#17: Stop whining
Nice is nice, and other puns editors used this week.
issue #17: Jan. 11, 2023
All sporters, I officially signed up for a bunch of races—and it turns out signing up for races like a regular person got expensive. Tell me what you’re racing in our new chat forum.
This is your free Wednesday morning Triathlonish newsletter, with analysis for the week, news from our sports, and what you need to know. Plus, just things you want to know. Remember: Paid subscribers also get a special Sunday evening newsletter.
Two quick announcements:
We launched a chat/forum for Triathlonish subscribers (that’s you, unless this was forwarded to you, then it *could* be you). So far people are introducing themselves & having sane non-all-caps conversations about the Nice/Kona announcement. Join us.
We also have a very exciting January giveaway: Win a spot at USA Triathlon’s Fantasy Camp!
OK, third announcement-slash-warning: I am aware this week’s newsletter is more rant-y than usual. Sorry/not sorry. Back to normal-ish next week.
‘They don’t have a plan, they just hate mine’
As triathletes, we tend to pride ourselves on being resilient, flexible, on problem-solving as things come up and adjusting to new obstacles. It’s supposed to be the fifth discipline of multisport and it’s part of how we’re perceived in the world. I mean, for better and worse, uncomplaining toughness is, like, triathlon’s thing.
So, of course, when the official news came out last week confirming the super-not-secret-totally-expected information that the men’s Ironman World Championship would be held in Nice, France in early September and would rotate with the women’s race in Kona in October for the next four years, naturally triathletes took it in stride, wrapped their minds around the information, and got on with training and racing.
Just kidding. They complained. A lot.
I was genuinely shocked (and maybe that’s my fault) with the level of ALL CAPS INTERNET SCREAMING. I don’t know if everyone just thought it had all been a joke for the last two months, but they did not take it in stride. Here’s my problem, though, with all the whining:
If you already qualified for Kona 2023 and now you have to change travel plans and reservations, that sucks, I get it. If you were planning to race with someone who will now be racing in another location, and you have to decide what to do, that’s annoying and frustrating, absolutely. (YOLO??) If you’re a small business or a media outlet or a brand, and you’re not sure how all the kinks are going to work out yet and you’re trying to wrap your head around double the budgets, OK, I totally understand.
But all the rest of you. All you’ve got is a whole lot of bitching without a lot of useful solutions.
There are, generally speaking, a few buckets of complaints and “suggestions” I’ve been hearing:
1. Why can’t Ironman just do two days of racing in Kona at different times of the year, or different weeks, or different months, or some combo of days?
Because they can’t. They’ve been very clear about this, and about the impacts on the small town. Will that change eventually? Maybe. But right now, two days in Kona in any form is not an option.
2. Why can’t Ironman just rotate two days of world championship racing in other locations—ie. two days in Nice next year, then two days in Australia, then two days in, I dunno, Canada? And then have a regular Ironman in Hawaii.
Obviously, I think that’d be great, it’d create a world championship race for different kinds of athletes, access for different regions of the world, a traveling festival. Clearly, however, triathletes are not prepared to let go of the Big Island mythology. So if you want a day of championship racing in Kona, then this is the option. For now, at least.
3. But it was fine before, back in 2019, why can’t Ironman just keep everything the same? Why can’t they just keep cramming all the people into one day of racing in Kona? It used to be hard to qualify, just take my money and never change. (Roughly, give or take, that’s my paraphrasing of the common suggestion.)
Of course, this isn’t actually an option. It sounds like one, but it isn’t. Because what it actually is asking is: Why can’t we just go back to the past? And, I guess, the issue is which past is it specifically you want to go back to? The one when anyone could just show up in Kona, there was no qualifying. Or the one where the world championship race was all dudes from the U.S. and Europe, about as world-ly as the MLB World Series. Or, maybe, you just want to go a little bit back in the past. The year I raced (2016) there were 698 women qualified out of the whole world. For reference, there were 5,059 women at the Olympics in Rio that year. (Yes, I know across more sports; I’m making a point.) Which of those versions of the past counts as the good old days? Who exactly were they good for?
I get it, what this suggestion really is suggesting is for the sport to be small again, to be niche and cool and fringe and not corporate, but also accessible and mainstream enough for us to be the cool people who get to do it. I get the appeal of that, I do. And if that’s what you’re looking for, may I suggest a Swimrun? You’ve got probably two to four more years before that blows up and has the same problems of every growing niche cult thing.
And, of course, Ironman could have gone back to stuffing people into one day on one small island. [For all the complaints about a for-profit company wanting to make money by expanding (shocking), Kona cramming would have really been the short-term sure bet for cash.] Ironman could have done that. But, Ironman can’t actually make its world championship be what it was in 1983 or 1993 or 2003 or even 2013. We can’t go back to a time when the company wasn’t the company it is now, when the world championship was smaller and something it isn’t anymore. That actually isn’t an option, no matter what.
Trying to relive the past would have meant taking back the new spots from women who they were promised to. It would have meant sticking close to 3,000 people in a race that already wasn’t fair at 2,300. Who cares, just hand over your money and claim your bragging rights. It would have meant conceding the clean racing of the women’s event, of the age-group women definitely. Really, it would have meant conceding women’s racing deserved to be sandwiched, wasn’t as important, not actually. Sure, it’s nice to have, but not if the men have to race in France. It would have meant no way to add more qualifying races in new places. Did you know there used to be 100 qualifying spots at an Ironman, back in the good old days. Today, there are 40 spots at most races. (Not at this 2023 moment, with the new slot allocations, but generally, pre-COVID.) You can say the world champs have grown because Ironman wants our money, but it’s also grown because Ironman wants to expand to places that don’t have Ironman yet. And, for all that I’m not a huge fan, I also want Ironman to expand to places that don’t have Ironman yet. Trying to cling to the past would have meant giving up the future.
If I really wanted to convince you, rhetorically, I know I should have set up more straw men in this argument and burned them down. I should have been more conciliatory and conceded that yes, of course, this plan may not work and we may have to adjust and make changes. Of course, the qualifying could get too watered down, at some point, too big, and the race could lose its mystique. Of course, there’s an atmosphere of all being in this together that I hope we don’t lose. Of course, there may be some other solution in four years that makes more sense. We’ll adjust, be resilient and flexible, adapt, and get on with it. And all of that is true.
But also true is that I’m tired of listening to middle-aged men’s temper tantrums this week, so I’ll leave the reasonable-ness to Sid and even to Dan at Slowtwitch. All I’ll say instead is: Quit whining. It’s time to be more triathlete about this.
Details to know:
2023: Sept. 10 - men in Nice, France & Oct. 14 - women in Kona. 2024: Sept. 22 - women in Nice & Oct. 26 - men in Kona. Repeat for 2025-2026.
New slot allocations are here; they have changed quite a bit.
Course details aren’t released yet, but they’ve said it will be very similar to the Ironman France course.
I’m headed to Nice next week. What do you want to know?
Win a trip to Fantasy Camp
We’re launching our first-ever giveaway: We’ll be giving away ONE free entry to USA Triathlon’s Fantasy Camp March 1-5 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. I understand there are just five spots left at camp, and YOU could win one of them (also I’ll be there, so there’s that).
Subscribe to our free weekly Wednesday Triathlonish newsletter (congrats, you already did that)
To earn extra entries:
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Details are here. Legal stuff: Contest closes Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Fantasy Camp is all-inclusive; travel to/from San Diego is NOT included. Open to U.S. & Canadian residents only.
Mark your calendar
Pro race calendars are sorta out—except for the PTO races. So I’ve updated our list of Your 2023 Triathlon Races That Matter
Global Tri Awards: Coming on Jan. 20 (livestreamed, apparently) & we’ll have a Q&A about them up this Sunday.
And results from the weekend:
The things that make up the “ish” in triathlonish. And also things I just think are interesting this week.
These are all good triathlon questions that need answers this year. (Triathlete)
Here is also a list of things we learned from athletes’ Youtubes:
Ben Kanute is deferring his Ironman World Champs spot to Kona 2024 because of his brother’s wedding this September. [My understanding, not from Ben, is that the nine or so pro men who already earned their 2023 “Kona” spot will be allowed to defer to next year’s Kona—but will then NOT be allowed to also get a spot to Nice this year, no double dipping.] (Youtube)
Lionel Sanders feels like he’s running out of time, had a terrible year, thinks he’s basically a professional Youtuber now (except I’m pretty sure he made, like, $70K in prize money + at least that in sponsor pay), and also left his coach again. (Youtube/Instagram)
Ruth Astle revealed her expenses and revenue as a pro—which is worth watching for the details. For the record, she probably made less than Lionel, but more than most. (Youtube)
This is technically, actually, a World Triathlon Youtube, but buried in Flora Duffy’s story is the fact that it sounds like she’s going for Paris 2024 after all. (Youtube)
And buried in this story with Ben Hoffman is that he’s going to guide for a paratriathlete next year—with the potential of Paris 2024, too. (Slowtwitch)
Seven pros set to have a breakout year this year. I’d include Gina Sereno and Luisa Baptista and Kate Waugh, but at what point is someone a breakout. Tri-Stats also has a short-course focused list of six U23 & juniors to keep your eye on. Keep your eye on everyone, eyes on swivel, my friend. (Triathlete/Tri-Stats)
Did you know World Tri’s API is open. I did not. I also do not entirely know what to do with that, but I think you could do something cool. (World Tri)
Will NCAA triathlon avoid some of the problems of NCAA running programs? At least the body composition and eating disorder one. (Triathlete)
With UTMB (the big trail race that partnered with Ironman, remember) getting more and more complicated to qualify for—it’s a whole thing—some races are choosing not to be part of that system. (Outside/iRunFar/Instagram)
The Boston Marathon announced its very packed women’s pro field; men’s to come tomorrow. (BAA)
Did you know Shalane Flanagan’s mom was the first woman in the world to break 2:50 in the marathon? (Starting Line 1928)
On the topic, I was looking at this 2014 survey of German age-group triathletes that found 13% admitted to doping. And I’ve been looking around for something more recent; there are a few on amateur athletes, mostly runners, and fitness enthusiasts, but if you find one on triathletes, let me know. (Taylor Hooten/PubMed)
Out of all the different takes on the horrific cardiac arrest we watched live in the NFL last week, I found this one fromon sudden cardiac death in endurance athletes the most useful. (Range Widely)
The New York Times said goodbye to Mike Reilly, too. (New York Times)