October 2, 2019

Newsletter ep. 107: an argument for peaking

Sara wants me to share this photo with you. And we always do what Sara says. The Feisty Three are already in Kona for upcoming coverage — some of which we mentioned on the podcast: Ironwomen Facebook Live interviews starting today, a new gossip daily podcast called Fitter & Feisty. I know everyone’s going to be all about the Big Island all the time, so might as well get in on it.

Kona also marks, for many, the start of the end of the season. If not for any particular reason. More below on The Season. Actually, a lot more below. If we were riding, there’d be plenty to talk about.

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World Champs rundown

I’ve been watching a lot of Track & Field World Championships this week and they’ve been a bit odd. As I write this, Doha is the hottest city on the planet (according to the commentators, who also have been making quite a bit about the massive AC units lining the stadium). But that’s not all that’s been odd.

This is a popular sentiment. And it’s somewhat fair, but not totally fair.

Let’s concede there is some real value in putting on events in parts of the world that have never had those events before. There’s nothing inherently wrong about having track meets in the Middle East. Yeah, money probably changed hands for Qatar to get the big sporting events it’s gotten (see also: 2022’s World Cup). But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a point too.

The problem isn’t having the world championships in Doha. The problem is that the athletes’ welfare seems to have been put so far on the back burner.

I’m not going to do a full recap of results (except to say ‘Yay Emma Coburn!). For results, see Fast Women and the Morning Shakeout, but a few things:

– When I turned on the bizarre marathon that started at midnight (and was still 87 degrees), Steve said, ‘That looks like Kona.’ He meant the elite athletes slogging along in a hazy daze. One-third dropped out. 

Do yourself a favor, though, and read about 6th-place finisher Roberta Groner.

– It was also a bizarre 100m final, with a whole light show and intro. Christian Coleman won the men’s race and afterwards the NBC announcers actually asked him about his three missed tests and overturned potential ban. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen NBC announcers actually ask those question on camera before.

His answer made me wonder if I had misunderstood the whole thing, but then I double-checked and nope, I didn’t misunderstand.

– Oh, hey, speaking of doping, Alysia Montano finally got her two medals from the 2011 and 2013 championships. Now that the cheaters have been DQ’d. It was, understandably, an emotional moment.

I’m more in the ‘people make mistakes and maybe dopers can change’ camp than almost everyone I know, but it’s still hard to ignore the very real emotional and literally financial cost they inflict on other athletes.

– Which brings us to the huge track news of the weekAlberto Salazar gets a four-year ban. Whoa. (More below, because I don’t want to mar the world championship races with that bullshit.)

What happens when someone scratches?

One footnote to the races: Colleen Quigley scratched from the championship because of an ongoing injury. Which is what it is. But she waited so long to DNS, hoping it might get better, that it left the next woman in line for the spot without enough time to fly around the world to the race.

That woman, Marisa Howard, was understandably upset about how this went down, but I don’t know if there’s really an answer. You have to understand an athlete hoping they’ll be able to be on the start line, trying to make it work. What can you do?

We don’t even have a system of roll downs in long-distance triathlon at all, not for whenever someone pulls out or doesn’t start. (There kind of is in ITU races, but not in Ironman.)

Skye Moench had a truly terrible bike accident last week. Her story about a guy finding her and her having no idea where she was or what had happened is an insane story. Skye was getting ready for Kona when she crashed and so someone asked me if this meant the slot would roll down to next woman in line from IM Frankfurt.

Nope. That’s not how it works. Things happen. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we could create a better roll down system so there’s a full start list at world championships? Thoughts?

Are there even seasons anymore?

Although Kona tends to mark the start of the end of the season, it’s starting to seem like there aren’t even really seasons at all anymore.

With the exception of Holly Lawrence, almost everyone else at the top of the 70.3 World Championships seems to have kept right on racing. (Holly has been pushing it for a long time after coming off her injury and took a well-deserved break.) But Radka Vodickova and Emma Pallant were both at Challenge Davos with me a week after Nice. And then Emma won Portugal 70.3 this past weekend. So did Javi. Rudy von Berg was second at Cozumel 70.3 (where Ellie Salthouse had a redemption win). Chelsea Sodaro won Augusta 70.3. Gustav Iden, your new 70.3 champion, said he had already stretched his peak post ITU Grand Finale into Nice, and then found himself invited to Super League this past weekend. Which I believe Ben Kanute and Kristian Blummenfelt were also at.

But it’s not just people coasting out their seasons when they maybe should take some down time. There are also a lot of people getting ready for Kona in two weeks with some big races ahead of the BIG race. Sure, a ton of people did a 70.3 in the last week or two to prep, but Matt Russell also did IM Chattanooga this past weekend and Linsey Corbin did IM Wisconsin last month.

My point is this: For any number of financial and logistical reasons, most pros just keep on racing. A lot. There doesn’t seem to be delineated a season as there once was. I suspect this has a lot to do with trying to make ends meet and the changing economics of the sport. There are also some people who simply love to race. There are arguments for this, but there are also arguments against.

One thing Jan and Patrick and Daniela and Lucy do well is peak. They target just one or two races each year and they fucking come out for them. Of course, they have the resources to do this. If you’re only going to race a handful of times, then you better win. And if you don’t win (like Jan’s bad year in 2017), then you better be able to last through the down period and come out ready for the next big one.

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Thoughts & comments

– Ryan wanted to point out Ironman has become way more service-oriented since being bought by Wanda. Something to consider.

– And there’s been a lot of discussion about my suggestion that social media is too soft on everyone’s niggles and aches. Sara’s going to tell me to HTFU whenever I complain. And Caroline says social media *is* soft, but also sometimes you shouldn’t tough things out because you end up really hurt! Fair.

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‘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 Oct. 2, 2019.

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