The Volunteer Recession?

And how to push through pain for a new PB

Good morning everyone,

After two race weekends in a row I’ve been taking it easy. My body’s been pretty beat up, and I seem to be hungry all the time! Well, that’s actually kind of normal. It’s not always easy to listen to our bodies, but mine seems to be screaming at me! 🤣

In today’s edition:

  • 😕 What happened to all the volunteers?

  • 🛹 Jan Frodeno’s retirement project? Extreme sports!

  • 🥊 And how to push through pain for a new PB

Thanks for being here.

-Matt Sharpe, newsletter editor

Headshot of Matt Sharpe

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Where Oh Where Did The Volunteers Go?

What happened: If you’re a consistent racer, you may have noticed fewer volunteers. According to Triathlete, it’s not just your imagination. Races seem to be struggling with finding the necessary number of volunteers. And the impacts of this could reshape races around the world.

Zoom out: A quick search online shows just how widespread the issue is:

  • Ironman Western Massachusetts in June struggled

  • Hundreds of spots were still needed to be filled in the St. George Ironman in 2022 with less then a week out from the race

  • 4,000 shifts were still open a week before Kona in 2022

  • Ironman Couer d’Alene was short 1,500 volunteers two weeks out from the race

  • Two weeks out from Ironman Wisconsin in 2022 the organization was short 1,000 volunteers

  • Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie was slated to be short on voluneer numbers with three weeks to go before the race

The cause: There are a few reasons for this. The COVID pandemic has shifted how people engage in large groups, which is a key part of any event.

  • As noted in the story, many races outsource requirements to local organizations who then receive grants. It makes sense given their connections in the community.

Fast growth: Since 2011, according to Triathlon Magazine Canada, Ironman 70.3 races have grown from 54 to 124 globally, with an increasing 85,000 to 200,000 registered athletes. Could the pace of growth be part of the problem, and that volunteer infrastructure cannot meet the demand for races?

What they’re saying: We contacted race director Mark Wilson, who runs Mark Wilson Endurance Sports, which organizes over 20 races annually, for comment on the situation. He has also noticed a decline in volunteers. The problem he says? “Money. Unfortunately, it’s usually the only thing that will motivate groups to help… but, [it’s] not guaranteed.”

What it could mean: Money is the issue. One option is to pay people to help, but that would drastically cut into existing funding. Triathlete broke down the costs of hosting a race. Professional services account for 25 percent of budgets. Expect that to increase if volunteers need to be paid.

Tempo’s take: Volunteers are the lifeblood of triathlon events. Without them and their infectious positivity and energy, our races are just sad shells of themselves. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and create armies of volunteers, but sadly I do not posess that power…or any power 😭

Similar to the post-pandemic labor force struggles, we’re facing a volunteer force deficit. Of course, as better incentives (more 💰💰💰) helps attract workers, the same can probably be said for volunteers.

Do you volunteer at races? Let us know what you think by replying to this email.

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🚴‍♀️ Findlay flies: Congrats to Canadian professional triathlete, Paula Findlay, who after finishing on the podium at the PTO US Open flew to Scotland to compete in the Individual Time Trial at the UCI Cycling World Championships. She finished in a very respectable 25th place, and it bodes well for her push to compete in the event at next year’s Olympics in Paris. [Paula Findlay]

😯 He’s out: In a surprise right before the Paris test event, Triathlon Australia head coach Joel Filliol announced he is no longer the coach. He said on Instagram he had no regrets about his time in Australia, and means he will focus more of his time on the Joel Filliol Training Group which includes Vincent Luis and Katie Zaferes. [Tri247]

👎️ Not a fan: Two-time IRONMAN World Champion Chris McCormack shared his thoughts on Andrew Messick’s reign as CEO, saying many smaller events have declined and the cache around IRONMAN has declined with the expansion of numerous races. [Tri247]

😈 Fork em: Congrats to Kyla Roy for being named as assistant coach at Arizona State University. It’s familiar territory as she competed as a Sun Devil and was the individual NCAA Triathlon Champion in 2019. [The Sun Devils]

👍️ Vote of confidence: While the debate rages on about water safety for athletes, especially in the Seine, both Jonny Brownlee and Alex Yee have come in support of race organizers, saying “If they put the health and safety of the athletes first, then we give them our 100 per cent trust.” [Yahoo Sports]

Want to reach an audience of triathletes and Ironman racers?

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⛰️ The pain of success: Exercise-induced pain is that burning in your quads as you push hard into your pedals during hill reps. Or the lung-busting effort during a hard run on the track. So what’s the best way to manage this pain and get the most out of yourself during these workouts? Check out this informative infographic on how to best manage exercise-induced pain. [YLM Sports Science]

🐐 GOAT retirement: Jan Frodeno just won one of the most competitive races of his career at 42. And as he prepares for his final race as a professional at the Ironman World Championships in Nice, he won’t be too far from his new retirement hobby of…more extreme sports! [New York Times]

😞 Unequal support: Although triathlon should be lauded for its commitment to equal prize money, unfortunately, that probably doesn’t extend to sponsorship money. Former Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae gives her take on the apparent sponsorship gap between professional male and female triathletes. [Tri247]

🙏 RIP Sarah: Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Irish triathlete, Sarah Fagan, who sadly passed away while competing at the Alpe d’Huez triathlon. Of the hundreds of tributes to Sarah, one of the most touching was that of a Ukrainian refugee who was fortunate enough to be taken in by Sarah. [Independant]


History, Beauty, and Triathlon - Together in Dubrovnik

On October 14 you’re invited to compete at the EARTH, SEA, & FIRE Triathlon in beautiful Dubrovnik, Croatia.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik has a rich history steeped with conflict and conquest. As a renowned Mediterranean tourist mecca, you are guaranteed to be met with incredible culture, cuisine, and a flat and fast race course!

The EARTH, SEA, & FIRE Triathlon would like to offer two free race entries for their event to Tempo News subscribers.

So if you want a beautiful fall race experience, just respond to this email and you’ll be entered to win!


Dismounting heading into T2 is definitely an opportunity to flex your skills, but with reward comes the risk of absolutely losing it! Check out this speedy dismount that almost ends in disaster. [Triathlon Scotland]


A Close Shave coming into T2 😅😲 #Triathlon #SwimBikeRun #Sport


Here’s what readers said about if they were worried about the reports of unsafe swimming conditions. You can read that story here. 

Reader: “I've chosen not to go to certain venues where the water quality was questionable. Even in my home area sometimes the quality is bad and I avoid the open water. I've never gotten sick myself but my friends have. Some say take charcoal tablets

Matt: Sorry to hear about your friends! I also haven’t got sick (touches wood) but know a lot of athletes who have. Charcoal is interesting, I’ve also personally used Coke after swimming in questionable water. But what does that say about Coke?!? 🤔

Reader: “Here’s the problem, Triathlon wants exposure to the world, so it tries to put on events in major centres to attract eyes to the sport, sponsors add revenue, and TV audience/ spectators. What this does highlight is how incredibly polluted our waterways are in our major cities…”

Matt: Yes, it’s a risk/reward scenario. Having a competition in a big city brings loads of media and attention. But as we’ve seen it can easily backfire! Some cities are working on making their waterways cleaner, but in the meantime, race organizers definitely need to keep water quality in mind.


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