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 Nov. 7, 2018.


As I write this it’s Election Night in the U.S. and not yet clear what all of the results will be. So I won’t venture a prediction. Other than to say: Hopefully, you voted. Hopefully, you didn’t let long lines or long ballots deter you. Hopefully, this thing that is your right wasn’t taken away from you. And maybe you also considered registering as permanent vote-by-mail if you can (like here in California, go us!). It’s very handy if you’re going to be out of the country racing, not to mention much more enfranchising if done correctly. And, anyway, automatic vote-by-mail elections are hopefully the future. If we were riding, this is definitely what we would be talking about. And, oh, I guess some sports stuff too…

Throwing up in the sand

The above photo is from the start of my race at Cabo 70.3 this past weekend. I was looking for a photo of me throwing up in the sand in front of the TV cameras about eight minutes before this, but I couldn’t find one.

Sometimes you’ll hear top athletes talk about how they don’t get nervous before races, they just get excited, they love racing, it’s an opportunity to see where they’re at and put all their work to use. Cool, that must be nice for them. For the rest of us, we get nervous.

Even before my race this weekend went badly (not because of nerves, because of jellyfish) — and, yes, we will talk on the podcast about the emotional scars of a DNF and the hell we put ourselves through in our own heads — I was nervous. It happens. Even when I don’t seem nervous and I don’t feel nervous, I often have a hard time keeping down food race morning. Sometimes I throw up. Sometimes I, well, have to take a lot of Imodium. Sometimes the thundering in my head sounds so loud everyone must be able to hear it. And sometimes it’s all fine, no big deal.

Someone asked one time, as if they could condescend me out of being nervous: What is it you’re nervous about anyway? What’s the worst that could happen?

1. The pain. I am nervous in anticipation of pain. I know exactly how it’s going to hurt. I can not lie to myself.
2. I am worried that when that pain comes I will back down in the face of it, not lean in. I will disappoint myself and all the work will be for nothing.

So you know, NO BIG DEAL.

I think, obviously, those of us who get nervous are not lesser because we care a lot, because the emotion comes out too much at times. I think when you pour your heart into something, sometimes it breaks. But I also think it would be handy af to be able to manage this stress and these nerves. Things I’m considering: putting less pressure on myself, racing more to get it out of the system, compiling a pre-race playlist  and traveling with buddies, even which workouts make me feel confident going in. But I also know we need the nerves, to a degree, to peak just so at the start line, to push ourselves into the race zone where the magic happens. That’s why we race anyway, right?

Do you get too nervous? What do you do about it?

Going big in the Big Apple

The New York Marathon was not on the TV at my Cabo hotel (also I was racing), so I didn’t watch it. But I did catch up on the results later and the insane splits in the second half and I cried a little. Granted I was crying a lot on Sunday, generally, but still the American women killed it. All I saw everywhere was other runners being inspired and lifted up and fuck yeah!

Shalane and Desi deserved to make the most in appearance fees, a first for two American women. They were the bigger deal going into the race. It’s just a shame ESPN didn’t get the message in terms of actual coverage.

And two fun things: When you’re in the Secret Service and someone in your protection runs a marathon, then you might have to run it too. And read this look back at Miki Gorman, the running pioneer who was the last American woman to win New York before Shalane. It also made me cry. Lots of things made me cry.

If you build it, will they come?

Ironman announced another new 70.3 race last week — this one in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Now, here’s the thing: I have been to Marrakesh, and I have trained for triathlon while living in Morocco. That was 12 years ago and maybe everything has changed since then. But I know exactly how bizarre the concept of swimming laps was then — I regularly pretended to be a guest at the Funduq Hilton, because the hotel had the only pool around — and I know how weird it was when I wanted to go for runs down the side of the road. And I simply don’t know how Ironman is going to pull off a 70.3 in Marrakesh.

There is almost no built-in market or infrastructure. As far as I can tell, there are a handful of triathlon clubs in Casablanca and Rabat, a history of running certainly, and plenty of money among the wealthy families — but no culture of triathlon.

So here’s my question: As triathlon expands around the globe, there is a fine line between meeting an oncoming creation of demand (skating where the puck is going, as it where) and outpacing that not-yet-existent demand. If Ironman builds races where there have been none, will they create triathletes where there are none?* I don’t actually know. I don’t know how Ironman will balance these question; it will probably vary from location to location. But I am curious to see who actually turns up to race in this location. More discussion on if we can build triathlons for not-yet-triathletes on this Friday’s podcast.

*OK, yes, I know none is not accurate. There are some triathletes in these new markets, but nowhere close to enough to sustain Ironman numbers.


  • The other PR announcement this week was about a “Time to Tri” effort from Ironman & USA Triathlon. They’ll be teaming up to have mini three-minute triathlons at the Rock n’ Roll half-marathon race expos in an effort to turn runners into triathletes. So.
  • ASU won another collegiate women’s triathlon title this past weekend — at the not-quite-yet-NCAA championship. Confused about NCAA triathlon? Well, I actually wrote a piece about Cal’s club team and what those athletes see as the pros and cons of becoming a varsity NCAA sport.
  • Some big Olympic names showed up at the White House for an anti-doping/anti-WADA summit. WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) felt the summit was one-sided — as in the side that felt they’re not doing a good job.
  • Look, I wear a helmet, but I think there are a lot of solid points in this essay about why you might not (and it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person) — including mixed stats on how much safety in confers and how much it shifts blame onto the rider.
  • One of the things that has occurred to me in the emotional soul-searching lately is: I don’t know how much being public about my training and racing is good, and how much I need to keep to myself. I do know if I was on the Northern Arizona Elite team, where nothing is secret, I might lose it.
  • Last week on the podcast we talked about how extreme exercise might not be bad for your heart. Here’s an overview of the topic.
  • How short can intense intervals in interval training be? 20 seconds, the answer is 20 seconds.
  • Another thing we talked about last week on the podcast was how pros should respond when they see cheating in a race. I was informed, after the episode, it costs $50 to file complaint with race officials. Which is dumb.
  • An economics professors argued it makes economical sense to invest more in the WNBA. The NBA complained. Forbes fired him. (Relatedly, I’ve been appreciating all the guys fighting the good fight lately.)
  • A less good fight: Meet the people who hate water so much they don’t drink it.


Comments & thoughts

Here are some thoughts, comments, feedback, and questions from readers and listeners this last week.

– A lot of people messaged to say they were frustrated with one of the listener voicemails on the podcast two weeks ago. Elisabeth argues it was tone policing at its worse and casual misogyny, and didn’t deserve to be played. It’s a fair point.

– Also multiple people have realized I’m right about stuff. Hah. Alexis said, “I had my first rolling start today… I totally get it when you said nobody is racing, we are all just exercising near each other. Thought of you and giggled often.” And Jennifer saw first-hand why there’s a need for a category in between pro and age-group at Cabo this weekend — “But, of course, you already know this. :-)”

3 Responses

  1. Sika Henry

    As always, great newsletter! Would have been awesome to see the announcement of Hampton University becoming the first HBCU (historical black university) to add women’s triathlon as a varsity sport included in this episode. (https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/News/Articles-and-Releases/2018/October/30/Hampton-University-Becomes-First-HBCU-to-Add-Womens-Triathlon-as-a-Varsity-Sport)

    This could be a pathway for young black women to get into the sport, which would in turn create more diversity (more women, more minorities).


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