This week: Content people don't become world champions, first principle thinking, interview w/ Ironman CEO
Image: The great Bill Landstra.
Here is your weekly Tri Town Times newsletter:
Weekend race report:
A great race report on the US Snow Shoe National Championships held at Jug Mountain Ranch just south of McCall, Idaho. Written by the endurance legend, Sarah Barber.
Learn how to change a tire confidently and quickly in our Flat Tire Clinic. Clinic is Wednesday, February 8th from 5pm to 6pm.
A good reminder to think of injuries from a 'first principles' perspective. First principles thinking requires us to break complex problems down into their fundamental and basic parts. Identifying the root cause of a running related injury is a complex problem. The usual subjects like gait, running surface, volume and frequency of running are all good starting considerations. A first principles thinking approach would drill down deeper and consider the athlete's ability to support themselves with good posture in a standing and seated position during the 15+ hours a day they're not running (and thus changing the load on their back, hips, knees, ankles in positive way). This technique can be especially helpful for athletes who feel they are constantly addressing the symptoms of an injury and not the root cause.
Quote that struck a chord:
"Content people don't become world champions." Sailor John Bertrand in response to why he would not defend his historic 1983 America's Cup title.
There is a "happiness sweet spot". Anyone seeking success in sport has to find a general joy and satisfaction in the day-to-day grind required to reach the top, yet at the same time they can never be completely satisfied with the way things are. This drives the continuous improvement process. They moment they sit back, relax, and feel satisfied with themselves is the moment their competitors begin to close the gap.
I highly recommend Untold: The Race of the Century to learn more about the incredible 1983 America's Cup, first principle thinking, and finding your happiness sweet spot.
If you have a moment (or hour) to spare:
Jack Kelly is the host of the How They Train podcast. In his most current episode, Jack interviews Ironman CEO Andrew Messick. It's a heated, often contentious conversation that looks bad for the CEO of Ironman, but nonetheless brings up three important questions all long distance triathletes should consider:
1. What is the reasoning behind having the Ironman World Championship in two separate locations and timed a month apart? In 2022, Ironman increased the field size of the World Champs in Kona, requiring them to run the women's race on Thursday, and the men's race on Saturday. This put undue strain on the local economy, resulting in the mayor of Kona allowing future races to happen only once per year on Saturday. Ironman's response is to run the women's race on the Big Island in 2023, and a month earlier run the men's race in Nice, France. The perception is Ironman is simply trying to make more money out of the prestigious race by allowing twice the number of participants (two race days, twice the number of participants).
In my opinion, the best solution is simply reduce the Kona field size and keep the men's and women's race on the same day. This reduces the stress on the local community, simplifies race logistics for all parties including the race directors and participants of both genders. Yes, the race will continue to be exceedingly difficult to qualify for, but isn't that why it's the world championships?
2. Are pro triathletes paid a fair amount? In my opinion this is the wrong question to ask. The pro athletes must start by finding a way to quantify their value to Ironman. As discussed in the podcast, sports like the NFL, NBA, and MLB can easily quantify how much revenue their professional athletes raise by simply looking at metrics like ticket sales, ad revenue, TV rights, jersey sales, and food sales during a game. There is no doubt the caliber of the professional field in these sports directly influence revenue.
In a sport like triathlon, race revenue is mostly driven by amateur race registration fees and sponsorship dollars. It is difficult to say if the professional field at any given race drives amateur registration or race sponsorship. Races with no professional fields regularly sell out without issue. And I believe most sponsors of a race are more interested in getting their name in front of the amateur athletes, not the professionals.
Some organizations in triathlon are already trying to address this exact issue. In particular, the Super League Triathlon series and the PTO's Collins Cup. They are probably in the best position to begin quantifying the marketing value of the professional triathlon field.
3. Are Ironman races becoming too expensive? By no means do I have insight into an Ironman's income statement. Unfortunately, I do have insight into what happens when something goes terribly wrong in a race. A couple years ago, an athlete I coached suffered a cardiac event during 70.3 St. George. Within moments of showing distress, a kayaker was by his side, and just minutes later a boat with medics had taken him to shore. A few minutes later a helicopter was flying him to the local hospital. He died on the way.
I was not only his friend and coach, but also his emergency contact as his family could not make it to the race. I too was racing that day, and minutes after I crossed the finish line the race director pulled me aside and asked to have a word. I thought maybe I had mistakenly cut the course. Unfortunately, it was much worse. Speechless, I did not know what to do or say. The race director told me they had already contacted my friend's wife, I cannot imagine how hard that conversion must have been. They had also collected his race equipment, had gone to his hotel and collected his personal items, and they said they would help me in any way to get his personal items back to his family. In this incredibly painful moment, Ironman had done everything possible to help. They had thought through the worst case scenario, prepared for it, and when the unimaginable happen, the did the best anyone could have asked.
Afterwards, I promised to never again complain about the fees Ironman charges for a race.
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