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 July 25, 2018.


After an Ironman, it’s hard to think about anything besides Ironman. And so, that’s really all I have to talk about this week. Sorry/not sorry. The whole weekend, while at Ironman Lake Placid, people kept saying to me ‘if we were riding right now, what would you say?’ Well, it’d be something like this…

After the Finish Line

On the run course at IM Lake Placid there was a sign that read, “Ironman doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” This isn’t a particularly unique or insightful sign, but I had a lot of time to think about it as I shuffled my way to one of my slowest finishes ever. And I decided, however trite, it might be true. And, if it is true, then what happens when we don’t like what’s revealed?

There’s something to be said for the stories we tell about ourselves, for the self-mythologizing. There’s a reason, in sports, “all the greats have short memories.” If you want to be great, you have to believe your own stories, your own abilities. To a degree. You have to be willfully ignorant — but only selectively. That’s hard in Ironman. If we’re not as good or as strong or as fast or as anything as we think we are, it’s right there, in the results, times aren’t subjective. You get what you get.

Once, years ago, after a cycling race, I heard a guy, rehashing his blow-by-blow, say, “If I had been up there, I would have won.”

Wouldn’t we all?

In case it isn’t clear: I had a shit day at Placid. There are those who would say the fact that I finished on a day I couldn’t stop vomiting was a victory in itself, showed toughness and fortitude, that I should take away a story about myself where I am strong and overcome obstacles. And probably, to a degree, that is true. But there is also the reality that everyone had a tough day on Sunday. Many of the women in the pro field threw up at some point and walked at some point and cried at some point, but most of them kept fighting and came through it. There are those who would say I simply gave up. “Oh, you felt bad during an Ironman? And that’s different from everyone else how?” And, maybe, this is also true. I did not succeed where others did. That is also in the story.

The photo above is of Jen Annett celebrating with the Live Feisty media team after securing her Kona slot with a second place. But my understanding is even Jen had to walk at times on the run. It was a rough day for everyone; some people just revealed something about themselves they believed all along was in there. The rest of us will have to keep looking.

If I had just been up there, I would have been up there.

OTHER NOTES FROM IM LAKE PLACID: 

– It was my first women’s-only pro race. And it was all-around a more enjoyable experience. The women got more attention, more coverage, more of a clean race. The age-groupers having wetsuits (when we didn’t) negated some of the 15-minute head start, but it was still better with a cleaner bike course in the middle. You can watch the Ironman Facebook Live coverage — which (spoiler alert) mostly follows Heather Jackson’s wire-to-wire win. Or you can see Ironwomen’s live coverage, which included post-podium interviews.

– This year was also the 20th anniversary of Ironman Lake Placid. I was told it’s the second oldest in North America. But, since Ironman is celebrating its 40th this year, makes you wonder what happened for two decades in between? (I mean, I know what happened, but still.)

– I need to recognize Ironman CEO Andrew Messick for being at Placid on-the-ground and talking to athletes. He came and chatted with us in transition beforehand. I didn’t realize he also raced it, but apparently he did. While I certainly don’t agree with him on lots of things, I think it’s great for a CEO to be out experiencing his events and getting to know his customers. Also, kudos for finishing in that shitstorm of a rainstorm.


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