I am coming off an oddly stressful week. I experienced my first ever nearly violent encounter at work, and my moral conviction was tested. I also saw Wonder Woman, which made up for and put an exclamation point on all of it.
I work in an incredibly misogynist environment. The entertainment industry is notorious for its sexism, but I have always aimed to be the best at my job, not the best woman at my job. I have had to hustle for work, regardless of gender, and I am perfectly fine with it; that’s show business. Also, whenever a male co-worker makes a crude or chauvinistic comment I rest easy knowing that I am stronger and healthier than he could ever imagine. Moreover, I have noticed that financial success is the bottom line in my business, and any business. Therefore, I am feeling empowered that Wonder Woman, a female directed and starring film, is crushing expectations. In essence, it is saving the DC Comic franchise at Warner Bros. It is important to recognize that people all over the world are seeing this movie.
A lot of people will pay to see strong women kick ass.
The interesting part is that the morality fight that I got all riled up about does not affect me directly, but the principle of the fight is what stands true. The issue is that there are uneven pro slots for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. The men have 50 slots, where the women have 35. The overarching issue is the same with age groupers and pros, there just aren’t enough women participating in triathlon to justify adding any more slots. In that sense, I can take in the other side’s argument that if they allowed more slots to women it would deflate the achievement in qualifying because there are fewer women pros than men. However, when I stood back to observe with a wider lens the reality of women becoming triathletes, it is pretty staggering the differences women face verses men. What it boils down to is time, money, priorities, and most importantly, opportunity.
Work is where I go to relax.
If all I have to worry about is completing various tasks all day that do not require life or death consequences, i.e. buying food for other human beings, and bouncing around to various Dr.’s offices, and “dream” chasing activities like soccer practice, etc., I am having a ball. I believe that working in a professional environment is easier than being a full time parent. I know, I have done both. It is much harder to carve out time to train as a full-time parent verses a full-time employer/employee. On average, a women’s family is her priority, not getting in a five hour bike ride on a Saturday morning.
If there were more female pro athletes gaining attention for the sport, 50 of them racing in the galactic spotlight in Kona, there would be more women drawn to the sport, because they could see themselves in the pros, especially young women and girls. That’s what happened to me. I became a triathlete because in 1995, when I was newly sixteen years old, I witnessed the glorious agony of Paula Newby-Fraser pushing her extraordinarily fit body down Ali drive and then collapsing a few hundred yards from the finish line. I had never seen anything like it. I was devastated and inspired to watch such physical strength and mental fortitude be overwhelmed by a sporting event.
I was already a runner, but I knew I would become a triathlete.
I have spent and will spend a lot of money on triathlon gear. It is a very expensive sport. Furthermore, since I am a woman, I am greatly influenced by products that sponsor female triathletes. For example, I bought my first ISM saddle in 2010 because former pro-triathlete Hillary Biscay was sponsored by them. I knew if she trusted it, it must be great. It is, and we have endured many long, fun, and challenging hours together ever since. Also, I don’t believe Red Bull can give me wings, but since they sponsor Meredith Kessler, I reach for the thin silver can every time I need a chemically induced “pick me up”. I support Meredith, so I will support Red Bull. If the women pros race more, they are seen more, thus their sponsors will gain more attention, and earn more money. Alas, more pro women racing in Kona is a good thing.
I think the way to do it, is to do it.
In the Spring of 1966, a woman named Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb ran the Boston marathon excited and frightened that she could be ripped from the course at any given stride. She was a true bandit, because she was a woman running in a marathon. Bobbi Gibb’s tremendous achievement was not recognized by officials; in fact the first “official” Boston marathon female winner was Nina Kuscik in 1972, however, that is what makes Bobbi’s achievement so powerful, she just did it. She created her own opportunity. When asked by reporters after the race why she did it, she replied, “I told them I simply loved to run, and that I didn’t run the marathon to threaten anyone. I did it because I wanted to change the perception that women couldn’t do it.” – P. 50, First Ladies of Running by Amby Burfoot.
Guess what? Women can do it. This one has done it forty-three times, and I am forever indebted to Bobbi’s courage to run the marathon that day, and for many other pioneering women who carved a path for all women runners and triathletes.
There are two other very special marathon runners that recently punched their tickets to Boston that I hope will become triathletes someday, too.
My friend Hadara Katarski started the Pittsburgh marathon on May 7th under circumstances that I cannot even fathom. She was coming off of a hard winter spent training on the icy roads of western Pennsylvania and on an overworked treadmill in her basement. Plus, she trained with enduring pain and frustrating side effects of a concussion she suffered in a miraculous act of maternal instinct in early November. Thankfully, she saved her daughter’s life, but pummeled her head in the process. Hadara is a mother to two beautiful girls under the age of five, the wife of a successful women’s college basketball coach, has a burgeoning career in sports psychology education, and is a Boston marathon qualifier. That’s right, under these ridiculously stressful circumstances Hadara ran the race in 3:33:26, which means she will be running her next marathon in Boston, MA on April 16th, 2018.
Another amazing runner that I would like to shine a light on is my younger sister, Sarah. In the summer of 2013, I invited Sarah up to our cute rental house in Monte Rio, CA to celebrate my Vineman finish and her birthday. Sarah and I had been through many fun and not-so-fun adventures together over the years, but had drifted apart, and I hoped that spending a little time together away from our parents and other siblings would help bridge the gap.
Sarah was a fantastic soccer player growing up, and a speedy sprinter in track, but she stalled in those pursuits quickly after graduation, a familiar trend with female athletes. She knew how much I loved running, and how it had been a lifeline for me to handle stress, but she never really asked me about it, so I never told her much about it. Therefore, I was shocked to learn that afternoon in Monte Rio that she had discovered running as a way to handle her demons, and asked me to help her train for a marathon. I have never been more excited and nervous about a question before in my life. I had faith I was ready to step up and coach her, but I knew it would be a learning experience for both of us.
It was awesome. I discovered that the only thing I love more than crafting my own training plans, is crafting someone else’s.
She ran the famed California International Marathon that following December in a blistering 3:51 time, which is simply stunning for a first time marathon finish.
However, Sarah’s true love is trail running. She kept herself entertained with those races the last few years, but about year ago she told me she wanted to give it a go to try to qualify for Boston, and asked for my help again. I knew I had to hone her training to include more speed, but nothing too nutty that would hinder her recovery and progress with her endurance base. It worked. She ran the Mountains to Beach marathon in 3:35, a safe buffer for her 3:40 Boston qualifier age group standard, so she will also be running Boston next April.
My first big running goal was to qualify for the Boston marathon. Once I achieved that goal, I moved on to triathlon. I don’t think I am alone in this progression. According to recent statistics from http://www.runningusa.org/statistics, out of running race finishers in 2015, 57% were women and 43% were men. Those numbers were up from 25% women and 75% men in 1990.
Women are running and racing a lot. They are spending money on shoes, apparel, race fees, nutrition, etc., to chase after their running goals. Next, they may be chasing after their triathlon goals.
It is a smart business move to invest in women. Women are strong, compassionate, ambitious, and according to the Harvard Business Review, we drive the global economy. https://hbr.org/2009/09/the-female-economy
Finally, I believe that more pro slots will open up for women in Kona when the powers that be realize they will make more money doing so. In the meantime, I am going to spend every day training to be a better triathlete, and cheering on the phenomenal pro women who inspire me to be great just like them.
For more information about the movement for equality in triathlon, please visit: