October 16, 2019

Newsletter ep. 109: what we can learn (+drama)

Yes, I watched Kona this weekend. Yes, it was epic and amazing and I love everyone and I still think Kona is weird.

Sara and I will talk more about the drama (and what we’ve learned) on this Friday’s podcast. Then we’ll be taking a two-week off-season. I mean I’ll still be emailing you, but we won’t be talking at you. So, a sorta off-season.


What I think we can learn from other people’s mistakes at Kona

Photo: Steve Haining

If you watched The Race this past weekend, then you know it was a good one. The women’s race was crazy. The men’s race was record-setting even in slow conditions. I don’t really want to full recap. The gist: Jan dominated, T.O. was impressive in second, Sebi ran his way to third. Daniela had an off day, Lucy will win from the front eventually but not this time, Anne ran her down and so did Sarah Crowley but then Lucy ran her way back into second. People dropped out, lots of people. You can watch all 8 or 9 hours on the Facebooks for more details.

Instead, what I want to talk about, what I kept thinking about during the race, was the lessons we can learn from the world’s best. 

Jan Frodeno was my number one pick for ‘do not bet against’ this past weekend and I was glad to be right. Maybe you saw the video he posted of himself a year ago, full of regret for missing out on ideal conditions because of injury. Jan (and, to a degree, Ben Hoffman in fourth) used the entire last year to focus and motivate themselves and come back with a fire. Did that come with some drama? Absolutely. More on that below.

Tim O’Donnell was injured too this year, a lot, to the point that six weeks ago he thought he wouldn’t be able to race Kona. Somewhere out on the Queen K, though, when it was clear he was going to hold onto second, you know what he probably realized? All the time off afforded him some extra recovery and rest. This is a tough line — if you don’t have the fitness, you don’t have it — but I’d imagine T.O. will be rethinking his rest and race schedule moving forward.

Sebi Kienle could have given up last year or the one before that. He’s won here already and I think a lot of people thought he was done. Certainly no one thought of him as a great runner. He changed coaches, changed a lot of things, and proved everyone wrong.

Daniela Ryf is a champion. End of discussion. I’m hesitant to say she had a bad day. She still was 13th in the world. Maybe we need to resurrect our favorite hashtag: #shittinessisrelative What’s certain is she did not have the day she is capable of or wanted or what we’ve seen before from her, but she did not quit. She didn’t even just jog it in. She came out of T2 and went so hard on the first half of that run, never giving up. Even though she had no chance of winning at that point, no chance of having the day she came for, she still tried her hardest. Do you know how hard that is? That is what champions do.

Lucy Charles‘ re-pass was epic. To come back and re-pass someone at mile 24-something is insanely hard. She said after that she thought at times she could really win this thing and she thought at times she wasn’t going to finish. We all go through those ups and downs — apparently even the best of us — and we just have to remember it comes back around again. I don’t think her and her husband/coach’s relationship would work for me, but clearly it works for them.

Anne Haug proved that no one needs to believe in you except for you and even you don’t have to believe all the time. You just have to believe enough that when you find yourself capable of grabbing the lead you fucking take it.

Heather Jackson and Linsey Corbin both just looked the happiest I’ve ever seen someone to cross the line in Kona. I think it says something about the women’s race too that Sarah True and Mirinda Carfrae and Jocelyn McCauley all dropped out, and Daniela had a regular-person day. And still. Still, the race was fast and deep. 

Maybe Sarah Piampiano summed it up best: Everyone shows up to Kona fit and ready to go. Everyone. But only some of them are going to deliver. That’s just how it works.

The drama

OK, so what you’re really here for: the men’s drama.

Apparently. Alistair Brownlee shoved Jan Frodeno after crossing the finish line. He says he just stumbled. You can watch the video for yourself. According to my German speaking followers, the interviewer then asks what that was about and Jan says something to the effect of ‘he’s always been an asshole.’

What it was about evidently is this: Alistair had some kind of flat on the bike. He stopped to fix it and then killed himself to catch back up to Jan and T.O. When he got there he *apparently* shared some words about how he thought they should have waited for him or something. At a minimum, he wasn’t happy. You can also watch Babbit’s interview with Jan the next day where he shares some thoughts about Ali.

What you really need to watch, though, is the men’s post-race press conference. I thought it was hilarious how much shit-talking there is. Other people didn’t think so. I also think it’s fair to say you can tell a lot from how the rest of the field feels about someone — they know who’s classy and who’s kinda a jerk. And the top five all seem to be cool with each other.

At the very end, a reporter asked if Jan felt bad about defending champ Patrick Lange dropping out. (I’m not going to go into their clearly long and German history, but let’s just say there’s some shit there.)

Jan’s answer is hilarious or asshole-ish depending on your point of view. I’m not a huge ‘death over DNF’ person. Sometimes you finish, sometimes you don’t. But Jan did say maybe my favorite new thing: “It’s unfortunate when you don’t stand up and take your punches.”

And then he said: “Honestly, I don’t give a shit.” 

So here’s the question that broke out on my personal Facebook page: Is Jan Frodeno arrogant or right and kinda funny?

That other big thing that happened

The other big endurance sports thingie that happened this weekend: Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier in the marathon.

Yes, it was a weird stunt and not world record eligible and not a real marathon. But still. It’s an amazing feat and was truly crazy to see. It’s 100% understandable why people are fascinated by the four-minute mile or the two-hour marathon. But would we ever see this spectacle for the women’s equivalent? What even is the women’s equivalent? Fast Women had a good bit this week about whether or not the women’s equivalent can capture the imagination in the same way. Sara and I have talked about it before, but the answer is: probably no.

One study suggests the women’s equivalent of a 2:00 marathon is a 2:15. If that’s true, then that also got shattered this weekend at the Chicago Marathon.



Comments & thoughts

– If you somehow missed the whole ‘pineapple challenge,’ do yourself a favor and go watch all the random Ironwomen videos. (I hear they also did some TikToks, but I’m too old to know what that’s about.)

– There are a lot of thoughts on my whole rant about having prime-of-life age group world champions. It seems clear a LOT of regular AGers feel very discouraged having to compete against pseudo-pros, but there’s also a sense it maybe supports the whole system. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. But I do hate the game, though, I do.

– ‘What was most surprising at Kona?‘ Yes, we all thought T.O. and Lucy’s re-pass, but my favorite answer was Nicole’s: “The moto that stopped in front of Jen Annett = most shocking (and worst) performance!” True.


‘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. 16, 2019.

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