For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Lucy Charles-Barclay, one of the favorites for the Ironman world title in St. George next month, is out of the event with a stress fracture of the hip.
It’s an unfortunate setback for the reigning Ironman 70.3 World Champion and three-time runner-up in Hawaii, who was hoping to go one better this summer. Her performance in 2021, which included three wins and two additional podium finishes, suggested she was more than capable.
While it ends her immediate Ironman ambitions, it also terminates her participation in the Pho3nix Foundation Sub7-Sub8 Project in Germany next month. Charles was set to race against Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig in an attempt to become the first woman to complete the iron distance in under 8 hours.
In a candid reveal on her YouTube channel, Charles-Barclay explained how she has undergone a series of tests, including MRI, CT and Dexa scans, to understand the extent of the injury – a fracture in the femoral neck – but as yet is unable to put a timeline on recovery and her return to action.
“It’s obviously devastating that this year had the potential to be the biggest of my career with two world championships at the Ironman distance, my Sub8 attempt, and the 70.3 worlds at the end of the year,” she said. “So, obviously Utah is out of the question. The Sub8 project is out of the question.
“I’m probably going to miss most of the PTO races, and then in the latter half of the year, I can’t really promise that I’m going to be racing. I just don’t know where I’m going to be, and I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on myself. For any athlete, having an injury is like the worst thing in the world. It’s definitely difficult to mentally deal with because any sports person has highs and lows in their career, but I really do feel like I’ve come from literally the highest point of my career to the absolute lowest.”
Who will step in for Sub8?
Rather than Spirig target the Sub8 goal alone, organizers are looking to line up a replacement athlete and expect to make the announcement week commencing April 11. Triathlete understands no reserve triathlete was on standby should injury strike, making these even bigger tri shoes to fill. Possible replacements include four-time Ironman world champion Daniel Ryf and reigning Kona champion Anne Haug. Other potentials could be Germany’s Laura Philipp or Britain’s Kat Matthews. Both have shown great form with early season victories over the middle distance.
Regardless of who steps in, it will be no mean feat to take on. Not only will the athlete have to be of the form and fitness to attempt the challenge and realign their own season’s plans at short notice, they’ll also need to be capable of running their fastest iron-distance marathon ever, just one month after the Ironman World Championship in Utah.
Plus, the chosen triathlete will have to work with a handpicked team to try and perfect the aero advantage of a paceline where experts believe achieving the target of Sub 8 can be made possible. On the men’s side, both Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt have been working with specialist time-trialists to maximise time savings over the 112 miles of the bike leg.
Charles-Barclay’s injury also raises the question of what happens if one of the other contenders, Spirig, Brownlee or Blummenfelt succumbs to injury. While Spirig and Blummenfelt have proven robust in previous years, Brownlee has been plagued with injury issues and after competing this weekend at Oceanside, he’ll also have to come through St George unscathed, where he’ll also line up alongside Blummenfelt.
Charles-Barclay said she still wants to play a part in the event – albeit it may have to be with a microphone instead. “I definitely will be there in some capacity supporting the other athletes, maybe even commentating on the event.”
Until then she’s focusing on rehab and with the hip joint so fundamental to many of the movement patterns used in triathlon, she’s currently resting up at home in London doing as little as possible. Not a situation she’s used to.
“No matter what stress happens in my life I use exercise as a coping method,” she explained. “If something bad is going on, I’ll smash a session hard and feel better. I can’t do that in this situation so I feel like I’m caged into my own body and can’t mentally let go of things. I’m not good at patience – I don’t think any athlete is – particularly when I have massive goals I’m working towards. I feel like I’ll learn a lot about myself in this process and will have to find another way to offload my stress.”