To Defy The Impossible, every second counts. Aside from the talent and fitness of champion athletes Nicola Spirig and Kat Matthews, use of technology and strategy are seen as key in the attempt to finish a full distance triathlon in under eight hours at the Pho3nix Sub8 Project, Powered by Zwift.
With two decades of sport under her belt, Spirig knows how best to get herself to a starting line fit and ready to race. She also has a wide network of partners and experts to consult in creating the equipment needed to go fast and how to best utilize her pacemakers throughout the race.
Spirig has worked with her wetsuit sponsor deboer on a specially designed full-sleeved wetsuit; to reduce drag, its surface imitates fish scale skin and the design prevents water from entering through the neck. The suit is also customized specifically to how she swims, providing greater buoyancy in the hip area but less in the upper body and legs. Deboer estimates that a person who swims at a pace of 1:45/100m without a wetsuit could potentially slash 10 minutes off their time wearing the wetsuit over the 3.8 kilometers of the full distance swim leg.
On the bike, Spirig consulted cycling experts as well as her longtime bike sponsor Specialized. While time trial bikes are commonly used in long-distance triathlon, because Sub8 allows pacemakers and drafting, Spirig has elected to use her regular Specialized road bike on the 180-kilometre bike leg, as she has always done.
She says, “The drafting seemed extremely important to us and so I will choose a road bike with which I can get the closest to the wheel in front of me while riding safely. Being in the draft means that the aerodynamics of my bike becomes less important, while factors like the ability to get the ideal draft, comfort, and using a position that lets me run the best off the bike get much more important.”
For the marathon, On Running has manufactured a shoe prototype for Spirig which has undergone multiple testing and feedback loops. Spirig reveals, “Tadesse Abraham just ran a new Swiss marathon record in my prototype a few weeks ago, so it’s good to see it’s working.”
Spirig is targeting a 50-minute swim with the help of one swim pacemaker, then a 4:19 bike split tucked in behind her cycling pacemakers so she can run a 2:45 marathon with her run pacemaker to finish in 7 hours and 54 minutes.
Given the short turnaround time for Matthews’ involvement in Sub8, there was no time to get things customized. However, through her sponsors she has access to the sport’s best for swim, bike, and run, used to great effect during the Ironman World Championship to produce a silver medal on debut.
Matthews will be swimming in the Orca Apex Flo wetsuit. It is the most advanced in the range featuring a combination of Orca’s signature Yamamoto 44+ and 0.88 Free technology to provide maximum flexibility and mobility in the shoulder area, as well as buoyancy in the lower body through Exo-Lift and Aerodome technology.
She will ride the BMC Timemachine 01 Disc Premium Carbon with Vmax Aero Design and P2P Positioning System, using DT Swiss ARC 1100 DICUT wheels – DB 80 on the front and DISC on the rear – with prototype Hutchinson Racing Lab tyres. USE poles installed on a custom 18-degree wedge plate serve as aerobar extensions, helping Matthews hide from the wind and improve aerodynamics. To monitor power output, she will use a Wahoo Elemnt Roam bike computer coupled with a 4iiii power meter. A Shimano Di2 groupset running a 56x1 front derailleur and an 11-25 rear cassette, Selle Italia road saddle, and Wahoo Aero pedals complete the ensemble.
On the run, Matthews will use the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ shoe. Its FF Blast Turbo foam and propulsive carbon plate are touted to allow runners to extend their stride length, conserving energy and allowing them to maintain pace in the later stages of a race.
Similarly to Spirig, Matthews aims for a 50-minute swim split sitting on the feet of her two swim pacemakers. On the bike, she will tail a main domestique while three teams of two riders rotate on the front every three laps for a target time of 4 hours flat. On relatively fresh legs, a 2:40 marathon split with her run pacemaker will help her cross the finish line in 7 hours and 30 minutes, well under the 8-hour threshold.
That is, if all goes according to plan. These bold and ambitious athletes still have to turn up and put in the effort. And even then, the finish will be earned, never given.
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