#72: Where to start: PTO or Ironman?
A question for the ages.
issue #72: Jan. 31, 2024
Triathlonish is presented by:
I’ve spent the last two mornings on media press calls, which means there’s lots of news to cover this week and also that it’s very late as I finish writing this. For extra insight, I put together a short background history of the PTO this past weekend for paying subscribers.
And if you’re in Seattle, I’ll be there for about 36 hours on Friday-Saturday. Come to our Olympic Marathon Trials Watch Party!
Let’s talk T100 first!
Where to start? I’ll put my criticism of the PTO’s announcement first: T100 is a dumb name. I also heard from a few people that Super League is changing its name to Super Tri — and it feels as if the same consultant went around and sold everyone on similar over-the-top Euro Formula 1-style branding. (Did you know that until recently Super League, Ironman, and the PTO all had offices in the same London building.)
OK, now my praise: Man, the PTO did it. They’ve finally actually pulled off a massive 8-race PTO Tour with some of the biggest names in the sport and (hopefully) have TV and mainstream coverage to back it. It’s truly quite impressive.
How it works
The PTO’s T100 World Tour is eight races — primarily at the 100K distance (though it’s unclear to me if some of the add-ons to existing races will also be 100K). There will be 20 men & 20 women at each race. Those athletes have signed contracts to commit to at least five of the races + the Grand Final. (When an athlete can’t or chooses not to do a race, the spots will be filled with one-off “wildcards.”)
Each race will have a $250K prize purse (1st wins $25K, 2nd - $16K, etc). The series winner will also take home $210K out of an additional $2M prize purse at the end of the year.
Each race will award points towards the series title. Every athlete counts their top four races towards their points total. The final is worth around 1.5-2x the number of points.
No, I do not fully understand how this will work alongside the existing PTO ranking system other than that the PTO/T100 races will continue to be worth the most points in the rankings, so the athletes who race them have a leg up on earning points and getting re-invited to the tour. I think.
It’s somewhat modeled after tennis.
The T100 schedule
March 9-10: Miami (@ CLASH Miami)
April 13-14: Singapore
June: California (TBA)
July 27-28: London (after the PTO just acquired Challenge London)
Sept. 28-29: Ibiza
Oct. 19-20: Vegas
Nov. 16-17: Dubai
Nov. 29-30: Grand Final (TBA in the Mid. East)
I believe the California race is Escape from Alcatraz — which I deduced primarily from being an expert on the California race calendar. That would actually be a really interesting course, if they let the athletes actually race the Alcatraz race and don’t just create boring flat 100K loops along the water adjacent to the regular race. But I have a similar question for London, so not sure yet.
The women’s list of contracted athletes is pretty nuts:
It goes on straight down the rankings: Chelsea Sodaro, Holly Lawrence, Flora Duffy.
The men’s list has a few more obvious names missing. It looks like both Kristian Blummenfelt & Patrick Lange have chosen to pass on contracts to focus instead on the Olympics & Kona (respectively). But you still have: Magnus Ditlev, Sam Laidlow, Rudy Von Berg, Jason West, Sam Long, Alistair Brownlee.
As best I can make out, here’s how contracts were awarded: The top ten in the PTO rankings as of a date last August (because this was supposed be announced back in the fall) were automatically offered contracts. Then the next six contracts rolled down the rankings list. I think? Then once there were 16 women & 16 men, the four final spots of each gender were discretionary picks based on “commercial interests.” (Taylor Spivey, Marten Van Riel, Javi Gomez are interesting picks, along with some younger up-and-comers. Lionel Sanders turned it down to focus on winning that elusive Kona title.) Estimates put the contracts at $70-100K.
If you scan the men’s list you can see who probably passed and how, for example, Max Neumann (#174) got a contract—he was ranked highly back in August before injury. If you scan the women’s list, however, the only person missing in the top 17 is Sarah True—who was not offered a contract, which IMO is objectively dumb. Of course the PTO can invite whoever they want, it’s their right, but it’s hard not to notice that they favor certain athletes and who that is seems to depend on who you know.
No, contracts are not exclusive; yes, you can do an Ironman World Champs & the required six races, but if you haven’t already locked down your Ironman qualifying spot it’d be hard. Yes, there is an exemption for the Olympians—they just have to do the four races after the Olympics.
No, I don’t know yet how this will impact who does which races.
And if you were wondering: No, Lucy will NOT defend her Ironman title in Nice this year.
We’ll have lots more to say I’m sure! We’ll see how this goes! It’ll be exciting racing at least! I hope when something new is created like this we don’t fall into the trap of just building a different version of the flawed systems that already exist! If you have the opportunity to build something entirely different, at least make new mistakes!
And meet the new man behind Ironman
The other big item of the week: Ironman’s new CEO, Scott DeRue.
If you were wondering why all the articles about DeRue sound kind of the same, it’s because they all came from the same 40-minute press call with him. There were not *separate* different interviews; it was all one chat with 8 or so of us, so we all have the same generic information and same quotes. There you go; that’s your look behind the curtain.
A short Scott DeRue bio:
He worked in private equity and was a management consultant, including work as a exec for a luxury yacht company. (Are there non-luxury yachts?) He then worked at the University of Michigan for 15 years: as a professor of management, then taught leadership courses, and eventually became dean of the business school. He was on the board for Equinox, the luxury gym brand, and stepped in as president in 2021 to help with the pandemic turnaround (because you can imagine that was a bad time for Equinox). He writes books on leadership. He ultraruns and adventures, climbs mountains—like all the big ones—but he does not triathlon. He is also a managing partner in a private equity company.
I’ve seen a lot of people commenting that oh good, another middle-aged white man. And that’s not an inaccurate statement. Though first an aside:
Talent is evenly distributed; opportunity is not. It’s not that there aren’t minority women who could be CEOs of big companies. It’s that they often aren’t given the training and the pipeline and the grooming and the opportunity to take those jobs. Look around at who you’re prepping to climb the ladder in five years, ten years. If they all look like everyone who’s had that opportunity before, then you’re missing out on a lot of people.
I don’t particularly fault him for who he is and I know exactly how hard it is to fill high-level triathlon jobs because of the niche-ness, but if he’s telling the truth about wanting to go on a listening tour to get all the perspectives of the triathlon community (and about getting a coach to get prepped for his first Ironman) then it would probably behoove him to get a coach and workout buddies and a tri club who look different than him.
Otherwise, I’ll be honest: This is on the better end of what I expected. I was prepared for a slash-and-burn VC dude; given how tough the financial situation has got to be coming out of the pandemic. I also expected Ironman to look for someone who was triathlon-adjacent—running or gravel or outdoors-y shit—to bring in new ideas and to move towards where the growth is. In terms of what this hire means about the direction of the company? I’m not sure we should read a ton into luxury management brands or academia.
What I did read between the lines was something I heard a lot from him and that I’d heard previously from Ironman: That Ironman is really good at putting on events, if they can just focus again on putting on really good events then everything else will fall into place, if they just get back to the fundamentals of great “experiences” then maybe people will stop being mad at them all the time and the registrations will go up and the cash flow will flow again. I also heard, between the lines, that there’s going to be a focus on the “journey” of all the various Ironman constituencies (AGers, pros, coaches). And if I was going to imagine what that looks like in the future, then I’d imagine it looks more like embracing all the different sports and events that run parallel to triathlons. At least that’s what it’d look like if I was CEO.
Do the math
I’m planning to share my process here of tracking carbs, liters drank, and sodium during training and workouts leading up to my big races—because I’m guessing if you’re like me, then you keep meaning to do it but it sounds like a PITA—and also share what feedback and input I’ve gotten from the Precision Fuel & Hydration crew. But I thought I’d remind you first that it’s actually not that big a PITA, you can get started with a spreadsheet Precision has already made, which does the calculations for you. And then once you have all this data, they give you some basic guidelines on what to actually do with it. You can even book your own 20-minute call with a Precision sports scientist.
Other things from around our sports you should know about this week.
Oh yeah, there was another big tri announcement since our last newsletter: 70.3 Worlds is in Marbella, Spain in 2025. Can you believe that news was only a week ago? (Ironman)
And here’s an even better update on the TriBike update we had last week: When a couple of the athletes reached out to me a few weeks ago, my actual thought to help them had been to contact some L.A. lawyer friends and/or one of the California news shows that do ‘so you’ve been scammed’ segments. Well! Someone already had that idea, and NBC Bay Area was “on the case.” (Triathlonish.NBC)
I saw an IG stories clip of Sebi Kienle taking on a Hyrox competition this past weekend—in classic fashion, he was running past all the heavy lifters. Turns out he ended up 27th overall. (Tri247)
The biggest event in our sport this week, though, is the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. (OK, I don’t know if it’s the *biggest* event, but it’s the start of Olympic Trials season, which is the start of Olympic season, which is the best season.) Fast Women has a very in-depth overview of the athletes, and the Morning Shakeout has some good additions on the men. I wrote up a breakdown what it takes to qualify but in short: first three (probably) women and first two (probably) men, with a bunch of caveats. This is the most diverse Trials field in history, there’s lots of interesting people, and $600K in prize money (though prize money was similar and went deeper in 1996). (Instagram/Fast Women/The Morning Shakeout/Instagram/Women’s Running/Orlando2024/Twitter)
WATCH: *Live on Peacock* - Saturday - men start at 10:10 a.m. ET, women at 10:20 a.m. ET
Luisa Baptista has reportedly been moved to a rehab hospital now that she’s out of critical condition. (Instagram)
Lucy CB ran the whole Kona marathon with a torn calf?! (In all fairness, I won a race once on a broken toe, my old coach tried to finish an Ironman with a broken hip—it didn’t work—and I have a friend who literally ran until her IT band tore part of her bone off. So people do insane things all the time when their perceptions of pain are masked. It’s not always great.) (Youtube)
This man has stage 4 cancer and is still completing his marathon-a-month streak he’s had going for 28 years. (KSL)
We mentioned a little bit ago that Memphis in May was for sale. Here’s a look back at the event. (Memphis Flyer)
Triathlete chatted with triathlete & U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. And don’t come at me with the ‘keep politics out of sports’ bullshit; politics are what creates the framework in which all sports (and you) operate. (Triathlete)
Triathlete also had a fun bit of updates on a handful of big stories from last year, including Collin Chartier—though Mary Cain’s update should really be that she had to have surgery on her leg following a medical mystery that stopped her from running, which we mentioned back in June after she talked about it at the Female Athlete Conference. (Triathlete/Triathlonish)
And a dispatch from the trial of Moriah Wilson’s murderer that actually made me tear up. (Outside)
One last thing
The new ‘Call of a Life Time’ docu-series is creating ripples through the gravel community.
This issue was brought to you by Precision Fuel & Hydration. Get 15% off your first order here.