Articles by Kelly O'Mara

You probably haven’t heard—the news is subtle and hard to find—but it’s Kona race week. Now you could read one of those Kona advice articles with tips from pros or winning coaches or triathlon magazine editors who have been to Hawaii every year since someone first decided to follow their swim with a bike ride and then a run. But why take advice from experts when you could take advice from me, a random triathlete. Since this is my first time ever being to the town of Kona, much less starting the race, I feel wildly qualified to tell you how to prepare.

Here are the most common questions I’ve been fielding in a special Kona edition of Ask a Random Triathlete.

So, you’re doing The Ironman?

Kidding. But not really. This is the single most common question I’ve gotten over the last month of being on the big island. Followed by: How far is that? I don’t know how you guys do it? So you can swim a whole 2.5 miles?

Far. You don’t ever think about it all at once. And, yes.

Now, these are the actual questions triathletes keep asking:

How do I heat acclimate?

You go back in time and worry about that when it would have made a difference.

Oh, you mean now? Now, you just get on with the goddamn thing, suck it up, and hope for the best. Stay cool beforehand, put on lots of sunscreen, drink enough water, and take in electrolytes. This isn’t rocket science. It’s actual normal science.

What about the wind?

Buy a power meter and stick to it. If it takes everyone longer in the wind, then what does it matter if it takes you longer too. 

And don’t crash, especially near me.

There are a lot of intense, fit-looking people. I feel like I should also be running full-speed down Ali’i every morning to prove to everyone else that I deserve to be here.

Of course you do. It’s chaos out there. Why can’t everyone reach a consensus about whether we should all run on the right or the left, with or against traffic? And, despite what you might start to think is normal purely from sheer volume, the shirtless heart rate strap look is never a good one. I mean, do whatever you need to do, but just FYI.

Here’s the secret though: Everyone is trying to get into everyone else’s head, hoping somehow when it comes down to it the other athletes will see them out on course and think, ‘Oh man, I saw him running down Ali’i really fast last week, guess he’s going to win, I might as well give up.’ Except, that’s not going to happen, right? No one is going to remember you. No one is going to care. So it’s only all in your own head. 

That means you only have to manage your head, not anyone else’s. You’ll feel a lot better if you tell yourself that every person who passes you during a workout is someone you’ll pass on Saturday. Or, just tell yourself it’s OK because they probably suck at life. Either way is likely accurate.

How do I do all the Hawaiian tourist-type stuff and still get race ready?

You don’t. If you want to take a Hawaiian vacation, take a Hawaiian vacation any time. If you want to race, race. Or at least wait until after the race to hike through lava or kayak with dolphins or whatever normal people do when they come to Hawaii.

Unless you’re in my age group. In which case you should definitely climb to the top of a volcano. I hear it’s spectacular.

Should I buy lots of new stuff at the expo to try for the first time during the race?

Probably. You should probably do everything you see other people doing, because clearly you’ve never done a triathlon before.

This shit is freaking me out.

Look, Kona is a tough race. Turns out they weren’t lying about that part. I had sort of thought they were. But it’s still just a race. Unless you’re a lottery winner, you have, by definition, already done at least one Ironman and you’ve done it somewhat proficiently. 

Just do that again. It might go terribly—you can’t control everything—or it might not. But you already knew that, so there’s no point in freaking out about it.

Where is the after party?

Wherever I am. And it starts five minutes after I finish. Whether that’s at 5:30 or 10:30 p.m. Either will require a lot of drinking.

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

I’m back! 

I know you all were anxiously awaiting my return, wandering blindly through life the last few weeks, directionless without a random triathlete to offer guidance. I can only apologize for leaving you without a guiding compass to light your way and promise to deliver truly life-changing advice moving forward, even better than any of my previous advice. You need it.

I’ve been interested in the Clydesdale and Athena divisions and why they exist. Is there a chance for the short and petite to be in their own division? Maybe fairy and gnome divisions. What about by hair color? The ginger division would be slow on the run due to lack of soles. How about low T/ low E divisions? The less of a man or less of a woman divisions. How about a bearded division for Ben’s mom? Can we do it by income level? That removes all the superbikes from my division.

Have you ever been to a lecture series, or one of those Ted Talk-type things with a Q&A at the end? I sense probably not, so let me paint a picture. Without fail, there’s always a guy in the audience who stands up during the question section and talks for awhile about something loosely related to the topic. I don’t know exactly what he says, because all I usually hear is: “Blah, blah, I think I’m really smart, let me talk about how smart I am.” Then, at the end, to make sure it qualifies in the “Q” portion of Q&A, he’ll add: “Don’t you agree?” And then he’ll sit back and bask in the warm glow of his self-perceived brilliance. 

This question is the triathlon internet version of that guy.

You know why there are so many categories. You don’t really want an answer. You want to make a point. So let me ask you a question: Why limit your derision to Clyesdale and Athena athletes? Why do we have so many age group categories at all? Is there really a difference between a 33-year-old and a 36-year-old? For that matter, why have a collegiate category? Why can’t you compete with people your age who didn’t go college? Think you’re too good for them?

There are two ways to view the proliferation of categories in triathlon. Either it’s the Great Democratization of the sport, giving everyone a chance to win in their own way, make things “fair” in a sport that exists in a world that will never truly be fair. Or, it’s a cynical ploy to buy people’s emotional investment and keep them doling out the cash for another chance at glory. You could view it either way. Your choice.

I’ve done my first few triathlons and there are always some people who bring buckets to sit on in transition. What’s their deal?

Their deal is they don’t know how to do triathlon. If you need somewhere to sit down in transition, you maybe should re-think your race strategy. If you really want to sit down, at least bring an actual chair. I’d respect that more.

I’m relatively new to triathlon and bought a new, relatively-nice road bike about 1.5 years ago. I’m starting to do longer races and would like to ride in an aero position.

I like being married so I don’t want to suggest to my wife that I need to spend my kid’s college fund on a another new bike (tri bike) for fear she’d divorce me. I’m settled on simply adding aerobars to my road bike while I cross my fingers that my kid lands a scholarship and doesn’t need the college fund after all.

My question is whether adding full aerobars with cable routing would work well with the road bike geometry, or whether I’m better off with simpler/cheaper clip-on aerobars since neither solution is ideal anyways?

Just buy clip-on aerobars. You clearly need to use the extra time you’d spend re-cabling your bike to work on your marriage instead.

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

This week, instead of terrible advice from a random triathlete, I’m bringing you much less terrible advice from Scott Tinley. Tinley talked to me at Wildflower, the day before the race, where he was totally fascinated to meet some of these new pros and is working on an article tentatively called “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Triathlon” — which he wanted to philosophize about. Apparently, that’s what he does now, since he’s a professor in sports philosophy and the history of sport at San Diego State, and an academic and writer. As he said, “I’ve been in academia as long as I was a professional triathlete, but people don’t come up to me and say, ‘oh, I took your class.'”

You can listen to the whole interview below — which has been condensed and cut down in its written form. And, yes, the recording starts right in the middle of me explaining Fantasy Triathlon to Tinley and, yes, also there is a pro meeting going on in the background. Welcome to Wildflower. Let it go.

 

Do you come down every year to race here or are you just here in the “Legend” capacity they keep talking about?

I’ve been here 30 years in a row. I don’t really put a delineator on my “capacity.”

[Wildflower] represents so much of what the sports was and still is and really could be, if there wasn’t the whole idea of corporate branding and the homogenization and all the kinds of things that might have been lost, or at least subject to change. Anything that represents the ideology of how the sport was founded in the 70s, I’m all in.

What is the ideology the sport was founded on in the 70s?

It’s not about profit. It’s not about showmanship. It’s not about drama. It’s not about tattoos on your calf.

So you don’t have a tattoo?

Not that I’m aware of.

And it’s hard to say, because as soon as I define it, it becomes fodder for manipulation. But the individual experience unmediated and less affected by external forces.

You’ve talked a lot about what it was like to move on after a professional triathlon career and how hard that is. Do you have any tips for other pros? How do you move on?

Yes, page 33 [in my book], lots of tips.

Look, it’s very contextual, it really depends on the individual, their health, their sport, their finances, their social group, their level of achievement, why they retired.

Well, for you, is it weird coming back to events like this?

It’s not weird. I’ve had to negotiate that. The first couple years I’d come back after not being a pro and go: OK, I’m going to race as a pro, but get DFL, dead fucking last. I had to wrestle with that. Then I’ve got to be in the age groups and have people pass me because I’m wearing a collared shirt and baggy pants, because I “don’t really care.” So now I really don’t care and I really don’t care.

But that said I like being around this environment, because it’s important to a lot of other people, it’s important to my past. I don’t think I disrespect it.

tinleyYou’re racing in your age group tomorrow?

I’m participating; I’m in a relay. No, no, I’m not competitive, but could I be? Yeah, sure. I’m going to be 60 in October. I could post up with aero wheels, helmet, skin suit. I do something every day, two to three hours, surf, walk, hike, swim in the ocean. By virtue of my lifestyle, I’m reasonably fit. And, more importantly, I’m healthier than I used to be. 

I could win my age group, but so what? Check that box. It’s like, I don’t have a competitive bone in my body.

Anymore or ever?

Of course I did. If you don’t have something that’s going to be an inherent challenge.

That said, some of my competitors were way more competitive than I was. Mike Pigg, for example, we’d room together and we’d go shopping and he’d have a contest: First person to the cheese section wins $50; first person that can spend $100 in their basket wins. 

That’s not me. For him, it was a pleasureful thing for him. That’s not fun for me. It was fun for him. I respected that.

Do you still talk to the other “legends” of the time period?

A few. I stay in touch with Scott Molina a fair amount; we did an amazing bike trip through Colorado last year with him and some of his friends. 

I hear from Mark and Dave once in awhile. Great people, fantastic. Tremendously proud to call them colleagues. Whatever the media said about us being competitors, incredibly overblown. We trained together, we lived together, we did a lot of things in the early 80s, get a beer, that you don’t see now.

Is it ever weird to you Mark and Dave became…

Coaches?

Coaches and, well, the book?

Well, the book, I don’t want to get into the book. Look, great story and Matt did a fantastic job of telling that story. And to my knowledge all of them are really good coaches.

You don’t coach?

No, I tried it a few times and I wasn’t into it, I wasn’t good at it. Rather than fool people and take their money, if I can help you why don’t I just send you my whole database and you can click on it. Buy me a beer if you see me.

Do you follow the sport still a lot?

No, I don’t know. I probably should. I just met Terenzo Bozzone and I know he won here a couple years ago; we were talking about places in Italy that make wine. Other than that? I totally respect what everybody’s doing. But I don’t have the interest or the time.

I follow sports deeply in a socio-cultural way because I teach it. Every morning I will follow 7-10 websites, what’s happening, what’s trending in pop culture. BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Bleacher Report I hate to admit it. Once in awhile I look on Slowtwitch, but I always feel I have to take a shower after because people there are just sniping at each other.

So, what is triathlon’s place in pop culture, society?

Well, I think people are a little bit confused. The whole endurance sport movement, out of a sub-culture to the place where any given weekend in San Diego there’s going to be 5,000 people riding their bike on the Pacific Coast Highway and paying $75-$200 for a little plastic number. 

It’s an industry, but it’s an industry based on demographic shifts. Cycling, participatory cycling’s big. Swimming’s a little behind because people are afraid of drowning. Running: If it doesn’t have color, if it doesn’t have mud, if it doesn’t have people yelling at you? If it’s just a run? People are like, oh my god, I’m not going to pay $75 if it’s just a run. 

Unfortunately, triathlon’s kind of become the new golf. To my thinking, the biggest challenge to the growth of the sport and the biggest problem right now is the cost. It’s way too expensive.

OK, what is the future of triathlon then? Is it just going to get more expensive?

No. You can always have the Four Seasons. But you need a whole bunch of Motel 6s, and a whole bunch of Marriotts. 

The Four Season, WTC, they’re the bad guy in this particular scenario. They’re creating that aura, marketing branding, $90 million brand. Great, knock yourself out. I love capitalism; I don’t want to live in a socialist environment any more than you do. But in our sport, we need more middle guys. We need more $60-70 races, no t-shirts, a couple signs at the corner, here’s a plate with some water on it. 

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

You all need lots of help. One perusal of the forum suggests just how much help you need. Fortunately, you have my advice to draw upon. And today I bring you more.

I know. You’re thinking: But it’s not Tuesday, why are you dispensing advice today? Don’t you usually tell people what to do on Tuesdays? No. I tell people what to do every day. I am a random triathlete. My advice is always desired.

Bike lane vs. bike path. Are they different and when is it acceptable to choose a car lane over a bike path?

Did you just suggest that you don’t know the difference between a bike lane and a bike path?

giphy (7)

One is a separated path and one is a lane in the road. Do you need me to also explain roads? That’s the place where cyclists get hit by cars.

Which is better depends on a couple things: Are you a small child? Do you plan to ride an actual bike or just one of those beach cruiser things? How much do you have a tendency to make drivers hate you?

There seems to be a belief among city officials who plan these things that bike paths are better and safer and necessary to encourage people to ride bikes. But these officials also seem to believe that the only people regularly riding bikes are children and possibly families with children. That means bike paths are typically disconnected from any kind of larger sense of cycling, as in rides longer than 10 miles. This results in things like: dangerous or poorly planned entrances and exits, sections where you’re encouraged to walk your bike, the necessity for strange shortcuts in order to connect to your longer ride, pedestrians and off-leash dogs running in front of your bike, and speed limits. (The bike path by my house has a 10mph speed limit. I have run faster than that on the path. At this point, let’s just admit it’s not really a bike path; it’s a path for children with bikes.)

The one thing bike paths do have going for them: no cars.

Roads have cars. But, fortunately, bike lanes protect us from those cars through the power of paint. That paint is supposed to tell cars not to hit cyclists when they’re within the lane. It has mixed results.

It is always acceptable to choose the bike lane. That’s what it’s there for. In the absence of a designated bike lane, it is also always acceptable to ride in the regular lane. That’s also what it’s there for. To be used. Just keep in mind: you might not want to have that argument with a driver while you’re on your bike. 

High Carb or High Fat diet? If high fat then still supplement on long runs/rides/races with carbs??

Neither?

Someone is probably going to get pissed at me about this summary, but: In general, there was this long-held belief that athletes needed lots of carbs. Then that changed — because, I dunno, science — and in recent years there’s been a push for a high-fat diet as a way to teach your body to burn fat, which could be beneficial what with all the untapped energy stored in your fat. Also, because there may be some long-term health risks to eating a lot of carbs. (I suppose the same long-terms risks, essentially, that there are to eating a lot generally.)

The problem is there’s not been a ton of science or research to confirm the high-fat-burning argument or to refute it. One study directly comparing the two suggested that the high-fat diet results in a higher rate of fat-burning, but that didn’t 100% make up for the increased intake of fat. And, importantly, that study didn’t look at performance or take place over a long enough period for the metabolic fat-burning changes hailed by advocates to really come into play.

From a performance standpoint, the only time your body burns fat at any sizable rate is essentially over a period longer than a marathon. So. If you want to do super long events and you want teach your body to burn fat more effectively over those super long events, then most people would argue you have to limit your carb intake during training in order to force your body to learn to use its fat stores. But limiting your carbs can then have an impact on your top-end speed/effort. Trade-offs. Life. Instead, you also could just do some of your workouts in a carb-depleted state for some of the benefits? No, there’s not really a ton of research to support that approach either, but I find it kind of works.

Or, why not just eat a reasonable amount of both?  Crazy. Not sure if the science is there yet.

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

This week, we’re dispense amazing advice in a barrage of questions. Read all our past advice, which you know has to be good because it comes from a random triathlete. Ask your own questions in the comments below or on the forum.

If I sold my tri bike, am I still a triathlete? Do I get to use my less aero road bike position as my excuse for everyone and their mother passing me on the bike?

If you finish the triathlon, you’re a triathlete. And if you’re a triathlete, then you can obviously use whatever excuses you want. But they’re still excuses.

Why do I get a shooting pain in my head if I get water in my nose on a flip turn?

It’s probably the water eroding your brain.

Or, it’s just mildly painful when you get something snorted up your nasal cavity — a challenge coke addicts have to valiantly overcome. Blow air out your nose when you flip turn and your brain will be safe.

Best motor vehicle for triathletes? Bike racks – roof or hitch?

The best car is the cheapest one that costs the least to maintain. Or, obviously, whichever one comes with the M-dot guarantee. Then, just take the wheels off your bike and put it in the trunk. Put the back seat down and any bike will fit. You do know the wheels come off, right? Kind of like this, but less shitty:

trunk bikes_zps39xb4tox

Unless you need to bring like four people with you on every ride, this should suffice for 95% of your needs. And then you don’t even have to buy anything extra. Bonus money: you won’t have to pay for the repairs that inevitably come with roof or hitch racks, from driving your bike into a low-hanging garage or backing it into another car.

I know you’re a triathlete, so not spending money feels wrong. Buy a new watch or something instead to make yourself feel better.

Blister remedies: Duct tape, vaseline, or Band-Aid Advanced Healing/Compeed pads?

During or after? During: deal with it. After: bandaids and clean it out so it doesn’t get infected. Second Skin and New Skin work well.

Does it make a difference if you do a brick run immediately after a swim or bike or is waiting 10-20min going to make a big difference…

Depends on what you’re doing with that 10-20 minutes. Drinking a beer and having a sandwich will probably not adequately simulate race conditions. (If it does, then you should fix that too.) It also depends on how bad you are at running off the bike, and how much you care. If it’s something you need to work on, then stop wasting time; set your bike down and just head out there already. If the idea, instead, is simply to be running on tired legs, then your legs will still be tired after the 10 minutes it takes to change clothes and shoes. 

All comes down to how big a “big difference” is to you. 

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

Finally, this week, questions from you all that I actually know things about! Not that, as a Random Triathlete, I don’t know everything. Because I do. Obviously. You can see how much wisdom random triathletes have to share in all our previous columns. Submit your own questions (which better be good) in the comments below, on the forum, or by messaging me directly.

I’ve done a bunch of sprints, a couple of Olympics, and a couple of 70.3s. I’m thinking about aiming for a full-distance Ironman race next season. How should I pick my first one?

Go to www.ironman.com. Click “Races” at the top of the menu bar. Filter the list by distance. Pick one. Pay $700.

Kidding. Kidding. But not really. 

With so few independent races left, your options are basically Ironman or Ironman. This makes things relatively simple. Shitty. But simple. There’s also one Rev3 full, a couple Challenge full “Ironman-distance” races, HITS for as long as that lasts, and a few good local races. I sometimes check TriFind.com to see what other races I’m forgetting about. Sometimes I even talk to triathletes — turns out they’re the ones who actually do triathlons and have experiences at races you might want to do — but I try to avoid that as a last resort.

Before you pick a race from these options:

  1. Figure out how long you need to train. Minimum, if you’re in pretty good shape already, you’ll still need a few months to get in Ironman shape. How much time you need is inversely proportional to how fit you are now. Also inversely proportional to how well you want to do.
  2. Decide when you want to race (give or take), and if you want to travel and how far. Internationally? Driving distance? Race-cation?
  3. Want kind of event are you looking for? Something easy, so you can just check the Ironman box off your list? Or something crazy but awesome, like AlaskaMan, which totally went on my tentative bucket list when it was announced?
  4. Once you have a handful of options, do research. I recommend Google. What are the courses like? The weather? How difficult is it to get to, logistically? How expensive? How have the previous years gone? I also try to consider my strengths and weakness, and what I’m good at. Hint: Just because flat and fast is often easier doesn’t mean it’s actually what you’re good at.
  5. Then start narrowing down your options. Make a list. Eliminate ones that don’t work for you or just don’t sound appealing. At that point, I go with the super Type A triathlete decision-making method: whatever my gut says I’ll kick ass at. 

What is the etiquette when you are continually passing a backstroker who insists on speeding up when you try to pass him? Overall the issue of “getting chicked” is mostly funny, but in the pool it’s annoying and when out cycling it can be downright dangerous – think the tractor chicken scene from Footloose. I have never once had this issue with another woman, it’s always dudes.

Of course it’s dudes. Mostly old dudes. Instead of “backstroker,” we’re just going to substitute “old dude making one last feeble attempt to cling to his outdated misguided shreds of masculinity.” I’m pretty sure all the old dudes actually had a meeting and voted to decide that the pool is where they’re making their final stand. This is their Alamo. One time, I got punched in the face during lap swimming by an old dude doing what I assume was breaststroke. Then I had to spend two weeks explaining to my boss, who had never done a workout in her life, that my black eye was not the result of domestic violence and that actually my suspicious sounding excuse was a real thing. “Sure,” she kept saying, “open lap swim, whatever that is.”

My point is this: If you want to fight the old dudes, you better be prepared for a balls-out, all-in fight.

Generally, I don’t find it worth it, since, in the long run, we’ve got time on our side. In 10 years, there’ll be more of us alive than them. It’s easier instead to spend hours and hours training in the pool alone, just to get fast enough to not have to be in the same lane as the old dude. That’ll take less time than trying to convince him you’re a better athlete.

In the immediate, you have a few options, in order of preferability:

  • Don’t get in a lane with an old dude backstroking in the first place. Discourage any old dudes from getting in your lane.
  • Stop circle swimming, at least until people are capable of understanding speed differentials. I am, literally, quitting my gym because I can not do any more circle swimming in the same lane as people floating on their backs. 
  • Swim faster. 
  • Change lanes, ideally as passive aggressively as possible.
  • Go full “female” on him. Smile, smile, thanks so much for sharing the lane with me. I don’t want to get in your way, so here’s what I’m going to be doing. Whether or not you like it. *smile* And then just do your workout as though he’s not there. If anything goes wrong, like he drowns, smile again and act confused. He’ll find that believable.
  • Tap the old dude’s feet. Over and over and over. Make it a game to see how many times you can tap his feet. You can also do that thing where you stop a few feet short of the wall and just change direction, so that now you’re in front of him going back the other way. Keep this up until he gets out.
  • Treat it like open water swim practice. If the old dude won’t let you pass, use your elbows, arms, and legs to encourage him to move. Swim him into the lane line. It’s not your fault. You’re just over here swimming. And you have the advantage, because he’s on his back and maybe you happen to be a very splash-heavy swimmer. If there’s oncoming traffic, even better. It’s like an exciting triathlon! Plus, then you can win that oncoming swimmer over to your side in The Great Pool Wars of 2016.

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

As always, I am here, your Random Triathlete, to solve all your random triathlon problems. Just because I don’t know what I’m talking about doesn’t mean I’m not right. Check for yourself by reading all our best advice or ask your own question by leaving a comment below or messaging me.

What are your best triathlon life hacks? I’m trying to understand how to balance family, work, life, and triathlon.

Here’s a hack: get rid of the family. Also the social life. It’s a lot easier to juggle two things than four. Basically, in the circus that wouldn’t even be called juggling. It’d just be called holding two balls.

People talk all the time about ways to “balance” life and triathlon: Leave before your kids realize you’re gone. Do your workouts in the dark morning hours. Hire a gardener. Make your meals on Sunday for the whole week. Pack and label them in cute Tupperware.

But these people are lying to you. There are no hacks for creating more time. Time is finite. A four-hour ride takes four hours whether you start at 6 a.m. or 10 a.m. All you can do is waste less of that time picking out an outfit or hanging out at the coffee shop. 

 

The only real hack for balancing it all is to stop caring about all of it. You know what takes less time than hiring a gardener? Not caring about having a garden in the first place. I actually cooked a few meals from scratch last week and I finally figured out what you all are doing instead of your workouts: chopping vegetables. You do know it’s 2016, right? You can buy that shit pre-chopped. And they’re doing amazing things with frozen and prepared meals these days. If you stop worrying about decorating the house or browsing the farmers’ market for freshly picked kale or blow-drying your hair or attending baby showers and gender reveal parties and one-year-old birthdays (tell that kid he gets to pick one party, that’s it), then you’ll realize you have lots of time. You were just spending it poorly.

Has anyone asked what the best chamois cream is?

I’m going to say something crazy, insane, going to rock the triathlon world. But as A Random Triathlete, I feel confident my way is the best way. I also feel confident that you want to hear all about it. Ready?

I don’t use chamois cream.

Since I don’t generally poll people on their genital habits, I’m not sure if this is a gender thing or a specific ‘me being grossed out by shoving something called DZ Nuts down my pants’ thing. But I do know it has not caused a problem in my life.

Look, you’re a triathlete. You don’t even bike that much anyway. Not spreading cream on your junk really doesn’t make things any less comfortable. Unless it’s raining, in which case, yes, then non-chamois-creamed things get ugly. But I’m pretty sure chamois-creamed things get ugly in the rain too. And otherwise, nope, it’s fine. Not a problem. And bonus, you don’t have to worry about that cream getting nasty while you waste time sitting around in your bike shorts at the coffee shop. Maybe instead of chamois cream, you just need nicer shorts?

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

This week, we answer both the big and the small questions. Like really big, like metaphorical in their scope, and yet incredibly tiny and detailed in their smallness. This is basically how vast my expertise is. You can read all my previous amazing advice here.

Or ask your own questions by submitting them on the forum here or by direct messaging me. We probably won’t mock you, but we might. 

I started crying in the middle of this really tough long run a few weeks ago. My marathon is coming up in two weeks. You’ve said before you cry sometimes in workouts, so I thought I guess it’s not a big deal, but I’m worried?

Are you a woman? I’m going to guess you’re a woman. I say this not because those of us among the “frailer” sex cry more — I mean, manly man tears are absolutely a real thing — but because after an exhaustive survey of the female athletes currently in my living room it turns out that 100% of them reach peak crying about one month before a big race.

Manly man tears.

Manly man tears.

Look, this isn’t baseball. There is definitely crying in triathlon. And if Tom Hanks says otherwise, then challenge him to a goddamn race. I cried once in my car after a swim workout for no reason. I had completely killed the workout — just wanted to be totally clear about how awesome I am — but found myself sitting in front of the community center, as parents averted their eyes and rushed their kids past me, sobbing for NO REASON. Or rather, the reason was that I was four weeks out from an Ironman. There has never been a marathon I didn’t cry either during or after — ideally after, it works out better when it’s not during. And yet, there’s no asterisk next to any of my times that says, ‘oh, sorry, didn’t count, she shed female weakness from her eyes.’

Because here’s what those manly men don’t realize: it doesn’t fucking matter.

Who cares if you cry? As long as you keep going. Every female athlete I know has cried at some point during training. Every guy I know just gets weirdly agro and neurotic, which is not better. All it means is that you’re walking the line between mental, physical, emotional fatigue v. fitness. Just don’t get too far over that line. Stop crying eventually. Seriously, pull it together during a race, because you need to be able to breathe. Go eat something. Take a nap. And then get back to it. And tell anyone who says otherwise that locking in their emotions like that will lead to heart disease.

(Bonus pro tip: Breaking into involuntary massive weeping as soon as you cross the finish line is actually a guaranteed way to get some top-level medical attention.)

I was using different Newton running shoes for training and racing different length races tri/running.  I was finding when I started running, my muscle along my shin and my calf muscles were on fire and fatigued.  I attributed that to the blocks on the sole and me already running on my forefoot, so ending up running on my toes.

I tried out a pair of Altra’s and found them to alleviate my issues.  But after using them for 1-2 months now, I am starting to get a blister on the back of my foot.  I then noticed that I had wear on the backs of both shoes.  The pair that I bought were the last of last year’s model, and I took them without realizing that I could probably go down a 1/2 size. But having many different sizes of Newtons I never thought too much of it.  

My question is, do you think it could be a brand issue on how they fit me, or and issue with sizing? I also am trying a pair of Pearl Izumi’s bought by a friend, which are also could go down a 1/2 size, but have no issues with blisters.  I have not run longer than 7 miles in them though.

I love the incredible specificity of this question. Look, I know lots of things, so many things, but you know what I don’t know: What kind of shoes you should wear. You know what it sounds like you’d benefit from? A person with specialized knowledge about shoes actually watching you run and making a suggestion specific to you and your problems. I hear they have these people at local running stores.

Now for some vague generalizations:

  • Many people seem to have calf and shin soreness when they begin running in Newtons. I have no opinion about whether this is good, bad, or neither, but it seems not great.
  • The heel blisters could be related to the wear pattern or they could not be. I’d start narrowing down the possibilities by buying shoes that are the right size.
  • If other shoes don’t give you blisters and other shoes seem to fit just fine, then it’s most likely a brand issue. Not everyone likes every shoe. But you should probably buy lots and lots more brands in not exactly the right sizes just to be sure.

Seriously, go to your local running store and find someone who knows things about shoes.

 

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

Hey, yo, if you want advice from a random triathlete — and who doesn’t — then ask me questions either on this thread on the forum (which has gotten wildly hijacked by idiots who wear GPS watches while swimming), or leave a comment below, or message me directly. I can promise that sometimes my advice is actually useful, like this amazing insight or this or this definitely less helpful but still fantastic advice.

Today I’m doling out wisdom on weight loss and triathlon shoes. Extra pro tip: lower-cut socks make your ankles and legs look skinner. Calf-length cycling socks make you look fat. True fact. 

I want to lose 13 pounds before my next race, in a few weeks. How do I do that? Or should I just give up? I don’t seem to lose weight even when I’m training.

13 pounds in a few weeks? Going into a race that, presumably, you care about? Great plan. Fantastic. Just the kind of plan I expect from a triathlete.

giphy (6)

(I don’t know if that gif really had anything to do with your question, but I’ve been wanting to use it.)

Look, if I had some amazing weight loss secret, then my advice would cost a lot more than you all are paying me. Stop drinking so much beer. That should knock off a few pounds going into a race and it sounds like you probably drink too much anyway. Other than that, there isn’t some big secret. Obviously, most of the time losing weight is just a matter of burning off calories v. taking in calories, over a prolonged and steady period of time. Obviously, there are also caveats to this rule, and special issues and conditions. And you might be one of those super special people. Or you might not.

But here’s my extra special caveat: I’m not sure you can lose weight and get faster at the same time. 

If you’re training a lot, and if you want to be fast then you should be training a lot, then you need to be taking in enough calories to maintain that training effectively. Sure, you can cultivate a slight deficit to lose some weight over weeks or months. And, sure, there’s something to be said for not going nuts with the Oreos just because you got your bike out of the garage. But is forcing the issue worth it? If you err on the side of too high a deficit, you risk injury and fatigue and, ultimately, being slow(er). (Unless you’re primarily swimming, because swimming is messed up and you don’t burn anywhere close to as many calories as you feel like you do, which has to do with the difference in water temperature v. body temperature, or is just because you took Michael Phelps’ diet way too seriously.)

So pick: skinny or fast? I’d always pick fast.

In reading an old race report of yours I saw reference to using running shoes instead of triathlon shoes. In all of my one year of experience in triathlon, I haven’t heard of triathlon shoes. How do they differ from regular running shoes? 

They don’t. Not in the basics: there are laces, soles, uppers. You run in them. But companies sure would like you to think they’re different and worth extra money.

Triathlon shoes, generally, have triathlon-specific features that vary in their usefulness, but that someone somewhere has decided are key to selling things to gullible triathletes:

  • Quick laces
  • Easy built-in loops to pull them on quickly
  • Seamless interiors for sock-less running
  • Drainage holes — which may be the biggest crock of shit triathletes have all universally agreed to accept as a thing
A "triathlon" shoe

A “triathlon” shoe

Typically, these shoes are variations on a basic racing flat, but often with slightly more stability or cushioning than your average racing flat. The assumption there being that triathletes are merely masquerading as runners. 

I think, once it gets to longer distances though, these things have even less usefulness than they might have before, and it makes more sense to wear whatever running shoes you like to wear. The most popular shoes at Kona this fall were Asics and the fastest marathon that day was run in a pair of Skechers GoMeb Speed 3s (which my husband still doesn’t believe is a real shoe). So, you do you. Wear whatever you want to wear. Just don’t wear Vibrams.

Articles by Kelly O'Mara

As a random triathlete, I have a lot of opinions. Even about things I don’t know or care about. Yesterday, I got in a fight over whether or not World War II was considered “the second Gold Rush” in California. Do I know anything about this? No. Did I ever even think about this topic before last night? Nope. Did that stop me? Not even a little.

See, now I can bring that kind of depth of insight and passion to your problems. Except about triathlon.

You can read all my amazing advice here. Submit your own questions to be solved in the comments below, by messaging me directly if you want anonymity (which is a real thing, OK), or on this post in the forum.

My girlfriend and I just broke up. It’s been a very emotional, two-year relationship. And I just don’t think I can do the race tomorrow.

This was an actual in real life question asked last weekend. Or, rather, not so much a question as a statement. But there’s an implied question: Am I making lame excuses? Our group was evenly split between ‘Yes, stop whining’ and ‘Fuck it, finish off that ice cream.’ I don’t really know you, but still I feel fully qualified to pass judgment on your relationship and am sure I can accurately capture the emotional scope of the thing. So here goes:

Whether or not you should race post-relationship-drama really comes down to one thing: Are you?

a. Angry
b. Sad
c. Tired
d. Relieved

If b. or c. outweigh more than 50% of your other emotions, then the likelihood of the race ending badly, thus leading to greater emotional wreckage and a downward out-of-control spiral of self-doubt, is too high. Not speaking from experience or anything. 

You want to know what to do? Don’t get into emotional drama pre-race in the first place. Avoid confrontation. Nod and smile. Pent up your anger inside to be let out on race morning. They can’t break up with you if they can’t find you, and I’m sure your relationship will still be unhealthy after the race. This may not solve your problem right now, but it’s solid A+ advice for the next girlfriend. 

Right now, the only thing to do is decide: either say ‘screw it, I’ll show her,’ or commit to sitting on the couch and crying. Don’t half-ass it. Don’t start the race and then use it as an excuse to quit later when things start to hurt. Races always hurt eventually, whether or not your girlfriend broke up with you. It’s not like all those triathletes in healthy relationships don’t feel pain. In fact, they’re probably too soft and complacent anyway. They don’t have anything to prove. So decide. Are you going to be soft? Or are you going to be a triathlete about this, leaving destroyed relationships in your wake?

Latex or Butyl and why?

Look, I’m practically a triathlon genius and I had to Google to figure out what the hell you’re talking about. Latex or butyl? Who cares.

Yes, there are arguments for both. You can literally read all about the benefits of latex v. butyl on this cycling website or this one or this one. You know what I ride? Yeah, I don’t know either. Whatever’s sitting on the fucking shelf in our living room. Because here’s the real answer to your question: Stop Googling “Latex or Butyl” and start training more.

Triathletes spend too much time worrying about shaving 5% off their time by positioning their water bottle differently or wearing a certain type of skinsuit or buying different wheels. You know what determines the other 95% of your race? Training. Maybe you should spend more time on that.