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#2: Kona, Kona, Kona, Kona, free stuff, Kona
Who will win? Will the island survive?
issue 2: Sept. 28, 2022
Welcome to issue #2. A lot of you all have been asking me post-#1 what my plan is. And, truly, my plan was/is to slow roll this ball. As in: This is #2. Let’s get to, like, at least #4 before we start stressing.
By which I mean that my plan for Triathlonish is to start with this weekly newsletter, written by me, sharing the triathlon-ish things you should know about. I’ll then add other features later this year (yes, the podcast will come back) and community threads, additional writers who can cover other topics (other non-ball sports, unique pieces of news and analysis), and one-offs like in-depth stories, interviews, and things that will live just on triathlonish.com (not in email). I’m split on gear and training (unless they’re newsy gear stories, like this one), because I think those things already exist many places and don’t really fulfill our mission of offering mainstream-sports-level news and analysis of the non-mainstream sports. Also, I don’t want to write any more ‘how to do your first triathlon’ pieces.
A Kona contest (because you’ve gotta have one)
Let’s lead with the lede: My personal favorite of the Kona contenders, Kat Matthews, is out. She appears to still be in the hospital in Texas after getting hit by a car while riding this past weekend. It seems she’s broken quite a lot of things (vertebrae, bones, skull) and should ultimately be OK (at least she’s Instagramming), but will definitely not be in Kona.
Adjust your 2022 predictions accordingly.
«Kat, I’ll send you a super special prize for any of your predictions (see: below), if you happen to be bored between watching hospital TV and eating burritos. And remember: You’re one of the toughest in the game; you’ll be back.»
I’ll be honest: I thought we’d at least make it to the Big Island before bikers started getting hit by drivers. Because that’s also definitely going to happen. Do you remember when 2,300 athletes in Kona felt overcrowded and dangerous and there were multiple accidents both in the days leading up to and during the race? Do you know how many athletes there are this year? 5,300. Across the two days of racing.
And still the triathletes come.
By all accounts from people there, it’s not as if the supply chain and labor shortages that are hitting the rest of the world are somehow less of a problem on an island in the middle of the ocean. By all accounts, it’s more expensive than ever this year. A handful of pros (Cody Beals, Els Visser, Sam Long) have opted against the trip (though, contrary to any inference otherwise, Joe Skipper is already there) and age-groupers are joining them in opting out. By all accounts, the two-day strain on local resources is affecting capacity and limiting volunteers (some of whom would have come from other islands but can’t now). It’s changing the race course, too. It sounds like, due to a lack of volunteers, aid stations will be spaced farther apart and there will be fewer of them. It also sounds like some shifting has been required and some lanes of traffic will be kept open so people can get to work and to Costco.
Do you remember how Matt Russell crashed into a car during the race in 2017? A van turned across the course directly in front of him and he went through the passenger window. (Interestingly, that’s almost exactly what happened to Kat, too. People who don’t ride bikes tend to misjudge space and speed, and undervalue the consequences of that miscalculation.)
And still the triathletes come.
This local’s advice to visiting triathletes has been circulating around the social medias. Ironman sent a press release the other day urging us to “mindfully seek wonder” and today they told people not to ride on the roads south of town. I’m not even sure what to do with all of that, other than know it’s going to be a mess, we’re going to have to watch out for each other, slow down, try not to be a jerk.
And still the triathletes come. Ready or not.
Photo: The Emergency Operations Center at the King Kam back in 2010. (I was looking for something and found this from Hawaii County. Who knew.)
If you’re not ready for Kona sunset and poke spam, you might want to tune out for the next two weeks, at least get off Insta, go for a ride. I, for one, fully intend to contribute as much spam as possible, whether stuck in a traffic jam on Ali’i or scrounging for affordable food, all in the name of triathlon. Think of how many swims have gone un-hashtagged, how many sunsets undocumented, in the last three years. Too many!
To celebrate the insanity we’re going to run our own mini podium prediction contest. Post your podium picks over on this thread and whoever has it most right will win some ‘all sports, no balls’ merch—also available in our newly launched store. And, since predictions are as much about getting it wrong—otherwise what would be the point of racing—I’m also going to award a prize to the most completely wrong prediction.
Daniela Ryf: It’s impossible to bet against Daniela winning. Yes, she was up and down the last couple of years, but she’s been on since this spring. And, if she’s on, no one will beat her. If she’s off, sure. That’s why we race.
Laura Philipp: Probably the one person who could beat Daniela. We didn’t see her in St. George because COVID, but the overshadowed 8:18:20 she put down in Hamburg back in June makes me think if we had seen her in St. George it would have been epic.
Anne Haug: I do not think Anne was happy about third in May. I also don’t know how she’ll beat the two women listed above here; if she does, it’ll take a run like we haven’t seen before.
Lucy Charles-Barclay: I almost put Lucy in the wildcard category; I wasn’t even sure she was going to be racing until a week or so ago and I don’t think anyone knows exactly what’s going to happen those last ten miles of the run. Yes, she’s clearly fit and back in form. Yes, she will lead for 2/3s of the race. But after that? I’m still betting she can hold on for something.
Chelsea Sodaro: A bold pick, but Chelsea went an even more overlooked 8:36:41 at Hamburg, behind Laura. And she’s been back to form recently, post-baby.
Sarah Crowley: Look, she was third last time here. That might have been three years ago (and three years is a lifetime in pro sports), but don’t count her out.
Sarah True: Speaking of three years being a lifetime. Sarah T. has a kid now, is studying for a Masters in clinical psychology, but also looks like she’s having fun. She set a course record at IM Lake Placid, and if she’s having fun she may surprise a lot of people (except it’s not really a total surprise if you were fourth here before).
Kristian Blummenfelt: Did you know there was a time not so long ago when I always had to doublecheck to make sure I spelled “Blummenfelt” right? The IM world record holder, reigning IM world champ, reigning Olympic gold medalist, reigning World Tri world champ has to be the odds on favorite. Even if he’s never been to Hawaii before and is basically playing tourist—a very fast tourist—this week.
Gustav Iden: The Norwegians are ready to conquer the island. And I have complete faith in them.
Patrick Lange: Yeah, his last trip to the island ended in a mess, but he’s always been a person who peaks most for this one day. I don’t totally know if he can top the new younger contingent, but he’s definitely still got a podium in him.
Lionel Sanders: The main reason I think this year is Lionel’s year to finally beat the Queen K is the coach he’s handed the reins over to. Second in St. George showed it works and the fact that he handled a sub-par race in Dallas a few weeks ago with patience and perspective showed a Lionel who’s matured and ready.
Magnus Ditlev: Quiet guy, just keeps quietly delivering.
Joe Skipper: Opposite of a quiet guy. But the 2:37:25 he put down on the slow Wales course (after a bike mechanical) makes him a contender—and, at a minimum, he’ll be fun to watch. Blu agrees.
Braden Currie: You’re not exactly a wildcard after you get third at the world champs in St. George, but the Kiwis always remain a bit of a mystery to the rest of us, racing mostly over in Asia-Pac and then showing up on the global stage to confusion from commentators.
Collin Chartier: Bonus wildcard and maybe the only real wild wildcard of the bunch after that performance at the U.S. Open.
* Lots of people not listed here could also podium. That’s the beauty of the whole thing.
There’s another world championship?
Poor Xterra. It’s that other world champs, the one not in Hawaii anymore. After however many decades in Maui, they moved the race to Italy this year and moved it to before Kona. Yes, in case you didn’t know (and I assume you didn’t): Xterra Worlds is this weekend. I believe that also abolishes the old prize for the omnium across both world champ races. While the Italy course looks very pretty and, reportedly, the race directors there have put on a number of successful high-level off-road events before, I can’t imagine the timing and move are helping with the publicity.
RDs: copy this
Oh races, how many of you we’ve all done.
This weekend I participated in (“raced” would be a strong word) a pilot women’s trail half-marathon from Salomon. I signed up for it mostly because it was 20 minutes from my house and Jessie Diggins had promoted it on her IG and Jessie Diggins is awesome. Salomon was using the event to test a bunch of race perks that, in my conclusion, more race directors need to copy: free childcare, lactation stations at the start/finish, breast pumps at aid stations. Plus, a bunch of community stuff: decent prize money ten deep (a lot for a local women’s trail race), a private Facebook group for the athletes, workshops and talks at the local running shop leading up to the event, and a pre-race beers & cheers podcast recording with the pros. It was also a really really weirdly tough course.
Sure, the hard seltzers and charcuterie at the finish weren’t exactly my vibe, but that’s OK. You can create something for a group of people who do not usually feel included and not every part of it has to be for you. Triathlon, are you listening.
Annemiek Van Vleuten also won the cycling world championship road race this past weekend with a broken elbow (and illegal socks). And Remco Evenepoel won the men’s race four years after winning the junior world title. 39 years old and 22 years old: you can win at any age. Well, not you per se, but people can. (CyclingTips/CyclingNews/Facebook)
In other things “people” can do: run a 2:01:09 marathon. While Kipchoge’s world record in Berlin was *the* sports news of the weekend, Tigist Assefa’s win of the women’s race in 2:15:37 was really quite impressive, too. Maybe less for the exact time than for the fact that it was a 19-minute PR over her one other marathon. Just like the rest of us do. There was also a new Canadian record, a new woman on the (rather short) list of American-born Black women who have broken three hours, and a whole bunch of other news over at Fast Women. (Twitter/Women’s Running/Fast Women)
The real hero of Berlin, though? Kipchoge’s bottle man—who sprinted all over the course on his bike to deliver the world record holder’s bottles. If you guessed he was a 56-year-old triathlete, you guessed right. (Runner’s World)
Pro cyclist Freddy Ovett also ran Berlin on a semi-unique training program—ie. not so much running. The outcome? A 2:45:29. Not that awesome for that awesome of an athlete, but I appreciated his post-race IG insight: “I didn’t have time expectations and wanted to run on feel—turns out I felt wrong.” Just like the rest of us do. (Outside/Instagram)
This weekend’s London Marathon will be available only on FloTrack in the U.S. on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET. (FloSports)
Everyone who qualified for the Boston Marathon got in. Which kind of, sort of is what qualifying means. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (BAA)
The Kona coffee boat won’t happen this year. No word yet on who bought it out from under Blueseventy or what that’s about. (Instagram)
I also wrote about the finally equal women’s & men’s pro spots at Kona—and why, yes, it matters. (Feisty)
Two women racing in Kona have also started a with > against campaign that’s catching on among AGers. (Triathlete)
An athlete training for the race was hit by a driver in Tampa and killed this week. (Fox13 News)
The only kind of gear story I care about: the mysterious case of the banned wetsuit. (Triathlete)
I know everyone’s all excited about doing Ironman in this new Apple watch, but I just don’t see it. Prove me wrong. (Bloomberg)
If we all just keep buying fancier shoes to get faster times, then everyone is faster, and what do the times really mean, and then the bar of “fast” keeps getting raised, and then we have to buy more stuff just to keep up, but did we really get faster or just richer, and is it all just an illusion then? (Outside)
Back in May Strava acquired a prehab app, and that might explain why I’m seeing all these prehab routines pop up in my Strava feed now. Which is either brilliant or hilarious. They also added a bike share locator tool. (Fitt/VeloNews)
Having felt very very physically terrible for a pretty long time, let me attest to the glory of feeling fine. (The Atlantic)
One last thing
There are different types of fun.