Triathlete

HOTTER, HARDER, AND MORE EXPENSIVE

Stevie Smith was ready to crush Ironman Florida. It was 2018. The previous fall she’d set a PR of 11:34.48 on the Ironman Louisville course. Over the summer, she’d had a great race at Lake Placid, then rested, and was now in peak form again. If everything went according to plan, Smith felt like a sub-four-hour marathon was within the realm of possibilities.

Hurricane Michael, however, had its own plan. On Oct. 10, the Category 5 storm plowed into Florida’s panhandle and ripped up Panama City, home of Ironman Florida. The race, which was scheduled just a few weeks later, could not go on as planned. Ironman quickly pivoted and moved the race to Haines City, a six-hour drive away, but Smith couldn’t change her work schedule, airline tickets, and condo rental, and decided to sit the event out.

Hurricane Michael was later determined to be the strongest storm on record to hit Florida’s panhandle. But given climate change, it won’t hold that record for long. A 2020 paper published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences examined the data from hurricanes between 1979 and 2017 and found that storms have gotten significantly stronger over time. It’s less clear whether we’ll also see more storms because of climate change, not just stronger ones—but 2020 was a hell of a year for hurricanes, with 29 named storms in the Atlantic.

Smith is hardly the only triathlete to have her goal race eighty-sixed at the last moment because of freak weather events and, with extreme weather on the rise, she won’t be the last. In 2016, the Boulder Peak Triathlon was canceled because

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