Ten Questions With…Rev3 Race Director Eric Opdyke

As you no doubt have read in myriad online posts, message boards, or in hard-copy publications, the Revolution 3 triathlon series has received significant positive feedback from age-groupers and professionals alike.

Rev3 held its inaugural race at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, CT in June 2009. That race was heralded as a challenging course, a superb pro-race, and a spectacular race experience. Rev3 became a series in 2010 with the addition of races in Knoxville, TN (an Olympic distance and a half iron distance, the “Half Rev”) and at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH (both a Half Rev and a Full Rev). Additionally, Rev3 offered Aqua-Bike races and kids’ races to really make the Rev weekend a true family experience.

In 2011, the Rev3 race series will expand into two new venues. In February, Rev3 will host its first international races, in Costa Rica. The series will conclude the 2011 series with an Olympic Rev and Half Rev races in picturesque Anderson, SC.

It’s hard to imagine the pre-work and logistics that go into staging any triathlon race, let alone a premier race experience such as Rev3. Recently, Tri Madness sat down with Eric Opdyke, Rev3’s race director, to discuss race planning, the Rev3 series, and what keeps him up at night.

To learn more about Rev3 Triathlon, their 2011 race series, and to register for one of their events, check out their website here.

TM: How did you get into the business of being a race director? How did you get involved with Rev3?

EO: I joined the sport as an athlete in 2004 and got involved in the organizing committee of a local sprint tri for charity in my home area in 2005. I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” aspect of organizing the race and became the race director of that race the following year and have been involved since. When Rev3 started planning their first race in CT, we got in touch with each other through a mutual contact and I offered to help out. I was immediately intrigued with the concept and the potential so I’ve been on the team since the beginning.

TM: Could you describe of how you pick the route of a race in a particular city?

EO: Too many factors to list here but we look for a safe course, a scenic course, challenging, good roads, etc. We have to work closely with the local officials and law enforcement to determine the least amount of disruption to the local residents, how many intersections need to be closed down and many, many other factors. Because I’ve also been a triathlete, I think like a triathlete when designing and planning the courses. I spend a lot of time trying to find the best course for the athletes.

TM: Rev3 held races in three locations in 2009 (Knoxville, Quassy, and Cedar Point). In your opinion, what are the best features of each of those races?

EO: Knoxville has a little bit of everything. The swim venue is great for spectators. The bike is scenic and challenging. The run accesses a great trail system the city of Knoxville has created. All this with the massive University of Tennessee in the background. Quassy has a great small town vibe with an old amusement park as our host venue. The swim is in a beautiful lake. The bike is challenging and showcases the beauty of New England very well. The run course will break you if you went too hard on the bike. It is a very challenging course but a solid finish feels like you earned every mile. Cedar Point is a great venue for athletes and especially families. The host hotel is walking distance to all race activities. Cedar Point is one of the best amusement parks in the world. The course is flat but can be very tough if the winds pick up which is likely.

TM: Rev3 is going international with next February’s race in Costa Rica. How do you approach planning for a non-domestic race? What have you done differently as compared to, say, Quassy?

EO: There are many new factors in this case. Some of the biggest include having to work with Spanish speaking people even though most speak English. Another is the transportation of our race equipment which includes having to ship our supplies in a container on a boat, dealing with customs, duty taxes, etc. Bike transportation is a challenge for many athletes as well.

TM: It seems like the logistics associated with putting on a race are immense. Could you give us a peek into the enormity of what it takes to put on a race?

EO: We have a great team behind us that work extremely hard to setup and take down our equipment. Never mind all the pre-planning involved in lining up suppliers, deliveries, etc. The team starts to arrive a week in advance and begins the preparations for race week. It takes us about 3 full days (15-20 hours per day) to set up for the races and another 2 days to tear it all down and pack it up.

TM: As a triathlete and a race director, what do you think are the core requirements for a race to have to be considered a “great race”?

EO: The race needs to be safe, secure, accurately measured, timed accurately, officiated fairly, among others. I hate lines so I never want anyone waiting in a line for more than a few minutes. This means lots of porto-potties and efficiently run athlete check-in procedures. I have waiting in too many unnecessary lines at triathlons and it drives me crazy. We never want to run out of aid stations supplies so we always overdo it. I also like to add in some unique aspects to the race. We want the race to be remembered for something unique.

TM: How do you balance the demands and needs of professionals against those of age-groupers? In what ways do they have different expectations of a race director?

EO: They are equally important but they aren’t too different. Some of the USAT rules are different for pros and it always requires clarification and is confusing, although its out of my control. We try to find local homestays for some of the pros and we payout their prize purse during the awards ceremony.

TM: Triathlete Magazine ranked Rev3 races extremely favorably earlier this year in an article about favorite races, most anticipated races, etc. That seems like really high praise for a relatively new race series. How did you react when you heard the news?

EO: We are extremely blessed to have any praise and I’m thankful for all the feedback we get. As much as we like the positive comments and like to hear about athlete’s great experiences, we encourage our athletes to continue to tell us how we can improve. We need to continue to get better and set an exceptional standard.

TM: What keeps you awake on the night before a race?

EO: What doesn’t? Usually, its the work in preparing for race day that keeps me up all night with no or very little sleep. Other than that its just the million things that need to happen in a concerted effort and my desire for perfection.

TM: There’s lots of chatter on various message boards about Rev3. People are talking about future race venues, a potential Rev3 championship, how Rev3 can continue to attract top professionals. Can you give any insight into what triathletes can expect from Rev3 as we look into 2011 and beyond?

EO: Its basics. We believe we have a strong model so we want to continue to grow at a controlled rate, continue to improve, and give athletes what they want.

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