Category: opinion

Other People’s Shoes – A Triathlon PSA

The following is a special triathlon public service announcement:
“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes” is an idiom.*
It is not a directive nor a suggestion. It is most certainly not a good idea to do at a triathlon.

This past weekend, when I came back to collect my things after a local sprint, I was happy to find my first-timer neighbor cleaning up his transition area. I asked him how he did, did he enjoy his first race?

He looked at me (he was upset).  “I couldn’t find my shoes.”

I kept looking at him, not understanding his words. “What do you mean? They got moved?”

Him – “No this guy…took them!”

Me – “Wait, what? Someone took your sneakers?”

Him – “Yes. This guy. The guy who put his bike in my spot.”

Me – “Wait what? Someone took your sneakers?

Him – “Yes.” His wife – “And he was in second place.” Him – “Looking for sneakers cost me 5 minutes!”

Me – “ Wait. You found sneakers and ran in someone else’s sneakers? And finished?”

Him – “Yea. I found his sneakers by looking at his number and finding the same brand in an open space on his rack. They’re older than mine. Mine were brand new.”

Me- “Wait. You guys had the same brand and the same size? And wait, you were going to race in brand new shoes? Maybe he has blisters?!”

Him – “He had to move all my stuff off of my sneakers to put them on. How do you not realize that these aren’t your sneakers?”

Me- “I just don’t know; I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

So, as a point of clarification, no one comes around and cleans sneakers while you’re out riding your bike. Your worn, dirty sneakers will stay worn and dirty. If you come back and they’re clean – they’re not yours. If they’re clean and someone else’s stuff is on top of them, they’re definitely not yours. If they’re clean, have someone else’s stuff on them and are on a towel that you don’t recognize, they’re really, really not yours. Please do not put them on and definitely do not put them on sockless and then go run several miles in them. It’s terribly uncool.

However, if you do take someone else’s clean sneakers from under the stuff you don’t recognize and off the towel you’ve never seen…when you get back to transition and meet the man who’s shoes you are in…please try to put yourself in his shoes and do make a sincere effort with your apology.

*An idiom is a word or phrase which means something different from its literal meaning. Idioms are common phrases or terms whose meaning is not real, but can be understood by their popular use.



Graham Moore’s gave the best acceptance speech at the 2015 Oscars. His message was personal, authentic, beautiful…and clear.

“…what I wanted to do was say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong.”

“And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

(If you missed it click here.)

Thank you for standing up there on the most glamorous stage in Hollywood and saying those words.

“I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I didn’t belong.”  Most of us have felt this, but we don’t say it out loud, because we think we’re the only one. The resounding praise that Moore’s receiving today shows that this sentiment hit us in our guts. We all get it…because we all know it.

16 is a particularly difficult time to have these feelings.* Remember middle school and high school? A majority of us resorted to trying to be “normal” and fit in. Which really just made us feel weirder because we no longer felt like ourselves. The ones who didn’t master “normal” got picked on. It was awful.

So what if we all stand on our own stages, whatever they are, and pass the message to the next person who comes along?

Many, many years ago, my teenage sister (much younger than me) came to stay with us for a while in the summer. At some point during her stay she asked me how I can just talk to everyone, everywhere we go. It was a great question that I hadn’t really asked myself before. I told her that at some point I I had realized that I was different, a geek, and rather than trying to blend in I had given up and embraced my geekiness. I just didn’t have to worry about being found out, anymore. I was cool with being my own nerdy self.

It was like a light bulb went off for her. She took to this notion naturally and embraced her own geekiness and has been unabashedly her own different, wonderful self.

My own children need my support to just be themselves. The cookie cutter phase of middle school & high school is the worst, and sometimes it’s hard to hear about their hurts.  I find this with my adult friends, as well. We all suffer from trying to fit in and feel normal at some point.

stau weird, stay different, belongOne of the nicest byproducts of accepting my weirdness has been finding others who share theirs with me. I have a wonderful group of supportive friends who are incredibly different from me and one another. And we appreciate this about each other. We celebrate our weirdness.

“Stay weird, stay different” and you might find where you do belong.  If you’re looking for a place where weird and different belong, you might try cyclocross. 🙂 (or running, or triathlon…)

“Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.” tweet that!

*One of my children wrestles with depression; this is very scary as a parent. When the feelings of not belonging get strong they can be overwhelming, and the options can get fewer and more dangerous when depression is part of the mix. Our schools are filled with kids who might not make it their own stage. Moore’s message is a gift to these kids. We can amplify it with our own messages. There is hope. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

50 Men & 50 Women to Kona

Last night, I commended a triathlete for the work she’s doing to push forward the cause of gender equality in triathlon. Her reply has prompted me to look at the situation differently. She’s just tired of justifying why women deserve a seat at the table or a place at the start line. It’s 2015…IM BTC

Rarely are any of us presented with an obvious opportunity to actually change the world. Ironman / Life Time Fitness have this opportunity before them.

Rather than defending a past decision to base the number of pro slots on gender demographics of current participation, please base it on a vision for the desired future. Become what you strive for, now.

Truly successful organizations do not ‘manage change’. They find brilliant opportunities within the challenge. Ironman stands at this crossroad right now:  Manage the present based on the past or become the most powerful change in sport today?

I regularly ask businesses to write their own headlines. What do you want to be known for? How do you want your story to be told? What does your brand stand for, if we look solely at your actions?

I’d ask Ironman the same right now.  What do you want your headline to be?

Ironman Leads the Charge for Gender Equality in all Sports
Ironman Caves and Finally Agrees to Increase the Number of Pro Slots for Women

One of these headlines will support the stated objectives of the formation of Women for Tri Advisory Board. The other will not.  One will weaken the brand. The other strengthens it and expands its reach to the very population where growth is being sought.

Look, I’m an age-grouper who’s incredibly unlikely to ever even travel to Kona. But last fall, I sat glued to the Kona stream and flooded social media with my enthusiasm as I watched an incredible women’s race. I’m not asking for slots that I will ever dream of occupying – I’m asking Ironman to inspire me! Inspire all of the future age-groupers and up and coming young athletes.

Please, let go of the past and of the limiting practices that impede your ability to inspire the most people possible, worldwide.

Equality is no longer a subject for debate. Equality is no longer something that we should have to fight for. Please don’t make us fight anymore – we have training to do!

An Open Letter to the Women for Tri Board of Advisors – If you’d like to make your support clear – please follow this link and add your name to the comments.