#24: The lure of the rings
issue #24: March 1, 2023
As you read this, I’m driving down to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista for USA Triathlon’s Fantasy Camp (with our lucky winner). I’ll probably share some behind-the-scenes on our IG stories and in the Chat, and will report back next week. So far the one thing I know is you’re not allowed to bring alcohol onto campus (except for “moderate” drinking at sanctioned events), which really raises the question of what prompted that rule.
Because I have to drive the length of our longest state right now, and because we’re suddenly officially in official race season, we’re going to just get straight into the results and upcoming races. (I have a bunch I want to write from an interview I did with James, from Race Ranger, a few weeks ago, but it’s just going to have to wait one more week.)
I did write something this past weekend for our paid subscribers about blacking out and living with it and why I haven’t been 100% on my A game for the last month. I opened it up to everyone for today, if you want to know what’s been going on. (I don’t often write about this defining feature of my life, so here you go.)
Who doesn’t love the brutality of Olympic season
About a year ago my husband hit the qualifying marks for the Irish Olympic XC ski team. He was the second or third guy on the team (depending on the day) and there were three spots and no other real contenders. Things seemed so certainly obvious that he was already in Austria preparing for pre-Games team camp when the people who decide these things decided something else. Due to the kind of Olympic political infighting that anyone who’s been through a rough selection process will be familiar with, what followed were appeals and barristers and a lot of heartbreak.
It was brutal. And he hadn’t even spent his whole life chasing this dream; it had mostly been a fluke post-brain-surgery. (Yes, he also had been coming back from brain surgery. As someone said to me: There’s no story good enough the IOC can’t ruin it.)
I saw what that was like first-hand. It was rough. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the athletes who have poured years into this.
And so, with that in mind, the Olympic qualifying season begins this weekend. Yay?
This weekend, we begin where we ended last year: in Abu Dhabi.
The World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS, as we say) is where you gotta perform if you wanna perform at the Olympic stage. Most countries are going to use this year’s season to pick their teams for Paris next summer. While each country’s selection process varies widely over when and how exactly teams will be picked—so I won’t go into the fine readings of the countless governing body documents out there—most countries will be focused specifically on a few things: ability to perform at high-level events (these ones), ability to contribute to the team relay and/or individual medals, and performance at targeted key qualifying races.
Basically: If a country is going to do a subjective selection, then they’re going to look at all seven of the races listed above + Paris Test Event. If they’re going to do a quasi-objective selection, then they’re most likely going to use the Grand Final and the Paris Test Event (not an official WTCS race) as the objective qualifying races (where a top three or top seven may automatically earn you a spot, per parameters). To get to those, though, you need good performances starting this weekend. So, here we are.
Things to watch for this weekend:
Abu Dhabi is a sprint distance, with potentially technical bike laps around the track. It’ll likely be a closer race that comes down to the run, but who knows, maybe I’m wrong, sometimes on technical short courses someone can take a flyer off the front that sticks.
Women: Georgia Taylor-Brown has got to be the favorite to win. The British and American women’s Olympic teams are the toughest to make, though, so they’re already out in force. I’d keep an eye on Beth Potter and Sophie Coldwell. And for the Americans, it’s a full squad: Katie Zaferes making her return post-partum (!), Taylor Spivey, Summer Rappaport, Kristen Kasper. There are some French and German athletes who could also be hard to beat, but I mostly care about Americans. Notably missing: Flora Duffy and Taylor Knibb. (Full start list here.)
Men: Like, I said, I am here for the Americans, specifically the return of Morgan Pearson, Kevin McDowell, and Matt McElroy. I don’t know how they’re going to be in their return after various issues, but I am rooting for them. In reality, the win will probably be down to Hayden Wilde and Alex Yee, but who knows. We all also want to see where Vincent Luis is at, a year out from the French trying to dominate the France Olympics. We demand answers. (Full start list here.)
WATCH: Women go at noon Friday—which is 3 a.m. ET (midnight Thursday my time). And men go at 2 p.m. Friday—5 a.m. ET/2 a.m. PT. I may just sleep and watch on replay.
Results: From the calendar
Gwen’s return: Technically, the race this weekend should be called the Oceania Cup, which Nicole van der Kaay and David Castro Fajardo won. But, the only reason any of us are paying attention to a race of this size is because it was also Gwen Jorgensen’s return to triathlon after over six years away. (I wrote about it for espnW, which shares nothing new for triathlon fans, except maybe some quotes from her.) Gwen took third, which is totally fine for a first race back, but also she seems to have lost the 30 seconds primarily on the run, which is fascinating, and, of course, she will have to progress now to World Cups and then WTCS races. Still. It’s a start!
Super League Arena Games: The first of the season, the American couple of Gina Sereno and Chase McQueen won, both of whom you should absolutely put money on now for LA2028. But it’s not really about who won, is it. It’s really more about watching the spectacle of people running and biking and swimming as hard as they can in an arena, and that Lionel Sanders laid down the power to pull off a 6th place (not bad for a guy so far behind after the swim). And it’s about the fact that the whole women’s podium also holds down other jobs, pretty much.
Really, there’s just something satisfying about watching people make faces like this:
Watch: Mark your calendar
WTCS Abu Dhabi: Like we said above, it’s the one to watch on Friday. WATCH: Triathlon Live, 3 a.m. ET on Friday
Ironman New Zealand: Maybe the lesser of the Ironmans kicking off the season this weekend. I think Braden Currie’s going to win, but I’d like to see Sebi Kienle do well on his retirement tour and you always want Cam Brown to finish off a 30+ year pro career with a gold star. I was also excited to see Meredith Kessler back on the start list. WATCH: Does not appear to be streaming.
Ironman South Africa: The first of the regional championships in our races to watch this year. The men’s start list is quite deep with Ali Brownlee, Brad Weiss, Leon Chevalier (who has to be the French favorite for the France IM world title in September). On the women’s side, it’s less deep, but I expect it to be a race between Laura Philipp and Fenella Langridge. WATCH: I can not make heads or tails of this, but it does not appear like Ironman has released its schedule of streaming races yet for this year…
On this week’s podcast: Sid & I previewed and resulted all the past and upcoming races.
Everything else from around our sports that I think you might want to know about, or that I just think is interesting.
A data set was published on Github from Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden’s Kona runs. The data’s from this new training/data platform/company and it evidently shows core body temperature, along with heart rate, speed, etc on their way to 1st and 3rd. Though it also, very evidently, was a bit of a stunt. If you’re into crunching numbers, make of it what you will. (Github/Entalpi/Twitter)
Ah, The Norwegian Method. It gets the Alex Hutchinson treatment in Outside, which means the latest scientific paper on lactate threshold double days is broken down and explained for the rest of us. I have plenty of personal thoughts on the subject, but I think this is as good a sum-up for now as any. (Outside)
While we’re on the topic of the Norwegians. The absolute only online fake rivalry I am here for is the one between the two of them and Jan Frodeno. Follow along via his IG post, then Kristian’s, and of course the PTO just egging it all on in the background and supplying cameras. Should I go to Ibiza in May now too?!? (Instagram)
Per announcements this week, Bahrain 13’s new athletes now include Kat Matthews and Amelia Watkinson. I’m not going to super re-hash the very real and concrete arguments against the team and why some athletes have chosen to leave it. (I do appreciate that they slightly renamed it to Bahrain Victorious 13. I think.) I like and respect most of the athletes involved. I understand why people want to work with the group. I understand the idea that the team can help spread health and sport and access and awareness in a wider way. And, yes, I understand that many countries and governments and people have done bad things. But, no I don’t particularly subscribe to the belief that that makes all bad things equally bad. (Bahrain13/Instagram/The Guardian)
Ironman confirmed its North American calendar for 2023. Which I’m 98% sure was all races we all already knew existed, but hey, that’s marketing. (EnduranceBiz)
USA Triathlon announced its women’s series of women’s only triathlons, plus its gravel tri events. (USA Triathlon)
If you’re not tired by now of discussing the PTO, I thought Amanda had some 100% valid points about the PTO’s business model. And I thought this was some really good math testing out the new PTO ranking system (which we wrote about here). Personally, my current official position is: Who cares what I or anyone thinks anymore, you got to just show us what you can do. (Slowtwitch/Github/Triathlonish)
As someone who once made a hand-drawn chart of how all the various rich guys funding the different things in our business connected, I appreciated this piece on the financial ties between Zwift and the Arena Games. (Tri-Stats)
Also enjoyed this fun look at the tri-specific Airbnb/resort/training grounds out in Palm Desert. (The Tempo)
Who is the kind of runner who makes a living out of being an official person who drops out of a race? The life of a pacer. (New York Times)
Sam Holness has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the first openly autistic athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship. (Tri247)
Zoot is running a fundraiser for She Can Tri and Zeinab Rezaie, the first Afghan woman to complete the 70.3 World Champs—who we talked to on the podcast back at the end of 2022. (Zoot/Triathlonish)
I’ve been following the evolution of NIL deals and their (co?)existence with the NCAA rather closely, and this story about the big Puma deal from an LSU basketball star was a good overview with good insight from shoe execs. Let’s be real, though, there are some ways college sports could survive without the NCAA. (Wall Street Journal/Global Sports Matters)
What are sports good for anyway? More than absolutely nothing. (The Action Cookbook)
One last thing
This post is really all about the caption (if you can’t read it): “This picture is life right now. Started the day by waking up a baby to try to get to the track to try to do a run/workout. Baby didn’t want to sleep , understandably because I literally just woke her up, and just wanted to be held. Cue @alan_culpepper for some baby holding while I warmed up with @stephrothstein & @rachschneid18 Come back to a still awake baby who still wants to be held. Go to the bathroom at NAU Dome to breastfeed because double sports bras make that a hard task. That paired with Keagans reluctance to take a bottle = not ideal. Baby is fed and sleepy but still not cooperating, which is fine. We watch the ladies do a series of reps and finally get her to close her eyes. I hop in for some 400s but come back to Rachel bouncing the car seat up and down to get her to fall back asleep. I take over and they do a rep and I hop back in when I can. Eventually it becomes pretty fluid to do a 400 or 300 bounce the baby (both Rachel and I) and then do another one on repeat. Finished with a mile…where I remember that in the chaos I didn’t pee before starting the workout and proceeded to pee my pants 4 of the 5 laps required to complete a mile. Keagan doesn’t cooperate for a cooldown so we head home, both of us with pee pants. This is a picture post hopping in the shower to rinse off post workout/pee but then immediately had to feed a hungry baby. Now both fed and her asleep I am reminded that this phase of life is all about flexibility and being ok with it. At the end of it all we are both fed and happy and that seems like success.”