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 Jan. 23, 2019.


Photo: Wagner Araujo/ITU

Sara and I will be at the Triathlon Business International conference this weekend, so if you’re in Tempe say hi. We’re also going to record a special LIVE (to tape) podcast episode from the conference, so stay tuned! We’ll post on the social medias or subscribe to the ‘If We Were Riding’ podcast on your listening platform of choice. [Of course, you can listen to all previous podcast episodes to prepare.] Other than that, things are just happening as they happen.

Rainbows & tweets

The ITU very briefly instituted a bad rule last week. Or at least the rule became public last week when Outsports broke a story about new language added to athlete regulations: “Athletes will avoid displaying any kind of demonstration of political, religious, sexual orientation or racial propaganda.”

It’s the sexual orientation part that was new for 2019. Which raised a lot of questions, like, uh, what the hell is sexual orientation propaganda? And how does one display no demonstration ever of their sexual orientation? Oh, you just mean gay people shouldn’t be gay. Or just not too gay? Or just not in public?

Cool, cool.

ITU quickly walked back the rule. But it wasn’t fast enough for people to start wondering why they instituted it in the first place. Is it because the first race of the WTS series will be in Abu Dhabi, and the ITU is attempting to soothe new markets and assure organizers there won’t be any protests over local laws banning homosexuality? (ITU says no, that’s not why.) Was it just a huge misunderstanding? (Probably not.) Did it also give a lot of triathletes a chance to come out of the woodwork to spout a whole bunch of stuff about how they’re all for people doing whatever they want in private, but what does that even have to do with triathlon, why do these sexual propogandists have to be gay at a race anyway, and really aren’t they the ones actually discriminating? (Yes, yes, there was some of those people saying some of that stuff.)

It was a bad read from ITU in the first place, of their constituents and of the global landscape.

On a much lower level, Ironman UK misread their audience this week too. They announced an IronGirl race as part of the Ironman UK weekend. In this context IronGirl is apparently a 5K open to women over 16. It’s not hard to understand why some people felt it was patronizing for the IronGirl option to be a 5K and to call a race only open to adult women a “girl’s” race.

Ironman UK also walked back and will now be having a 5K fun run for everyone. But they too didn’t walk back before the ‘why would you be offended’ crowd came out in full online.

All I kept thinking this week was triathletes are all things. They are gay and women and transgender and heterosexual and men and from Europe and from Africa; they are young and old. I kept thinking if we’re all things, then there isn’t really a normal, a standard.

I kept thinking: Maybe the way we talk about being offended is wrong. We talk about it as if it is something you simply decide to be or not be, as if whether you’re offended or not offended is the only answer to the complicated question of life. I thought about this when Linsey Corbin pulled an Instagram photo of people she came upon roasting a full pig; evidently, some of Linsey’s followers were offended by the post. But maybe offended is the wrong way to frame all of these interactions.

We go out into the world and 99% of us do what we think is right. 99% of us think we’re the good guy. Some of us are wrong, but most of us are trying. And when other people tell us they think we’re wrong, they’re (usually) trying too. Maybe they’re right; maybe we’re right. There isn’t actually a judge on this stuff. Just as we make choices and decisions and say things and do things, other people form their opinions of us and of the world based on what we say and do and choose. Sometimes they see the worst. Sometimes we show the worst. But I don’t think it’s about being offended.

I wasn’t offended by the ITU’s bad rule, but they needed to be told it was a bad rule. I wasn’t offended by Ironman UK’s IronGirl event, but if they wanted to appeal to women, they needed to listen to the women responding to them. I wasn’t offended by Linsey’s post of a pig (it actually didn’t even register) and I probably wouldn’t have taken it down, but maybe she thought about what people said to her and changed her mind. That’s how the world works. Triathletes are all things and we have to live with each other.



Comments & thoughts

Some thoughts, emails, messages and notes from listeners and readers this week.

– In last week’s newsletter trying to name non-ball sports, I apparently missed wrestling, hockey, rock climbing, and horse racing.

– “Every time EVERY SINGLE TIME I listen to the podcast I am vigorously nodding or screaming I KNOW in the car,” says Megan. Please, people, do not have podcast-related car crashes.

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