On top of her unprecedented and audacious attempt to race a full distance in under eight hours in the Pho3nix Sub8 Project, powered by Zwift, Lucy Charles-Barclay also aims to defend her Ironman 70.3 world title, become the Ironman world champion in St. George and Kona, and perhaps get on the road to the Paris Olympics. If that isn’t a monster season, we don’t know what is!
Charles-Barclay and her husband Reece Barclay talked about how they plan to tackle the year ahead on the MX Endurance podcast last weekend. What are they prioritising? Who could they select as Sub8 pacemakers? And has becoming world champion changed much at all? Here’s what you can expect from Team Charles-Barclay.
A Year of Two Seasons
LCB: “It’s going to be a pretty hectic year with the calendar that’s on offer. It’s great for the sport of triathlon to have so many big opportunities to race so there’s definitely no complaints, but it’s going to be a headache for not just me and Reece but obviously Dan [Lorang, her coach] as well to try and balance the training schedule and make the race calendar work.”
RB: “We’re breaking it down into two seasons, basically. First half of the season for Lucy would be to win [Ironman World Championship St. George] Utah and go sub-8… We’re literally treating the second half of the season as another season. Not to mention the fact that there’s Kona in there as well which has always been Lucy’s ultimate goal. The world championships in Utah is amazing, Sub8 is amazing, but I think [Ironman] Kona is in the heart of our sport, so there will be that at some point this year as well.
“But that’s such a big goal and such a distraction from two massive goals that are more pressing that we’ve literally just put a wall down the middle of the season and said we’ll deal with that afterwards.”
LCB: “Yeah, I think it’s going to be really important for us to just pace ourselves through the year so we’re not absolutely smashing ourselves in January. We still appreciate it’s going to be a really long season – and actually a big success would be if at the end of the year we’re not burnt out, we still love triathlon, and we still love what we’re doing. The main reason we came into this sport was just to enjoy what we’re doing, and so far we’ve been able to do that. So I think that’s kind of the key thing we always stick by.”
Planning for the Pho3nix Sub8 Project Powered by Zwift
LCB: “I think the main thing that I really wanted to try and consider with my team is: the fastest time ever over the distance is by Chrissy Wellington who’s a British athlete. So I really wanted to try and have an all-British team of women so that we keep that time within Great Britain. So most of my team are Brits at the moment; it’s not fully confirmed yet.
“I think the biggest element of the day has without a doubt got to be the bike section. That’s where the most time gains are going to be made, so the least amount of energy I can use on that part and then be able to run quick off the bike is obviously the key part.
“Managing the fatigue from St. George is going to be a big factor as well, but I’m hoping if we plan it right, we get our tactics right, it should hopefully be the easiest full distance I’ve ever done. It should be the shortest day of the full distance I’ve ever done, but without a doubt there’s still a lot to consider in terms of pacemakers, tactics and equipment choices – which again is another big headache for us, but it’s super exciting.
RB: “We’ve also been tapping the resources of all of our sponsors as well as all of the community scientists that we know. We’re basically just going all out, but there’s been a big
crossover with Utah and Sub8, so some advantages that will also help in Utah will no doubt help in Sub8. Like Lucy said, the bike element is the crucial part of that Sub8. Hopefully you can just get around on that bike course going as quick as you’ve ever gone, but with the least amount of energy burn so you can execute the run afterwards. That’s basically what all of the testing and training will be geared towards.”
Paris Olympic Games?
LCB: “Coming from a swimming background where the ultimate goal is the Olympic Games and it always had been my ultimate goal from around eight or nine years old, there’s always this big pull to go and compete in the Olympics. There’s added motivation that we have got the strength and depth like no other nation in triathlon, and obviously that will just make it that bit harder but I always have loved a big challenge. So I guess if it was easy I probably wouldn’t be appealed to doing it, but because it is such a big challenge it definitely draws me in.
“Obviously this year is going to be super tough to fit in any short course racing, but we’ll have to see how the season pans out and then at the end of this year make some decisions whether that’s the route I really want to go down…. I can’t really think about it too much this year with everything else that’s going on, but it definitely still does excite me.”
RB: “One of the big difficulties we’re facing is that she just can’t get on any start line because the depth of the British field is so strong that Lucy’s continually on the waiting list. And even when she’s on a waiting list, that sometimes only means like in Leeds she only got 10 days’ notice. Abu Dhabi we were told, “Absolutely not, you’ll never get on that start list because everyone’s on it.” And then all of a sudden, she’s on it. I think that process needs to be made better because it’s difficult enough to plan for a race if you were just doing short course, but when you’re trying to manage that around a busy long course schedule it’s impossible to do if you don’t have a clear race and date set. And unfortunately we still won’t have that. [To Lucy:] I don’t know if you’ll actually get any short course racing this year, but this year I don’t think you should focus on it anyway. I think it all needs to be concentrated on the long course goals.
“Arguably, that might be too late to actually tackle the Olympics if you don’t do any short course racing this year because the qualification window would have already started at the end of this year for 2024. But all that kind of stuff is a little bit, you know, we don’t stress about that kind of thing. We just do what we can do and take each step at a time. Hopefully by the end of this year you’re in a position where you can make a decision for short course or long course. Hopefully the door’s not closed for short course, but we can’t control that, so we’ll just go for whatever the situation is at the time.”
Staying Grounded even as World Champion
RB: “I think she’s always been super driven. [To Lucy:] You’ve been a champion in many different things throughout your life, it’s just now you’re a world champion. But i guess when you’re relatively in a small bubble, you know like when we were swimmers you were county champion, then a regional champion… It’s always that: ‘What can I do to improve? How do I become a national champion?’ when you were regional champion. And now you’re a world champion, your goal is ‘Just how do I go sub-eight hours?’ or ‘How do I go even quicker? How do I win the Ironman world championships?’ There’s always bigger goals and Lucy’s always super driven towards those.”
LCB: “Yeah, I’ve always had a huge amount of self-belief… Every race I got into, it didn’t matter whether I was the complete underdog or really new to the sport; I always was going to try and win the race, so that hasn’t changed.
“But I think one of the nicest things is: everyone can understand what a world champion is. So in our country, triathlon is a relatively small sport, particularly the long distance. We pretty much get zero recognition in our country for what we do, so it is nice to be able to say to someone, ‘Oh, I’m a world champion in what I do… it’s quite nice to just finally have that title. But I mean, day to day nothing’s really changed. We get home and our dog doesn’t care whether you’re a world champion; she only cares if we feed her and take her for a walk.”