#56: 2,100 women + 55 pros (or something)
Why did no one believe me about the numbers.
issue #56: Oct. 11, 2023
There is also a thing that happens in Kona—more than at a lot of big races—where you simply forget about the world outside of triathlon on this island. It’s partially the lack of external news and it’s partially the all-consuming-ness of triathlon here. So it took a little while to even know there were terrible things happening in the world right now and how bad they were going to turn out to be. It’s all a bit disorienting.
There will be other and more to say about things besides Kona at some point here (including an announcement or two that I’m expecting that I’m sure we’ll discuss next week), but today (sorry) we’re going to keep talking about the Big Island and the massive, wild, huge race this Saturday.
The island vibes
I am not a person who refers to anywhere as my “happy place.” I don’t particularly enjoy hair-braiding or shopping or believe that women are just inherently ______ (pick your adjective: nicer, more supportive, take up less space — all things I’ve heard this week); I tend to believe you can’t separate what is ingrained from what are clearly learned societal behaviors. Men take up space (metaphorically and literally) because they’ve been told repeatedly that they can and should take up space in many ways small and big. They have the unwarranted self confidence of centuries of being told they should have unwarranted self confidence, that it is necessary to survive. But that is not inherently a male trait; trust me and my ability to get blithely in over my head before every race ever. These things are learned early and often.
In short: An all-women’s race is an interesting experience for me, on a personal level. Because, if we believed in stereotypes, it would not be my kind of an experience. But. Fortunately. We do not believe in stereotypes. We believe that women can be many and all things. They are not a niche or a market. Or at least many of us believe this, and increasingly so. And so, here, today, now, is wildly different from what an all-women’s Ironman World Championship would have looked like even 10 years ago. And thank god for that.
I don’t particularly care whether you think it’s too easy or not to qualify for a world championship race. What any one person’s arbitrary definition is of “easy” is irrelevant. How you feel about the 2,000 women who are racing here doesn’t actually matter other than that it matters on a branding level. All that matters is if approximately the best 2,000 women in the world are here. And they are. And if you’re saying that they’re not here, if you’re saying it’s “too easy” (as so many dudes seem to be so suddenly deeply concerned about), then are you saying there are 2,000 better female triathletes in the world who should be racing for world titles? If so, by all means let me know who they are.
But, of course, no one is saying that. What they’re really saying, whether they’ll admit it or not, is: They think there should be 2,000 men racing for world titles, but not 2,000 women.
And, honestly, I’d have a better argument prepared to refute this with data and logic and historical context, but at this point, here in the year 2023, with everything we know and have learned, what else is left for me to say? You don’t develop and grow a sport by not giving people the chance to race. You don’t crown a world champion by not having the most best athletes there, however they get there. You don’t have more men race to see who is best than you have women. If you don’t know that by now, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
The saying is not: Come and we promise to build it. The saying is: Build it and they will come.
And, anyway, for whatever reason (I can guess the reason), no one believed me that it was over 2,000 athletes anyway. Literally, no one, not even once we were here. So many conversations that have gone like this:
Dude: “I hear it’s only going to be like 900 women who even start. I mean we’re doing all this, ruining the sport, for just a few hundred more women.”
Me: ”I think it’s actually going to be like 1900.”
Dude: “See, they’re just letting anyone in! It’s too easy!”
But. So. The actual race.
Who will win?
The actual pro start list is probably the nuttiest long-course start list we’ve had in my triathlon lifetime. I know we always say that these days, but really. There are three previous world champions here, plus two more 70.3 world champions, and it’s something like four or five other athletes who have podiumed.
It’s basically everyone back from last year, plus the people who were missing (Sarah Crowley, Kat Matthews), plus the wildcards (Taylor Knibb).
There’s a reason TriRating’s predictions have the top seven athletes all finishing within four minutes. What that really means is: It’s impossible to know who is going to win. My guess (and some people agree with this, some don’t) is there will be a larger front swim pack, which may make it easier for some people to grab onto feet and will make whether or not you make that pack more decisive. That should create more group dynamics on the bike and I suspect Taylor will cause a bit of chaos—mostly because the other pro women will be split on whether to let her go and hope she blows up or ride with her and potentially blow themselves up. And I sorta suspect we’ll then see carnage on the run and the speedy runners will emerge, but I have so little idea what those groups will look like coming into T2 that I can’t even really imagine.
PREDICTIONS CONTEST: Drop your guesses for the podium in our regular podium predictions contest to win random swag & also bragging rights of course
How to watch
Race starts at 6:25 a.m. HST/9:25 a.m. PT/12:25 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 14 — but coverage starts with dramatic shots of body marking about 90 minutes earlier.
You can watch the entire broadcast for free on:
Are there even other races happening?
World Cups: We’re just going to hit the high points, because there’s a lot happening. We had a World Cup in Rome this past weekend, with Vasco Vilaca and Nina Eim both reliably on top (another German woman won in Morocco the week before). And, interestingly, American Jason West threw his hat back in the World Triathlon ring. (He was 39th, but you know, you do you.) And Vicky Holland returned to racing in Morocco with a 7th.
Challenge Barcelona: Imogen Simmonds kicked off what is apparently going to be three races in three weeks with a win.
Langkawi 70.3: And, of course, pic of the weekend: Ashleigh Gentle and Josh Amberger both won in Malaysia.
Some interesting things in our sports you should know about this week.
Doesn’t it seem like there are marathon world records dropping every week now? 2:00:35 in the men’s race at the Chicago Marathon! And Kelvin Kiptum said he has never yet felt pain in a marathon, which must be nice. Sifan Hissan ran what would have been a women’s world record a few weeks ago, but now is just the second fastest marathon ever. And Des Linden ran an American masters world record. (Citius Mag/Track and Field News/Runner’s World)
It was also nice to see Molly Seidel back again with a solid 2:23 in Chicago. She’s one of my favorites for all the reasons she’s one of many people’s favorites, but I understand that the sudden propulsion into the national consciousness has not been without all kinds of challenges. (Runner’s World)
I thought Diverse We Run did a good job explaining the issues with the whole Tracksmith BQ singlet. It’s not a problem that a shirt exists for those who qualify for Boston or qualify for Kona; it’s the way in which it’s framed and messaged and what it means about creating more barriers. (Instagram)
Speaking of. France is saying it will ban its athletes from wearing a hijab at next year’s Olympics. It’s not going over well. (CNN)
On Friday, it broke that the UCI was going to broadcast the men’s race at the Gravel World Championships—but not the women’s. Which is ridiculous and also went over very badly. In case you were wondering, Kasia Niewiadoma won the women’s race in a solo attack from far out that held off a closing sprint and Slovenian Matej Mohoric won the men’s race. (Girls Gone Gravel/OffRoad.cc)
Interestingly, Seb Coe (president of world track & field) said they will put on a three-night “track spectacle” in 2026 — since it’s an off-year, with no world championship or Olympics. (Laureus)
And if you’re looking for a parody movie about being a professional runner, well, you’re in luck! (Youtube)
Strava and Twitter saved this cyclist’s life. Similar to another story I heard recently about a Garmin crash detection sending family members to find someone in a ditch. But not similar to the many more stories I’ve heard about these things going off at random and sending alerts (or overwhelming 9-1-1) on accident. (Outside/Entrepreneur)
In other super niche sports, climbing has been rocked (rocked!) in recent years by news that peaks and mountains are changing and climbers maybe didn’t always technically get specifically to the exact peak. Records are being taken back. Mont Blanc is shrinking. Drama. (Outside/BBC)
TRISWIM made a Maui fundraiser swim cap, with all the proceeds going to the Lahaina Swim Club. (SBR Sports)
You also may have seen/see little rainbow temporary tattoos around Kona; Michelle Vesterby is handing them out as fundraiser for the scholarship fund in honor of Mary Beth Ellis’ daughter, who was hit and killed by a truck earlier this year. (Shed Children’s Campus)
And I’m sad to see ObsTri have to shut down this week—it was a great resource for going super in-the-weeds on all triathlon results and feeds. (And I think arguing that any one company ‘owns’ results data and not allowing Obstri to pull those results into an API misses the big picture and probably also wouldn’t hold up legally, but that’s an expensive fight to have.) (Obstri)
One last thing
Could you still win a sprint on one leg, if you unclipped accidentally?
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