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 Jan. 30, 2019.
Last week, the newsletter went out super early (like 2 a.m. E.T.) because of a time zone mix-up. Oops. And yet, some of you crazies enjoyed it hitting your inboxes at literally the same time I was still at a birthday party from the night before—which is not *that* crazy in my time zone. Sigh. We’ll see if we can find a compromise.
If we were riding, it’d be short and sweet, because it’s RACE WEEK. No, I’m not ready for actual triathlon race season. Yes, I’ve been training for a hot second. But still. Sometimes you just do the local half-marathon for no other reason than why not. If you’re at Kaiser this weekend, say hi.
Live from TBI
Sara and I recorded a live podcast episode from the Triathlon Business International conference. In case you were wondering what happens at the conference where the business of triathlon happens. (If you prefer reading, Triathlete Mag did a sum up.)
I had a perfectly enjoyable time. It’s good to talk to friends and meet interesting new people. It’s also good to get an update on what the hell is going on in the rest of the triathlon world. One update: The launch of the women’s mentorship program that came out of Outspoken. Sign up now.
But something I keep thinking, and kept thinking about the whole weekend, is how you create a culture. It’s not one big thing. It’s not a program or a top-down initiative. Or at least that’s not all it is. It’s in the little things. It’s people making masturbation jokes and referring to “the women thing”—as in “we’ve been doing the women thing for years.” It’s who else you see there. It’s when all the experts on stage look exactly the same. It’s when you point this out and are told the focus is on just getting the best speakers, without sacrificing for “diversity.” (So, uh, I guess you’re saying there just aren’t female or POC triathlon experts? You really want to double down on this argument?) It’s all the little things that add up to make a place or an event or a sport have a feeling.
And the more I think about it, the more I think you can’t simply make a checklist of things and, boom, have the feeling change. Because all those little things come from what you *actually* think. If you don’t mean it, then you can’t just add pink and a have pool swim and say ‘we want to welcome women.’ But if you do mean it, if you genuinely want to welcome everybody, then you could still swear and have intense opinions and put on a super hard race, and people will still feel welcomed.
On Sunday, I was at a bull riding event in Sacramento. (The tickets were a present. I don’t know much about bull riding. Go with it.)
Side point: There are a lot of things triathlon could learn from bull riding.We should have more wacky announcers and clowns, and spectator contests and games during the event, and definitely heckling, lots of heckling.
It was all totally nuts and I did not feel as much on the outside as I thought I would. Not as many ‘stop being a girl’ jokes as I expected. Of course there were some, but not as many. Then the rodeo clown (which, yes, is a thing) joked that one of the riders’ ride was so weak he “might as well pack up his purse and leave.” And then the rodeo clown went, “Oh, sorry, I forgot I’m in California, we’re not supposed to say that stuff.”
Guys, this is not what we want. What we want is for you to actually not think it in the first place, to not automatically think women are weak, to not believe there’s only one version of manhood, to not assume a purse is the ultimate insult anyway. If you actually think it, then you won’t have to worry about whether or not you check some artificial box. The culture will be there.
Do you wear make-up to workout?
The Wall Street Journal ran a story this week saying make-up is the new workout accessory. Except I’m not sure it’s actually new. The tension over how female athletes *should* look has basically existed since there have been female athletes. You can read a bunch of academic papers, or you could just watch A League of Their Own. What makes it so tough is: There isn’t a right answer. You probably shouldn’t sacrifice performance for your appearance. You also shouldn’t do something because of expectations being inflicted on you. But also do whatever you want and look however you want. But, too, it’s easily documented that female athletes’ incomes are disproportionality affected by their looks. It’s complicated. (Just scroll the next huge track star Sydney McLaughlin’s Insta feed and you get an idea of exactly how complicated it is.)
Lots of new news
There are a *lot* of new newsletters and columns. There’s a new insider-y running column coming on Competitor. Plus, Fast Women and The Kick are covering women’s running super super in-depth. Like really in-depth. Do we need that in-depth-ness in triathlon? Should we be breaking down every race and athletes and sponsor? It’s a little trickier, since triathlon is smaller and doesn’t have races year-round and triathletes do a lot of different kinds of events too. How triathlete-y should triathlon stuff be? I don’t know. I’m up and down on this stuff.
Who owns Ironman?
If your brand is the thing everyone will text you about when it happens, then this story is my brand. Five different people sent me The New York Times piece about the ongoing legal fight over who owns Ironman. And at least a few pointed out: Cool, cool, the guys are just still fighting over what Valerie Silk really built up into what it is. (And who can really even own an event anyway? Oh, right, whoever filed the paperwork.)
- Team Timex is done, out, over. Except in place of the dominant national age group/pro team, there’s a new Suunto team, which I’m starting to see a lot of athlete posts about. Oh, and there’s a new Nuun-Smashfest women’s team (*cough*).
- Chelsea Sodaro also signed with the BMC pro tri team after her second 70.3 ever—and, well, winning it. She’s one of the athletes I’m most curious to watch this year.
- In the running world: Tracksmith and Linden and True launched an OTQ program. If you qualifying for the Olympic Trials, you qualify for a low level of sponsorship from them. The program’s been getting a lot of buzz in the elite running communities and is a solid idea. What would the equivalent look like for triathlon?
- Triathlon training is all about trade offs.
- The average women’s time at the Boston Marathon finally dropped below the average men’s time. Does this mean anything in the overall debate about when and if women will surpass men?
- The ice skating champs were this weekend and we got a new 13-year-old national champ. And if you were wondering what ever happened to Gracie Gold, she’s been fighting demons harder than winning an Olympic medal.
- In South Korea, speed skating phenoms are finally wrestling with a devastating culture of harassment (and, like, downright beating and rape).
- If you care about the business of sports, which is basically all I care about, this Freakonomics podcast is worth a listen. UFC v. NFL: which would you rather be an athlete in?
- Because I’ve been driving so much the last few weeks, I ran out of Ironwomen podcasts to listen to. I ended up listening to Lance Armstrong’s Kona recap, which is always amazingly all over the place. (That is also where I learned Alexandre Vinokourov took 7th in the 45-49 age group at Kona.)
- From a scientific standpoint, what’s the worst kind of pain?
- Probably crashing out of this 82-foot wave would be pretty painful. Good thing he didn’t wipe out.
- And if you somehow missed this Peloton tweet thread, don’t. It encapsulates all my feelings about everything.
Comments & thoughts
Some thoughts, emails, messages and notes from listeners and readers this week.
Among the fans of the stupid early newsletter was Jodi, who gets up at 2! “Love that my email was here so early! I get up around 2 a.m. and it was already in my in box. Read it while I drank my coffee.”
One of our male readers, Ken, would also like to confirm that we did indeed alienate him. “Now I may not listen again for a week and a half.” Until the next episode comes out…
And Claire wants us to know the poppyseed thing is real and (allegedly) happened to a triathlete in New Zealand.