Outspoken: Women in Triathlon Summit

FOR RELEASE MAY 1, 2018

Announcing the Outspoken: Women in Triathlon Summit Presented by Triathlete Magazine

First-Ever Women in Triathlon Summit Gives Athletes, Coaches, Race Producers, and Industry Leaders the Tools to Help Make Triathlon a More Inclusive Sport

Boulder, Colorado, USA — May 1, 2018 — Triathlete Magazine, the world’s #1 triathlon resource, will present the Outspoken: Women in Triathlon Summit this fall, a partnership between Live Feisty Media and Shift Sports. The summit will bring together amateur and professional triathletes, coaches, industry professionals, race organizers and members of the media to discuss the past, present, and future of gender equity in triathlon. The ultimate goal of the summit is to create a vision for the future of women in triathlon, develop leadership skills, and foster meaningful connections amongst attendees. Attendees will hear from leaders on the state of gender equality in triathlon today, coaching and mentoring women athletes, supporting entrepreneurship and leadership, advocacy and activism, and how to empower the next generation of female triathletes and sports leaders. Outspoken: Women in Triathlon Summit will take place November 30th through December 2nd at the AC Marriott in Tempe, Arizona. To learn more and register, visit outspokensummit.com.

“Over my 12-year career as a professional triathlete, I saw many opportunities for women just beginning their triathlon journey,” said Dr. Sara Gross, cofounder of Outspoken and CEO of Live Feisty Media. “But what’s missing is the next level: industry leadership roles, more women coaches, and equality at all levels of racing. To create the next generation of women triathletes, we must first push the boundaries of the sport itself and by working with Triathlete, the Outspoken Summit will kick off that conversation.”

“For 35 years, Triathlete magazine has been the mouthpiece of the sport,” said Erin Beresini, Editor-in-Chief. “This partnership with Outspoken will bring our message of inclusivity to life. It will also give a voice to an integral part of the triathlon community that traditionally—as in many other sports and businesses in general—has not been included in decision-making positions of power.”

The Outspoken Summit will span three days and include keynote speakers from across triathlon as well as sessions geared to consider triathlon’s history of inclusion, where the sport should head, and how attendees can help effect positive change. Summit and Shift Sports cofounder Dr. Lisa Ingarfield said, “One key reason women are underrepresented in endurance sports leadership is that the conversation stagnates. The Outspoken Summit will go deeper to consider the roots of the problem. This partnership will break down the silos, deepen the dialogue, and create lasting change for all triathletes.” Panel discussions will look at triathlon’s past participants, check in with the present demographics and trends, and describe a more inclusive version of the sport’s future. Summit attendees will also enjoy coached morning workouts, networking sessions, and a variety of smaller breakout sessions to tackle specific topics.

The two-year partnership between Outspoken Summit and Triathlete includes advertising and editorial support from Triathlete and Women’s Running magazines. “The issues of equality and inclusiveness go deeper than just triathlon,” said Rob Wood, Chief Revenue Officer for the publisher Pocket Outdoor Media. “Women are the future for endurance sports. Bringing more voices to this conversation will only help the industry succeed. We are proud to be leading this initiative with the Outspoken Summit founders and we invite other brands to join us this November in bringing more women into our sports.”

About Pocket Outdoor Media

Pocket Outdoor Media is the leading publisher in endurance sports. Pocket Outdoor Media’s brands influence and engage more athletes than any other through a combined print, online, and social audience of 44 million runners, cyclists, triathletes, and swimmers. Our brands include VeloNews, the authoritative voice of cycling; Triathlete, the world’s #1 triathlon resource; Women’s Running, the world’s largest running magazine for women; Competitor.com, the most trusted website for runners; and VeloPress, the world’s leading publisher of books on endurance sports. Pocket Outdoor Media is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado and has an office in San Diego, California. See more at pocketoutdoormedia.com.

About Outspoken Summit
The Outspoken Summit is a partnership between Live Feisty Media and Shift Sports. Live Feisty Media produces the IronWomen and If We Were Riding podcasts, hosts written content at livefeisty.com and provides live video coverage at numerous triathlon events in North America. Shift Sports is dedicated to assisting triathlon organizations, teams, and events in initiating and sustaining inclusive practices by looking beyond participation numbers alone.

Media, Sponsorship and Partnership Inquiries: Outspoken Summit
Dr. Sara Gross, Cofounder, sara@livefeisty.com
Dr. Lisa Ingarfield, Cofounder, info@shiftsports.org

Media Inquiries: Triathlete Magazine
Erin Beresini, Editor-in-Chief, eberesini@pocketoutdoormedia.com, (858) 768-6740

Advertising, Sponsorships, and Partnerships
Gordon Selkirk, Triathlete Publisher, gselkirk@pocketoutdoormedia.com, (949) 444-1086
Rob Wood, Chief Revenue Officer, rwood@pocketoutdoormedia.com, (303) 245-2102

Pocket Outdoor Media
3002 Sterling Circle, Ste 100
Boulder, CO USA 80301
pocketoutdoormedia.com

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Women’s Wednesday: A Culture of Silence

A Culture of Silence

By Lisa Ingarfield

Two weeks ago, the Southern California News Group and OC Register broke the story of rampant sexual abuse in USA Swimming (USAS). The sexual abuse, largely perpetrated by coaches, was overlooked and/or covered up time and again by USAS and occurred over decades. Over this time period, there are over 590 alleged victims. Many coaches were held accountable through the criminal justice system, but were not banned from coaching by the USAS, or USAS was aware of the behavior (and didn’t do anything) decades before any criminal investigation was initiated. This, of course, comes on the heels of former USA Gymnastic (USAG) coach Larry Nassar finally being held accountable for the sexual abuse of over 200 young girls while serving as USAG’s medical doctor. In both cases, athletes came forward to their national governing body (NGB), law enforcement was involved at different points, and still victims weren’t believed and coaches weren’t held accountable.

And then today, this headline pops up in my news feed: Top Volleyball Coach Raped Girls Hundreds Of Times, Lawsuit Alleges.

       

       

We just finished the Winter Olympics, and many of you may have rejoiced in Shaun White’s gold medal. But did you know he was accused of sexual harassment by a former member of his band? He allegedly sent her explicit images of himself, asked her to wear sexually provocative clothing, and forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, among other problematic and hostile behaviors. After his win, when asked about the allegations by the press, he referred to them as “gossip.”

While he later apologized for this comment, it is another example of how violence against women in sport is routinely minimized, erased, and covered up. White settled the lawsuit against him in 2017. His behavior apparently wasn’t severe (relevant?) enough for the USA Olympic Committee (USOC) to ban White from PyeongChang. When money and medals are at stake, pushing the sexual harassment of girls and women off to the sidelines is acceptable, right? After several months of pressure from senators and former Olympians, Scott Blackmun, the head of the USOC, just stepped down. Under his leadership, the USOC failed to intervene in numerous cases of sexual abuse that came to its attention.

Brett Sutton, a well known triathlon coach was also convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, a minor he coached. He was given a two year suspended sentence and was suspended from Triathlon Australia and ITU and is barred from coaching in Australia. Yet, he is still a successful coach, and his criminal act — because, yes, it was criminal — is hotly debated in triathlon circles, although generally receives very little attention overall.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, former Olympic swimmer, runs Champion Women, an organization dedicated to supporting women and girls in sport. She is also a civil rights attorney and regularly represents college athletes with Title IX claims against their schools. She was integral in pushing for the resignation of USOC chief executive Blackmun. She shares: “The [fight against the] issue of sexual abuse in club and Olympic sports has been going on for about twenty years.” In 2014, she represented 19 victims of sexual abuse in the sport of swimming, and nothing really changed in US Swimming. In fact, USAS chief executive Chuck Wielgus was shortly thereafter honored by the USOC. But now, something is different, Hogshead-Makar laments. The #MeToo campaign and the women who came forward in the Nassar case “showed the depth of the emotional harm that occurs as a result of sexual abuse,” says Hogshead-Makar. This helped people understand, rather than dismiss, women’s repeated complaints of sexual abuse.

Last month, the U.S. Congress voted to pass the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act. This act, championed by Hogshead-Makar and many others, was signed into law on February 14th. The law does a few things including making NGBs, including the USOC, mandatory reporters of child and sexual abuse. They must report to law enforcement within 24 hours complaints alleging abuse. Prior to the law, NGBs and in the case of USAG, Michigan State University, argued they did not have a duty to protect if made aware of Nassar’s sexual abuse. And this is largely true. Olympic or professional athletes are not employees or students, and so Title XII and Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act do not apply to them. With the passage of the recent Safe Sport law, this will no longer be a legitimate legal argument. The law also extends the statute of limitations to 10 years from the point a person realizes they were sexually abused, and entitles victims to statutory and punitive damages. The U.S. Center for Safe Sport, based here in Denver, is also designated as the investigatory body for all sexual abuse complaints reported. If you are a USA Triathlon coach, you will have taken its sexual abuse module as part of your certification requirements.

The prevailing thread through the examples in this article, as well as many others, is the culture of silence surrounding the behavior of coaches and high profile athletes. There has been barely a peep about White’s sexual harassment case during NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, and we know for decades leaders at Michigan State University, USAG, and the USOC did nothing about Nassar’s repeated sexual assaults on the gymnasts he was supposed to be caring for. USAS seems to be the same way. We will have to wait to see what happens with the Chicago area volleyball coach accused of sexually assaulting a number of his athletes. As a culture, we are routinely willing to look the other way and make excuses for perpetrators (who are almost always men). We need to ask ourselves why one girl’s or woman’s complaint is not enough to take seriously. Why does a coach’s word hold more sway? Why does it need to tip past 100 complaints for any substantive public action to be taken? How does power, money, and winning play into all of this? The decisions made time and again would lead many of us to believe a girl’s life is of less value than a coach’s reputation and winning gold.

Leaders in USAG and USAS covered up, failed to report, settled cases, and in some cases paid damages, while trying to desperately to keep the information out of the news. This takes effort. These are not isolated incidents of one bad apple. They are representative of a long term pattern of behavior that continually excuses incidences of sexual abuse. There has to be a network of people ensuring perpetrator behavior continues unchecked or to blame the victim and explain it away when a report does make the light of day. This is the problem and it is widespread. Silence is complicity. We must demand more from our NGBs, from the USOC, and from our fellow coaches. We must believe victims, and we must ensure the scores of coaches entering triathlon (or any sport) understand abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in the sport, will not be ignored, covered up, or hidden. There will be consequences. Each of us has an individual and collective responsibility to make sure this happens.

Hogshead-Makar urges: “When a victim and/or witnesses to sexual abuse is ready, please have them file a complaint with the U.S. Center for SafeSport. [They can also] call directly at: 720-531-0340.”

Women’s Wednesday: #MeToo – and Triathlon

By Lisa Ingarfield

I am sure many of you have become aware of the resurgence of the hashtag #MeToo trending on social media in the wake of the numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. My feed was full of #MeToo hashtags–hundreds of people sharing, maybe for the first time, that they too have been a victim of sexual assault and harassment. And then there are all those individuals who don’t feel safe coming forward, or perhaps are not ready to share their victimization with the world. The number of hashtags in your social media feeds is just a small percentage of the number of those affected by sexual harassment and assault. Just this Sunday night, Anthony Rapp came forward to BuzzFeed about a sexual assault he experienced when 14 perpetrated by a 24 year old Kevin Spacey. Given the ubiquity of sexual assault accusations emerging in Hollywood of late, it is easy to think this is a behavior isolated to the rich and famous. But it isn’t. It is pervasive across all facets of our society.

So what does this have to do with triathlon? Well, actually, a lot. Why? Because sexual abuse is particularly pervasive in sport. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a retired Olympic swimmer and advocate for women and girls in sport, wrote for ESPN that the #MeToo campaign “has once again brought to light the constant objectification of women in sports. Coaches and reporters tweeted about being groped or flashed, and athletes tweeted repeatedly about the entitlement of their male peer athletes and, in particular, about powerful, sexually demanding coaches.” This reality is just as true in triathlon as it is in gymnastics, swimming, running, sailing, or cycling.

We know women triathletes still receive smaller prize purses than men in many races, we also know women triathletes don’t receive the same coverage as their male counterparts. And while it is easy to dismiss these two examples as not relevant to sexual abuse, it is important to understand these behaviors exist on a continuum and in a system that values men, and men in sport, over women. Women athletes are often objectified by commentators and the media–their weight or attractiveness discussed and dissected while their athletic accomplishments are left to the side. Lizzie Armistead, a British cyclist, and former world race champion, spoke about the harassment she experienced as a cyclist in her book. Guardian columnist Barbara Allen describes one experience when Armistead was 19 years old. The night before her world champion win, she was requested to play Nintendo Wii in front of her male teammates while they watched. She was “subtly toyed with, [and] slyly objectified, simply because she’s female.” Sarah True, Olympic triathlete, has also spoken of her experiences with sexism in triathlon. Once married, she became the the wife of an accomplished triathlete, versus a two-time Olympic qualifying triathlete herself.

It is easy to condemn sexual abuse, but it is not so easy to condemn the attitudes and behaviors that support its existence, like those described above. Wherever a behavior falls on the continuum of sexism, each behavior connects to support a cultural system where sexual abuse is tacitly permitted and excused.

Alarmingly, according to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who is also an attorney, there are limited, if any, legal consequences for club coaches who perpetrate sexual abuse: “Few legal protections [apply] to the U.S. Olympic Committee and its National Governing Bodies (NGBs). Because athletes in club or Olympic sports aren’t competing for a school, Title IX’s student protections aren’t available; athletes are also not employees, meaning Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, [doesn’t] apply either.” If you were surprised by how many of your friends, triathletes or otherwise, hashtagged #MeToo, it is important to remember, whether or not we hear about sexual abuse in sport, it is happening. Based on the sheer magnitude of #MeToo hashtags, we would be naive to dismiss them as isolated incidents–each individual hashtag combines to paint a larger picture of the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment. It’s an epidemic and we must do better.

So what can our community do about it? Most importantly, we can believe and support our friends who come forward and share experiences with us. Whatever level of triathlon you participate in–a local club or the national team–we can all do a better job of creating a climate where sexual objectification is unacceptable. We can demand equitable treatment and equal coverage for women triathletes. We can vet coaches and call out problematic and sexist behavior when we see it–even when it’s uncomfortable for us. And in doing these things, we can work to create safe, non-objectifying spaces for girls and women triathletes. Women and girls have the right to participate in triathlon and any sport without fear a coach or fellow athlete will sexually objectify, harass, or assault them.


If you have experienced sexual assault and want to talk confidentially with someone about it, there are resources in Denver to assist you. Call The Blue Bench, a 24 hour hotline: 303-322-7273. You can also visit the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault for a comprehensive list of statewide resources.

Women’s Wednesday: The Aquatic Wisdom of Sarah Thomas

By Lisa Ingarfield

Photo by Ken Classen

Sarah Thomas was born to swim. She picked up the sport at age seven and has been swimming pretty much ever since. This past July, she broke her own world record, swimming 104 miles in Lake Champlain, from Rouses Point, New York, to Vermont and back again. Her solo swim was unassisted, non-wetsuit, and current neutral. The water was also full of lampreys. I wasn’t sure what a lamprey was, so I looked them up. Yeah, they are the stuff of nightmares. I recently wrote about my fears of swimming in open water without a wetsuit because of the perils of lake or ocean creatures; Sarah clearly does not have those same concerns.

As I was swimming laps this morning, I was mentally tracking how long I would have to be in the pool to cover 104 miles. The answer? A really long time. It took Sarah 67 hours, 16 minutes, and 12 seconds. Five hours faster than she expected. Three nights, two sunrises. Not only was this a phenomenal physical feat, it was also a mental one. While Sarah has a crew on her long, nay, mammoth swim challenges, she is swimming alone. The mental resilience needed to conquer the mind games that occur is mighty.

Photo by Ken Classen

Her epic 104 mile swim sits on the shoulders of the many other awe-inspiring open water marathon swim challenges she has completed over her thirty-five years. After her first marathon open water swim in Horsetooth Reservoir (a 10K), her swimming world expanded. She met some Catalina Channel swimmers and decided she would give that race a try in 2010. Catalina is an island off the coast of Los Angeles and the channel from the island to the mainland is about 21 miles. Although she finished the swim, she reflected on what a tough experience it was for her. The swim began around midnight, and she hadn’t done a good job of prepping, and then executing, her nutrition plan leading to her ‘crashing’ in the last four hours. There was a significant cross wind and she just couldn’t find her rhythm. Sarah finished the race in just over nine hours, which is still a pretty fast pace. She described to me the aftermath with a chuckle. It included an inability to lift her arms over her head for a week, a swollen tongue from all the salt water, and chafing in places she didn’t even know you could chafe. And so she decreed: “This is it, I’m done.” Famous last words.

Photo by Ken Classen

For any non-endurance athletes reading this, what usually happens is we routinely declare that we are one and done on these mammoth athletic exploits. And then the amnesia sets in. Sometimes it takes a few days, or perhaps a couple of weeks. But before long, the narrative changes and the race that was so horrific morphs into something not so bad. This softening of our feelings towards an endurance event inevitably leads us to sign up for another one. And that is what Sarah did. She signed up to swim across the English Channel.

In preparation for her English Channel swim, Sarah completed a 28.5 mile swim around Manhattan Island (2nd woman/5th overall) and the Tampa Bay Marathon swim (she won this race, although swimmers were pulled early because of a storm). Then, on a clear, sunny day in 2012, Sarah swam from England to France in just over 11 hours. “I swam with joy the entire way,” she said. When she got to the shore in France, the clientele from a local restaurant had come to the beach to cheer her on. The restaurateur handed her a glass of champagne as she walked from the water. It was a “magical moment” she reminisces. On finishing the English Channel swim, Sarah was now a proud member of the Triple Crown club — swimmers who’ve successfully completed the English Channel, Catalina Channel, and Manhattan Island swims.

Photo by Ken Classen

Sarah’s other open water accomplishments include swimming the length of Loch Ness in Scotland (no monster sightings, I am afraid), an out and back across Lake Tahoe (she was the first swimmer and woman to do this) and swimming across Lake Memphremagog in Newport, VT. Originally, this was a 25 mile race but the race director called her to see if she wanted to do 50 miles–an out and back. “I’m never one to back down from a challenge” she declared confidently. This was her first 50 mile swim, and a tough one mentally: “I had to really dig deep.” And, her resilience paid off; she was the first ever swimmer to complete the 50 mile swim. Sarah has accrued an impressive litany of firsts. And her next challenge, because yes, you can top a 104 mile world record breaking swim, could be another. In September 2019, she will attempt to swim the English Channel crossing four times—England-France-England-France-England. Swimmers have tried, but no one yet has been triumphant.

Photo by Ken Classen

Sarah Thomas is a formidable force in open water marathon swimming and one of the top competitors in the country from right here in land-locked Colorado. One of the insights she shared, and one that has stuck with me since we met, is that in every race, experience, or adventure, there is always something to learn. So often we close our minds, and doom ourselves to repeat the same missteps over and over. We have to allow for those moments to teach us. Humility is how we become better at what we do.

If you’d like to learn more, you can follow Sarah’s swimming adventures and progress on her official Facebook page.

The Race Across The Sky: A Broad’s Guide to Why

by Lisa Ingarfield
From The Broadview

Trail running, for those of you who have not tried it, can be as challenging as it is beautiful. We are spoiled in Colorado with thousands of trails to choose from. The options cater to every level of runner (and walker) and every need, from easy, wide trails through meadows to rocky, technical climbs ascending several thousand feet. Run, walk, or hike. Whatever your skill level, Colorado’s foothills and mountains have something for you.

One of the world’s most famous trail races is right here on our doorstep: the Leadville Trail 100 (LT100). Yes, you read it correctly. One hundred miles out and back including two trips over Hope Pass (12,600 ft) just outside of Twin Lakes. The “race across the sky” is in its 35th year, and its 2017 roster boasts over 600* eager trail runners and ultra-marathoners (an ultra-marathon is any distance over 26.2 miles).

The Leadville 100 Trail Race began in 1983 in response to the closure of Leadville’s major employer, the Climax Mine. The closure of the mine was devastating for Leadville’s economy, 3,200 people lost their jobs. Overnight, Leadville became the town with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Cue Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin. Chlouber, an avid marathon runner and local miner, developed the idea for a 100 mile race through the Rocky Mountains that would bring revenue to Leadville. The race traverses mountainous terrain, with a whopping 18,168 feet of elevation gain over the 100 miles.
Women at Leadville

Chlouber asked Maupin to be race director (blazing a trail as only one of a few women ultra-marathon race directors in the 80s!) and in late summer 1983, the town held the first Leadville Trail 100 race. There were 45 starters, including one woman (Teri Gerber). Ten runners finished that race, but sadly Gerber, the lone woman adventurer was not one of them. She didn’t give up, however, and, returned in 1984 to finish.

In 1994, ultra-marathon runner, Ann Trason set the women’s course record at 18:06:24, a 23 year old record in tact today. According to Maupin, the Leadville 100 has a great history of incredibly strong, courageous, and smart women. Maupin shared the story of her friend Maureen Garty, who has since passed away. Garty had never run a race longer than a marathon and in 1986 raced the LT100. She was fifth overall and took the win for the women in 22:45:01.

In 2016, the race included 340 official finishers, 65 of whom were women. While numbers of women participating in the race has steadily increased over time, with a jump of about thirty-five percent in 2014, according to Maupin, the numbers of women participating is still fairly low compared to men. Despite the lower numbers of women competing in the race, Maupin points out women’s finishing percentages have always been higher than the men’s.

Maupin’s heart is in this race, and while she and Chlouber have since sold the race series to Lifetime Fitness, she is still involved and still encourages women to participate. When asked why women should consider entering this race, Maupin shares: “Finishing is life changing … once you’ve crossed that finish line… you are better than you think you are, and you can do better than you think you can. Do away with those limits that you have placed on yourself. Doing this race, finishing it, not quitting, extends to every corner of your life.”

Laurie Nakauchi racing Leadville in 2014

The Running Broad’s View of the LT100

One of those incredibly strong, courageous, and smart (Denver) broads Maupin speaks of is Laurie Nakauchi. Nakauchi has completed the LT100 11 times–yep, you read that right–and will be toeing the line again this August. She is chasing the mantle of most LT100s completed by a woman, a record currently held by Marge Hickman with 14 completed races. Hickman is also racing again this year and puts the lid on any kind of ageism – she is in her 60s and still taking names (#badass).

Nakauchi started racing the LT100 over twenty years ago when there were very few women participating and she encourages women to pick up trail running, especially ultras. She sees women’s ultra-running as a massive untapped market. “Women do a lot” she says, but “if a woman takes this [race] on, they are going to finish.” She echoes Maupin’s assertion that women, overall, have a higher percentage finish rate over men.

Junko Kazukawa, another badass broad, ultra-running coach, and long-time LT100 runner, will be racing this year as well, marking her seventh race. Kazukawa, like Nakauchi, is an accomplished trail and ultra-runner. In 2014 and 2015, Kazukawa completed the Leadwoman series, which involves finishing the Leadville marathon, Silver Rush 50 mile bike or run, LT100 mountain bike race, LT100 run, and the Leadville 10K. Just to solidify her badassery in case you weren’t already convinced, in 2015 she also completed the Grand Slam of 100 mile races (Western States, Vermont, LT100, and Wasatch) and then in 2016 completed the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 103 mile race, replete with over 30,500 feet of elevation gain, around Mont Blanc in the Alps through France, Italy and Switzerland. Oh, and Kazukawa is also a two-time breast cancer survivor. For Kazukawa, she knows her body and knows what she is capable of doing. She keeps upping the ante each year, because “why not?” I kind of agree. There’s always a reason not to do something, but equally, there is always a reason to try.

Junko Kazukawa finishing the UTMB in 2016

For the women reading this article who have considered entering the lottery to secure a place in the LT100, Maupin’s, Nakauchi’s and Kazakawa’s perspective comes down to three words: go for it. …

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Life beyond the wetsuit

By Lisa Ingarfield

I am one of those open water swimmers who clings to her wetsuit like a safety vest. The very first wetsuit I owned was purchased with zero research or understanding. I think it created more drag than it did anything else. The next two, I spent a little more time thinking about, but my fourth wetsuit has been a gem. I can breathe, it doesn’t chafe, and I don’t feel like my arm movements are constricted. A few seasons ago, I left my wetsuit hanging on the bathroom door and headed out to Boulder for a race. I only realized my error as I started to unpack in transition. After a minor panic, and several calls home to wake up my partner, he graciously agreed to drive it to me from Denver so I could compete comfortably in my first race of that season without worry of drowning. Rationally, I am fairly sure I would not have drowned without the wetsuit but in the moment, swimming “naked” was too much change and I wasn’t ready for it in early June. I now double, triple check that I have my wetsuit before every race.

The thing is, I rely on my wetsuit because I have never had to swim without it. All the open water swimming I have done has either given me the choice to wear the suit, or has been a wetsuit legal race. Wearing a wetsuit is a standard thing in most triathlons, it has therefore, always been a part of my routine. Until that is, this year. Early in 2017, I decided to accept my spot in the USAT Nationals and head to Omaha in mid-August to race with the best. At the time of registration, I didn’t give the midwest summer heat a second thought. I was just excited for the opportunity. As the race approached and the temperatures rose, the reality that the swim was unlikely to be wetsuit legal dawned on me. In mid-July, the water temperature in Carter Lake was 86F. It dropped to 78.6F a few days before the race and then jumped back up to over 80F on race day. Under USAT rules, no wetsuits are allowed for any athlete when water temperatures are over 78.1F.

Cue hyperventilation…To say I had immense trepidation at this prospect is an understatement. Several weeks out, when it seemed likely it would be a non-wetsuit swim, it was clear I needed to get in a lake and swim without my best and buoyant pal. And I needed to do it more than once. Here’s the thing–my need for the wetsuit is entirely mental. I know how to swim and I am not a horrible swimmer. I swim in the pool all the time without a wetsuit. While the wetsuit itself does give you buoyancy, it doesn’t create walls to hold on to and it won’t necessarily save you from drowning (a common fear among triathletes). The human body is already naturally buoyant so we can float on our backs for a breather fairly easily without the added layer of neoprene. In the summer months, the warmth gained from the wetsuit is also unnecessary especially when the water temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. So what is it that makes open water swimming so terrifying without one? Speaking for myself, I don’t have a good answer. I am just fearful and I can’t fully explain why.

The first time I ventured out sans wetsuit, I did so after a wetsuit swim. I had warmed up and the water no longer felt chilly. I swam a measly 200 yards because I felt completely naked and unprotected. I got out promising that on my next attempt, I would swim for longer. I understand myself well enough to know I had to conquer a mile before the race to feel confident. Next time, I did swim for longer. In fact, I swam 800 yards and then on my third try, I made it to the mile. On my 800, as I ventured further and further away from the shore, all those irrational thoughts about lake monsters (Colorado’s version of the Loch Ness monster perhaps?) came flooding into my head. I kept telling myself those same “threats” exist regardless of my wetsuit wearing status and that I swim without a wetsuit all the time. Ultimately, wetsuit or no wetsuit, if something grabs us from the deep dark beyond, we are likely going down. I am not sure that the wetsuit provides us with any additional defense against the creatures that occupy our imaginations.

Race day in Omaha came around quickly and it was, as predicted, a non-wetsuit swim. Each age group got a chance to warm up for a few minutes before the swim, and then dropped down into the water to hang onto the jetty for several minutes. As I bobbed there with 115 of my triathlete peers, that same mantra rattled in my head: I know how to swim and swim without a wetsuit all the time. Prior to every starting horn, race officials played this loud, and I would argue fairly ominous, reverberating bass drum sound. Duh-duhmmm, duh-duhmmm, duh-duhmmm….It certainly added to the drama and mounting tension of the impending swim for a lot of athletes around me. No turning back now. There I was, bobbing and waiting. My safety vest was in the hotel; my old friend and constant swim companion abandoned. Three, two, one….

I am sure you can guess how this story ends. Swimming without a wetsuit turned out to be no big deal. Lisa-1; Imaginary Water Threats-0. Other than the lack of buoyancy forcing me to think more precisely about form and drag from my sinking legs, it didn’t feel a whole lot different. I didn’t get bumped around any more than usual, nor did I feel unsafe surrounded by all the other swimmers. I still got left in the dust by all the speedsters and I still took in a good amount of lake water. But most importantly (clearly), I didn’t get attacked or chewed on by some ugly lake monster. Pretty much a regular open water swim race for me.

Now, will I make a habit of swimming without a wetsuit in open water as the season draws to a close? I don’t know. I am tempted to try because I actually think it could make a better swimmer given I really have to think about form. But my safety vest, still hanging in my bathroom, might really want to get back out there for another round or two – is it really fair to deprive it of that chance?


Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides one on one coaching for runners and triathletes and organizational communication consulting for businesses. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women in sport and in life.

Women’s Wednesday: Six Years. Don’t Blink. Lisa Ingarfield’s Triathlon Journey

Six Years. Don’t Blink.

This week, Facebook popped up a picture of me crossing the finish line of my very first triathlon. The slightly blurred, yet triumphant photo brought a whole host of memories flooding back to me. Six years ago, I embarked on a journey that has ebbed and flowed, curved and carved in ways I could never have predicted. I distinctly remember saying to a friend that I would NEVER do a 70.3 distance triathlon, because why would anyone want to do that? Well, with a few of those now under my belt, I blush at my then rigid response to the prospect of trying the long course distance.

Crossing the finish line at the 2011 Denver Triathlon

In preparation for my first triathlon, I scoured the internet for how-to videos on transitions, swim nerves management, and race strategy. I had zero idea about wetsuits, and ordered an ill-fitting “shortie” online and cycled a few preparation miles on my trusty Rock Hopper mountain bike. I did practice swimming in open water (thankfully), but even with a few swim lessons under my belt, I still breaststroked most of the swim. Putting my face in the water for a solid fifteen minutes did not seem appealing to me at the time. I came out of the swim to T1, ecstatic that I had conquered a swim in Sloan’s Lake without a flotation device. I took off my shortie, dried off, put on bike shorts, bike gloves, ate and drank something, and then meandered out of T1 about 5 minutes later. I hopped on my mountain bike ready for the ride around Denver and down to Mile High Stadium, where T2 was located.

A short time later, I rolled into T2, racked my bike and headed out on the run – in my bike shorts. Yes, I forgot to take off my bike shorts and only realized this about a half mile into the run. The run – at that point my “strongest” discipline, largely because it is the one I had done the most – went fairly well despite the extra padding on my rear. The course was short and had me finishing the 5K in 23 minutes or something ridiculous like that, which is a time at that point, I had never run before. And there we have it. My first triathlon, six years ago this week.

In the years that followed, I discovered brick workouts, chamois cream, tri suits, stretchy laces, and the benefits of using a road bike over a mountain bike. I joined an all women’s triathlon team, hired a coach, took more swimming lessons, swam more in open water, got a better wetsuit, and saved my pennies for a road bike. I even made a few age group podiums. All in six years. One blink and it’s 2017. For those six years of learning, mistakes, hilarity, and achievement, the one thing I didn’t do nearly enough is reflect on my journey.

Looking at the picture of my first finish six years ago, reminds me that I haven’t really taken stock of how far I have come. I therefore recommend that we all take the time to reflect on what we have done more often than we probably do. Don’t wait for Facebook or some other social media platform to prompt you. We infrequently take the time to pause and review our journeys, whatever they may be. This means we never fully appreciate all the gains we have made, or challenges we have overcome. We just go, go, go without so much as a quick glance over our shoulder. We blink and everything changes. Wherever you are in your triathlon quest, don’t miss the actual journey to your goals because you are so busy focusing on what’s next. I blinked, and now, six years later, I am a triathlon coach myself and headed to my fifth 70.3 and I am not quite sure how that happened.

Boulder 70.3 2015 – Finishing a long course triathlon I said I would never do…

I remember the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line for the first time six years ago. My heart swelled with pride in my ability to race a triathlon. I felt so badass. Do you remember the feeling you had when crossed your first finish line? Dig down into your memories and pull the feeling back to the surface. That feeling fades the more races we do. Our increased level of comfort with triathlon shouldn’t decrease our feelings of awe and satisfaction on finishing every race or workout, but it does. Hang on to your first finish feeling tightly, because it will help you remember where you have been, as well as where you have the capability and power to go.

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women in sport and in life. She is also a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.

Women’s Wednesday: The Joy of Participation

“I want to shake the way competitiveness creeps under my skin and into my soul, taking over expectations and suffocating my enjoyment”

By Lisa Ingarfield

The Joy of Participation

One of my friends recently hashtagged #OhSummerHowIveMissedYou. And this one hashtag encapsulated exactly how I am feeling. June is here! I love June because with June comes the Colorado triathlon season, long summer days, and lots and lots of outdoor time. Last year, I vowed that when I looked back on 2017, I would be able to show a fuller life than just swimming, biking, and running. And while that is still a goal I will approach with intention, I am excited to get back in the game. Marathon training is behind me and I am looking forward to one triathlon a month ’til November. Open water swimming is abundant and I get to see the sun rise while quietly slipping through the calm waters of a local lake before work.

My goal for this season is to decouple my participation in triathlon races from stress and nervousness and recouple it with a “whatever happens, happens” attitude. I don’t know that I will ever shake the nerves of preparing to swim in open water but what I more precisely want to shake is the way competitiveness creeps under my skin and into my soul, taking over expectations and suffocating my enjoyment. I think many of us have been there, when participating in a race causes more stress than laughter. It ceases to be enjoyable because we have somehow lost sight of the awesomeness that is our ability to participate in such an event. I want to bounce with joy at the fact I get to participate all summer in swimming, and biking, and running.

While I am eager to challenge myself through racing this season, I can’t help but think racing is a funny thing. It is predicated on winning, competing, and beating others. And while this isn’t necessarily always a negative, it can be. One’s worth is often defined by their place on the results list. Or at least this is what it is for many. And even when scores of people say it’s not about where you land, but the process that gets you there, for many of us, the landing still somehow matters more. I often get sucked into this mentality. This season, however, I am going to actively resist this mindset. I want to disentangle myself from the stress and elitism of competition. When it weaves its way around our brains, we can completely abandon enjoyment as we get so focused on winning and losing, succeeding and failing. And this is not what I want from my season.

Let’s keep it simple this year, 303Triathlon readers. For those of you who have this down already, good for you. Share with your friends how you do it. And for those of us who oscillate back and forth between competitiveness and the joy of participation (I realize these are not necessarily mutually exclusive), let’s work on it. While nerves and competition are not universally bad, and in some cases can be motivating, let’s keep them in check. How great is it that we can swim, bike, and run our way through summer and beyond? And when you feel the insidious creep of putting your time above your enjoyment or someone else’s experience, stop and pause. Be kind. A race is just a race; one moment in time. It is our treatment of others that will be remembered. Go after that goal instead.

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication evaluation and consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women, particularly in sport and is a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.

 

Women’s Wednesday: Lisa Ingarfield – equality in sport

Story by Lisa Ingarfield

Equality Delayed is Inequality Accepted

During a drive to Boulder recently to meet up with fellow cyclists for a ride, I learned that the USA national women’s ice hockey team is in negotiations with their national organization, USA Hockey, to ensure their equitable treatment in pay, resources, and coverage. It is 2017, and still, industries and organizations struggle with treating and paying women and men equally. One of the most persistent issues facing women today continues to be pay equity, spanning women’s hourly wages to prize winnings to professional sports teams. Women continue to earn less than men for the same work, with women of color receiving even less than white women. According to a study recently released by the American Association of University Women, if pay rates continue to progress at the pace they are today, then women will not reach parity with men until 2152. 1 Let’s just pause and digest that. Twenty-One- Fifty-Two. One hundred and eighteen years from now.

The women’s hockey team’s requests to USA Hockey go beyond pay equity: “The women say there are pervasive, possibly illegal inequities in how USA Hockey treats male and female players — in terms of equipment, meals, hotel accommodations, staffing, marketing and PR, among other things.” 2 The women’s team (two time World Championship winners and Olympic gold medalists by the way) refused to defend their title and play in the upcoming World Championships unless USA Hockey compensated them equitably. In response to the boycott, instead of addressing what appear to be fairly blatant inequalities between the men’s and women’s teams, USA Hockey decided to ask alternate women hockey players to stand in when the World Championships start this Friday, March 31st in Michigan. 3 Satisfyingly, many of their requests were rebuffed, as the alternates stood in solidarity with the women of Team USA. 4 Fourteen senators, 5 the National Hockey League Players Association, and other major sports players’ unions have also come out in support of the women’s requests for equity, urging USA Hockey to do the right thing. 6 7 After months of negotiation, and 14 days since the team announced their boycott, an agreement was finally reached yesterday.

The experience of the USA women’s hockey team is not unique. We have seen equality requests emerge in other sports such as tennis and soccer. Serena Williams earned over $200,000 less than Roger Federer when they both won a major U.S. tennis tournament, the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, a few weeks before the U.S. Open in 2015. 8 And while U.S. Tennis is doing marginally better than other sports in terms of addressing gender equity (all Grand Slam tournaments have equal prize purses), comments from players such as Novak Djokovic, that men deserve to be paid more, 9 represent a pervasive, yet unspoken, perspective across many professionals sports.

After the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup in 2015, it was widely publicized that the pay they received was far less than what the men received for not reaching the World Cup final. Justifications abound as to why this was, many resting on how “complicated10 these things are. Couple that with their pay overall, and the picture of gender inequality in sport comes into focus. According to ESPN: “Much of the disparity in wages between the men’s and women’s [soccer] teams stem from the different ways the players are paid. The women earn salaries while the men are paid based on national team appearances, results and other factors.” 11 These “other factors” include the heightened level of air time and sponsorships that men’s soccer receives over women’s; a systemic problem that justifies (for some) the lesser position of women’s sports to men’s across many disciplines.

Several women’s U.S. soccer team members filed a suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2016, alleging disparate pay and treatment after losing a case in federal court. The EEOC complaint is still pending. The women’s team is paid about one fourth of what the men’s team receives despite their tremendous success. 12 They have four Olympic gold medals under their belt and three World Cup titles, far more than the men’s team. In fact, the 2015 World Cup final between Japan and the USA was the most watched soccer game ever in U.S. history across both the women and men’s teams. 13 Any argument that women’s soccer is not as “exciting” as men’s is ludicrous given their success. Such an argument rests on false, and sexist, assumptions that women’s sport carte blanche is not as good, entertaining, or captivating as men’s. Frankly, viewer excitement bears no relevancy to the pay the players receive because it does not correlate to the level of work women invest in training and competing at that level. Equal pay for equal work, not equal pay for equal viewership.

Equitable treatment, recognition, and pay has lagged behind for many more women’s teams and athletes. And sadly, the trajectory has been similar for triathlon. Ironman only provides 35 slots to women elites at Kona, versus 50 for men. The hashtag #50womentokona has become a social media rallying cry. Tri Equal, a non-profit organization committed to advocating for equitable treatment and representation of women, has attempted to work with Ironman to rectify this discrepancy. Sadly, efforts have been unsuccessful. This past week, the new Super League Triathlon competition series was launched absent a women’s race. Chris McCormack, an Ironman World Champion who spear-headed the TV friendly initiative shared as justification for the lack of a women’s race that many of the pro-women were off this year because of pregnancy, and that they just had to get going with the event instead of simply talking about it. 14 An unnamed woman Olympian and Ironman podium finisher stated: “there’s enough depth in women’s triathlon that we could have some racing that’s equally compelling to the men’s…I know that I’m not alone in my disappointment in the lack of transparency.” 15

Liz Blatchford, a two time Ironman World Championship podium finisher, shared her frustration on Instagram: “While we have been told women’s racing is coming, I can’t really accept that their SHOWCASE event should have gone ahead without women…I strongly feel that having a women’s event should never have been a negotiable factor.” She rounds out her critique with: “Equality delayed is inequality accepted.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

We have much work to do. Onwards.

 

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication evaluation and consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women, particularly in sport and is a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.

 

 

  1. http://www.aauw.org/resource/the-simple- truth-about- the-gender- pay-gap/
  2. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/15/520301416/u- s-womens- hockey-team- boycotting-world- championships-to- protest-low- pay
  3. http://www.local10.com/sports/usa-hockey- gave-more- benefits-to- mens-team- than-womens
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/25/usa-hockey- world-championships- dispute-boycott
  5. http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/325954-senators- call-for- pay-equity- for-us- womens-hockey- team
  6. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2017/03/26/american-nhl- players-could- skip-iihl- world- championships/99672342/
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/sports/hockey/usahockey-womens- team-boycott.html
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/sports/tennis/equal-pay- gender-gap- grand-slam- majors-wta- atp.html
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/22/serena-williams- andy-murray- novak-djokovic- equal-pay- row- indian-wells
  10. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/sports/soccer/usmnt-uswnt- soccer-equal- pay.html
  11. http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/18082886/talks-ongoing- us-soccer- women-team
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/sports/soccer/usmnt-uswnt- soccer-equal- pay.html
  13. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/06/420514899/what- people-are- saying-about- the-u- s- women-s- world-cup- win
  14. http://www.triathlete.com/2017/03/lifestyle/super-league- triathlon-awesome- theory-will- work_299827
  15. Ibid.