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 March 6, 2019.


I keep changing my mind lately — signed up for a 10-miler race and then decided to do a different race instead (more on that & the photo below), tried to listen to my gut but it was telling me to do some weird stuff, was going to shake it out at a local rustbuster this weekend only I was was still worried about my hip. If we were riding, I’d be getting used to my aggressive new bike position and making plans. If we were riding, it’d be almost time to start racing again soon. Because racing is fun.

How far would you follow your gut?

This past week I went to the Stanford Business School’s Innovation in Sports Conference (or some fancy name like that). And in one of the speeches, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson talked about giving it all up and going with her gut. I’ve been thinking about what she said all week.

Shawn Johnson was the silver all-around gymnastics medalist at the 2008 Olympics. She lost to Nastia Luikin if you remember that whole drama. She won team and beam gold. She retired at 16 years old and didn’t know what to do with her life. And then she came back, returned to the top of the sport. Going into the 2012 Olympics, she was set: She had five contracts signed with *huge* sponsors and the guarantee of USA Gymnastics that she’d make the team if she showed up at the Trials — hah, subjective sports. She’d be set for life, money-wise, if she just closed the deal and came back for one more Olympics.

And, then, a week before the Trials, she decided she wasn’t feeling it. Her gut was telling her to quit. So she did.

Could you do that? Would you?

I’m a fairly big believer in listening to your gut when it comes to picking races, to deciding what you want to do next, but there are plenty of times my gut’s been wrong about a race.

Kirsty Jahn abruptly retired from triathlon this week. She said her heart just isn’t in it anymore. But it came suddenly. Just a few weeks ago, she was social media-ing about new sponsors for the new season.

Her heart might not be in triathlon, but she also admitted it has a little to do with the sponsors not being in triathlon either. [Sara and I *told you* big pros are going to start leaving the sport.]

How far to do follow your gut? How do you know what your gut is saying?

The Lance Armstrong business model

One of the other things I keep thinking about from the conference was something Lance Armstrong said in passing during his Q&A: His business model for his media company is to push products backed by his new venture capital firm. At least as far as I understand it…

In case you missed the memo, Lance now runs a media company (WEDU) that puts out podcasts, articles, etc etc. It originally sounded like he was going to sell subscriptions and also put on events and training camps. The business model was rolled up in a lifestyle/media company.

But. He was at this conference to speak on athletes getting into business and investing. And if I understood correctly: It appears he’s launching a venture capitol firm (or, I dunno, I may have the terms wrong, some kind of investor fund). Part of his sales pitch seems to be that he can invest in a sports company and then promote that product/company on his popular podcasts. He’s able to point to numbers showing a huge increase in sales after he talks up a product. Then, in turn, the company makes money and he earns a return on his investment.

This seems weird, right??

The Lance Armstrong question

Which gets us to the Lance Question: I have been made aware people still have very strong feelings on this topic.

We’ve talked about it before but, in general, I don’t believe you’re defined *solely* by the worst thing you’ve done. It is part of who you are, but not all of who you are. In general, I have to believe in rehabilitation — which doesn’t just mean allowing someone to live, but allowing for the possibility that they could change and show remorse, become a functioning and contributing member of society with things we can learn from.

I don’t know for sure if Lance has truly changed; it seems clear he still has deep-seeded psychological issues. And he’s always been an asshole. I certainly don’t think he’s earned the right to head up an anti-doping conference or a national event or a cycling organization. But the right to speak to a few hundred other over-privileged wealthy (and future wealthy) mostly guys about making more money? I’ve yet to figure out how any of them ever lose that right.

The pros matter

Of course, the pros matter and what we do matters. I know.

Daniela Ryf announced this week she’ll be racing in the U.S. for the first time in 10 years. The champ is headed to Oceanside (and Ironman Texas)! And I pretty much immediately decided to race Oceanside too. Partially because I’ve been looking for a season-opener before Peru 70.3; partially because it’s my (semi-)local race and I have a lot of friends doing it; but mostly because it’ll be a chance to “race” Daniela. And the thing is: There’s no tracking code for my registration that says ‘I’m doing it because of Daniela.’ There’s no obvious way any sponsor would necessarily know what impact she’s had or track how much more the race is covered because she’s there. But it matters.



Comments & thoughts

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

– Peter says not only does no one care that you’re injured, no one cares that you’re racing either. Which I think he meant in the most empowering way.

– We’ve also re-started the Great Box Debate of 2018, which now includes my favorite comment: “Does Sara have a vagina box?”

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