January 22, 2020

Newsletter ep. 123: union or not a union?

If you’re feeling like someone punched you in the face and your legs have turned to cement and it is impossible that you ever trained for anything, then you’re not alone right now. Both Katie Zaferes and Lucy Charles posted this week that they’re feeling exactly the same way I feel. Which, honestly, made me think: ‘oh, thank god.’

There’s something about getting back into training, but not yet being at full load, that makes the gap between where you are and where you want to be seem insurmountable. But it’s not. You’ll be fine. You’ll close the gap. You’ll get back to training. Just because it’s exhausting right now doesn’t mean you can’t do it and more. 

It’ll be fine. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I’ll be in Tempe Thursday and Friday for 36 hours, basically to fly through Endurance Exchange, answer all your questions, and then fly home. Because I’m exhausted. Say hi if you’re there, and let us know what you want us to answer on the podcast we’ll record from Arizona.


The PTO actually really is a real thing

Maybe you saw somethingaboutthisonsocialmedia. Maybe a postor two.

The Pro Triathletes Organization officially launched with an announcement that the Collins Cup will really (for real) be happening in May. The real news, though, is that the PTO finally got a lot of money from a legit VC investor — even though they won’t exactly disclose how much money. (My guess is at least $10-20 million.) And they’ll be using that money and the race in May as a launching pad for a series of races which will, ideally, ultimately generate profits for the pros as members of the organization. Yes, sort of like we talked about on the podcast before.

I wrote a fairly detailed article for Triathlete if you want a lot of information. And, yes, because I once worked as a financial reporter I asked all the obvious questions about how the investment was structured and how long the runway is — only some of which got answered.

This is my favorite part of the story though:

The PTO knows you’ve heard this before. They know it has an uphill battle to try to create spectator-backed pro races, with fans outside the sport tuning in to high-quality broadcasts and major sponsors signing on to the events. The organizers know it was four years ago they first promised a Collins Cup race, pitting the best pros from Europe v. USA v. the rest of the world. They know you might be skeptical. It’s failed before.

“The space is littered with carcasses of people who threw just a little bit of money at it,” Adamo said.

But this time is for real, he said. Because this time — and this is a big difference — they have a lot of money.

“I’ve been paid my advance,” said Ben Hoffman, who will compete for the U.S. team in the Collins Cup race in May. “It’s real. It’s in my bank account.”

When I was working on the story, people kept saying to me: ‘Well, obviously, you’ve very skeptical.’ And I kept thinking: ‘I’m not *that* skeptical. You should talk to Sara or my editor Erin.’ I generally am of the opinion: Sure, it might work, why not.

I did try to explain the race format to my husband, Steve: Teams of 12 each from Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world; with one from each team facing off in a head-to-head race over the 70.3 distance, followed 10 minutes later by the next three. Plus, expect to hear the mics on the captains and the athletes, and see metrics like heart rate and watts on screen. 

And Steve goes, ‘Oh, the U.S. is definitely going to lose.’ Which is true.

An addendum: Sarah True also tweeted she was not approached in advance and was not made aware of the PTO until it was all over social. Which is sorta nuts given how legit she is.

Now granted the organizers only reached out, in advance, to the top 50 men and 50 women per the algorithmic rankings — and she had a bad year. But she also accurately pointed out there are large disparities between the top of the pros and the bottom. Will this serve all? Or will it make those disparities bigger? Now that all pros can join the PTO, what does it mean to be a pro? QUESTIONS TO COME.

Send in your questions

Speaking of questions, send us your’s.

Following up on the runaway popularity of our AMA podcast episode, we’ll be doing an AMA: Endurance Exchange Edition from Arizona this Friday. Essentially, the big triathlon conference is in Tempe this week with all the main industry peoples. Sara and I will record a podcast episode IRL from the conference, so let us know what questions you have, who you want us to talk to, what you want to know about the sports, the industry, the people behind the industry, why the hell they have a massive conference, whatever. Press reply to email me.

The Trials times

The Houston Marathon this past weekend was the last race to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials and as I understand it 500+ women have now qualified. As we’ve talked about before, setting big goals and giving people a way to chase them creates movements and motivation. The 2:45 standard helped reinvigorate women’s running in the U.S.

And while we’re at it, Ironwomen will be hosting a LIVE event from the Trials in Atlanta. Get your tickets now.

Meanwhile in Canada…

Canadian Malindi Elmore raced the 1500 in the Olympics in 2004. She eventually left running and tried pro triathlon, then turned to marathoning after having kids. She set a Canadian marathon record at Houston this weekend. And is now going (most likely) to the Olympics in the marathon 16 years after she last competed in the Games. All the tears.

Your list of the athletes & races of the decade

Last week, we asked you for *your* athletes to watch in 2020 and races to include in your list of best of the decade. Here were some thoughts:

– Paula Findlay – yes, agree, so much so that I already said she’s one to watch
– Skye Moench – as she comes back from that insane crash
– Katie Zaferes – Olympics, yo!
– Laura Phillipp – Ericka says: “Will become the most dominant Ironman athlete in the next three years. Strong words.”

Best races of the 2010s:

– the year Lucy showed up for her first Kona and led for most of the race and everyone was like ‘uh, who is this?’
– when Mirinda Carfrae overcame a 14:30 deficit at the start of the run to win the 2014 Kona title
– the Olympic showdown between Gwen and Nicola Spirig

Good picks.



‘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 Jan. 22, 2020.

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