Monday, February 1, 2016

Getting Chicked: Women Triathletes and Drafting

by Sue Aquila

I recently sent my nephews the following e-mail:

Please take a moment to read this pic:

Despite how confident I am, I too am always careful on early morning runs, out riding alone and in parking garages. As young girls, we learn to avoid situations where we can be raped or harmed. As women, we carry those lessons with us the rest of our lives.

You all have the power to make the world a better place for women. Do it.

Two things I dislike in triathlon:

  1. The phrase "Getting Chicked"
  2. Fast age group men whose goal is to race pro women or fast age group women

As an age group woman, I am not racing the age group men. I am racing the other women in the race. I have a problem with fast guys not racing other fast guys. The guys that race the women put the women at risk for drafting penalties.

As women, we rarely talk about our racing issues between the sexes because it is part of our life, like never going into a parking garage alone at night. As we adapt to changes in our behavior, we stop complaining.

I realized I became immune to this behavior last year in RAGBRAI. Remember, RAGBRAI is not a race. RAGBRAI is an all you can eat pie buffet with a cycling problem. Many guys tried to race me when they realized it was a woman passing. It got so bad that my training partner apologized to me on behalf of all men.

Last week, I read some comments on an online forum about a pro woman allegedly drafting in her race. I was most bothered by the men blaming the victim. Where were the women triathletes saying, “Wait, stop, some of you are the problem”?

I had two drafting penalties at the same local triathlon early in my career. These were my fault. I had no experience in the sport and did not know that when you are a woman and you pass a guy in a triathlon you do so with stealth and speed. At that point in my career, I had neither. If you don't pass fast, they may accelerate and you end up in the draft zone too long and receive your dreaded penalty. It is embarrassing and frustrating.

So, like I told my nephews, women expect a different standard of behavior and we mold our behavior to conform to the circumstance. I admired Rinny Carfrae for pointing out the problem on Twitter this year:

I wish all mass start races would go to a separate start for women and men as the Ironman World Championship in Kona is trying this year. Everyone will end up with a better race and especially the women who do this sport for a living.

Stop blaming the victims and start asking your race directors to improve our sport. And if you are one of those guys whose ego depends on not getting chicked, change your perspective. You have the power to make races better for women. Do it.

Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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