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#27: Women are not a market
issue #27: March 22, 2023
All sporters: I appreciate you—and not in the passive aggressive way I use “appreciate” when arguing with someone at work. I especially appreciate the paying subscribers who help me keep this running.
Those paying subscribers got a preview of something fun this past weekend, which I now want to share with all of you:
Our Chat/Forum feature is now available on the web (not just in the app) & anyone can post threads. Think of it as a giant triathlon-related group chat: post, reply, share a photo, ask for race recon. Do triathlon-y chatting.
Our other big news: We have a fun podcast episode coming later today that includes an interview with Oscar winning triathlete Lesley Paterson, just as soon as I finish editing & uploading it.
But first let’s get down to the important questions…
Where exactly is Lanzarote anyway?
This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism I am here to deliver for you. This and the bonus fact that Coeur d’Alene is in Idaho (so now you don’t have to be too embarrassed to ask, as I once was). You’re welcome.
Lanzarote is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco but technically belonging to Spain. For reasons both logical and less so, these islands are a popular training destination for European triathletes and cyclists who want to escape winter riding indoors and instead ride in hot windy circles outdoors. (See, in addition to Lanzarote: Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and Fuerteventura.) Based on the number of pro triathletes who have been paid to say so, I assume that Club La Santa is also the most amazing triathlon facility ever created in the history of the world.
Because of Lanzarote’s legacy as home to a tough (but popular) Ironman, it attracts many of those same pros who use the spring 70.3 to kickstart their season. As Anne Haug did this past weekend.
Yes, there were other people who raced on the rocky volcanic island, but let’s talk about Anne.
Anne Haug, Ironman world champion lest we forget, ran a 1:16 half-marathon to close out a dominant 70.3 win—10 minutes faster than second place India Lee. But. Anne could always run. Now, Anne can also bike and swim. And maybe, before we get all caught up in all the new faces who could be a big deal this year, before we start discounting the already big names who are still here, we should remember that Anne is not happy about having lost some of her best world title years to COVID. Anne is ready to go. We should not count Anne out.
Full results here.
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Women, inspiration, empowerment, sisterhood, jazz hands
On other female athlete topics, in this Month of Women.
Triathlon often prides itself on its relative equality, its history of women playing important roles in the sport. This is something that gets said a lot, and particularly trotted out during this Official Women’s Month of Women. And it’s not wrong.
But it’s not quite right either. It always (every time) makes me think: Triathlon’s not that much older than I am, and I also am mostly relatively not sexist. Go me.
My point being: Everything is always a product of its time and place. Triathlon has the luxury of being fairly young. It never existed when Title IX didn’t exist. Of course it’s not going to be as steeped in historically unequal systems as things that existed before it. But also it’s going to absolutely be a product of its time and place, too. Meaning that there's a reason there were no women on the first Ironman start line. Hell, there’s a reason (and it’s painfully obvious) that it was called Iron-man. There’s a reason all of those early pro women will tell you they were expected to settle down and stop racing and have a family eventually. There’s a reason a lot of pro women still sign smaller deals than their male equivalents. (EQUIVALENTS. Don’t come at me with non-equivalents or one-offs.) And, I got news for you, it’s not because there isn’t a market.
And there’s a reason—here, in this time and place—you probably feel like this whole “women thing” (as someone from a triathlon brand once described it to me) is reaching some kind of peak, coming to a head, cresting, or already overdone, depending probably on who you are.
An aside. Perhaps.
Linguistically speaking, things can not be “more equal” or “less equal.” Equal is, by definition, a black-and-white word. Things either are equal or they’re not. 4 = 4. 3 does not equal 4. And 3 is not “more” equal to 4 than 2 is. That’s not how it works.
I was reading Kara Goucher’s new book last week, and there are a great many parts that are making the news: that Nike cut her pay completely when she was pregnant even as they put her in huge female empowerment marketing campaigns, that Alberto Salazar sexually assaulted her, that she was forced to race and leave her sick kid in the hospital or risk not being paid again. But there was this one part near the end that jumped out to me, maybe because it was after all of that, it was just a few years ago, when all of this is supposed to be better now.
She had left Nike, signed new contracts, was developing a reputation for herself as a “female role model.” And then, right at the finish line of the 2016 Olympic Trials, minutes after a heartbreaking 4th place, she was asked about everything that had happened. Her response to the reporters: “People ask, ‘How did you come back?’ Letting go of that shit is how I came back. I lost 200 pounds of fucking baggage I’ve been carrying around. They can’t touch me anymore.”
And, in the book, she says that quote, those words, cost her a huge Proctor & Gamble deal that was in the works, people wrote angry and threatening notes to her. Why? Because she was no longer the right kind of role model for their daughters.
Maybe it just stuck with me because I know, deeply, that it’s true. And I know it’s still true and it's not just true for running. Whatever our more or less equal past, our present still only wants certain kinds of female athletes.
I was having a semi-argument with someone a few weeks ago about whether or not women race and compete angry, whether that’s only something you would say about men. And I maintain that of course women do. But of course, also, they are all products of their time and place. Maybe they mostly don’t show their anger in public, in the media. Maybe they’d lose sponsors if they did. Maybe, historically, they didn’t approach sports the same when sports weren’t the same for them, when they didn’t have the money and contracts they should, when they were just grateful to get a start. Maybe it’s a generational thing, a post-Title IX growing up in a world where you’ve always had sports thing, a goddamn we’re not asking for favors we’re taking what we deserve thing. Maybe some women race angry and some don’t. Maybe women are not all one thing. So maybe we should stop marketing to them and treating them as if they are.
PSA: Tri brands, Google equity.
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Other results from the past weekend
Challenge Puerto Varas:
Learn the name Lucy Byram. She followed up her CLASH Miami win with a win in Chile over defending champ Haley Chura (and our own Laura Siddall in third).
Tom Bishop went from second in Miami to first in Puerto Varas, with Matt Hanson trying to run him down as Matt Hanson does. Tom’s looking like he’s really coming into the longer form this year and it’ll take top-notch running to beat him.
Both Brits moved up up up in the PTO rankings. Full results here.
World Triathlon Para Series Davenport: The first major para World Tri race of the year featured Lauren Parker with a big home win in the WC race. Actually, there were a number of Australian home wins—though I was happy to see Mohamed Lahna come back to tri from his foray into cycling and take the PT2 gold.
Watch this upcoming weekend
Winter Triathlon World Championships: OK, I know you don’t really care yet about ski-fat bike-snowshoe run. But when it becomes an Olympic sport, you’ll care. The world champs (and winter duathlon world champs) are happening this weekend, in a part of Norway you’ve never heard of, and there’ll even be a mixed relay.
World Triathlon Cup New Plymouth: Also, not something we super follow, but Gwen Jorgensen will be taking her next start line in her Paris bid—and she’ll be up against some bigger names this time (since it’s a World Cup and not a Continental Cup) + some of the young Americans.
Hell of the West: An Australian favorite, mostly catching my attention because we get to see Ashleigh Gentle back in action, against Ellie Salthouse. Plus also, Max Neumann will probably win the men’s race. Full start list here.
And last, we have two half races: Geelong 70.3 (where Race Ranger will be doing another test) & Davao 70.3. Full start lists are here, no live coverage.
Oh Barkleys, or the Barkley Marathons, or whatever you want to call that impossible “race” in Tennessee. We all have deeply mixed feelings about it and, in classic fashion, not exactly for the reasons the New York Times says. (So close, NYT.) And yet, we can’t stop refreshing our Twitters. This year’s event ultimately had three finishers and so naturally internet concerns were immediately raised by people who will never do it that the race has become too soft. (So close, internet mob.) (New York Times/Twitter/TrailRunner)
The Super League Arena Games definitely originally had four events planned, including one in Singapore this upcoming weekend, but that race isn’t happening—and is marked as postponed on the World Triathlon calendar. The final Arena Games will be in London in April. (World Triathlon/Super League)
Part II of the PTO’s Youtube doc on Kat Matthews is out, including the aftermath of her crash. (Youtube)
It looks like Jackie Hering was dealing with some lingering post-COVID chest/heart issues, which was why she had to pull out of CLASH Miami. But is feeling better-ish now. (Instagram)
Want to go watch the Olympics? I put myself on the list for Paris tickets, but then was overwhelmed by the ticketing system and also couldn’t decide if I wanted to buy whole blocks and just gave up. Apparently, I was not the only one. On the upside, I did get an email suggesting that I could simply apply to be a volunteer for the Games instead. (Associated Press/Paris2024)
One of the debates going into Paris2024 is whether Russian athletes should be allowed to compete, given that there are pretty strict no trying to kill other country’s athletes rules. Ukraine has been launching a campaign to highlight what its athletes have been going through during the war. That includes this Ukranian triathlete. (Politico/Triathlete)
Thank goodness pro cycling is jumping into the moto bikes debate, with graphics. (Escape Collective)
A fun video representation of an average person racing Usain Bolt. Now do it for triathlon. (Youtube)
At least we got one thing right: Millenials made super cushioned shoes cool. (The Atlantic)
A new study finds that exercise is the best treatment for depression. The thing is, though, if you’re really clinically depressed getting up and exercising isn’t exactly something you can make yourself do… (Washington Post)
And the latest fun side effect of climate change and human-wildlife interaction: Longer, wider, and more intense tick season. (Outside)