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 Oct. 3, 2018.

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This weekend, I ran a cross-country race and it was really, really painful. Like, I actually thought I might pass out. But then I didn’t. So we’ll just add ‘thinking I was going to die’ to the list of necessary steps on the road to getting faster. Which brings us to Kona. The photo below is Sara conducting Live Feisty interviews on the Big Island last year. You can be sure, if we were riding, we’d be talking about what’s in the plans for this year. More below.

Dos and Don’ts

I was thinking a lot this week about the protocols, the rules for training. What are the dos and don’ts at pools and tracks and gyms? I think I know them, but maybe I’m wrong. (I’m not.) This idea of unspoken rules was on my mind after a run-in during lap swimming ended with a guy (somehow?) kicking me out of my own lane. Then I read that athletes taking pictures during races are causing traffic jams.

People, come on! There are standards and customs to these things! Maybe we need to take a moment to discuss training and racing etiquette?

Racing:

Don’t stop suddenly. If you’re going to stop, pull to the side of the road. (I once had a well-known ultrarunner jump the barricade to get into our corral at the start of a marathon, and then come to a sudden stop right in front of me at the first aid station.)I don’t generally think you should race with phones, but people do.

I don’t particularly have a problem with people crossing the finish line while carrying small children, dogs, flags, whatever, but it can get in the way of other athletes. Trying not to get in the way of other athletes is a good rule of thumb.

I have lots of thoughts about interacting with volunteers and residents, but let’s say they all reside under the heading of: Yeah, we go to dark places in races, but don’t be a dick.

Don’t pee or shit in anyone’s front yard.

Swimming:

Lap swimming is the most protocol-heavy of the sports. Rules vary from pool to pool. Sometimes lanes are divided by speed; sometimes they’re not.

Generally, unless the pool bans splitting the lane (which is dumb), most people prefer splitting. Only after the pool is full do you resort to circle swimming.

If someone’s all over the lane, then let them know you’re going to split before you start swimming. Holding a kickboard out, if they’re flip-turning, works to get their attention when they flip. But, if they’re sticking to one side of the lane and have their head down doing a workout, then use common sense—you don’t need to stop them in the middle of an interval.

Come on, seriously, don’t stop people in the middle of swimming hard. And, yes, you can tell who’s swimming hard.

Circle swimming only works if the people in the lane are approximately the same speed. Don’t make someone have to tell you you’re too slow.

I think if you’re going to circle swim, then you’re going to have to know you may get passed and deal with it. Pass safely. When you’re on a wall, let people go ahead of you who are going faster or moving. Use common sense.

Biking:

Follow the rules of the road as applicable. But don’t be stupid about it. 

For example, I almost never put my foot down at stop signs, unless there are a bunch of cars at the intersection. Typically, I roll to a stop, evaluate, and go when it’s my turn—because it honestly just slows everyone down for you to unclip, wait, wave someone ahead, and then get momentum again.

I point left when I’m moving or turning left. Sometimes, I point right. I point at big things in the road and I say ‘stopping’ when I’m in a group or if there are other cyclists right behind me, but I don’t point at every fucking rock.

There are those cyclists who need everyone who passes them to say, ‘on your left.’ I find this can be hit or miss. Sometimes, people swerve left when you say left. Sometimes, there are simply too many beginner riders out and it’s not feasible to slow down, yell ‘on your left,’ and wait for every single one of them to register you, think about it, and then move slightly. Generally, I find you have to use some judgement: Often it makes sense just to give someone you’re coming up on plenty of room and swing wide. Not everyone will agree with this.

Don’t jump on someone’s wheel if you don’t know them. Don’t physically push people up a hill if you don’t know them. Don’t sprint past someone and then slow up, so that they run into the back of you.

Ride safely around other people. Which, typically, means in a predictable manner.

Running: 

I’m fine with passing on the right or the left, though I typically stick to passing on the left, because logic and traffic rules.

On trails, it’s hard to stop every time there’s a hiker or mountain biker. I tend to move to the side, keep running, and wave them through. I appreciate when the mountain bikers tell me how many of them are coming in the group. I get annoyed when people walking dogs make no effort to manage leash entanglement.

Here’s the controversial one, and there will be people who disagree with me: I run with traffic, not against it. (Obvious caveat: Sometimes this depends on shoulder width, blind turns, or if I’m only going to be running on the side of the road briefly and don’t want to cross back and forth a busy street. Mostly I don’t run on busy streets anyway, because it sucks.) I am aware a lot of people prefer to see the bike or car head-on before it hits them, but I don’t think this does you much good if it still hits you. It is literally safer to have a traffic flow all in the same direction—slowest walkers farthest to the right, then joggers, runners, bikers, fastest bikers farthest to the left. This, I think, is especially true on bike paths (which is where I do most of my running) and makes it easy to safely pass. Running towards a cyclist decreases the distance in which someone can react before not hitting you. Go ahead, come at me with reasons why I’m wrong.

In general, my principle is to give priority to those working harder or moving faster than me and to get out of their way.

And it should go without saying, but: In almost all cases, comments about a strangers’ form, workout, body, technique, training, or pace are unnecessary and unwelcome.

Super Super League

This past weekend was another of the Super League races in Jersey. You can still watch the coverage on Facebook Live. And, even if you have zero idea what’s going on and you already know who wins, it will 100% suck you in. Super League, with its super-sprint mixed events backwards-forwards-elimination formats, has managed to successfully make triathlon very very watchable. I especially enjoyed some of the weird quirky rules, like a shorter chute for whoever is first athlete into T1 and T2. Add in that Super League’s created top-notch coverage with interesting commentators—I liked the addition of an injured Flora Duffy this weekend; it’s finally put enough money on the back-end to get the best women to show up too; and it’s professionally branded and sold the whole thing so it feels fully packaged on a level not usually seen in triathlon. And what you get is, I dunno, maybe a future of the sport?

Now they just need to make it slightly less confusing to follow the whole series, which has three more races coming up, and I just need to try one without crashing and dying.

Raising the bar?

The Boston Marathon announced an across-the-board raising of qualifying times by five minutes for all categories (I think). I have no strong opinions about this. It could be fine. It could be bullshit if it disproportionately affects some groups over others—and someone should really dive into the standards and stats to answer that question. But I do know athletes were already having to run well under the qualifying times just to be able to register, since the field is routinely full at 30,000 runners. What I don’t know is why—when participation numbers for other things are dropping, this one isn’t?

Say Aloha!

OK, now back to the photo above of Sara interviewing Mel Hauschild last year at the Ironman World Championships. I won’t be in Kona. I’ll be jumping on a plane to China to race Shanghai 70.3. But Sara and Ashley are on the Big Island doing race coverage and interviews on the Ironwomen Facebook page. You know their coverage will be good because they were already playing games with athletes on the plane to Hawaii (gotta get on Insta stories for the behind-the-scenes goodies). Unfortunately, the other athlete pictured above, Mel, won’t be racing this year. She just announced her withdrawal because of an injury. Mel, Boris Stein, Terenzo Bozzone, and Annabel Luxford have all now joined the champ, Jan Frodeno, on the sidelines. While Iroman did release their official pro start list today, I’ve been getting all my updates from Thorsten’s TriRating.

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