I wish there was a more profound story behind the start of it. I’m not sure it would make it better, but it would probably be more exciting to read about if I had a background in women’s studies, a fully in-depth understanding of women’s rights and the history of gender discrimination. That this was a calculated move to start “a revolution” in triathlon. That I had it all mapped out in my head.
But, I didn’t. In fact, I don’t have any of the above. But, I do have a bottle of champagne I bought early in the process to celebrate the change when it happened. It’s still in my fridge.
What it actually was, was July of 2014 and I was preparing to race IM Boulder. I was doing some typical pre-race research on who was racing, and ended up clicking over to the Kona Point qualification system. This brought me face to face with an issue that had always raised a red flag to me, but quite honestly, until that day, it wasn’t as much of a big deal. It’s a little embarrassing to say that while I cared before, I never took another step forward on it because it hadn’t yet begun to affect me. But now, it was 2014 and my first pro year. It was now going to directly matter to me. Why should I have less of an opportunity to race in Kona than a male pro? That question inspired me to take the next step – find out if others felt the same. So, I did what any good millennial would do: I took to twitter.
I’ve been criticized for using twitter as a medium, but it’s important to understand that this conversation had already been going on “politely” for some time. Rachel Joyce is the first to have publicly pointed out that this was a change that should happen. And, Thorsten Radde, the most prominent Ironman statistician around, had also done in depth analysis on the topic.
My timing was, if I do say so myself, pretty spot-on. The women professionals in the sport were truly at a turning point. Fields were getting deeper. Talent was getting stronger. Women were finding their voice on and off the race course. Within a matter of days there was some traction, and I realized something great was happening here.
Do I regret it? No. There have been plenty of tears shed over this. Tears of anger, sadness and frustration. I’ve quit more times than I can count. But, I go to bed and the next day some reason to keep fighting is always staring me in the face. And there’s also tears of happiness. Thank you to everyone who has reached out along the way to share their story and encourage us to keep fighting for this. It has meant more than you know.
This cause has taught me so much about standing up for what I believe in. About the value of open conversation and listening to others. About give and take. It has taught me that there are businesses out there who don’t care about doing the right thing over making money. And it’s taught me that in my own business, I commit more emphatically than ever to never allow myself to sell out like that. I believe you can do both: make money and do good things.
It has shown me that as much good there is in triathlon there is also just as much stubborn and just as much irrational. And the silver lining to that is that this fight is making all of us more resilient and tenacious. And we need more of that. Especially to take onto the Ironman course.
5Q has also brought to me some of the best teachers I could have asked for in my life. Sue, Sara, Hillary, Jordan, Rachel, Kelly – while I knew everyone before, this cause bound us tighter. You have been shining examples to me of what 5Q is about. Thank you for keeping me going when things got tough.
I think it’s an important part of the story to recognize how the people behind #5Q truly came together independently. I remember having to “come clean” to Hillary early in the process, that I was behind it. My fears of being shut down, of being told it wasn’t worth the potential backlash on my career, of being told that it wasn’t worth her ruining her business and legacy, were over as quick as I hit “send.” Hillary & Smash were behind me 100%. That gave me the confidence to be a part of the larger things that came from this (namely, TriEqual). That was something being worked on by the others well outside of my twitter-verse. I am extremely grateful they brought me in to be a part of that.
The issue of “I didn’t care because it didn’t affect me” at first still really bothers me, and that guilt has stayed with me throughout the campaign. It stays with me because I think that this is one of the attitudes we have to face on a daily basis that hinders our progress, and it’s hard for me to fight it when I know I so easily accepted that same argument myself. I couldn’t have gotten @50womentokona to where it is today myself. It’s there because of everyone, together. As women we need to support each other and recognize those opportunities when we can step in to support one another, even if it doesn’t directly affect us. That is how great things happen.
To me, 50 women to Kona is about equal opportunity. We all deserve it. Please voice your support at www.50womentokona.org.