be talking about the main thing that’s been on my mind for the last week or so: the separation of kids from their parents at the border. Yeah it’s not triathlon related, it’s not even about sports, but IRL my weekend running buddy is an immigration law expert, so these are the things we actually really talk about: life, work, and what’s making us super angry. (For example, even within the context of divided immigration laws and differing views of border security, this story is *really* not good.) And that’s just how it is sometimes, sometimes you can’t just stick to sports.

CORRECTION: In last week’s newsletter, I wrote that “Teresa McAdams” got third at IM Cairns. I was tired. Teresa McAdams is not a person. Or, well, maybe she is, but she’s not a professional triathlete. It should have been Teresa Adam.

The weird things that happen to your body when you’re Ironman training

This weekend, during the one six-hour ride I’ve managed during this training block, I imploded. It came suddenly. I was fine, and then I abruptly wasn’t. And while I was sitting on the steps of a cheese shop, after all the tourists had left, eating a roast beef sandwich and a bag of chips, trying to rally, I had two thoughts: 1. This is going to suck; I wonder if I need to bum a ride home? and 2. Thank God.

Thank God I was finally having my Ironman training implosion. Thank God I was finally training enough to crack myself. It was bad and miserable, but at least it was the kind of bad/miserable that made me a little more confident I might be OK to race 140.6 miles in four weeks. The joke we usually tell each other is this: You know you’re Ironman ready when you randomly can’t stop crying. Maybe I was almost getting close to ready.

The first time I really (like *really*) trained for an Ironman, my husband thought it was the strangest thing: One day, I started sobbing in the car after swimming. It hadn’t even been a bad swim workout. Why was I crying? But the more I’ve talked to other athletes, the more I’ve become convinced it isn’t that strange. Every female triathlete I know cries during peak training. It’s not our fault; it’s Ironman and also TV commercials are very emotional. In the spirit of Sara and Karen’s #MondayMotivation #realtalk pictured above, here are some of the other things I’ve learned happen when you’re Ironman training (or, really, any training that hits the intensity and volume most of us only hit preparing for an Ironman). These are the things you definitely should not try to explain to your doctor:

  • Everything makes me cry. And not in an upset way. Just, you know, IT’S ALL VERY HEART-WARMING AND ALSO EXHAUSTING.
  • I stop sleeping basically, especially after hard workouts, and then I take so many sleep meds to remedy the situation that it makes me concerned about overdosing.
  • Sometimes I miss periods. I’m in the school of thought, however, that it’s not a huge deal, it’s just your body deciding it’s got other things to focus on. They come back eventually.
  • I’m both starving and also nauseous. One time after a workout, I actively felt like vomiting for the rest of the day.
  • Often I am also freezing and my body can’t keep itself warm. This typically ends with me passing out on a couch under a pile of blankets even though our house is 84 degrees.
  • In general, weird stuff happens, all of which more-or-less amounts to: My body simply decides it can’t handle any additional stress. This weird stuff has included, but is not limited to: heart arrhythmia episodes, extreme motion sickness, freak use injuries, and bizarre illnesses. It happens.

The thing I’ve learned, though, (and it’s weird to say I’ve learned this, because it doesn’t make any of it any less miserable in the moment) is it’s OK. Your doctor may have no scientific explanation for any of it. Your friends and family will almost certainly give you that look that says, ‘this sounds freakishly unhealthy.’ Your mind can start to play tricks on you, wondering if you’re going to be ready or if you’re just going to break in half. And, honestly, it could go either way. But I’m here to tell you: You are not a weirdo. If you’re crying in your car, if you can’t even imagine getting on a bike again—much less for 112 miles—because everything hurts, if it seems like your house is falling apart and you don’t have any clean clothes and you stare at a friend over brunch aware he stopped talking, which must mean it’s your turn to talk, but you can’t think of how conversation works anymore, if all of that happens, it’s OK. It’ll pass. Or, maybe it won’t and it’s not OK, but at least you’re not the only one who’s been there.

Where in the world is 70.3 champs?

Ironman announced this week that the 70.3 world championships for 2020 will be in either Taupo, New Zealand or Perth, Australia. (For reference, 2018 is in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa and 2019 is in Nice, France.)

A brief history: In 2017, it was in Chattanooga, Tennessee and in 2016 it was back in Australia. 2015 – Austria; 2014 – Mont-Tremblant, Canada; 2011-2013 – just outside Vegas, Nevada; and before that it spent five years we’d rather all forget in Clearwater, Florida.

The point here is the 70.3 championships started out with the same idea as Kona — a single location that would retain the championship race every year with a constructed history and legend then to draw and build on. And then we all changed our minds about that. And it’s worked out better now with a rotating championship. Just setting that all down there.

[A super side point: The rate at which people accept awarded slots varies drastically inside and outside the home region for that year’s championship. Basically, an expensive trip far away is a deterrent. I remember being given the numbers once, and I’d love to see them broken down again somewhere, but what I retained is it’s not a surprise that when championships are within North America, the acceptance is higher. I’d be curious to see how those numbers change or evolve.]

Set your DVRs (sorta)

Both the 100-mile epic Western States and the USA Track and Field Nationals are this weekend. While I don’t in-depth follow either, I still love them both with all my Ironman strung out emotions. If you’re looking for WSER (the ER stands for Endurance Run), the only place to really get it good is iRunFar‘s twitter feed. If you want to watch nationals, you’re in slightly more luck. It’ll be on NBC and NBC Sports and NBC Gold—though that does still bring us to the question of why the hell are sports broadcasters doing it so wrong? Here are five men’s and five women’s races to watch, but know that triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen’s 10,000m will be on NBC Gold, so good luck with that.

The triathlon internet

Triathlon twitter can be a, uh, weird place. More than once I’ve found myself struggling to understand who or what is being referred to. Inevitably, I end up down a deep weird tiny little black hole, because triathlon is a small niche world and, yet, we have a tendency to assume everyone else in this world knows exactly what we’re talking about. And they don’t, at least I don’t. This week, I spent a solid 30-45 minutes trying to understand this Susie Cheetham tweet.

(Starting with the fact that I had to look up which countries’ flags those were.) In a simple effort to decipher insider triathlon-ish stuff for others, here is my explanation: The other woman pictured is Lisa Hutthaler. She was banned back in the late 2000s for taking EPO and attempting to bribe an official. She came back and apologized. She is now racing and won Luxembourg 70.3 this past weekend. Cheetham took second, as she prepares for Ironman Austria, and clearly has some opinions about Hutthaler’s return to racing.

So that’s what that was about. Maybe we’ll make ‘explaining insider triathlon twitter’ a weekly segment.


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