#25: How (how!?) to watch triathlon
Make a spreadsheet and hope.
issue #25: March 8, 2023
Sorry, sorry, I did not mean to send you all this week’s podcast by email yesterday. (In case you were wondering: The default setting for anything published is to email it to everyone, but I respect the sanctity of the inbox, so I only send out this Wednesday morning weekly newsletter and the Sunday afternoon email that goes to paid subscribers. However, yesterday, I missed turning off the setting. Oops, sorry. Hopefully, you enjoyed Sid & my’s breakdown of the week’s races.)
I’ve spent this last week at the Olympic Training Site (not center, details on why TK) in Chula Vista, with the USA Triathlon Foundation’s Fantasy Camp. And because taking photos for others’ consumption dilutes your enjoyment of the thing (study here), I did not take a ton of photos. However, most of you did guess on our IG stories who’s medal this was:
We’ll have a story about the Olympic Training Centers and behind-the-scenes coming this weekend. Remember, paid subscribers get bonus Sunday content & help support Triathlonish (& get some fun goodies). And even if you don’t want to be a paid subscriber, help us out by sharing this week’s newsletter with one triathlon friend.
Rule #1 of marketing: Make it really hard for the audience to find you
Last week, after I mentioned that it was weird Ironman hadn’t released their broadcast schedule yet, they released it! (It was definitely because of me and not because people were going to be wondering what the hell was going on with the regional champs in S. Africa over the weekend.)
You can now see the full Ironman broadcast schedule here. It includes 12 70.3s, starting with Oceanside, and 12 fulls, starting with Texas. There are a lot of things that go into deciding which races will be streamed live—having sat in on those meetings: what advertisers want (ie. typically more N. American audiences), which races will get the biggest viewer numbers, which events have pro fields already in the schedule, which ones can be broadcast well, and how to balance the broadcast team across multiple countries and 24 events.
And, in case you were wondering: 70.3s will still stream on Outside Watch and full Ironmans will stream on Ironman’s Youtube channel and on ironman.com/live (which I guess is going to replace or integrate with the Ironman Now platform they rolled out at Kona).
As a result, this is now the complete list of current ways to watch live triathlon races:
Ironman 70.3s: some on Outside Watch
PTO: on the PTO’s app; last year, they also streamed on Outside Watch but that deal was signed later in the year, so not clear yet if it’ll happen this year
World Triathlon: on Triathlon Live
Challenge: coverage varies across individual races and they rarely stream, but Roth broadcasts on German TV so maybe they’ll get that together this year
CLASH: usually on their Facebook, but at least for Miami they’re not going to have live coverage, just social clips instead
That all seems really clear and easy to follow and like a totally reasonable way to build up a mass appeal fan base for the sport that will ultimately benefit everyone in the long run. Right? If only there was some kind of umbrella organization that could represent all professionals’ interests, with the mission of elevating the pro side of the sport and creating a spectator fan base that allows people to follow athletes over the course of a season via high-quality, easy-to-understand, streamlined content and live coverage. If only.
Ranger that race
This past weekend also marked the final of three tests conducted in New Zealand for Race Ranger. The Race Ranger devices are small receivers/transmitters attached to the front and back of each athlete’s bike. They use a combo of ultra-wideband technology and bluetooth to send a signal that bounces back, detecting a pre-programmed distance. What an athlete sees while riding (if it all works smoothly) is an orange light when they move within 2.5 meters of the drafting zone, a red light when they’re 1.5 meters away from drafting, and then a blue light when they’re in the draft zone.
Setting aside that red should probably be the color of drafting, the main issue for these real-world tests was sorting out little software bugs—eg. a glitch a few athletes had where their device would sometimes flash for a second triggered by an oncoming athlete returning the other direction.
But, in general, talking to James at Race Ranger, the two types of software errors they saw will be worked out. I’m less concerned about that. Most of the athletes have loved the tests.
What I’m more concerned about is: How does this work now for everyone?
It sounds like some races may start later this year with using the devices just for the pros, but in order for the company to be financially successful it’s definitely ultimately reliant on a mass participation model—ie. a small fee (not more than $5-10) charged per athlete. As a business model, it’s possible for a race organizer, like Ironman, to roll that fee into the race costs or to create a kind of “competitive” athlete category that would include Race Ranger as part of its package.
From Race Ranger’s end, it also sounds like the next step is for the devices to communicate with a referee’s iPad or phone, transmitting data about which athletes are spending the most time in the “blue” (see: “in the red” works better there) and that would then allow the refs to go and find those athletes and card them in person. Penalties would 100% still have to be given out for infringements seen in person; we’re not yet at a place where we want to rely on technology to dispense penalties.
The final question is whether simply telling people they’re drafting (via the lights) will stop them from drafting? The way posting a speed radar sign tells people they’re speeding and temporarily gets them to slow down. After that, it’s sort of up to them. Well, them and the police and also the fundamental design of the road + traffic + infrastructure.
Photo: Tommy Zaferes/World Triathlon
Results: from the calendar
WTCS Abu Dhabi: The seven-race WTCS season started with massive racing in the UAE this past weekend and the Brits looked hard to beat going into the Olympic qualifying year. As much as a win can look easy, Alex Yee easily ran away from the massive group out of T2. (Notable absences included quite a few DNS and DNFs, due to what seems to be a cold going around, theoretically.) And Beth Potter finally nailed her first WTCS win, running away from Sophie Coldwell and Taylor Spivey—all of whom have now positioned themselves well for the two toughest teams to make—after a smaller breakaway stayed away. Georgia Taylor-Brown had an uncharacteristic finish in 15th. Full results here.
**The asterisk note that must be made: Yes, a protest was filed for Gustav Iden’s shoes being illegal under the new shoe rules, and yes, they are currently being reviewed by World Triathlon. Yes, he finished in 52nd anyway; that’ll happen if you miss a 50-person bike group. No, I do not believe there is any way he doesn’t know every detail of the rules regulating what shoes he’s wearing—there are too many people involved who all are too much in the minutiae—so I actually wasn’t surprised to hear the rumor that the Norwegians filed the appeal themselves in order to get a ruling and get the shoes OK’d before the bigger races (and, presumably, for Kristian as well then). It sounds exactly like something they would do.
Ironman New Zealand: Won by shipwreck survivor Els Visser and, surprisingly to me at least, Mike Phillips beating out Braden Currie. But, all eyes were really on the retirement tour athletes: 12-time winner Cam Brown did his last Ironman New Zealand at the age of 50 (in 7th place) and had a haka done in his honor; Sebi Kienle made the next stop in his goodbye year with a 4th place; and a special shoutout (though not (!) retirement) to Meredith Kessler on her return post-second-baby. Full results here.
Ironman South Africa: With Alistair Brownlee pulling out with an injury niggle once he was already there, the races were won by two world championship title favorites: Laura Philipp over Fenella Langridge (after a short swim that it’s hard to argue didn’t impact the race), and Leon Chevalier (who is not going to give up the title in France in September) over hometown athlete Brad Weiss. Full results here.
**But of course, the asterisk note that must be made: The swim was shortened for another year in a row because of a storm about to roll in—the concern being that they needed to get age-groupers through the bike before the torrential-ness. In this mess, Justine Mathieux crossed the line in third place and was later DQ’d. It sounds like she was given a drafting penalty on the bike. However, she says in the rain and wind and with the language barrier, the referee never showed her a penalty card nor said anything to her about a penalty. She, of course, then, did not serve a penalty she didn’t know she had been given. She says when she was told to serve it on the run she did. (Of course, you’re not allowed to skip a penalty box and serve a penalty later, technically. So she was DQ’d after running the full 26.2 miles.) It’s unclear how this exactly was allowed to happen and how she could prove her case in an appeal anyway. You can imagine this is again raising more questions.
Want more race details? Sid and I talked all things this past race weekend + this upcoming race weekend on the podcast.
Watch: mark your calendar
CLASH Miami: CLASH returns to the track in Miami this weekend—women’s race at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday and men at noon ET—with a few key shake-ups to the start list: Lionel Sanders has jumped in and will now go up against Sam Long, while Joe Skipper’s baby is due so he’s skipping it and Vince Luis is out too post-Abu Dhabi. Jackie Hering won’t be there either, so it’ll be a swim heavy race with Haley Chura and Sara Perez-Sala.
WATCH: There’s no live coverage; CLASH said they’ll be doing social video updates during and a packaged broadcast later
Other things we think are interesting this week in our sports.
Alicia Monson set a new 10,000m American record of 30:03, and Fast Women has a very good breakdown on why the list of best 10K times is being so rewritten right now. ()
The Naval Academy added women’s triathlon as the latest DI school. Your move, Cal and CU. (USA Triathlon)
Chase McQueen took third at a Continental Cup in La Paz this past weekend, which is mostly notable because he did it after getting stung by a stingray. Triathlete has a good story on him after his Super League win last weekend. (Triathlete)
Get to know the Norwegian coach, Olav Bu—who I love running into at races, because he’s always willing to tell you absolutely everything that’s happening with total transparency. (Triathlete)
Netflix released the trailer for their Tour de France doc/show. Will it be triathlon’s Drive to Survive or the lesser-known whatever those other ones were. (FYI, even though Netflix doesn’t want live sports, it needs live sports for these drama doc shows, high ROI, low cost, etc.) (CyclingNews/Front Office Sports)
The guys from CyclingTips have officially launched their new venture, an independent cycling publication. (The Colorado Sun)
If you missed it, my cover story from the USA Triathlon magazine about moms—and why the hell it’s so hard to come back to elite sports postpartum—is up online now. (USA Triathlon)
Speaking of, First Bourn has committed $100K in grants for college for female athletes’ kids. A number of triathletes are recipients this first year. (Endurance Sportswire)
Sharrows are stupid. (StreetsBlogUSA)
A fitness influencer-turned Christianity influencer is going on trial for false advertising/marketing. And every coach, triathlon influencer, fitness enthusiast on a journey should pay attention to this line: “Rather than providing individual coaching, the lawsuit says, Davis simply gave ‘generic and non-substantive’ feedback, such as ‘THAT’S MY GIRL! You’re killing it!’ and ‘you’ve got this babe!’” (Buzzfeed)
One last thing
Just for something completely different: The World Nature Photography Awards.