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!
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.
Here is a copy of the entire letter.