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Three Pieces of Gear That Caught Our Eye This Month
And that might actually work.
Kelly Note: To help sift through the training and tech reviews and news and studies and launches, we’re going to run monthly-ish round-ups of the new gear and training things that you should actually know about. To do this, we’ve recruited esteemed triathlon journalist Tim Heming, who broke the story about Gustav Iden’s not-illegal shoes, to break down the key tech gear that stood out to him in this November of racing.
Remember when a sub 9-hour Ironman for a woman and sub-8 for men was something of a novelty? The esteemed John Levison of Tri247 kept tables he’d update whenever the barrier was broken. But even John, the most diligent of statisticians, must’ve given up on that one by now. Either that or it’s become a full-time job.
If your finish time doesn’t start with a 7 (for men) or an 8 (for women) on all but the most testing of courses, you’re not in the contest. So, why are we seeing these times plummet?
One reason posited by Sebastian Kienle, having witnessed the top 10 men go under 8 hours in Kona in October, was that we’re simply seeing a natural evolution of an incredibly young sport.
More money has come into the long distance side, the depth of women’s racing has been supercharged, short course athletes (ala the Norwegians) are giving Ironman a focus while at their peak—and then there’s technology.
While triathletes love a gadget, most are aware that each novel invention should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, to take Hawaii as an example, each time some nifty go-faster piece of kit has emerged in past no one seemed to be going significantly faster than Mark nor Dave.
But now 33 years on, some things do seem to categorically work, and the racing over the last couple of weekends has shone quite the spotlight in that respect. We’ve picked out three key pieces of new tech, with varying levels of effectiveness…
Photos: Courtesy of World Triathlon / Ironman / Adidas
The Shoes (and the Shoe Rules)
The shoes. Ah, yes, those super shoes. But for once we’re not talking about a pair of Nikes or Asics, but the even chunkier Adidas Prime X. With a 50mm sole thickness, the Adidas ran roughshod over World Athletics rules, but don’t—until January 2023 at least—fall foul of any triathlon regulations.
That meant this past weekend Patrick Lange could wear them to push out a 2:30 marathon in Israel, while Ruth Astle elastic-laced up a pair for a 2:57 in the women’s race.
The German is often regarded as the best marathon runner in triathlon. His previous best was 2:35 at Challenge Roth earlier this year (and a 2:36 at Ironman Tulsa last year). Astle is an up-and-coming athlete who managed a 3:03 as her previous best in that same race in Oklahoma.
Courses differ, fitness levels flex, but numbers speak for themselves—and 5 minutes is a lot. A very lot.
It’s thought the Prime X and similar, such as the customized ONs Gustav Iden wore in Hawaii, will be outlawed by Ironman once World Triathlon clamps down. But that remains to be seen.
Time saving tech: Minutes over the marathon—the gold standard
FYI: World Athletics, the governing body of running, has banned shoes over 40mm thick. The understanding by everyone, until Iden’s shoes in Kona toppled that misconception, was that World Triathlon complied with World Athletics rules. They did not. However, they do now—as of Jan. 1, 2023.
Aero Ice Packs
Magnus Ditlev’s iron-distance bike splits this year have been 4:20, 4:01, 4:13 and 4:04—and that 4:13 in Kona included a 5-minute penalty.
Is Ditlev the best biker in the sport right now? You could make a strong case, particularly as his effort is measured to give himself the best chance to take the tape.
But it’s not just about power out; it’s also coveting each hard-won watt by maximizing aero gains.
So, while the Dane wasn’t the only triathlete to have something shoved down his trisuit in Kona, and more recently in his win in Cozumel, it caught the eye.
A few athletes tried to dismiss it as nothing more than a water bottle—or bidon—in Hawaii, but no one was fooled that its real purpose was as an improvised chest fairing to round out the area under the torso and make the body shape more aerodynamic.
Yet, this wasn’t its only purpose. These plastic inserts are bespoke and NOT water bottles. Instead, they have a dual function. Filled with ice before the ride, they are pinned against the chest, which helps cool the athlete as it thaws. Of course, there’s some extra weight there for a time, but on a pan-flat Mexican island when the heat and humidity makes it a perceived 102 degrees, you can see the reasoning.
Is it legal? Hydration systems thrust down the front of skinsuits were banned by the UCI (cycling’s governing body) more than a decade ago. If Ironman follows UCI rules, then it’s a pretty clear ‘no.’ But with the odd exception, Ironman also doesn’t have much of a history of enforcement here—and many triathlon bikes do not comply with UCI rules.
Time-saving tech: Seconds over the 112 miles, but cooling benefits for the run to follow
Cool (and Cool-Looking) Headbands
While podium-getters Lucy Charles-Barclay and Anne Haug wore what looked like headband bling in Hawaii, it was actually a series of little—and fragile—graphite squares making up the Omius headband, which “amplifies the surface area of your skin by five times.”
Perhaps its biggest breakthrough yet came this past weekend in frazzling Abu Dhabi as France’s Leo Bergere took an unlikely victory and world title in the men’s race while wearing the device. Bergere, who was third in the series heading into the final round, needed some help from the field in relegating Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde off the podium, and remarkably it all came to fruition.
The Omius supposedly helps more sweat evaporate through conductivity in an area of the body (the forehead) that’s highly evolved to dissipate more heat. Hence, athletes cool down more quickly, provided they keep dousing it with water during the race.
At $199, we’d probably need some hardcore ingesting of core temperature pills to have much of a clue whether it actually works, but anecdotally the Middle East was a boon for its marketing department. Along with Bergere, another athlete to wear the Omius was women’s third place finisher Lena Meißner in her breakthrough on the world stage and the first time the German has finished inside the top 10 in a WTCS race. I’m sure the headband can't take all the credit, but it’s not a bad look.
Time saving tech: Another one for hot conditions, but the jury is still out
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