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#7: The other world championship
What if Americans are actually good at triathlon?
issue 7: Nov. 2, 2022
This past weekend I raced a local collegiate sprint at Cal’s Bearathlon, which was super fun and which I talked about on the podcast. We’ll do a story, too, next week, explaining collegiate triathlon and the budding NCAA sport.
I wanted to give a quick update, though, about what I’m planning with Triathlonish. What I want is to cover the sport, provide fun news and analysis that is sometimes missing, and create a (non-douche) space for our sports. Right now, my plan is to do this in these ways:
This weekly newsletter will always stay free & will be what you need to know this week in tri-ish sports + some piece of analysis; it will generally be written by me unless I let someone guest write while I’m on vacation
The weekly-ish podcast will provide commentary & we’ll add interviews with different people in our sports
What I’m looking to add next is weekly or bi-weekly in-depth stories on topics that don’t have a home elsewhere + Q&As with interesting people — the first of those Q&As should come later this week
I would, then, like to ultimately add threads & discussion boards for members + a library of race reviews and a monthly gear/tech roundup (ie. what you actually need to know in gear & training news this month) if I can find the right person to write it
If you’re looking for a model of what I envision you should check out Culture Study (which is great). It’ll be kinda like that, but for triathlon. These things tend to exist primarily in the finance and tech space, or in politics with many hot takes. But in so much as they exist in sports, it’s always the big money sports. The assumption in our (non-big-money) sports is that triathletes only care about themselves and about how they can get faster.
I don’t believe that. I believe that our sports can be more. And with that, let’s talk about the races this past weekend.
The future is now
I have a confession to make: I actually prefer the 70.3 World Championship to the longer one. It’s more exciting, fun, and dynamic both to race and to watch; it draws a wider range of athletes, especially in this new era where the best athletes will not be limited by your definitions of what they should do; it allows for truly great racing and for risks to be taken and showcased on both days; it’s built distinctly for triathletes; it’s the future.
Sure, we all love Kona and the deeply embedded feelings of the NBC special and the Wheaties boxes and the lure. But when I think about what triathlon can grow into, 70.3 Worlds (among other things) is what I think of.
Photo: Donald Miralle / IRONMAN
Which is why it deserves a goddamn $500,000 prize purse total, minimum, when Kona gets $750K. This $350,000 pot, with the 70.3 world champ only taking home $50K, isn’t going to hold up in this day and age, not with the competition, not with the athletes’ options. A private company declaring a world championship—which is what Ironman is, for as good a job as they do—will only stand so long as it maintains legitimacy. That’s basic Poli Sci 101 principles. And it took 70.3 Worlds a long time to build legitimacy, to become a thing that’s respected—some people would argue it’s still not fully there. So if it wants to hold onto that and grow into it, with the shift in the tri winds that are blowing, then it’s time to invest in the little things (fanfare, extra race week hubbub) and the big things (prize money, race date).
Build a sport for the next 20 years.
Which brings us to: It’s no secret there’s a lot of concern that a two-day Kona simply won’t be possible next year, if the local authorities and city don’t want the stress, if they aren’t on board. There were rumors even as the 2022 two-day race delivered exactly what everyone hoped it would.
And I know, I know, presented with that decision many many existing triathletes would pick the past over the future, Kona every time. But I think that’s a mistake. I think that doesn’t set us up for the next generation that’s already here, that could be here. I think it confines our sport to the boundaries of one island on one day, it constrains the imagination. I think what we saw this past weekend at 70.3 Worlds is the future and the future is here and it is limitless. Even Slowtwitch (kinda) agrees with me.
Ask yourself: What would the Norwegians do? Would they only care about one race and one day? What would Taylor Knibb say about limiting herself to one type of racing? What would all the women say about having to go backwards, crammed in between the men? What would we have to say about trying to put limits on any of them? It’s not going to work.
So let’s talk about those actual races…
Photo: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images for IRONMAN
It’s Taylor’s world
And we’re just living in it.
If you didn’t watch the races this weekend, only Outside+ members can see replays. Otherwise, we’ll just recap quickly here.
In the women’s race Taylor Knibb put seven minutes into some of the best athletes in the world (Flora Duffy, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Paula Findlay) on the bike. She didn’t even seem particularly bothered by it, as if she was just doing her own thing and her own thing happened to be being one of the most dominant middle-distance athletes we’ve ever seen.
Because the women are on their own day now and because there are more cameras focused on them then, we actually got to see the battle behind for second through fifth. Paula outran everyone for second and we all cried a little. Emma Pallant-Brown did not give up and ran all the way through the field to catch Lucy in the last mile. Lucy deserves some kind of omnium award (which would be a cool thing if it existed) and, despite however tired she might be, could smell blood in the water when Flora started to knot up in the last 5K. And whew. It was, as they say, racing.
In the men’s race Ben Kanute took it to Kristian Blummenfelt on the run, to which the universal response was: GOOD FOR BEN.
Not that we don’t all love Kristian. Everyone loves Kristian. It’s not possible to not love Kristian. I especially loved the part where once he had enough of a lead he was photo-bombing people’s selfies and high-fiving every spectator in St. George.
But. It’s always good to see athletes put the fight to the best, to not just roll over. It’s what elevates the sport—even if it means Max Neumann doesn’t remember actually finishing Kona.
And now all of them—Flora Duffy, Taylor Knibb, Kristian Blummenfelt, and a very very tired (and sad looking) Gustav Iden—will head to Bermuda for the next WTCS race. At least Gustav is back on Strava, so we know he’s alive after that exhausted sit-down-on-the-curb DNF in Utah.
Full race analysis & all things penalties on the podcast…
You get a penalty and you get a penalty
It’d be impossible to talk about this weekend and not talk about the penalties.
So. Sam Long was penalized as he passed a long line of bikers and then Jackson Laundry passed him (as was India Lee for a similar head-scratcher); it was unclear how he was supposed to both continue his pass and also drop back once Jackson passed him. Ironman says Sam’s penalty was not because of what you see below, that it was in fact for a slotting in infraction that happened before off-camera. A claim that universally made everyone go: hmmmm.
What I think we can all agree on is:
A 5-minute penalty is a lot in a 70.3; I agree that if it’s 5 minutes in a full, then it should be 2 or 3 minutes in a half
If you’re going to suddenly strictly enforce the letter of the rule, then there should probably be some kind of consistency from race-to-race
And also the guiding principle should always be in favor of the advantage (ie. if you didn’t get an advantage and you’re operating as best as possible under the spirit of the rules, then officials should use common sense to let it ride out—or, rather, Sam should NOT have been penalized)
The other race this past weekend was the Super League Finale—and, I think, we can all agree the race in the super city of NEOM was not a great look for the sport. (We talked more about the problems on the podcast.) For the money, Georgia Taylor-Brown came out on top of Taylor Spivey, Non Stanford raced her last race, and Hayden Wilde took home around $150,000. (Youtube/Triathlete/Triathlonish/Super League/Instagram)
Now they all head to Bermuda. This weekend in the Mark Your Calendar section: The next race on the WTCS circuit is the Flora Duffy World Triathlon stop before the WTCS Final in Abu Dhabi at the end of the month. Then, the only last big races of 2022 are Clash Daytona and Indian Wells 70.3 in December. I think. (World Triathlon)
The other most interesting result this weekend: Heather Jackson continued her multisport tour de force with a 5th place at Javelina Jundred. She talked to Triathlete about her multiple sport multisport adventure. (Instagram/Triathlete)
Devon Yanko won Javelina in 14:36, which if you know everything Devon’s been through lately would make you very very happy for her. There was also a whole lot (!) of confusion when Riley Brady, who had registered in the non-binary category but had to choose a gender for competitive racing, won a Golden Ticket as the second woman, making them the first non-binary runner to win a Golden Ticket to Western States (I think). [FYI: A Golden Ticket goes to the top two at certain big-name ultra races and gets you an automatic Western States spot. If you ever want to make your head really hurt, try to understand the Western States lottery system.] (Instagram/Chaski Endurance/TrailRunner/Western States)
Two other amazing stories from this weekend: Triple amputee Rajesh Durbal completed the world champs race and Zeinab Rezaie became the first woman from Afghanistan to finish the 70.3 world championships, with just one minute to spare in St. George (read about She Can Tri, which helped her learn to tri). (Endurance Sports Wire/Triathlete)
And, speaking of shoes, there’s an update on the World Triathlon rules for stacked race shoes: new limits should go into effect January 2023. (Twitter)
The worst news out of St. George: An impaired driver, who appeared to be high and has been arrested, took out two athletes on course. You can donate to Mark’s medical funds here. It happens too often. (FOX13/St. George News/GoFundMe/Salt Lake Tribune)
More Kenyan runners have tested positive, which is just a lot. (Athletics Illustrated)
Annah Watkinson, the South African triathlete, also announced that she tested positive for a metabolite back in January—but had been working through the appeals system and, given that her mom died from a drug overdose, she says she would never take any drugs. (Instagram)
The new New York Road Runners chairman also popped into the news for a doping positive back in 1996, related to her misdiagnosed exercise-induced asthma. It’s a tough situation, given NYRR’s no tolerance policy for runners v. the details of the old three-month suspension v. the idea that people should get second chances. What I hate about all the system is that it doesn’t seem to do anyone any good and in the name of cracking down on doping we also do away with athletes’ rights to the presumption of innocence. (New York Times/Fast Women)
Ironman sent out its most recent email to pros (which is probably the last one I’m going to get as a pro) and multiple athletes messaged me that the price of an annual license had gone up to $1,250!
And if you had ever really (really) thought about port-a-potties in races, then well, have I got the article for you: I wrote about everything race directors need to know about port-a-potties. (Running USA)
One last thing
Accurate. (You’re gonna want to press play on this one.)