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 March 20, 2019.
It’s late March and time for the tri season to really get underway. Most years, by now, I have to convince myself that if I can just make it to daylight saving then the long dark winter training will be over. This year, though, despite record amounts of cold rain, I’m not as burned out on cold wet workouts as usual. It’s almost like I’ve been too burned out on other things to care about how soaked and miserable I am. And I also I’ve 100% refused to ride in the rain. We’ll see, once the race season starts, if this was an emotionally smart decision or a physically weak one. Either way, it’s time to go.
And then we can see it
This weekend I ran a *huge* half-marathon PR — a 1:23:44 (!) — and I’m telling you this because, well, 1. it’s my biggest accomplishment this year and I’m #owningit, and 2. I am not inherently a 1:23 half-marathoner. All my life, athletes who could run that fast always seemed so different, so much better, something impossible. I could not even see how it was possible to become them.
I can still remember when I couldn’t break 1:30, no matter how hard I tried. I thought, then, if I could just run 13.1 miles in less than 90 minutes, I’d have peaked. It sounded so fast. And then eventually I did. And then I thought: 1:26, that would be crazy, to be a mid-1:20s half-marathoner, wow. Then, I did that and thought sub-1:25, that would be legit, those people are crazy fast runners. And now? Now, I am both blown away by how I pulled off an almost three minute PR and am feeling the possibility in every one of those 44 seconds I think I could still shave off. Both things at the same time are true: I could never imagine running as fast as I did this weekend and now I can imagine running faster.
We hear these kinds of stories, the inspirational adages, all the time: Keep chipping away; you’re capable of more than you know; small steps add up to big leaps. We hear them, but we don’t always get to live them.
Let me tell you: The reason I couldn’t ever imagine running a 1:23 half-marathon is because I couldn’t see how to get there. It was too far away, blurry on the horizon. It required running back-to-back 10Ks faster than I had ever run one 10K until this past fall. But each time I took a step — when I ran one faster 10K in November — it then brought the next step into view. That doesn’t mean you can reach everything you can see, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier than when you can’t see it.
On the Facebooks
Ironman announced this week (with quite a bit of to-do) that they will be “continuing and expanding their partnership with Facebook Watch.” No, I still don’t know partnership means exactly in terms of money. But I do know that Facebook will be the “exclusive digital home” for 17 events this year, 19 next year, and possibly up to 22 in 2020. That includes the World Championships, as well as additional recap shows. Rachel Joyce is also joining the coverage team. No announcement yet on which events will be covered — but we do have some promo videos announcing that an announcement will be coming.
Obviously, for the most part, this is good news for fans and the sport. The coverage was top-notch last year and we need coverage in order for there to be sponsors, money, and growth. I am still, however, skeptical about some of the viewer numbers being thrown around by Ironman. And I’m also not convinced it’s great for the sport that the best (and likely, in many ways, the only) coverage of events is coming from the owners of those events. It would be better if there was third-party media and if small media didn’t get crowded out. But that’s not Ironman’s fault; no one built it, so they had to.
Is distance running killing itself?
Last week, on the podcast, Sara and I discussed the huge changes to the track and field Olympic standards — and how it likely will hurt up-and-coming runners and smaller countries. If you’re still confused, Runner’s World broke the whole system down (good and bad). And there are certainly some benefit to having a world ranking system and a number one athlete in each event, but I’m not convinced any of that means we need fewer people overall in the Olympics.
One of the things we didn’t mention is the Diamond League (the biggest series in track and field) also eliminated the 5,000m. The 10,000m is already gone. This has implications for the long distance running, obviously, though you have to get a little in the weeds to understand all of them. Local meets could get bigger names. The biggest distance runners will lose out on some money and ability to achieve those needed points and times. It could gut the events. Hard to say.
But one thing that makes sense, as Alison Wade broke down in the Fast Women newsletter, is that opportunity creates opportunity. When the U.S. women’s distance running committee (which is apparently a thing) made an effort to have a more inclusive Olympic Trials, to encourage women to go after the time, it made a difference. We know women’s distance running is booming right now, at least in part as a result. If, instead, we drop the qualifying times too drastically or we eliminate events, will those women still have something to aim for? If you give them something to run for, a target to hit, then they will see it and they will see how to do it. It’s a hell of a lot easier than when they can’t see it.
- In ideas Kelly and Sara have had before, now on Slowtwitch: ST is going to offer all Kona qualifiers discounts and gear, and what if we had categories like in cycling instead of age groups? (Slowtwitch)
- ITU has become the first international federation signing on to the new anti-doping Court of Arbitration for Sport — which I’m a bit confused about, because I thought that already existed. (Endurance Sportswire)
- World Triathlon is also doing some interesting feature videos and content on their TriathlonLive.tv. (Instagram)
- You can donate to FundHerTri to fund the registration fees for a woman’s first race. (Facebook)
- Clif wrote an open letter to Kind Bar to tell them to go organic. I’m wondering if that’s a tactic that will work. (Clif Bar)
- Mountain biking encourages girls to have more confidence, grit, and strength. Also probably a chance to fall down too. (New York Times)
- Joan Benoit will run the Boston Marathon this spring, 40 years after her win, and she’s hoping to go 40 minutes slower, which would be a 3:15. And she could do it. (Runner’s World/Twitter)
- I’m obsessed with mountain bike world champ Kate Courtenay’s gym videos. Thankfully, we now have directions to try them on our own.(Bicycling)
- In all fairness, I wrote about the worst halfpipe skier in the Olympics last year, but she continues to fascinate. Is she the best or the worst athlete out there? (California Mag/Cal Sunday)
- This profile of Outdoor Voice and its charismatic young female leader is more about what it means to be a charismatic young female leader and how we use social media to create aspirational lives we can never achieve. But the writer tried to use one specific fact to mean something about the girls working out in OV clothes, when it really just highlighted how little she knew about working out: Many athletes (men and women) don’t wear underwear under their spandex. Wear whatever you want, but that’s pretty normal and kinda how it’s designed. (New Yorker)
- Alexi Pappas’ movie shot during the Olympics is out now. And it sounds worth watching, if improv-style indie feature films about sports are your thing. (Hollywood Reporter)
- I actually saw an ad for the new ‘Million Dollar Mile‘ on TV too and really want to do it. Looks like the contestants will be mostly obstacle course racers and at least one triathlete. (CBS)
- I know I keep coming back, again and again, to the idea that maybe college sports shouldn’t be part of college and maybe small elite sports are just propping up students who don’t need propping. But. Still. College admissions scandal highlights those small sports again. (New York Times)
- The Army overhauled its fitness tests to be more comprehensive and functional. Could you pass? (Vice)
- Why do we hate decaf so much? (Vox)
Comments & thoughts
Some thoughts, emails, messages and notes from listeners and readers this week.
– In response to last week’s newsletter’s question: Who are the five people you spend the most time with, my mom’s says there’s internet meme of Ice T with a cat, which would sum up *my* five people. So find that.
– On Instagram, the Great Box Debate continues. Naturally.
– And don’t forget: Sara wants your stories about weird reactions you’ve had to stress.