#65: Women's races, women's squads, women athletes
What's the goal?
issue #65: Dec. 13, 2023
All sporters, I think the year is officially over. No more races. And it’s time for a break. (I was told: Me saying this gives you permission to take a break, too.) Next week, we’ll do our most popular posts of the year and round-up of the highlights—and then we’ll have a quick dead week newsletter. And then we’ll be back in 2024.
As you’re looking for last-minute gifts for the tri-curious in your life, may I suggest: A gift subscription to Triathlonish. Not only will they love it, but so will I. Our paying subscribers get my undying love and appreciation—which comes with a card now and a little appreciation gift. (Yes, my amazing paying subscribers, there is a small Christmas gift coming, but there were holiday shipping delays!) They get the extra Sunday edition, with a Q&A, in-depth story, or our monthly gear & research roundup. As well as the ability to comment, audio versions of this Wednesday newsletter for convenience, and invites to the quarterly Book Club chat with the author. But most importantly, they help me keep this newsletter running. Them and my amazing partner, Precision Fueling & Hydration.
Which brings us to:
Our next Book Club book is ‘Out of Thin Air’
I’m also opening up this Q&A from this past weekend, which went out to paying subscribers, with Unbound Gravel’s former RD and current marketing manager, Kristi Mohn
Now, today’s odd assortment.
Yes, we’re going to talk about this
I thought I’d be annoyed by the New Yorker story on sex testing and on who gets to determine who’s a woman in sports. This pre-annoyance was solely because I was aware (thanks to our extensive podcast discussion) that the New Yorker had misstated the fact that triathlete Chris Mosier was the first trans athlete to qualify for the Olympics—when, in fact, he was the first trans athlete to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the gender he identifies as (in the men’s 50km racewalk). And as anyone who’s competed in either will tell you, there’s a big difference between the Olympic Trials & the Olympics.
Having had hours-long debates with fact-checkers about whether something was a creek or a stream, I’m still not entirely sure how this fact gets mixed up at the publication pinnacle of fact-checking, but my husband says mistakes happen even in official documents and the New Yorker aren’t really sports people anyway.
So I was ready to be annoyed, but it actually ended up being one of the most thorough and accurate discussions I’ve read on the history of sex testing in sports and of the many tensions at the heart of trying to regulate who is and isn’t a woman. I wrote a similar story (different language) back in 2016, but no one was quite as worked up back then.
Let’s start with this point, made so eloquently in the piece: You think you know you’re a woman or a man, but how do you know that. What if you found out your hormone levels weren’t what you thought they were, or it turned out you had nonstandard chromosomes (~1 in 350), or you fell somewhere in the spectrum of genital sex differences (~1 in 1000) that you never knew about. Would you still be who you think you are. What if you never even knew, do you still get to play sports?
Or start with: There was a time when we made female Olympians march naked in front of male officials to prove they were women. Or we required them to have husbands (because that proves something, I guess). Then there was a time when we tested chromosomes until even the person who developed the test said it wasn’t being used correctly. Why are we so certain we’re right this time? Or consider that what ends up happening now is the only people subject to proving they’re women are the people who seem somehow not woman enough. Consider that certain regulations to stop trans girls from competing will result in all girls having their genitals examined before they get to play, what, youth soccer? At an age when girls already drop out of sports. If it happened to me, I’d have quit as a kid, doesn’t seem worth it.
Or, here’s a thing that’s been bothering me for weeks: If you believe that people should compete in the category of the gender they were assigned at birth, then you have to believe that Caster Semenya gets to compete as a woman. But if you believe that she can’t because people have to have testosterone below certain limits to be considered women, even if some women naturally don’t, then you have to be OK with trans women being allowed to compete if they’ve gone through testosterone blockers. Or, I dunno, you have to at least recognize the challenge of holding all those conflicting ideas at once.
If trans women make up 1 in 1,000 women, then are you OK with them winning 1 in 1,000 competitions? If not, if you say no women with any sex differences can win anything in the women’s category, then are you OK with casting so wide a net you’ll catch all kinds of women?
What is the goal?
Worth a read: Who gets to play in women’s leagues?
I also thought Nikki Hiltz’ IG video was a nice look at their life
Which brings us to…women’s age-group squads
I’m going somewhere with this. Come with me.
AG squads are everywhere in triathlon. They exist for a number of reasons. I’ve been on a couple. Usually, it’s a nice way to connect with other athletes online or virtually, maybe you go to a training camp together or there are a couple of other athletes in your area or you have weekly Zwift rides. You can share the ups and downs; it gives you someone to cheer for at a race; you get to know different people from all over. It’s a way to create community on-demand. Within this universe there are a handful of women’s squads, specifically, for all those same reasons but for women.
Getting on these squads is always a bit mixed. Sometimes there’s an application, sometimes there isn’t. The criteria are typically very opaque.
Well, it’s the time of year that the squads are all getting announced for 2024 (congrats to everyone) and they’re all “meeting” each other online. And I’ve talked to a few women on one of the main women’s squads about a situation that’s starting to fester:
The squad had an open ‘everyone welcome’ application this year. Any woman could pay their fee and join. Those women all went in, then, to introduce themselves to each other in the private Facebook group. Great, no problem. Then one of the women, who is trans, received an email and was told she was no longer welcome. Reportedly, two dozen of the women sent a letter to the owner saying they “did not feel safe,” which really raises the question of how a person’s mere existence in the world can threaten your safety.
Personally, I think if you’re going to run a ‘no trans women’ women’s squad, you at least need to be public and clear about that. You can not quietly kick people off your team and hope no one will notice. I think there’s a reason this is starting to brew, and it’s because they will not answer questions or say whether trans women are welcome under an ‘everyone welcome’ banner. (I’ve asked.)
I’ve had a great many friends on these AG triathlon squads who I disagreed with wildly. I’ve liked some of them and didn’t like some of them, that’s not the point of triathlon. The point was to go through this journey and learn something new about ourselves and each other. Right?
Best of the weekend
Bahrain 70.3: Kat Matthews won the Middle East Championships on the run, by just 36 seconds over Amelia Watkinson, which is a nice way to end her season and you can see her Strava files. And Marten Van Riel won his second 70.3 in three weeks. Bahrain is often dominated by short-course athletes late in the season, but it’ll be interesting to see if/when he moves to longer racing more permanently. And Lucy Buckingham was hit by a car that somehow got onto the course, so that doesn’t just happen in the U.S.
Taupo 70.3: Was a double New Zealand win (Hannah Berry and Kyle Smith) after Javi Gomez got a drafting penalty and a flat tire.
What’s next? Nothing! Ironman doesn’t start up until mid-January, Challenge in February, World Tri races in March, and the big PTO Tour & Ironman Pro Series sometime around then too but who wants to commit to that staying a fact.
A bunch of stuff in our sports worth knowing about this week.
Super League Triathlon has taken over USAT’s Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach—which is good news, both because I was wondering what was going to happen to the Legacy Tri (which is held on the proposed Olympic course for the L.A. Games) and because it means Super League has even more of a foothold in California and in the U.S. Which is also good news after the Malibu news last week. (Super League/Triathlonish)
TriDot has signed a deal with Ironman, which seems to just mean TriDot is the official training platform of Ironman—much like the official bike, official hydration provider, official watch (still have one of those old original Timex watches). (Endurance Sportswire)
The Golden Trail Series announced their 2024 calendar, which includes two new races in California. I have to assume when they say “Headlands” they mean the Marin Headlands, here, which used to host the North Face 50, because what else would you mean. (Instagram)
Crankworx also announced their 2024 World Tour series—four stops on the mountain bike festival. And, for the first time, there will be a women’s world championship in slopestyle. Which is a thing. (Redbull)
Zach Miller went for a Rim2Rim2Rim FKT and missed it but still covered the back and forth the Grand Canyon in 6 hours, 11 minutes. I did it once in 15 hours, and that was crippling, so. (Instagram)
Lisa Norden talks about her new Ironman bike record and her second life in triathlon. (Triathlete)
And Fenella Langridge’s Precision fueling & hydration case study from her course record at Ironman Western Australia. (Precision)
And Lawrence van Lingen talks about how he rehabbed Taylor Knibb & Jan Frodeno—or, well, he talks and I don’t know how exactly he did it but it’s all very mysterious. (Triathlete)
Mark Cavendish was on Rich Roll, who isn’t my favorite, but he says a lot of interesting stuff you don’t usually hear. (Youtube)
And Skye Moench was on Triathlon Hour, which also isn’t my favorite, but she talks a lot about how she was pressured to lose weight and had to leave her coach and rebuild her support system. (Podbean/Instagram)
Taylor Spivey says World Tri needs to make its races more exciting, which isn’t wrong. (Tri247)
I’ve had in my notes to check up on what happened with Andrea Salvisberg—and it turns out he’s had meningitis for the last three months. (Instagram)
A foundation has been started in honor of Magnus White, a junior elite cyclist who was killed this summer in Boulder. (Boulder Reporting Lab)
And Daniela Ryf is auctioning off her world record breaking race kit (signed) to raise money for an orphanage in Kenya. (There for You)
I kind of just enjoy this triathlon Christmas sweater from Challenge. (Challenge Family)
World Athletics named six track & field stars as “Athlete of the Year.” Are we going to get an official version of this for triathlon? I have not heard any more about the Global Triathlon Awards and it appears, right now, that was a one-off one-time thing last year… (World Athletics)
Ford’s new cars are supposed to alert drivers when there’s a cyclist in the way who would get doored—so you don’t door them, ideally. (Road.cc)
The top 50 most influential people in U.S. cycling. Should we make one for tri? (Escape Collective)
One last thing
The part of the Olympic marathon qualification I do understand is that you either have to run very very fast (in this case 2:11:30 for the men) to hit the standard or you have to be on the podium at certain Majors or you have to be ranked in the top xxx amount in the world. The U.S. men have not secured enough Olympic spots in the top xxx amount and don’t have a lot of people qualified—so C.J. Albertson went out a week after CIM and ran another marathon fast enough to make sure he has the standard.
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