An Open Letter to Editor of Triathlete Magazine After Bashing Boulder Tri Community

Dear Kelly O’Mara, Editor-in-Chief of Triathlete Magazine,

This letter, from me Bill Plock, owner of 303Endurance Network, a native of Colorado, a triathlete and an advocate is in response to your Editor’s Note in the May/June issue of Triathlete Magazine where you wrote:

When I first got ready to start this Editor’s Note, I was going to make fun of the Boulder Tri scene. I was going to tell you how I think it’s overrated and I don’t “get” it. I was going to poke to fun of the weirdly terrible bike paths and perpetual poor air quality. I was going to laugh at all the YouTube videos always being filmed everywhere you workout—as if the entire town is just a backdrop for social media… But then the day I started writing, a man with a gun walked ibnto a grocery store here in town and shot 10 people…In reality, I still think the Boulder tri scene is silly. I’ll probably make fun of it again soon…

Where do I begin? Let’s see, using a mass murder shooting as a reason to not further bash the Boulder triathlon community, the athletes, and the people who work their asses off to provide infrastructure for safe routes for cyclists seems like a start. But wait, you did then go on to do exactly that… bash the Boulder community and the Boulder triathlon community anyway? 

And then you go on to say you will probably make fun of Boulder again soon? Seriously? Why? Maybe you should spend some time in the community and apologize. 

I realize this is your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it. However, as an industry representative speaking on a public platform to a wide audience – especially considering Triathlete’s recent partnership with USA Triathlon – your middle-school-bullying approach is damaging, offensive, and unprofessional.

To call the Boulder triathlon scene “overrated,” or triathletes (mostly pro’s) “silly” for making YouTube videos or bike paths “weird” or the air too polluted is simply outrageous.  Did you sit in town council meetings planning those bike paths? You were a pro triathlete, you know how hard sponsorships are, why bash athletes trying to make a social media effort? Where else would you like them to go? And the air pollution—sure, during fire season there are bad days, but you paint a picture for those outside of Boulder or Colorado that is wrong. (If you do the research, you will learn much of our air pollution is also a result of our high frequency of full sun days, combined with wind patterns from other states and countries.) Who are you to judge?  

Last I checked, Triathlete Magazine is part of Outside (formerly Pocket Outdoor Media) and is based in Boulder. Am I right? So you have chosen to make fun of the very community in which you work. Why make fun of professional triathletes making YouTube videos while training during a pandemic to try to be relative to their sponsors? Those same athletes who spend time on your podcasts or provide content for your readers and, like you, are trying to make a living in this industry not known to be lucrative. Aren’t we here to help each other? 

Additionally, Triathlete Magazine’s reach to youth, first-time triathletes, Olympic hopefuls, and Team USA members are now among your front-row audience. You have wielded your PR wand in a terribly damaging and harmful way.

The Boulder bike path system is what makes Boulder one of the most bike friendly cities in the country. How many employees at Outside ride those trails? Did you know recently a sister publication of Outside graciously helped gather content for a cyclist killed a few miles south of Boulder to help the community heal? Do you know how hard it is to advocate for what you call, “those weirdly terrible bike paths” that undoubtedly save lives? What’s silly about that? Do you know the local advocacy team at Cyclists for Community? They are friends of mine because I ride with them. I take the time to know their mission. I would love to watch you tell them how silly those paths are at their next fund raiser. 

So coming out of a pandemic with people anxious to race, and on the heels of a tragic shooting event, you call triathletes in Boulder silly? You call the triathlon community overrated? Overrated compared to what? Did you go to the Colorado Triathlon last weekend and feel the joy of athletes seeing each other again? Do you know Lance Panigutti of Without Limits and how hard he worked to save his business this past year? And you call him and the community overrated? How dare you. 

Here is what Lance has to say, 

I’ve had the opportunity to call Boulder home for 18 years before my wife and I moved to Denver. Recently an article in Triathlete sought to poke fun at that home in the most passive aggressive manner possible. Maybe the editor thought 8th grade bullying was “cool again,” or needed content for her “Burn Book,” but I’ll always defend the community that has fueled my passion for 13 years. In Boulder we celebrate the “weird” and embrace the “silly”.  In 2008, at 25 years old , with $600 and a 96’ VW Jetta to my name, my brother and I had an event vision one might call “silly.” But the “Boulder Triathlon Scene” not only cheered us on, they’ve supported us every step of the way.  We now have the honor of producing a variety of triathlons, cycling, and cyclocross races across Colorado for amateurs and elites.  We live to race in the “poor air quality,” consistently stunned by the gorgeous backdrop of our playground. To those YouTube creators we say, “dare to dream, chase your Olympic or Kona goals, and keep posting so others may be attracted to take up the endurance lifestyle.” We call all of you friends, many of you family, and we can’t wait for you to join us on a start line, no matter how “silly” a few might think we are!  

The Colorado Triathlon June 5th 2021

Well. You lost me as a fan of the magazine, and probably many others, including a large number of community athletes, business owners, industry professionals, and endurance sports influencers who have reached out to me to support this response message.

I’m sure you were trying to be somewhat funny and in jest. I know you are a good athlete and triathlete and probably a nice person, but you messed this up. I’m sure you think you know your stuff. But you know what? You don’t know the community in which you work and that supports your publication. That’s a shame, and unforgivable.  

Sincerely,

Bill Plock

Here is a copy of the entire letter.

13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Editor of Triathlete Magazine After Bashing Boulder Tri Community

  1. I don’t live in Colorado but love spending time in Boulder. I was perplexed at the Triathlete Mag piece and thought it was lame. And I agree it was very bad taste to conflate the shooting with the community writ large. I’ve been disappointed with the magazine’s content over the past few years. It’s lost much of its relevance to most triathletes. Who on earth was the editor trying to impress? And whoever else she vetted this with bears responsibility for not asking this question. Thank you for calling this out.

  2. Bill
    I’m not sure Kelly deserves the level of criticism you have dished out. Yes she did make a mistake of talking about what she had planned to do and was then stopped because of the shooting in King Sooper. She did not go into any detail explaining why she things we are silly. If at another time she had written about our silliness perhaps we could have had a good laugh and make fun of her. I would agree that for an editor in chief she made a very bad mistake and it will be unforgivable if she does not reply to your letter and to us, the Boulder Tri Community.

    1. Thanks for your comment Simon, and perhaps if she had explained why things were silly it would’ve been better. I guess saying she was gonna make fun of Boulder more, but decided to hold back because of the tragedy feels very disingenuous, like why say anything at all until there is time to offer more details. Like a very back handed way of taking a jab at Boulder unnecessarily.

    2. I wholeheartedly disagree Simon.
      It’s not acceptable for any “editor” to bash a community and co-opt a horrible tragedy for their own incomprehensible agenda. She’s needs to be fired. Sorry.

  3. I am a little in shock frankly. I lived in this state for my whole life and while we are so blessed, there are many amazing places here that include Boulder on the list. More so, shocked that she would use the shooting the gray the palate in her favor. Really disappointing and I won’t be reading Triathlete magazine.

  4. Wow. I am a Boulder resident, business owner, mother, wife and triathlete. My business has been in the same shipping center as the King Soopers massacre for 11 years. That is my community. My husband was minutes away from being in that store. Our employees were locked in our business until late at night, when the police finally told them it was safe to go.
    Is this a horrible, horrible attempt at humor? Sarcasm? Never mind bashing a large and dedicated triathlon community. This is a town that is still reeling from a tragedy. Bless your entitled life and job that gives you the comfort to go after Boulder 3 months after a mass shooting. Shame on you.

  5. Well written response, Mr Plock, in my humble opinion. For an Editor in Chief of a magazine, she sure missed the mark. To try to make fun of a community (triathlon that is, not Boulder in particular) she was suppose to represent, promote, engage and support, the intent to make fun of it was cheap.
    With a nation and community which has seen 18 months of lost guiding light, as far as racing and all that it entails, I would have rather focused on how Boulder has been amongst the first wave of places to see racing come back.
    I do not live in Boulder. Never have. I do not live in Colorado, for that matter. The one time I visited the state, specifically Colorado Springs for a weekend, was so I could be present at Boulder tri the summer of 2018. I made the trip to scope the race, the area, the course in preparation for at some point coming back to race Boulder tri and Boulder Ironman races. I fell in love with Colorado, the area, the community. There is no other sport, field, industry that I can think of, where an unknown average human being can sit next to tue most excellent athletic machine, without security, and with mutual respect. And while on the course during the same race, we cheer each other on regardless.
    I have yet to come back to Boulder to race the races. I may even retire there. And from over a thousand miles away, I welcome the pictures, postings, YouTube workout videos. A pro woman sharing with the non-pro women her struggle / journey back post giving birth, badass cancer fighters pushing through – what qualifies any of these for being silly. More so after a year in which having had a rug pulled from underneath us in what has given us purpose, satisfaction, health in any aspect possible.
    Yes, big mistake and a bad judgement call, ma’am Editor in Chief. While you may be entrenched in your feeling for what Boulder does, is, have you considered that there are those whose roads at home have not even a foot wide shoulder to ride on, get driven off the road by cars straight to ERs(at best), that the air quality is a result of fires (I witnessed that in my 3 days stay there too). There are many of us whom would take all of these aspects of living in Boulder worst your fun poking, over wherever we may live, to be able to live in a community. Tragedy is not what should stop being selfish. Of course we are all entitled to our opinions, but isn’t this a bit of a biting the hands that feeds one?

  6. Your decision to commingle the very painful topic of our neighbors dying in a mass shooting with an op-ed piece about cities for triathletes is beyond inappropriate. I’ll be contacting your sponsors, advertisers and USA Triathlon to urge you to step down from this editor post. You should be ashamed of the damage your narrow minded, insensitive, misguided attempt at humor has inflected.

    The Boulder triathlon community is vast, encompassing people from Boulder, yes, but many other cities too. It’s quirky, and funky, and all kinds of wonderful.

    No community deserves to be mocked, and under no circumstances should the victims of a senseless act of violence open a magazine dedicated to sport and be greeted with a flip reference to a tragedy in service of an article that underhandedly mocks them, their community, and potentially themselves and the people they love.

    As just one of thousands of voices on the front range, we urge you to apologize. And resign.

  7. Wow – I am a local resident, age group triathlete, and while I know that there can be some humor in how seriously we take our tri scene here, it does lead to great things like bike lanes, dedicated bike paths, vehicular awareness of bikes, and the many other reasons so many triathletes call Boulder home. To make fun of us in the context of a shooting is just way off the mark. Furthermore, Kelly raced the CO Tri on saturday – why bother to participate if you think it’s such a joke?!

  8. My fiancée and myself are moving to Boulder, after many years in Colorado Springs. The amazing trails and bike trails are just fantastic compared to everywhere else I have been in Colorado. And then …. the entire support system including swimming at many locations is amazing in Boulder! What a great place to train and live! Many of us in the Springs have said “if finances are right, we would rather be in Boulder”. I am excited for the move.
    Finally, I wonder why it is necessary to make fun of a wonderful community where riding a bike on the roads is actually safe? The triathlon community is very deep and strong, from professionals to beginners. Why make fun of a community that has huge support for triathlon and all it stands for? Fitness is a core part of life for many in Boulder. Embrace that support!!!

  9. I’m unclear on the silly bike paths. The only silly thing is we don’t have more. MY GAWD could I love the bike paths any more than I do (except in the summer by the recycling center in East Boulder)? No!

    Can somebody explain why they’re silly?

  10. Bill, thank you for your reply. Thoughtful, classy, and supportive. The exact opposite of the crap coming from Kelly these days.

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