We’re nearing the end of winter now and the first few races of the season have already begun. Ironman Dubai 70.3 saw some incredibly fast racing, with the second-fastest-ever times recorded in both the men’s and women’s events.
[3:26:06 for Marten van Riel – 46secs slower than Blummenfelt’s record set at Ironman 70.3 Bahrain in 2019; and 3:53:03 for Laura Philipp, just under 4mins ahead of Daniela Ryf, no less, and not far off Holly Lawrence’s 3:52:50 record time, again from Ironman 70.3 Bahrain in 2019].
Regardless of whether you think world records should stand in triathlon or not, the racing in Dubai was supersonic and I think the standard for this season has been set and it’s high. Congrats Laura Philipp and Marten Van Riel on their openers, this season is about to take off!
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We also saw the first edition of The Couples’ Championship, which introduced a new dynamic to professional triathlon racing (and one myself and Sian [Rainsley] will be targeting next year for certain).
Non Stanford and Aaron Royle took the 2022 crown and prize purse, which is great… and will mean an open bar at their wedding in November!
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Triathlon’s opening weekend
Given the past two years of interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s refreshing to see early-season racing going ahead again. Those who’ve worked hard all winter have a chance to brush off the rust and bank some ranking points and set themselves up for the rest of the year.
I’m labelling this past weekend (5-6 March) as the ‘Opening Weekend’. I borrowed the term from professional cycling, which nominates Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne as its opening weekend. This brings me on to open up the question of whether we should adopt certain races in the calendar and create more of a ‘classics’ or ‘monument’ feel about them.
Dubai would be a great race to use as a ‘World Record’ challenge given how fast the course is. Likewise, the Couples Championship format can offer a really exciting spectacle. Once global travel becomes easier, too, there could be some amazing monuments in Australia and New Zealand – Challenge Wanaka, for example.
We can’t label every event a monument, and some already have that status like Roth and Kona. But if the calendar can establish some early-season prestigious events then we might see some big battles happen. Which events would you like to see promoted and boosted as we see in professional cycling?
Recovering from injury
Ordinarily, we would’ve seen the Abu Dhabi WTCS race go ahead on the opening weekend, too, however it’s hosting the Grand Final in November and so the short-course season is yet to kick off. That’s probably why we’ve seen a lot of short-course athletes test themselves in PTO events, and we’ll see more over the next month.
I would’ve liked to get involved with these early races myself, but I’ve only just recovered from my foot injury which I picked up last season. I haven’t done enough hard run sessions to safely run 21km. Furthermore, the stock issues caused by the pandemic has hit the bike business pretty hard, and, truthfully, I don’t have the equipment to race on yet!
Using sport to boost mental health
I set out to write about mine, or a pro’s perspective, on what’s happening in Ukraine currently, but I’m still struggling to even conceive how something like this war is happening in Europe today. Each morning I tune into the radio with trepidation on my drive to swimming.
This invasion has similarities to the start of the pandemic two years ago, and I fear where it might go. I’m not qualified or educated enough to discuss any of the events with credibility and I find it challenging to even begin the thought process. It’s a topic my Dad warned against getting involved in, in case my ignorance offended or upset anyone.
I do think, however, that it is a catastrophe for humanity and my thoughts go out to all that are being or will be affected in the coming days, months and years.
Sport feels so trivial when tragedies like this are going on less than 2,000 miles away and I do go through moments of apathy about my training and triathlon career. Yet when I do get out for my training, they are hours of wonderful release from the burgeoning media storm.
Not that we should, in any way, ignore or forget what is going on in the east of our continent, and we should do what we can to help the innocent victims of this war, but sometimes it is worth it for our mental health to use sport as a means of therapeutic catharsis.
How you can help Ukraine
Immediate Media Co* colleagues in Poland have recommended this site, which includes details about donations, humanitarian aid and more.
Below are other charities supporting the aid effort recommended by the London Ukrainian Centre:
The London Ukrainian Centre is also updating their Facebook account regularly with details of other items you can donate.
The BBC has published a feature giving tips and advice on how to look after yourself, children, and other people in your life at times of crisis.
*Our Media Ltd, publishers of 220 Triathlon magazine, is part of the Immediate Group.