#20: The state of the sport is...
issue #20: Feb. 1, 2023
Look at that, we made it to 20 issues.
Because of some personal health stuff, I need to try to keep this super short this week, we’ll see, and who knows, maybe you all just want the tri news and me to stop talking so much.
Two quick announcements:
If you do want to hear lots of talking, Sid & I are back on the podcast after our New Year’s break.
And yesterday was the last day to enter our USA Triathlon Fantasy Camp giveaway. I’ll contact the winner today and announce who it is next week. And if you don’t win, don’t worry, I believe there are still four spots left to come train with Olympians (and me) at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.
The most talked about recession no one knows if we’re actually in
At the last session of Endurance Exchange last week, Sara opened with: “Are we in a recession or not?”
It seems like a weird question to tackle at a triathlon conference, but it’s actually a question that’s underpinning everything in our sports right now. Sid & I talked about it a bit on the podcast, but it’s really pretty straightforward: Is there money for triathlon, is there money for athletes, are brands investing or contracting, are people signing up for races, are there races. Triathlon is a discretionary spend. If there is no money, then there isn’t a lot of money for discretionary spending. If people are worried there will be no money, then there isn’t a lot of discretionary spending. If there are layoffs in our industries (and there are, lots), then what does that mean for you and me.
One of the reasons I always attend our annual conference (back again IRL) is to get a sense of what’s happening and what’s going to happen. I like the state of the sport speech, I like seeing what people are focused on, and I like listening to the breakdown of survey data.
Here’s my super sophisticated sum-up: We’re all holding our breath.
There were a lot of numbers in the survey data presented at Endurance Exchange, but in general I’d say most of the stats broke down as approximately 40% of athletes/race directors/coaches felt 2023 will be about the same, 35% think it’ll be better or plan to spend more or do more races, and 25% think it’ll be worse or they’ll do less tri.
Of course, there’s always a selection bias in an email survey. We don’t know if the answers from those who chose not to respond would be wildly different—but one has to assume they would be.
A few other things we know: The number of adults racing and ranked with USAT in 2022 was up from 2021 (one would hope!) but still down from 2019. The average number of races each race director owns and operates is still down from 2019. Race registrations are up, but still coming in late, still down, and expenses, oh expenses are so high. This year might be better, should be better, but we’re all holding our breath.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that across the board, talking to brands and athletes and agents, everyone’s waiting to see what’s going to happen, everyone’s holding on to budgets or pressing pause or standing up a solve for this moment. (Kidding, that doesn’t mean anything, it’s just some corporate gibberish one of my bosses used to say.) Everyone’s planning to do races and starting to train, but not quite signed up for all of them yet. This isn’t the year of announcing plans or New Year’s resolutions, Dry January is down, gym memberships are still down (even with smaller January spikes), we’re all tiptoeing into this year waiting to see, scared to look it in the eye. I mean the smartest companies in the world are laying people off at random even though they’re profitable, they have to know something, right? It’s not just because everyone else is doing it too, right?! Hold your breath.
That’s my super sophisticated sum-up.
(I am aware my sense of layoffs is acute because of the industries I intersect and where I live, but it’s also very real. This is the best thing I’ve read on why and how layoffs are happening, and what they do to the workforce. Hint: It’s not really about saving money.)
People talking about the future of sports stuff. Photo: USA Triathlon
And these are some of my favorite things: triathlon gossip
As Ironman learned, you can’t keep a secret race announcement secret for very long. You have to get permits and talk to race directors and notify municipalities and work with organizers and reach out to athletes, and so word starts to spread, and once word spreads, well, triathlon’s not that big.
Now it’s the Pro Triathlete Organization’s turn to learn this lesson.
Last week, they finally announced the U.S. Open in Milwaukee the first weekend of August, in conjunction with USAT’s Age Group Nationals. (My mom has already volunteered to homestay pros and claimed Sid. Plus, they’ll be hosting me and the Feisty crew. And it sounds like Jocelyn McCauley wants in, so party at my parents.)
The rumor going around Nice, that Edmonton was out and the Canada Open was cancelled, was also confirmed this week—not by the PTO, but by the race organizers.
So all that’s left is for the PTO to eventually confirm the European Open, tentatively rumored for early May in conjunction with another major event, and to announce the new location/date for the Collins Cup. I will just say that if you were wondering why two of the most popular male pros have been doing a tri camp in a location no one has ever done a tri camp before, then you maybe have a clue.
Triathlon’s just not that big. Gossip spreads.
Mark your calendar
There’s a reason I put together a list of major races based on prize money & prestige, because there’s just too many, and the major races don’t really start until Challenge Wanaka in two weeks. But, in the meantime, Tasmania 70.3 this weekend has a who’s who of Australia (+ Braden Curren & Ai Ueda).
There were a lot of indoor track records this past weekend, but that’s not really triathlon.
And in the meantime, I opened up the thread of our favorite races for everyone to add their picks and help each other flesh out their race season.
What are your favorite races? Add your recommendations and help us build a Triathlonish-approved list.
The other things happening in our sports.
One of things I learned from my tablemate at the Global Tri Awards, Lauren Steadman, which was then confirmed by the USAT CEO, is that in order to be affirmed for the Paralympics a sport needs 32 countries to be active in that para-sport. Paratri is right at that line. So it was good to hear that L.A. has now confirmed paratri will be in the Paralympics in 2028. (You can see why there’s an incentive, though, for the countries who are well-funded—the US, UK, Canada—to support the less well-funded teams.) (World Triathlon)
USAT also handed out awards at Endurance Exchange for the top coaches and race directors, and a service to the sport award to Mike Reilly. (USA Triathlon)
Ironman announced a new 70.3 on Long Island, New York. (Endurance Sportswire)
Ironman Wales locals are, apparently, quite unhappy about the change of date from Sept. 10 to Sept. 3—which would simply go in the ever-growing category of things people can be upset about, but the race is just so damn popular. (The Telegraph/New York Times)
Super League hasn’t announced their non-virtual season yet. (The virtual hybrid SLT Arena Games start on Feb. 25 in Montreal.) However, Jersey has pulled its funding and will not host. (Super League/Jersey Evening Post)
GQ has a list of the 18 best live sports experiences on earth. Top of the list: UTMB, which bodes well for all those trail runners already upset about how corporate the UTMB-Ironman merger has become. (GQ)
Finally, the triathlon sponsorship announcements are rolling in: Fenella Landgridge signed with Trek; Eric Lagerstrom is one of the few who signed with Specialized; On Running is the rare brand making a big tri push with Kristian Blummenfelt, Paula Findlay, and Chelsea Sodaro coming on; Canyon picked up Heather Jackson in her switch over to gravel racing—and a whole bunch more Canyon athletes are about to be announced; and then there are a handful more wetsuits and nutrition and what have you announcements. (Instagram/VeloNews)
The announcement I did not have in my 2023 bingo card: Sam Long and Lara Gruden are having a baby. (Instagram)
Gustav Iden’s PTO doc is fun. His motto, if you didn’t know before: Winning is a choice. (Kristian’s: It hurts more to lose.) (Youtube)
Among the many things Specialized is dropping, they shut down the women’s clothing brand, Machines for Freedom, which was known for its wide range of sizes and inclusivity. (CyclingNews)
Gravel has its own streaming show now. (Bicycling)
Trail running has its first union. Sorta. (TrailRunner)
After the outcry, the Boston Marathon has updated its pregnancy deferral policy. (Women’s Running)
Where are all the female coaches? Yes, still. (Tracksmith)
Fast Talk has a new women’s performance podcast. Feisty has a new community club for active women. It’s nice that there’s not just one or two of us talking about women’s sports anymore, as if they’re just as big as men’s sports. (Fast Talk/Feisty)
The How They Train podcast has Alistair Brownlee on, who may be one of the only pros I believe when he lays out his crazy volume training hours. (How They Train)
If you miss a week to two weeks of training in a marathon build, you’ll be 4.25% slower. No statistical word on what happens if you miss all of your training.(Outside)
Courtesy of Reddit, courtesy of the Team Triathlete Slack, here’s a chart to breakdown the different terminology used for zones in different methods that are all just trying to say the same things with different words. The best session I sat in on at Endurance Exchange was from Dr. Phil Skiba, on mathematical modeling of thresholds and pace predictions—which you’re probably referring to wrong. (Fluid Athletics/Triathlete)
One of the things I’m considering putting together for paid subscribers is a roundup of the training and gear highlights for the month. My theory is there’s too much noise, junk, reviews, all of that already out there. What we all need is just a simple exec crib sheet we can scan for the key points. That being said, this smart swimsuit is weird. (Triathlete)
One last thing
Apparently, a few of you missed this in last week’s newsletter.
Well, I learned something from the newsletter – there’s a party at my house next August