Non-MDot Iron Races: Saving Independents

I posted an article yesterday regarding what I called an impending death spiral for non-MDot iron distance races.  (you can click HERE to read it).   The net message that I was trying to convey is that the long distance triathlon market is being severely constricted, amounting in essentially a monopoly by Ironman.  Further, I tried to lay out that this monopoly appears to be setting up the future extinction of independent iron distance races.

More people read the post than I would have expected.  Many people shared the post from the TriCrowd website onto their Facebook feed and into a variety of triathlon-related groups.  For that, I’m super thankful!

As some folks graciously pointed out, there were a few errors in my post, and I’d like to clarify them:

  • I noted that I was unable to find the number of finishers for the Redman iron distance race.  I’ve since done more digging and found that there were about 100 finishers in 2015.
  • Somehow, I neglected to include IM Wisconsin on my chart.  Wisconsin boasted the largest population of racers on the US Ironman circuit in 2015, with 2990 finishers.
  • I mentioned that WTC had killed off Wildflower’s iron distance.  Yeah – I was 100% wrong on that front.  They are still having it.
  • Some folks mentioned that I overstated 2015 result figures for Great Floridian.  I did round up some, but the variance wasn’t meaningful in my mind

At the end of the day, adding in the Redman and IMMOO results simply reinforces the conclusion that I drew, and even further skews the results away from independent iron distance races towards MDot races.

I’m really glad that my article yesterday spurred some dialog in the triathlon community.  The spectrum of comments, as you’d expect, was wide.  Some people talked about how potentially losing independent races is a shame.  Some folks defended their choice of racing an Ironman branded race.  Others talked about how they would never do a race with so few participants – because it was essentially a long training day.  Others vowed to support an independent like Rev3’s Cedar Point full, Great Floridian or one of the others.  Still others thought I was bashing MDot.

To those who thought I was taking a dig at MDot – that was about the farthest thing on my mind.  I have no problem with people doing an Ironman branded race.  Obviously, lots of people race Ironman.  Oftentimes, first timers do Ironman.  Heck – I’ve done two Ironman races.  No problem there.

My concern is that monopolies are bad.  Ironman has a monopoly, and ultimately could drive out competition.  When (or if) that happens, I think all triathletes will come out on the short end of the stick.

With respect to those who claim that an independent is a long, lonely training day – I’d counter with the comment that those races are only lonely training days because people don’t sign up for them at the same proclivity that they sign up for Ironman.

Here’s where I think it’s time for us to take a stand.

To protect the free market.

To save the independent iron distance races.

To have options.

And how, exactly do we do that?

We do that by racing an independent.

Let’s make a concerted effort as a triathlon community to have a grass-roots effort to save independent races.  Instead of signing up to race an Ironman branded race, why don’t we turn one of the other iron distance races into the “must go to” race?  Why not sign up for Rev3’s Cedar Point?  If you want a late fall iron distance race, instead of doing IMFL or IMAZ, why not go to Florida and race the Great Floridian?  Why not race a HITS race?  or MI Titanium?

I’m not claiming we should try to put Ironman branded races out of business.  Goodness knows, that isn’t likely to happen.  What I am suggesting is that we all make a concerted effort to go out and race non-MDot iron distance races.

Together – and only together – we can save the long-term viability of independent long distance races.

Go out and #DoIndependentIron.



4 thoughts on “Non-MDot Iron Races: Saving Independents

    • Thanks for reading, and for the comment! There are so many good 70.3’s around the country that are independent races. I’d love to share some recommendations, but a little more information would he helpful – such as where you live (generally), if you’re willing / looking to travel, etc. I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend Rev3 races (I have been a brand ambassador for Rev3 for six years) – they have some fantastic venues in the mid-Atlantic and northeast. I particularly like Knoxville, but am looking forward to Williamsburg. There are so, so many other options, too. Feel free to leave a reply with some more information – or click on the “Contact me” link and send me an email with a few more details.

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  2. 1) HITS Wacconia was awful. Worse then my local (and truly independent) race. I will do sprints with them, but nothing longer.
    2) Rev3, Challenge, and HITS are NOT independents, the are competing (but much smaller) brands and series…so you still don’t get the local flavor of a race. You just get a different brand veneer then Ironman.
    3) With popular independents (Vineman and likely B2B) being sold to Ironman shows that a popular independent race is just not financially viable in the 140.6 market. You need to put on several races with the same infrastructure to get to that break even point…which is why most 140.6 events are owned by someone. Even 70.3’s are amalgamating into groups (I think our local 70.3 is under the toughman banner next year).
    4) As a brand ambassador for Rev3, I question your objectivity. Sorry, but taking a stand for independents by basing Ironman and promoting a different brand is a little hypocritical.
    5) Per your own list yesterday, there are more non-IM branded races in the US then Ironman races. They are out there. People don’t sign up for them for many reasons. Much of it is the aggressive Ironman marketing…which likely is the biggest cause for the huge increase in triathlon participation and races at all distances.
    6) Yes, I enjoy independents. Essentially all of my marathons have been run with local organization. Some do a much better job then others, but there is a distinct personality to each event that is lacking at Ironman, Lifetime, HITS, and presumably at Rev3/Challenge events. The trade off is a very well run and supported race. I wish I could say the same about HITS…

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