Ironman's Monopoly Problem

And how can we actually prevent cramping?

Good morning everyone,

We’ve got a big edition this morning, so let’s get into it!

In today’s edition:

  • 🎩 Ironman’s monopoly problem.

  • 🥐 A quick guide to this week’s Olympic test event in Paris.

  • 🗜️ And how can we actually prevent cramping?

Thanks for being here,

-Matt Sharpe, newsletter editor

Headshot of Matt Sharpe

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Is Ironman’s Dominance Facing A Challenge?

In the last week, Tri247 has published two excellent pieces on the challenges facing multisport competition, both on the amateur and professional ends of the sport. So what does it all mean, and could we see changes on the horizon?

What happened: Chris McCormack, two-time Ironman World Champion and Super League Triathlon co-founder shared his concerns about how long-distance racing has evolved under Andrew Messick, former CEO of Ironman. Let’s just say it wasn’t overly positive!

The key trends: McCormack identified some concerning trends which if you follow the sport, you probably agree with:

  • The business of Ironman grew, but increasingly has become a monopoly on races, pushing aside smaller ones, with a focus on profits.

  • Racers view Ironman events as singular experiences, like climbing Everest, rather than a sport they return to frequently, with people only ever racing a few events.

  • The expansion of IRONMAN races devalues the race itself, making each win less prestigious.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the decline in demand for races like Kona and Nice this year — as well as previous years, according to data by Coach Cox — and the expansion of “extended slot allocation” for athletes who may not have otherwise qualified for these races, according to Triathlon Magazine. Athlete

Building a business: One challenge is balancing the need for money versus race quality.

  • Reddit is obviously not an exact barometer, but if the discussion on this thread is any indication, racers are worried about the business nature of the company getting in the way of running good races for athletes, volunteers, and attendance.

Competition: A monopoly is ripe for the challenge and IRONMAN is no different. Groups like Super League are beginning to offer alternatives, especially around the race format. Having raced Super League myself, I know they are hungry to grow and become a global brand, which is why they have made a huge play in the U.S. triathlon market with the acquisition of new races.

How to fix it: Readers at 220Triathlon shared their opinions on how to fix the sport. The top choices were reducing entry fees, better refund and cancellation policies, ending roll-downs and better experiences for spectators.

Tempo’s take: In pursuing profits it’s clear that Ironman has overplayed its hand. With many races struggling to fill up, including marquee World Championship events, Ironman and its new CEO will have to address these issues and structural changes in the endurance racing landscape.

  • But as Macca pointed out, Ironman has been wildly successful with its 70.3 offerings. And in our opinion, these events will continue to be successful given the less onerous training time required and the ability to race these events more frequently.

What's your feeling about the state of IRONMAN and long distances races?

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👍️ 90 days: …And speaking of Ironman, the company announced a new Flex90 registration plan to encourage more signups. If you register 90 days after an event is announced, you’ll receive additional benefits like being able to defer a race for no extra cost, partial event refunds, and payment plan options. [Triathlon Magazine Canada]

💧 Something in the water: Poor water quality forced this past weekend’s Nuremburg Triathlon to be run as a duathlon. Officials said the water quality in Lake Wöhrder did not meet World Triathlon water quality standards. And in related news, an emergency investigation into water quality at the recent World Triathlon Championship Series in Sunderland, U.K. was shot down by the local council. [Nord Bayern + Yahoo U.K.]

🏃 Remembering Ned: One year after the death of Wake County deputy Ned Byrd, his friends came together to host a triathlon that’s a little different than your standard event. It featured CrossFit, running, cycling, and jujitsu, with 120 people participating. [WRAL News]

❌ Bye-bye Benton: Bad news for racers in Michigan. Ironman Steelhead 70.3 at Benton Harbor, which has been running for 20 years, has been canceled. The reason is due to unpredictable weather, which may be an ongoing concern as the climate continues to change. [WSBT]

🙌 Inductees indicated: Congrats to everyone who raised $180,000 at the USA Triathlon Foundation Gala and Hall of Fame Induction, which will be used to support athletes during 2023. Inductees for 2023 included the 12 original finishers of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Triathlete has a full history of the original Kona race. [USA Triathlon]


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Stephanie Fauquier is in the process of racing in 10 races in 10 Canadian provinces (or states for our American readers) between May to September. She’s doing this to raise $250,000 for research into Alzheimer’s after her mother was diagnosed two years ago. Her final race is at the Niagara Falls Barrelman Triathlon on Sept. 17. [Welland Tribune]


The City of Love Becomes The City of Triathlon

Athletes flock to Paris for the Olympic test event - racing starts on Thursday

World Triathlon

What is it: This Thursday through Sunday, World Triathlon, in conjunction with the Paris 2024 Olympic Organizers, will host the test event on the same course the athletes will be competing at next year in the Olympics.

  • It’s an opportunity for the athletes to get a feel for the course, test race strategies, and maybe qualify themselves for the Olympics.

  • Many countries will use this event as an automatic qualifier for the Olympics.

  • For example, U.S. triathletes who finish on the podium or are in the top eight can earn selection for Paris.

  • ProTriNews has put together a list of country’s qualifying standards - and shows just how high the stakes are for many athletes!

Water watch: After an Open Water swimming test event was canceled two weeks ago, the possibility of the swim being canceled is very possible. According to a recent article in TRI247, the decision on whether the athletes will be swimming will be made today.

Paris Test Event Schedule

  • Thursday August 17 | Women’s Individual | 8 AM CEST/2 AM EST | Start list

  • Friday August 18 | Men’s Individual | 8 AM CEST/2 AM EST | Start list

  • Saturday August 19 | Para triathlon | 8 AM CEST/2 AM EST | Start lists

  • Sunday August 20 | Mixed Team Relay | 8 AM CEST/2 AM EST | Start list

Watch live: Catch all the races live on 

Tempo’s take: It will be an incredible weekend of racing as these athletes look to show their federations that they can perform on the same course at next year’s Olympics. Success at the test event doesn’t guarantee success at the games, but it’s a good indicator. Ironically, due to country quotas, this race is more competitive than the Olympics.

  • We just hope that the athletes take a second to appreciate just how freaking cool it is that they are shutting down a major city for their races!


A great T1 hack from coach Natasha Van der Merwe. Remove your goggles AFTER dealing with your wetsuit 👌 


The Flyover | Cruise the news. Land the facts.

The GIST Sports Biz | Get the “gist” on the business side of women’s sports.

Peak Performance | Weekly practical tools to expand your potential.


🔮 Future performance: Blood glucose monitoring, double threshold training days, and super shoes. The endurance training world feels like it’s changing every day, so what do leading researchers think the future will hold? Check out this article from Alex Hutchinson on what future athlete innovations leading sports scientists are predicting. [Outside]

🔨 Hardest race: Pro triathlete Sebastian Kienle is in his final season, and he’s checking off some bucket list events. His latest race, the Norseman triathlon, is what he’s calling his hardest race ever. Check out his latest YouTube, which might just inspire you to sign up for it yourself! [Sebastian Kienle/YouTube]

🗜️ Cramping, explained: Cramping can really… cramp your (race) style! It’s not been easy to understand why they happen, but this article from Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff does a deep dive into exercise-associated muscle cramping, shines light on why they happen and how you can prevent them! [TrainingPeaks]

👏 Quality coach: Canadian pro triathlete Tamara Jewett had an incredible breakthrough this year when she won Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. And her coach Suzanne Zelazo no doubt played a huge role in her success. Check out this interesting profile of coach Zelazo, whose phi include using sport as a means to improve one’s personal development. [Triathlete]


Here’s what readers said about the decline in race volunteer numbers. You can read that story here. 

Reader: “I wonder if it's mostly an IM / Big $ issue. Our "grassroots" local organization doesn't struggle too much, they engage with local clubs, care for their volunteers, provide discounts for volunteers, organize kids events (and get the parents to help), etc. It's much harder to digest "working for free" for a private-equity-owned corporation that charges $500-1200 per race and gives nothing in return…”

Matt: This kind of sums it up nicely. I’m guessing the further away you get from the community, the harder it is to convince folks to give up their time.

Reader: “I won’t argue that races need more volunteers. What I will say based on my experience volunteering at Ironman PCB last year are two things:

1) I signed up 2 days before race and I was shocked at the number of open volunteer slots. I wondered how they were going to pull this off. 2) when I arrived to work at 4 or 5am they didn’t know what to do with me because they had more volunteers than they could deal with.

I concluded that the number of volunteer slots for a race is not based on what they actually need.”

Matt: Yeah I’m wondering if some of these races use unnecessarily urgent rhetoric to attract volunteers? Maybe they need to figure out the true MMV (minimum viable volunteers™) and then incentivize to ensure at least that number is met.

Reader: I’ve volunteered at quite a few races when either I wasn’t able to race or my husband was racing. While generally, the athletes are appreciative of the volunteers, there are some not-so-nice athletes that get rude with the volunteers trying to do their job. And if you’re at a place doing crowd control, the spectators are not so nice at times too. I get it, you’ve been waiting 3+ hours to see your athlete pass by for 10 seconds but don’t yell at me when I’m telling you to stay out of their way because you need ‘the perfect picture for social media’.”

Matt: Always brutal to hear of athletes getting mad at volunteers, and maybe even worse hearing the spectators be disrespectful! It definitely doesn’t make someone want to volunteer their time after being abused 🙁 


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