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Triathlon News and Notes: Sub 7 and Sub 8 Project, Alistair Talks Olympics, and More

A look at some of the buzz we’ve picked up in the sport over the past seven days.

There may not be much (if any) races going on right now, but the triathlon news cycle continues to spin.

Sub 7 and Sub 8 Project Set for 2022

The marathon had its Breaking2 project (and, later, the Ineos 1:59 challenge). Now, triathlon has its Sub-7 (and Sub-8) project.  The brainchild of Australian Ironman world champ Chris McCormack, the event will follow in the footsteps of the subsequent marathon events when Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge attempted to crack two hours. (Which he did, on his second attempt in September 2019, in 1:59:40). Set for spring 2022 at a yet-to-be-determined location, the event will feature just four athletes–Britain’s Alistair Brownlee and Norway’s  Kristian Blummenfelt on the men’s side; Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig and Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay will represent the women. However, there will be several pacers involved in the swim, bike, and run (each athlete will be able to decide how many pacers he or she will use throughout the race). The bike leg will be draft-legal, and athletes will be allowed to wear specialized, thicker wetsuits for added buoyancy in the water. 

Backed by the Pho3nix Foundation, a Polish not-for-profit organization that supports sporting participation among youth, Sub 7 and Sub 8 is billed as an attempt to “redefine the limits of human achievement.” (Read an analysis of just what it’ll take to get that achievement here.)

Brownlee Keeps His Eyes on the Olympics

And speaking of Alistair Brownlee, he Tweeted earlier in the week that 2021 will likely be the last year he focuses on the Olympic distance as he’ll be fully focused on longer distance racing in the future. For now, though, the 32-year-old is eyeing a spot on Team GB for the Tokyo Olympics–and a potential (and unprecedented) third gold medal at the Games. Confident that the Games will go on despite the pandemic, Brownlee says he’s prepared for a pared-down Olympic experience. “Any Olympics is better than no Olympics,” he told The Guardian. “And as long as the sport and the competition is on, stripping everything else out isn’t too much of a problem.”

Triathletes Address Long-Term Struggles Post-Covid

Two triathletes have shared their struggles with post-Covid health issues this week, highlighting the unknowns of the virus and how the lingering effects can impact even the fittest people. First, the BBC profiled Welsh professional triathlete Chris Silver’s  10-month battle with “long Covid” after contracting the virus last March. Aside from extreme exhaustion, Silver, 30, says he experienced brain fog, memory lapses, muscle aches, and nausea long after he first became sick. “As an athlete, it was devastating not knowing whether I’d be able to exercise again,” he said. Silver also overhauled his diet to foods low in histamine in fear that Covid was “living in his gut.” He believes that his symptoms were much longer-lasting because he returned to training while he was still sick, and is hoping his experience will encourage other athletes to be more careful in their comebacks from Covid.  

And in Arizona, Derek Moore, a four-time Ironman finisher from Scottsdale, recently spoke out about the effects Covid has had on his heart, months after suffering from the virus last March. After experiencing an irregular and fast heart rhythm “out of the blue” in June, the 48-year-old age-grouper with no preexisting conditions, underwent a procedure to halt the arrhythmia caused by inflammation due to Covid, and his doctor can’t say what his long term prognosis will be, saying, “it’s been a learning experience because we’ve had to quickly identify what the issue is, and learn about a subject that we didn’t know about before.” (Read more about triathletes coping with long-haul Covid symptoms here.)

Frodeno To Lead Social Zwift Rides

You don’t have to travel to Spain to get a chance to ride with Jan Frodeno. The 2008 Olympic champion and three-time Ironman world champion headlines the new Ryzon Days of Dedication Series on Zwift, a four-stage event entailing time trial races and social warm-up rides starting February 4. Frodeno and fellow pros Imogen Simmonds and Nick Kastelein headline the latter, where they’ll share their insights and provide tips for the ensuing time trial races. The non-drafting stage races start on the easier side (a 20K flat route) and get progressively harder, finishing off with a tough 43.3K grind with 1,117 meters of elevation gain. Aside from virtually rubbing elbows with the sport’s elite, competitors will have a chance to unlock an exclusive Ryzon kit for their Zwift avatar, which will be available to purchase in real life, too. 

IABT Launches Virtual Combine for Collegiate Prospects

The International Association of Black Triathletes (IABT) is offering an opportunity for young triathletes to show their skills to college coaches through its NCAA/Collegiate Club Virtual Combine. Open now until March 31, any athlete age 12 to 18 can submit their times in a 100-yard swim and a 1-mile run at no cost for the opportunity to get on the radar screen of a college coach. The mission of the combine is two-fold: Not only might it connect prospects to NCAA/Collegiate Club coaches and programs, it’s also aiming to encourage tweens and teens to get off their screens and get active, hopefully reducing the increase of health and mental issues exacerbated the pandemic. Said IABT CEO Dr. Tekemia Dorsey: “Youth need solutions to combat these ongoing and growing concerns regardless of barriers such as geographic location, socioeconomic barriers, transportation or costs.” 

HITS Triathlon Series Rebrands to Alpha Win

New year, new name: After a decade of putting on races of various distances in locations throughout the country, HITS Endurance has rebranded to Alpha Win. The Saugerties, a New York-based company started in the early 80s producing equestrian show jumping events—the HITS acronym is actually short for Horse shows In the Sun—before expanding to triathlon in 2011, eventually offering several races on both coasts. The rebrand “is not just cosmetic,” said Alpha Win’s President and CEO Tommy Struzzieri, President and CEO. “We have taken this opportunity to commence a period of growth through acquisitions of existing events and creation of new events and to evolve and improve our approach to the market as a whole.” Alpha Win has posted a schedule of seven races for 2021 in New York, California, Colorado, and Florida, all operating under the company’s Covid-19 protocol, kicking things off on April 3 with fan-favorite Alpha Win Ocala. 

South Korean Elite Triathlete, Coach, Doctor Sentenced To Jail For Abuse

Jang Yun-jung, who won a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and served as captain of the triathlon team, has been sentenced to four years of jail for verbally and physically abusing her teammate on the country’s elite squad. On Friday, January 29, the Daegu District Court found Jang guilty of abusing pro triathlete Choi Suk-hyeon, 22, who took her own life last June, not long after she reported the abuse by Jang as well as by her coach, Kim Gyu-bong and team doctor Ahn Ju-hyeon to the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee (both have been sentenced to seven and eight years in jail, respectively). The evidence of abuse by Jang, Kim, and Ahn and was damning: Following her death, Choi’s parents released a diary and secret recordings documenting years of physical and psychological abuse; later, Choi’s teammates stepped forward saying they were beaten 10 days per month and verbal abuse by their teammates and coach was common. Before being banned for life from triathlon in July, Jang raced as recently as last March and finished on the podium in three international events in 2019. 

Podcast Notes

  • Pat Lemieux (husband of Olympic gold medalist triathlete Gwen Jorgensen) joins The Adventure Stache podcast  to talk about his recently-launched career as an athlete agent, including his work with pro triathlete Lionel Sanders. 
  • Andrew Starykowicz gets candid and answers the hard questions about his controversial ban from Ironman competition for the unauthorized use of a medical inhaler on The Brick Session podcast.
  • Pro U.S. triathlete Skye Moench shares about living her best life and how she’s grown from rejection with Yogi Triathlete.
  • Pro triathlete turned Fastest Known Time record holder Alyssa Godesky talks up ultra trail running on The Triathlete Hour.
  • South African Annah Watkinson, who races as a pro while serving as the Head of Global Finance for Absa Bank, shares how she balances both careers on the Tri Talking Sport podcast.
  • Washington, D.C.-based age-group triathlete Victoria Anderson, recently featured on triathlete.com for enrolling in the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial, shares more about that decision and her crazy 2020 on the Victory Laps podcast.
  • At 48, 12-time Ironman New Zealand champ Cam Brown is still at it, and plans to race professionally into his 50s. He details how his passion for the sport has fueled his success and longevity on The Greg Bennett Show.