June 27, 2018

Newsletter ep. 41: How do we watch the sports?

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 from June 27, 2018.


As you’re reading this, I’m throwing the last of my things in a bag and heading to the airport for #KellysBigEuropeanAdventure. In case you somehow missed last week’s podcast, here’s a summary: I’m going to Finland and Sweden to race the 70.3s there, then coming back to the U.S. to race Ironman Lake Placid, which *some people* are referring to as the Women’s Championship. Some people. Sara will be at Placid doing video coverage for Live Feisty — follow on the Facebook page and you may get to meet a special guest — and then she’ll be covering Ironwomen host Alyssa Godesky’s FKT attempt on the Long Trail in Vermont (a portion of the Appalachian Trail). Then I’ll be flying back across the country *again* to meet up, so Sara and I can race the Swimrun USA in Maine. Yes, it sounds exhausting. Yes, I have had a few meltdowns in the last week. But, also yes, this is what we train for. Right? (Right? Feeling a bit like this photo from the start of the 1500m at USA Nationals. Photo: Talbot Cox)

Watching the wide world of sports

At the end of last week, Ironman announced it would be partnering with Facebook to provide “unprecedented live coverage.”

Now, I’m not totally sure what “partnering” means — since as far as I know anyone can make a Facebook Watch show and page. But perhaps it means it’ll be specially promoted by Facebook or that some kind of deal was reached with Facebook for advertising and money. Or, it just sounds fancy. Who knows.

The crux of the point though is that Ironman is doing legit Facebook Live coverage now. Maybe they listened to us when we said Ironman could learn something from Spartan’s Facebook Live coverage. There is no question this is a good idea for Ironman. It provides an additional platform to sell their product, to connect with their audience and potential fans, to promote pros — which ultimately benefits Ironman. It’s also clear that triathlon media simply doesn’t have the resources to cover everything in the sport. So if you want them to come, build it.

Ironman Now, as the Facebook Watch page/show is being called, will host live coverage of most full Ironman races and the 70.3 world championships, a weekly recap show, and some kind of special 40th anniversary show. The first live was this weekend: Ironman France. (You can still watch the video on the Facebook page, which is a perk.)

I actually “watched” three different sports things this weekend on three different platforms. I followed the 100-mile Western States on iRunFar’s twitter feed. I watched USA Track & Field Nationals on actual regular TV (DVR’d) while laying on my couch. [I did not, however, watch the events that were only on NBC Sports Gold or whatever it’s called. I paid $79 for that streaming last year and watched one event. It wasn’t worth it.] And then I watched Ironman France on Facebook Live.

It’s hard not to think this many platforms isn’t sustainable. We can’t be on all places all the time or keep track of which event is where. We certainly can’t afford to pay for multiple streaming systems for different, separate events — one for this cycling race, another for that track meet. Unlike lots of people, I don’t think everything has to move to mobile and streaming. I think there are pros and cons to each platform. Twitter actually captures the amount I want to follow a 15-hour running race: I can scan and catch up quickly, tune in and out, look at photos, read profile stories of the runners. Facebook Live is tough for me to get into unless I really care about the event, because I want to be able to use my computer too and I hate staring at a little screen. TV is really the best — IMO. It’s almost exactly like streaming coverage except on a bigger screen, with a more comfortable chair, typically higher production values, and the ability to record or fast-forward. (Though, I’ll admit NBC’s coverage of USA Track & Field Nationals was super odd. Especially when competition stopped for a rain delay and no one had any idea what to do, and then a paid program for dentures came on after.)

So far, Ironman’s Facebook Live coverage was more or less what you’d expect: very similar to their Kona feed with slightly fewer cameras and drones out on course, and some technical kinks to work out. Greg Welch and Michael Lovato talked the shit out of triathlon for ten hours, and I look forward to seeing Dede Griesbauer on future coverage too. We shall reserve judgement for now.

**Also, I would like to note the one thing I learned from the Ironman France coverage: On the run, there were roller-blading race marshals in front of the leaders to alert the volunteers and to make sure people stayed on course. We should do this at every race.**

Speaking Of…

Speaking of Western States 100-mile and USA Track & Field Nationals, well, those happened.

Western States is very much a social media phenomenon. You can watch all the drama unfold from the comfort of your phone. And there was drama. After going off course his first year and blowing up last year and running always as hard as he can, I was really happy to see Jim Walmsley shatter the course record this year: 14:30! And one of the best things I came across while scrolling the #ws100 social feeds was Walmsley and his friends, calling themselves the Coconino Cowboys, all racing it together. You definitely want to check out Myke Hermsmeyer’s photos following them and documenting the journey.

As always, iRunFar has all the best coverage, though Citius Magazine’s photo essay and pretty funny essay going with it are in close competition.

I also watched a lot of track nationals from my couch. It was an odd event. NBC kept trying to promote the idea that we’re “in transition” and there’s a “new generation coming up,” and the reality is there were multiple events where no one in the final had ever won any national championship at this level. That means there simply weren’t as many stars as usual. Still. The 100m and 400m hurdles are epic. I didn’t get to watch the 10,000m, though Molly Huddle did what Molly Huddle does and Lopez Lomong won a 10,000m title eight years after he won a 1,500m title. WHICH IS CRAZY. What I’m saying is, it was still a good meet.

If you want to really get the spirit of people killing themselves on the track, then Talbot Cox’s gallery of the races and the Bowerman Track Club athletes is worth checking out. Tempo Journal has some great images and I really love Jeff Cohen’s photos he’s posted on Instagram.

And if you watch just one sprint finish, make it this one from the women’s 5,000m. Shelby Houlihan has certainly found herself in the last few weeks.

This week’s explaining inside triathlon twitter

Last week, I suggested we host a new segment explaining insider triathlon internet-ing. I got a nomination for this tweet, which I actually had already been trying to figure out.

So, it appears this image of a potentially crazy new bike came from here and was posted on Slowtwitch. Whether or not it’s a real bike or some kind of mock-up, it’s already prompted a long ‘Twitch thread about the feasibility and aerodynamics and potential handling capabilities. You can imagine, there is extensive arguing going on.

After trying to find any evidence of this bike anywhere, I was going to say it’s a fake photo, not a real bike. Ceepo updated their top-end time trial bike just last year. But. It sounds like, potentially, Ceepo may be launching this at Kona this year. So. We’ll see.



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