1. If you would like to do a Spartan Race, and of course you would, then you can use the code MEMORIAL for $40 off. I’m already signed up for the AT&T Park Stadium Race in San Francisco in July, so I didn’t even get to use the discount code.

2. People often think I’m more worried or stressed than I am about little things, which is really just because I train alone and have a lot of time to think. After you think for a few days too, you’ll just realize I’m right, not worries. People also tend to think I’m angrier than I am. No, I just swear a lot. And it’s not uncommon for people to think I’m not working as hard as I actually am, like oops I just fell into this in between my worried swearing apparently. Basically.

3. We are on our way to Ireland. I do not even have a computer with me. (I am writing this on my phone on the way to the airport.) I’m mostly excited about that part.

4. When people ask what I’m doing now, I just say, “Living my best life.”

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This is what our living room looks like right now. Except you can’t see the bags behind me or stuff still in our car. It’s only getting worse as I try to unpack and move back in. It sounds like everyone has big plans after graduation and big plans for what’s next. My only immediate plan is to sleep and let my brain rebuild and then to get started on the millions of things scheduled for this summer:

  • Vacation to Ireland
  • The Kids coming to stay with me for Escape from Alcatraz
  • Ragnar Relay in Utah
  • My roommate’s wedding in LA
  • The Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver (yes!)
  • Week-long family reunion in Florida
  • Steve doing Tahoe 70.3
  • Followed up immediately by a wedding in Boise

Oh, and I basically made it four days of being bored before enacting the next part of my “creating my best life” plan. I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin. So there’s that.

Thursday night, I went to the HOKA ONE ONE Middle Distance Classic (a name which maybe helps explain why track meets are hard to turn into bigger sporting events). It was fun before it started pouring rain. It was also $10 if you didn’t have a student ID. Perhaps unsurprisingly, or maybe surprisingly depending on your point of view, there were about 200 people in the stands.

Even Justin, who was with me, asked if there was anyone big there. Um, yeah, like a bunch of Olympians, some Olympic medalists, World medalists, etc. He agreed he had heard of some of the names I was listing.

The weird thing, if you think about it, is even the people you can’t name, who won’t make it on even the most niche coverage, have to train a LOT to be that good. You train and you train and then you go to a random track at a small school in the suburbs of Los Angeles, warm-up jogging around the neighborhood, then run as hard as you can in front of a few hundred people until it starts pouring rain. Go ahead and try to explain that job to a career counselor.

After graduation on Friday and some celebrating on Friday night, we then rode up Mt. Baldy on Saturday to watch the Tour of California. We made it on TV, though I don’t know if you can see us through the crowds on the side of the road:

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Then, after going for a run Sunday morning at JPL, which is right by the Rose Bowl, we went down to watch the end of the race at the Rose Bowl. I thought we wouldn’t be able to get close, but we basically just parked down the street and walked up.

It actually was really exciting. Peter Sagan, who is best known as a sprinter, managed to do well enough up Mt. Baldy that he ended up just three seconds out of the overall lead. This is crazy. And if he placed in the top three at the last stage (or at the intermediate sprint during that last stage) it would give him enough of a time bonus to take back the overall win.

He actually managed to do it by just millimeters at the line. See, it was genuinely exciting. But it’s hard to explain or to get anyone who doesn’t know about this stuff to care.

I know a lot about triathlon, like for real, a lot. But then I’ll peruse the new TRS Triathlon website (which I actually mostly like) or the ‘Twitch or, god forbid, the ‘Twitch’s forums, and I think, ‘Shit, I don’t know that much.’ I don’t obsess about what every single pro is doing or who did what when or gear, man do I not care about gear. Yet, there are people who do, and in a way you’re riding your bike around a mostly empty Rose Bowl as hard as you can just for those people.

Professional endurance sports are weird.

 

The last few weeks I’ve been sure I was going to get sick. Thesis project, South Carolina nationals trip, more final projects, bachelorette and Wildflower, final final project, and then moving a bunch of my stuff back up to the Bay Area. And, also, it’s possible that I might have gotten very drunk after that final final project. Theoretically.

Basically, I’ve been waiting for my body to give out and it made it all the way through all those things and now, here is a list of ways my body has betrayed me since Friday:

  • I dislocated my thumb. Randomly, while loading the car. It popped right back in, after hurting like a mother, so I figured no problem. But, since then it’s been really painful. I couldn’t even open my beers at Beer Mile with that hand. And then the thumb popped out again today. Now, I can barely use it. I’m sort of hoping this gets better on its own. Or possibly I splint my hand.
  • My Achilles has been hurting after run workouts. At first, a few weeks ago, I thought it was just sore. But, it’s gotten worse and worse. After the hard run on Sunday, I couldn’t even bend my ankles. Then, I hit a wall funny on a flip turn yesterday, and it just kept hurting. This is concerning.
  • I’ve gotten sick. Finally, it caught up with me. Last night, I thought I might be getting sick, but I’ve thought that a bunch the last few weeks and usually I wake up feeling better. Today, I woke up feeling sick instead.

Also, add a whole bunch of bruises and blisters and whatever. This is not just my imagination. There’s, like, for real studies about how people get sick after big events. Sure, it’s probably because you have a weakened immune system and then you get sick after the gestation period. But I think there’s also something to the fact that your body can hold on for so long but then no longer.

“Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self.” Last week, everyone was sharing this story of the runner whose life looked perfect online, until she killed herself. Everyone, on facebook last week, shared this story with some kind of lesson they’d learned hopefully. And, then, I guess they went back to choosing which parts of their lives they want to curate to be what they think their life should look like. Stop it. Stop doing that. Stop pretending the edited version is the real version. It’s only bad for everyone.

This weekend I went to a bachelorette party, stayed in a super rape-y motel by myself, and oh yeah, raced Wildflower too.

Everyone thought going straight from a bachelorette party and wine tasting to a triathlon was insane. But drinking wine and racing tri are basically the two things I do best. So. And it’s not that I thought I was necessarily going to get raped at the Economy Inn; it’s just that the odds were not as close to zero as I typically prefer them to be. (Steve: It had 7.5 stars. Me: Out of how many? Steve: Uh, 50.) So. Maybe the people in the room next to me weren’t meth heads. Maybe the two big guys standing right up on me in the tiny dirty motel check-in, while the stupid motel manager wouldn’t stop asking, “Wait, so you’re all by yourself? So, no one is with you? No one even dropped you off?” (WHY IS THIS CONFUSING!?!), were perfectly nice guys. But I slept with the light on and my bike propped against the door, which didn’t have a chain lock.

I should have just camped with The Kids.

I should have just camped with The Kids.

The race itself was fine. For all that I hate Wildflower, I like this new two-run course better. The water was clean this year and the new course is more insane and wacky and isn’t that why you do Wildflower anyway.

The only problem was that I couldn’t find my shoes after I got out of the water. I ran up and down the boat ramp and spun in circles and swore an insane amount. I even thought about trying to do the 2.5-mile trail run barefoot. Which would have been a bad idea. When I did find my shoes, I just took off sprinting. By the time I realized I was going too fast it was too late, so I just kept running fast and I didn’t even die. Maybe I should try running faster all the time.

Then, I biked sort of terrible, but better than last year, and got all discouraged in the middle. It’s hard when you know you’re not going to make up the minute you lost. And only being able to keep down half an oatmeal in the morning caught up with me. (This is a new thing, by the way: wanting to throw up so much before a race that I can’t eat.) By the end of the bike I was thirsty and hungry and hot and knew the run was going to be ugly.

Spoiler: the run was ugly.

Me being all 'oh, hey, maybe I'm not as far behind as I thought.'

Me being all ‘oh, hey, maybe I’m not as far behind as I thought.’

It was fine at first and I tried to make a pass on this UCLA girl stick, but I couldn’t. I don’t know what other people think when they’re running shoulder-to-shoulder with someone, but I just kept thinking: Well, she’s going to break me eventually. I was not in a good place, so I also kept thinking: It’s just four miles and I can make it four miles. Somewhere in the last two miles, that became a question actually. I ended up 5th collegiate and 8th overall. And, even with whatever, I was still about three minutes faster than last year. So it’s not that I’m not in ok shape right now…

Which brings us to why you should have a ‘no signing up for stuff in the three days after a race’ rule.

Today, I did a lot of Googling. Like a LOT. Like every Ironman-distance race of any kind anywhere.

I have no plans after June (actually, for real, in life) and I’m liking triathlon again and I’m faster than I’ve been in awhile, maybe ever in some ways, and that’s off very low volume, even for me. All that means that I’m super tempted to see what I can do for real, actually for real, not also while working 60-hour weeks or doing a graduate program in 10 months or fighting injuries or whatever.

And there’s some kind of weird adrenaline thing after a race which went well but not perfect, where you know you have more in you. See also: Why I did NOT want to sign up for anything after the LA Marathon.

So.

Ironman Louisville anyone? Or Muskoka? Or the Spartan Race World Championships in Tahoe? Or maybe age group nationals? Or, something else?

Here’s a story: At nationals, there was a Snapchat that everyone used. It wasn’t official. Just some guy from one of the colleges had made an account. All 1,200 athletes friended him, sent in snaps, which he screenshot-ed and then added to the nationals story. And then everyone clicked through all thousands of snaps. It was The Thing in Clemson. Most of it was selfies with funny captions or random pictures of people. There were poop jokes, a few bare asses, party plans, basically anything that was sort of ridiculous and fun. USAT must have gotten word of how all the kids were into the Snapchat, because then they made an official one. It was only official-like stuff of the actual races, nothing untoward or crazy. And no one used it. No one.

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Here are some observations and things that happened:

  • The official type people said at the awards ceremony that the nationals club championship has been happening since the early 1990s. Um, yeah. I dunno about that. Not unless you’re counting all those years Wildflower declared itself “the national college championships.” The first USAT-produced nationals was in 2007, I’m pretty sure.
  • The official type people also talked a lot about the sport becoming NCAA and the future of draft-legal racing. But I’m not sure they’ve actually talked to all the college students they’re supposedly speaking for. Because everyone I talked to didn’t really know too much about what the official people were talking about.
  • Another thing that happened at the awards ceremony: one team dressed up in horse heads staged an impromptu horse race around the gym.
  • When it came time to compete for the spirit award (which we should have won, by the way), the Santa Barbara team got up and did a song dressed as Pac-Man and whatever those things are that Pac-Man eats. Halfway through the song there was a turn and they stripped off their pants and started running around as underwear Pac-Man. The USAT official people didn’t seem to quite know what to do with that either.
  • Everyone shows up for nationals a few days early. Lots of driving overnight and long-distance bus trips. Then the hotels all get overrun with college triathletes.
  • There are more parents and friends that come to watch too than there used to be.
  • The main race (the non-drafting Olympic) is also much more serious than it used to be. There is seeding and a set number of spots for each team for each of the waves. There’s a gap between the men’s and women’s races. Transition closes early and there’s tons of USAT officials. It is very legit.
  • It is also very competitive.
  • Arguably, the top 3-5 were always pretty competitive. But now it’s competitive all the way through the top 100 or something. The depth has evolved. Especially on the women’s side—a development that I think you can see across the sport actually. Here are two charts The Kids made (I’m not 100% sure what analysis is suggested by these charts or what conclusions can be made in a broader sense, so let me know if you have analysis thoughts):

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  • The swim is the most brutal part. There’s so many fast swimmers collegiately. But that’s not true in the age groups, so where do they all go? Do they forget how to swim?
  • Colorado always has really good bikers.
  • Surprisingly, I don’t think there were any bad accidents. Even in the rain.
  • And, then, as is the custom, mostly everyone goes out after the awards ceremony and has a huge party that is sort of just declared a party wherever there happen to be triathletes in the same place. I felt kind of bad for the regular Clemson students who were confused by all these people wandering around their bars. And, then, everyone has to start the overnight bus rides and early morning cross-country flights back…

Last Wednesday afternoon, 25 of us flew to Atlanta and then drove to Clemson, South Carolina. We raced Saturday, in the rain, and then flew back Sunday morning. You would think that being in Clemson for four days with nothing but a two-hour race to do, there would have been some free time.

Hah.

USA Triathlon Collegiate Nationals was fun and exhausting and insanely competitive and maybe what it was and what USA Triathlon thinks it was are not exactly the same thing. But that’s another topic.

Short version: I raced harder than I have in a while. Maybe since Alcatraz last year (though IM Canada was a different kind of hard). Saturday, I swam and I biked hard and then I hung on during the run and tried not to throw up before the finish line. And it almost all came together for a really crazy good day. Instead, it was just a good day, which I’m still very happy with, and I finished 17th in 2:16.

Long version: It was pouring on Saturday morning. And the boys raced first (in the downpour). That meant I ended up with four hours to kill in the rain. We went and slept in the car for a little bit, turned on the heater some, and tried to eat enough for all the extra time but not so much that we threw up. I was struggling with this last thing. By the time we finally did start at 10:40 a.m., I was hungry, but also had been gagging on everything I tried to eat. Basically, I was not dealing well with the anticipation of the hurt that was to come. Even if you know you do better in the rain and when conditions suck, that doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy it.

And, even with all those hours, I still managed to lose my timing chip and had to run to get to the start on time. Naturally. (Side note: If you sprint up to the officials’ tent, wearing a sweatshirt and a gold skirt over running tights, and gasp out “Ilostmytimingchip,” they really won’t know what to do.)

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The swim start was awful. I’m pretty sure collegiate swim starts are what give me nightmares about triathlon. It was insanely aggressive and there was nowhere to go when the people behind you and the people next to you decided that you were the only thing between them and their dreams of glory. Eventually, it calmed down a little bit. And, then, I just swam hard. I would have told you that I always swim hard and that I didn’t feel like I was swimming any harder this time. In fact, I had no idea if I was sucking or doing great. It turns out that in the past, apparently, I have not been swimming as hard as I could have. I came out of the water in 23:15ish, which was really fast for the day, and put me pretty high up (for me) going into the bike.

There’s some kind of lesson here, but I don’t really know what I did differently other than not even a little breaststroke.

My real goal for the day was to bike hard. I have not been killing it on my bike lately, so I wanted to put in a really solid effort. It stopped raining for the girls race, so it was just overcast (which is great) and cool-ish (for South Carolina). But, when I put my head down to get to work, I couldn’t find anything. I was up and down, all over the place that first lap. I got passed by some girls, which doesn’t usually happen that early, but I suppose it was a result of swimming faster than usual. I had a gel and tried to drink some and hoped I could will the legs to come around. Eventually, they sort of did. My second and third laps were stronger, with the last lap actually feeling the best and, by then, I was edge of throwing up, so I figured that meant I was going pretty hard.

It turned out, though, that all my laps were pretty evenly split, so it may have all been in my head. It also got more crowded those last laps, so it might have just been easier mentally to pick people off. Either way, I biked a fairly strong 1:07:45ish and my head told me I was doing pretty good.

Apparently, I decided to do a trackstand in the middle of the race?

Apparently, I decided to do a trackstand in the middle of the race?

Originally, I had thought I’d get through the swim, move up on the bike, and then pick off some more places on the run. But doing better on the swim-bike meant there just weren’t that many more places I was capable of moving up on the run. Maybe that’d be different if I could run a 37. But, I can’t (for now…). Instead, I was killing myself to simply maintain position.

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The run was an out and back. They called it two laps, but you had to go back and forth twice each lap, so it was really basically four laps. Every one of those there was a long false flat hill we went up and then down. I started out right on the heels of two very fast runners and by halfway through the first lap I realized they weren’t opening up the gap on me (which meant I must be running pretty good) and I was just hanging off a big pack of girls that included 10th, but I also realized vomit was coming up the back of my throat. It was getting very muggy at that point and I became seriously concerned about my ability to complete the course.

I’m not sure what I thought about then. It’s sort of a blur. But I think the middle of the run was one of the few times on the day I sort of lost focus. Eventually, I realized that I was only having to swallow vomit on the uphill sections and that I was making up time on the downhills, so it was easier to get through then. Also, there were so many people on course the second lap, I had no idea who was ahead and who was behind.

On the last uphill, with a half-mile to go, someone said that a girl was coming up on me. I literally mouthed, “Fuck.” What did I have left to give? I tried to pick it up some and, as I got closer, everyone was yelling that she was coming and I needed to go. I picked it up more. I made the sharp turn onto the grass, through a mud pit, another sharp turn in what was a bog by then, and I was full-on as hard as I could go. I made it across the finish line, fell over, and threw up a little bit. It took me a few minutes to get off the ground.

It was ugly and it was rough, but I’m pretty sure that I could not have gone any harder on Saturday. And that’s really all you can ask of yourself.

The day before it started raining. Everyone actually did well too, and I wish they would tell us how we placed, because I think it wasn't bad.

The day before it started raining. Everyone actually did well too, and I wish they would tell us how we placed, because I think it wasn’t bad.

Tomorrow’s the day. Collegiate nationals has changed a lot since the last time I did it in 2007. Now there’s a whole Snapchat story everyone keeps sending things into and more Specialized Shivs than I’ve ever seen at a race. But one things still the same: rough weather. It’s supposed to storm and possibly thunder all day. Fingers crossed guys.

The Case for Incivility

April 22, 2015 — 4 Comments

Last week, Slowtwitch published an op-ed about the dominance of American women in ITU racing. It’s, by the way, something I also wrote about. The premise of Slowtwitch’s piece was that, as is said in the opening line: “access begets prosperity.” The reason, it says, that the American women are so good at draft-legal racing right now is because there were so many of them swimming and running as kids and then in college through the 1990s and 2000s. That’s true. I have no quibble with that argument.

Then there’s some hand-waving and therefore, says Slowtwitch, Ironman increasing the number of professional women’s spots in Kona, so that women have an equal number of starting spots to the men, isn’t going to increase access or participation overall, because what we really need is more programs to get people into swimming and running (and cycling presumably) and access at that beginner level has nothing to do with access at the highest level.

This is pretty faulty logic, because it draws a false parallel and skips a bunch of steps. Like the step where the requirements of Title IX are what begat the increased number of women participating in swimming and running in the first place. It’s not like thousands of 10-year-old girls suddenly created their own swim programs out of nothing. Those programs were created because there was an increased demand at the college level, which then meant an increased demand at the high school level, etc. It also skips the step where USA Triathlon was able to tap into the excess of collegiate female runners and swimmers and bring them over to draft-legal triathlon, because the opportunities in ITU draft-legal triathlon existed for them to be brought into.

It seems pretty strange to argue that the success of women in ITU draft-legal racing proves that we don’t need equality in non-drafting Ironman racing. Because I feel like it might actually be an argument for the opposite.

But whatever.

That isn’t actually my main problem with the debate over 50 Women to Kona. My problem is that then Slowtwitch argues that the real issue is that people in this debate just aren’t being nice enough. This is something I keep hearing. If we could just have a civil discussion, then I’m sure everything would be fine.

Let’s concede for a second that there are problems that exist in the world about which civility is not required. There are injustices so terrible that the only appropriate reaction is anger. That is simply a fact. The disagreement, then, is over whether or not you think this is one of those things.

Clearly some people think it is.

Do I think calling someone names is a good PR move? Or that yelling at them is going to convince them of your rightness? No, not particularly. But, do I understand why someone might be upset enough to do so? Yeah, sure. And I don’t have a right to tell them not to be upset.

When you say that what we just need is more civility, what you’re saying is that others don’t have a right to be angry with you, that what you’re saying and doing is not in it’s own way more uncivil. When you say that reasonable people can disagree, what you’re really assuming is that everyone agrees you’re one of those reasonable people.

(Arguing about the size of the pier is not a reasonable argument. Can everyone please stop talking about how there just isn’t enough room on the damn pier? There used to be, when more than 100 pros did the race. If there’s not now, it’s because those spots have been reallocated to people who would pay for them. That’s fine. Ironman is a business and it has every right to make that business decision. But own that decision then. Stop acting like this is all just in the hands of Hawaiian pier builders.)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the call for civility tends to come from those defending the status quo, or that it tends to be directed at women and minorities. “Why can’t you just be more polite about us discriminating against you?!”

Part of the reason people seem so frustrated and so unable to articulate why precisely there should be an equal number of women as men is because this fight has already been fought so many times. Literally. This exact same argument. In so many sports. So it’s hard to figure out why we’re having it again, or why we’re supposed to be nice about it.

I do think there are reasonable ways to address the pro qualification question that aren’t 50-50. I’d be fine with 30-30, though I don’t think it’s really necessary and would cause a lot of over-racing. I think a 5% rule built in, with a whole lot of other questions about the details, could work. I think going back to a system similar to the age-group qualification system would be fine. (I think the only reason Ironman even moved to the KPR system in the first place is because they want to eventually move the age-groupers to a ranking qualification system as well, which nobody wants because we might as well just start having our paychecks sent directly to WTC if that happens.)

But I think if you’re going to set an arbitrary number, as dictated by a quasi-governing body, then it needs to be an equal number. If Ironman was a nonprofit governing body and not a private for-profit company, it would have to be. I simply can not think of another sport where the governing body would allow such a discrepancy at the highest level. Even on the other side of the same sport (draft-legal triathlon) it does not happen.

Everyone keeps nodding wisely and saying it’s all so complicated. If we allow the same number of women as men, then what’s next?! But it’s not really that complicated. It might be inconvenient. It might raise some questions you’d rather ignore. It might mean, somewhere down the road, that more women do Ironmans and fewer men get spots at Kona. God forbid. It might mean that someone is going to disagree with you. But that’s life. There’s nothing that says I have to think you’re smart or that you have to like me. We just have to get an equal shot. Anything else just wouldn’t be civil.