Things I Would Change If I Was in Charge of Ironman

…I mean besides The Obvious.

And besides the general over-expansion of the race schedule, and a slight tendency to cut costs in some places, and the elimination of any real way for elite athletes to develop (which coincides with a general sport-wide tendency to overvalue the inspirational stories of “amateur” athletes as somehow better than the inspiration of “professional” athletes — which fundamentally misunderstands the value of pro athletes). Besides all those structural and systemic changes I would make, here are a couple specific and immediate things I would do differently:

  • There is no reason you can’t do registration for World Championships in a more organized and less arbitrary fashion. It would be easy — and, by easy, I mean it is already done for plenty of other events — to allow automatic qualifiers to register online within a reasonable period, like a week, and then to notify the next athlete on the list via email if the spot is turned down. It’s really a bit absurd that you have to be physically present at a certain time and run to the stage and hand over your credit card (which also, generally, means you have to know how the system works, which is not a particularly inclusive way to design a world championship event and which totally ignores that there are a TON of reasons why someone might not be physically at a random location at a specific time early in the morning the day after a hard Ironman). If it was a bit more organized, then maybe WTC wouldn’t have been handing out some of the 70.3 spots to anyone who was present, breathing and had finished the race…
  • Rolling starts should not count for those who want to win awards. I get that Ironman wanted to make Ironman races more accessible by eliminating the scariness of the mass start. I have no problem with that. But for those actually racing for awards, it’s dumb that you’re not really racing. When you all start at different times in a rolling fashion, you don’t know how you stack up, you don’t know who’s ahead or who’s behind, and you don’t know where the race really is. This would be easy to fix. Have a gun start and then behind that people can start in a rolling fashion. They already do this in big running races, where you have a chip time, but for awards or prize money purposes your gun time is your time. Because the race is the race. You can’t not be in the race and then claim you won the race.

Having been up at IM Tahoe all weekend, and having just been at IM Wisconsin — which is probably one of the most well-put-on races in the country — I also had some thoughts about how they could have done the Tahoe race differently. I love Tahoe and it’s a fantastic area to train in, but in retrospect (since everyone keeps saying this is its last year, even though a local told me it was a five-year contract) there were some obvious reasons why it struggled to find its footing:

  • It was never marketed correctly. They should have leaned in to it being a hard, epic race, instead of trying to make it slightly easier after the first year.
  • It should have been about two weeks earlier. That would have cut down on the chance of some of the weather challenges it had.
  • It was too spread out logistically — this caused a number of problems. Because the start and the finish were about 17 miles apart and there is only one main road between the two, there wasn’t an easy way to spectate. You had to either take a not super-well-advertised and not-frequently-running shuttle or you had to bike the 17 miles (which is what I did, but I think I was the ONLY one who did). That wouldn’t have even helped for long parts of the run on the bike trail, which weren’t accessible to pedestrians or cyclists. That means there literally was no way to spectate. Part of what Ironman does well is convince the community that the race is a big deal, which brings out thousands of spectators, which makes you feel like you’re a big deal. That, in turn, also gets lots of volunteers and crowds out. Both were clearly missing at Tahoe. I think there could have been a way to remedy this with a more condensed course that would have been under COMPLETE closure, instead of partially-closing such a large area.

Those are my thoughts…

Maybe Skiing is My Thing

XCski

This is me looking super serious cross-country skiing. (Actually, it’s after we skied from the trailhead to the downhill resort and were taking a break while we tried to decide where to go.)

I am not bad at cross-country skiing. I am surprisingly good. It may be the first thing in a long time that I’ve been good at and liked right away—probably since I was unexpectedly fast at running my freshman year of high school. This isn’t to say I’m good. I’m just good for having done it only three times now. And, given that we have a lot of cycling and running clothes and aren’t unfit, Steve and I tend to look like we must know what we’re doing—until one of us wipes out. Also, cross-country skiing fun.

If I lived somewhere with snow and trails and could just go every day, I might get actually good. Or, not. The list of things that I’m pretty good at, but then never get much better, is a long list.

XCski2
This is basically a Clif bar ad.

I am always fascinated, though, by what we could or might be good at. How do you know what you would be best at? What if you never find it? What if what you think you’re good at is simply a dictate of convenience and circumstance? I grew up without a lot of money in Chicago. Skiing was something rich people did, which is also what I told Steve the first time he wanted to go skiing. From Chicago, you pretty much have to fly to Colorado to be a skier. It was not something I would have ever known I was any good at.

The Australian Institute of Sport developed this series of tests a few years ago to find talent and most accurately direct that talent to the most appropriate sport for them, so that Australia could continue winning lots of medals and stuff. Man, I wish I could take those tests. I wish they had those tests for life too. And, then, that you also could still be like, “Nope, sorry, don’t feel like listening to your test. Just wanted to know. Still going to do this my own way. K, thanks.”

My way better picture of Steve.
My way better picture of Steve.

This Is Why I Can’t Go Outside

That eventually just turned into a burn across my whole back -- without all the lines.
That eventually just turned into a burn across my whole back — without all the lines.
This is my I am very angry about this bullshit face.
This is my I am very angry about this bullshit face.

Despite all the comments to the contrary (‘ho, ho, looks like someone forgot to wear sunscreen’), this is actually what happens even when I cover myself in sunscreen.

We were in Tahoe this weekend for a wedding, so yesterday I decided to go SUPing. Before I headed to the lake, I used about a third of a bottle of water-proof, sports SPF 30. I covered myself. I let it dry. Then, I spent an hour-and-a-half paddleboarding around Lake Tahoe (well, not really around — I made it like a mile in 45′ and then I was so tired I laid down on the board and let it float). I swam for about 10′ but it was really shitty cold, so I jumped out and went and got some food instead.

And, after I got home and showered, it turned out I had gotten fried despite the sunscreen.

The worst, where I’m actually blistering red, is lower on my back. That’s the only part that hurts. I’m fried nearly everywhere, though. But, what I’m really upset about is seriously, WHAT THE FUCK.

If I had just gotten burned in a couple places that I forgot — tops of my feet and hands — I would figure that yes, that was my fault. But, I got really burned on my shoulders and chest and that’s where I put on the most sunscreen. Everyone kept saying that the sun is hotter at elevation and apparently that’s true, but in the grand scheme of how far the sun is from the Earth, you would think 6,000 feet wouldn’t make that big a difference. So, now, I’m going back to figuring that I’m screwed. I should just never go outside, especially in the middle of the day. From now on, you’ll only see me after 4 p.m.