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 June 26, 2019.


On my “easy” three-hour ride Thursday, I both crashed and accidentally killed a squirrel. Two separate incidents. And then I started crying, standing on the side of the bike path trying to figure out if I could save the squirrel who had swerved in front of my bike. I couldn’t. It was just one of those days—the kind where your foot gets stuck in construction netting, and your bike keeps moving forward but you don’t. (Yes, that is both what actually happened and a metaphor for life.) It made me think of Sarah True’s tweet from last year when she also hit a squirrel while riding. What do you do in this situation? Is there a good way to respond?

The photo below is not from that ride. It’s from one of the many other rides I’ve been on lately, trying to feel like myself on the bike again. It’s a reminder that sometimes what it looks like on the outside is not the same as what it feels like on the inside.

One last quick update before we move on to the regular business of the week: I’ll be in Australia starting this Saturday, so next week’s newsletter may be odd and may come at the incorrect time. We’ll also have a podcast episode this Friday, but then will be on a two-week hiatus for summer break. Catch up on back episodes in your free time.


It is currently National Triathlon Week. Apparently the third annual. Yesterday was bike day. Today is run day. It’s a thing. Tag your posts #TriWeek to participate in the whole shebang and win some USA Triathlon stuff.

It’s dumb, but really it’s simply a time for us to tell our stories and celebrate our stories, what triathlon means and does and is. Which made me think about the stories we tell ourselves. There’s a growing sense that those stories matter—the ones we tell about ourselves, about if we’re champions in progress, if we’re always the victim of bad luck, if we’re having fun and pursuing joy. What we tell ourselves shapes what we do and become. You probably have no more bad luck than anyone else, but believing so is more likely to make it feel true. And so there is some value in consciously changing those stories. But I also think you can’t change them too much. You can’t tell yourself you’re someone you’re not. You can’t be who you’re not. I will never be a wildly positive and cheerful person. That is never something anyone is going to say about me. And pretending otherwise would probably just piss me off. But I can be resilient and gritty and deal with whatever happens. I can tell myself that story.

Maybe you already read Meredith Kessler’s letter to her son after her third place at Mont Tremblant 70.3 this weekend. (She writes one every race.) If you didn’t, it’s worth a read. It’s about the story she tells herself: “It’s easy for all of us to doubt ourselves. I do it all the time. I often wonder: ‘Do I still have it?’ ‘Can I still be competitive at this level?’ ‘Am I strong enough? Fast enough? Young enough? Good enough?’ Questions like these come+go yet what always stays intact is: THE WILL TO RISE WHEN YOU HAVE FALLEN. Do that. While everything ends, nothing is ever over until you let negativity scamper into your mindset.”

Plus, definitely click through to the picture of her and winner Mirinda Carfrae at the finish line with their kids.

And speaking of, Mirinda bounced back from her own weird adversity before the race. And was insanely dominant despite the stitches. Maybe it’s just me mourning the squirrel and my story and the things we need to say goodbye to. But everyone achieving everything, fighting no matter what, is making me cry. All the crying. #TriWeek

Let Holly do what she does best

In terms of superstars, Holly Lawrence’s story is hard to beat right now. She won another regional title this weekend, the European 70.3 Champs in Denmark. (Thank goodness she sorted out those green card issues.) It’s hard not to see her as the premier talent at the 70.3 distance these days. So naturally Slowtwitch wants to know when she’s going to stop doing that distance and do a full instead.

Sure, it’s an interesting thought experiment, kind of like wondering how fast Usain Bolt could run a mile in. But no one’s suggesting Usain Bolt *needs* to run a mile to validate his talent as a runner, or that the mile is inherently a more “real” distance. Maybe he’ll race one; maybe he won’t.

Holly Lawrence is really good at what she does. Part of what I respect about her and about the growing competitiveness of 70.3s is how intense and fast they’ve gotten, how there are athletes now who focus exclusively (and well) on the distance. Holly wants to go fast and win, who cares if she’s going to do an IM or not.

More announcements…

I also appreciate that everyone now sends me jokes whenever Ironman announces an announcement is coming. And they had a very dramatic announcement video this week.

It turned out, as was predicted on the internets, the announcement was a new race in Des Moines. This new 70.3 will replace St. George as the North American 70.3 Champs. So that adds to the list of new events in the middle of the U.S. And the only obvious answer I can really see as to why is…beef. Beefseems to have given Ironman a lot of money between this and IM Tulsa.

+ The Great Make-up Debate Part VII

Also known as your Weekly Women’s World Cup update. Which maybe I should just subtitle ‘In Which Those of Us Who Have Actually Watched a Lot of Games Refute the Mainstream Coverage of the Tournament.”

– Not that we haven’t talked *many times* before about the whole debate over female athletes wearing make-up, but apparently the New York Times finally got the memo. Now there’s all this talk about the players wearing make-up or not wearing it or wearing whatever they want or doing their hair up or looking however they think they should look. But here’s the thing: The vast majority of the players (98% of them) are just throwing their hair into a ponytail or braids or buns with headbands, and not worrying about it. Because that’s what makes performance sense.

– The game is also getting more intense, faster and more aggressive. The outcome of there being more top-level teams with deeper benches is games like we saw with U.S./Spain or France/Brazil. Games that are basically, ‘Oh shit, everyone is getting good now.’

– There are also games like the England/Cameroon game, where the mess of weird calls and video-assisted review (VAR—which I am not a fan of) lead to a whole kerfuffle and delay when Cameroon refused to restart play. And, IMO, it also resulted in a lot of weird phrasing and talk about how the Cameroon players weren’t being professional, were an embarrassment to soccer in developing countries, etc. It kind of felt like everyone needed to go to Kelly’s School of Commentating.

– Also, all the refs are female. I’m not sure why yet.

But most importantly: WATCH the U.S./France game this Friday. It’s the game everyone’s circled on the calendar, the game that has the two favorites facing each earlier than they should. It’s the final but being played in the quarters. WATCH!!


  • I am very curious about this Ironman survey of its users, and what they’ll do with the info. Why do they want to know if I’d use an Ironman branded credit card. Hmm. Go and take it(Ironman)
  • The first-ever Ironman Ireland looked absolutely epic and also miserable. And, yes, it was a survival fest and Alistair Brownlee survived the best. And, yes, he will be going to Kona. Do you think he’ll go Kona, Olympics, Kona? (Instagram)
  • Milan will be hosting the 2026 Olympics(NBC OlympicTalk)
  • The U.S. Olympic Committee also changed its name to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Here’s why that matters. Relatedly, USA Triathlon will offer the first-ever prize purse at the Para-triathlon National Championships.  (USA Today/USA Triathlon)
  • Nell Rojas won Grandma’s Marathon this past weekend and if you’ve never heard of her, you’re probably not the only one. The former steeplechaser, pro triathlete, obstacle course racer has now established herself as one of the best female marathoners in the country(Fast Women)
  • In case you were wondering what she’s doing in retirement, Ruth Brennan Morrey also ran Grandma’s, going for an OTQ 20 years after she first ran one. She didn’t make it, but why not go for your goals. (Ruth Brennan Morrey)
  • This 103-year-old world record holder has some advice(Women’s Running)
  • Fly fishing is the latest (?) sport to find itself at odds over how female athletes can and should use Instagram to promote themselves in an industry that has traditionally been closed to them. (Outside)
  • Best Buy is getting into the fitness market, because who doesn’t want to buy a treadmill in the same place they buy their laptop chargers. (CNBC)
  • On the other end of the spectrum, boutique fitness hubs are popping up in malls and formerly empty buildings. That probably explains the coming treadmill climbing studio in the empty revitalized block by me. (New York Times)
  • Did you know there is a place in West Virginia where there are no cell phone or wi-fi or electromagnetic waves. Because of the super telescopes. It is very quiet. (New York Times)
  • This sherpa has climbed Everest 21 times and seen exactly how it’s changed. And it has definitely changed(New Republic)
  • And one last thought before the whole Presidential debate thing starts and something I keep thinking back to when internet arguments get to be too much: Debate is not always the answer. “They believe, because the belief is soothing, that the marketplace of ideas cares about the value, durability, and quality of its wares rather than how shiny the packaging is, how catchy the jingle, how many times it shows up in your peripheral brand awareness until it’s the one you reach for on the shelf.” (Longreads)

Comments & thoughts

– Maxine pointed out the whole beef sponsor thing is particularly funny when the Instagram post sits right next to the post about Ironman’s newest Kona sponsor, Vega.

– Maggie thinks if Ironman really cared about getting women into the sport, not just into Ironman races, they’d promote more Olympic distance racing and sprints. I mean, I agree with you and, honestly, I think Ironman is starting to too.

– Another thing I agree with, but not sure about Ironman: Megan says, “How do we make gear check-in easier for people just participating? Why should we have to take an extra day off of work to check gear in?”

– And Erica thought it was a great podcast episode last week. “I think I laughed out loud during the intro more times than I have this week total!”