#22: Announcing race announcement season
And a new system of ranking.
issue #22: Feb. 15, 2023
Will this week be the week we actually keep it short? It started out that way, but probably not. We’ve got a few news bits, an explainer on the brand new PTO ranking system, and lots of fun ‘ish’ items. And who knows, maybe something else will happen.
Couple of quick things:
I’ve opened up temporarily the very informative Q&A I did with Triathlon Taren that went out to paid subscribers on Sunday. If you’re curious about what’s happening with content and the internet in our sports, it’s worth a read.
Sid & I also recorded one more podcast episode easing ourselves back into the season with our 2023 Preview Show. Interviews TK.
Now it’s time for another edition of Terrible Graphic Design with Kelly. Do not read anything into the podium placings or people.
Rankings rankings everywhere
Yesterday, the Pro Triathletes Organization finally announced the new updated ranking system—and, honestly, I’d been hearing so much about it for so long, I sort of didn’t realize at first it was actually finalized and public.
What was the old system? We did a quick overview at the end of 2022.
Here’s your real quick summary of the new system:
The overall score for each race now depends on three things: the tier/quality of the race, the strength of field, and your relative overall time *as well as* your objective placing.
Your place in the race + the quality of the race = 40% of your score. The top top tier of races is reserved solely for PTO Tour events + the IM World Championships. (Plus, Collins Cup, which is for obvious reasons controversial—ie. the invitational nature of the event + its dumbness—but understandable why the PTO would prioritize the PTO’s races.) Then the next tier is Roth, 70.3 World Champs, and World Tri Long Distance Champs—which is an odd three things in a tier if you think too hard about it. Then after that is regional champs, then most major IM-brand races, and on down.
The strength of field—which we mentioned before!—determines 30% of your score. How competitive a field is is determined by the top five ranked athletes in the field. Is this circular? Yes. Does it also have a kind of odd logic to it? Also, yes.
Your race time—in relation to the top five finishers + a baseline score for the race—determines the remaining 30% of your score.
(There’s still a 5% bonus on an athlete’s best full-distance for the year, to take into account that things weight towards mid-distance athletes, who are also able to race more frequently.)
An athlete’s ranking is still determined by their three best races in the previous 365 days, averaged.
It’s easiest to just look at an example here.
Why did they make these changes?
Because, in the super insular world of pro triathletes, the previous system was much complained about.
Mostly, people truly hated the opaqueness and not knowing what score they were going to receive after a performance. Now, under this new model, you can do the math yourself. It’s complicated but it’s not complex; if you can’t do basic addition and multiplication, then you probably have other things you should be complaining about.
People also hated what they previously perceived to be the subjective nature of who decided which races were worth more points. Now, with this system, it’s clear; you can choose events and your schedule to maximize your ranking or not.
There were also lots of other little things the ranking committee, athlete board, and commercial team considered through multiple modelings (yes, that’s how much went into this revamp): How to score all pro races in the world over $10K, how to compare performances across distances and fields without too heavily leaning towards only one type of athlete, how to also create some flexibility for athletes without burning them out, and how to allow for superstars to become superstars and the PTO to become what it wants to become.
Does this change things? (ie. Does it matter?)
For you? Probably not. For the top ~30 athletes in the world? Probably.
All it takes is a look at the new rankings to see how things will be different this year. Previously, for 2022, Anne Haug sat on top. Now, it’s Ashleigh Gentle in #1 (via the weight of her extreme PTO dominance) & Anne is in the #6 spot. Of course, for the men, Kristian, Gustav, and Magnus are still Kristian, Gustav, and Magnus in that order because things are never really as complicated or confusing as we’d like to believe they are.
The real effect, of course, won’t be in who moves slightly up or down. It’ll be in whether this makes the pros more invested, if it creates a deeper pool of athletes who feel part of the race for rankings, if they buy in, if they feel listened to and empowered and it encourages them to opt for PTO races. Spectators will care if pros care. It matters if the changes clarify and strengthen the PTO’s long-term position and plan, if it’s part of a move towards sustainability. Otherwise, it won’t matter at all who tops the PTO rankings if the PTO goes out of business in 2025.
If you want many more details:
Tim does a solid breakdown on Triathlete
If you’d rather listen to your news: ProTriNews does an explainer with Ruth Astle, who was on the rankings committee
Sid is chatting with Ruth for our podcast (both of whom are on the PTO Athlete Board) about all things PTO & we’ll probably run that next week
Or, just read the damn thing yourself
I will now leave you with my absolute favorite question in the PTO FAQs. But why, why!
2023 is underway. Kinda. Sorta. Not really, but soon.
Like Sid & I mentioned on this week’s podcast: It’s a weird time of year. Everyone’s training again and probably booking their first races of the year, but no one’s telling anyone what those races are yet. It’s Instagram race announcement season!
And so we’ve got: Challenge Roth first up in our major race announcements. The women’s field currently includes Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug, Chelsea Sodaro, Laura Philipp, Lisa Norden (plus a whole bunch more people: Sid, Fenella, Ruth). The men’s field’s got Patrick Lange, Magnus Ditlev, Sebi Kienle, Ben Kanute, Sam Laidlow.
I know we all want to immediately declare it RACE OF THE YEAR, but let’s, like, chill out and remember it’s only Feb. 15 and the PTO hasn’t even officially yet confirmed that its European Open race or Collins Cup are when and where we all think they are. Here’s a good graphic representation of what I was saying about how the calendar for August-early October is too packed (and that doesn’t even include the Olympic qualifying or WTCS, which I think you have to include for the people who crossover).
As always: your calendar of all the major races in one place is here.
Are we actually getting fitter and faster and healthier?
One of the things I wrote down somewhere in my notes from Endurance Exchange was about how many API requests TrainingPeaks gets each week. It’s a lot. What that means is that each week there are multiple wearable companies and trackers and platforms and technologies that want to integrate with TrainingPeaks. (This isn’t unique to TP; it was just the person from TP who was talking about it.) And that number, as you can imagine, has skyrocketed in recent years.
How many things do you track in a day now? Heart rate, steps, calories, watts, pace, HRV, temperature, recovery, sleep, sweat, weight. How many could you track? Probably more. Certainly, if not now, then soon. But why.
The thing that I keep getting hung up on and the thing I keep thinking about is this: If all these technologies are really improving health or fitness or performance then we would see the outcomes in, well, the outcomes. If sleep trackers made people sleep better, then there should be measurable improvements in sleep—and spoiler: there are not.
When super shoes came along, for example, times dropped. (Yeah, yeah, other reasons too, but the cause/effect is fairly clear.) When women were given wide-scale access to training facilities, female athletes improved dramatically. Think of it in other, large-scale public health examples: After the HPV vaccine was approved and rolled out to young women, cervical cancer rates plummeted in that demographic. After COVID (and COVID-related factors) tore through the country, you could quantify the measurable impact it had on average life expectancy.
This is what happens when there’s a large scale intervention. You have a cause, you see an effect.
So. With so so so many world-changing health technologies, so much focus on fitness, more than ever, there should be an effect. We should be able to see it. Right?
In other things I spend a lot of time thinking about…
Opening up for everyone this conversation I had with Triathlon Taren about the endurance content landscape, if triathlon is big enough to sustain a pure content business play, how influencers actually make money now (it’s not from TikTok), and who’s doing the best in the industry.
Results & on the calendar
This past weekend, Olympic steeplechaser Colleen Quigley made her triathlon debut at the collegiate draft-legal race at UCSD. She won the sprint race by about a minute—most of which came in the slightly long 3.4-mile run (according to people who were there). No, she won’t be sticking with tri, for now.
Coming this weekend:
Challenge Wanaka on Saturday (Feb. 18) is our first major-ish race of the year. It looks like the men’s field across the half-distance will feature Sebi Kienle against a bunch of young Australians (strength of field: 68.4), and the smaller women’s field will have Grace Thek, Bec Clarke, and Lotte Wilms going at it (strength of field: 63.82). HOW TO WATCH: There appears to be no live coverage.
Other things in our sports that I think you’ll think are interesting.
The Millrose Games delivered some American records for running in circles indoors this past weekend, so we’re still going to care about indoor track for one more weekend. That line-up included 57-year-old Michelle Rohl mixing it up with the pros (though apparently she was sick). Fun fact: Back in January she ran a 55-59yo age-group American record in the mile of 5:17. (Outside/Runner’s World)
Another woman, Jo Zakrzewski, set a 48-hour world record this weekend by covering 255.668 miles in that time. (iRunFar)
And our last bizarre running record of the week: David Kilgore ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (which, yes, is a thing people pay a lot of money to do) and averaged 2:56 per marathon. (Outside)
If you think triathlete internet gets too in the weeds sometimes, you should check out runner internet. This week, it was quite worked up about whether breaking four minutes in the mile still matters—since 52 guys did it in one meet on Saturday, shoes, technology, tracks, etc. Of all the things I can bring myself to have opinions on, this isn’t one of them.
World Triathlon added a few more World Cup events to the schedule. (World Triathlon)
Ironman announced a new 70.3 in Japan. (Ironman)
USA Triathlon announced their 2023 competition rules, effective March 15. (USAT)
The new PTO doc (Part I) started a deep dive on Kat Matthews’ rise and recovery. While getting hit by a car right before Kona makes for the most dramatic part of her story, I actually also quite appreciate Kat’s progression from age-grouper to good age-grouper to OK pro to good pro to very good pro. (Youtube)
Triathlete checks in with the age-group athlete who was taken out by a car during 70.3 Worlds last fall. (Triathlete)
Sam Long is now with Dan Plews, Chelsea Sodaro’s coach. (Instagram)
Emma Pallant has signed with Cadex, which is fascinating primarily because I didn’t know anyone besides Kristian was riding the crazy top-tube-less bike. (Instagram)
I thought Specialized had actually kept most of their short-course pros, but Canyon picked up another: Olympic bronze medalist Hayden Wilde. (Instagram)
45 years ago this Saturday was the very first Ironman, so Ironman is running a whole giveaway this week. (Triathlon Vibe/Instagram)
Ironman CEO Andrew Messick is making the rounds and, even though I do not like listening to things, the ProTriNews episode was much more well-researched and not as headache-inducing as last week’s other interview. Most interesting part was his thoughts on the PTO. (PTN)
Olympic 800m runner Nick Symmonds has designed an impossible obstacle course. $25K if you can complete it. (I will always have a soft spot for Nick because he let me interview him for my grad school thesis project.) (GearJunkie)
While I was traveling a few weeks ago, I accidentally watched this show: Two people slap each other and see who can stay standing. Needless to say, I’m not the only one with questions. (New Yorker)
Strava’s CEO resigned (again), because IMO he can’t figure out what the hell to do with the company either. This week my revelation was that maybe I’m not the only person who has been trying to figure out the next big business model; I think the rich dudes can’t actually figure it out either, but they just keep faking it. (DC Rainmaker)
When private equity came for toddler gyms. (New York Times)
One last thing
In Lionel’s defense the PTO pulled an old clip from one of his videos and dropped it randomly into IG out of context. And also, it is really hard to convince people you don’t care about something. It’s, by definition, almost an impossible thing to vehemently convince someone of. This is why my sister and I have started responding to all things we think are stupid with: “OK!”
Good stuff as usual, Kelly!!