R.I.P. Beach to Battleship

RIP B2B

World Triathlon Corporation today announced, as expected, that they had acquired Setup Events’ Beach to Battleship iron and half-iron distance races.

While some will certainly hail this as a good thing, there are others that will feel a certain amount of sadness.  And rightfully so.

I’ve never raced B2B.  I was planning on doing the full iron race in 2016 with a friend so he could cross off a bucket list item.  We were looking forward to the race for a lot of reasons:  a fast swim, a flat course, good swag, a fantastic vibe and great reputation, a good location (in the state where I grew up and in a town I often visited), and certainly a good value for our dollars.

There are, of course, things that will not change.  The course route isn’t changing.  The swim will still be fast.  The locals and volunteers will be out in force.

But things are changing.

Any time there’s a corporate takeover of a smaller, mom & pop outfit, the smaller changes.  In my opinion, that change is often for the worse.  Less personalized attention.  More generic products.  More crowds.  Less character.

I suspect that those fundamental – and quite unique – aspects of Beach to Battleship will be gone now.  In their place, you’ll likely find a similar experience that you’d get at any other Ironman brand race.

And while that’s cool for lots of people, it makes me sad.

So, rest in peace Beach to Battleship.

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#RaceSmallIrons

This week, there has been significant conversation regarding the future of small, independent iron distance triathlons.  To recap, this all started with the revelation that Ironman (or more specifically Wanda Sports Holding Company) purchased the popular, independent iron distance race Beach to Battleship from Setup Events.  Furthering the dialog were a variety of posts on social media, and to a lesser extent, two blog posts I wrote (HERE and HERE) regarding how it appears that the Ironman brand monopoly is killing off smaller, independent races.

I’m not against Ironman.  But I really want smaller races to succeed and thrive.  Competition is a good thing, right?!

The only way that smaller, independent iron distance races will survive is if we mount a grass-roots effort to save them.  There are lots of triathletes who are contemplating racing an iron-distance race in 2016, but aren’t necessarily stuck on doing an Ironman brand race.

IronSmall

So, I’m issuing a call-to-action.  Race small.  Go out and support a small, independent iron distance race.

Sign up for Rev3’s full at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

Race the Great Floridian in Clermont, Florida.

Toe the line at the Michigan Titanium.

Grapple with the Bear Lake Brawl.

Do Peasantman.  Or HITS.

Just pick a race that is smaller.  Local.  Independent.  And then brag about it.  Post about it on Facebook.  Twitter.  Instagram.  Heck, make it your profile picture on Tinder.  When you do, please use this hashtag:

#RaceSmallIrons

Let’s get a movement going.  Pick a small race.  I will be.  Won’t you?

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.

 

Non-MDot Iron Races: Death Spiral?

The facts are pretty clear.  When it comes to non-Ironman branded 140.6 races, there are simply not many options in the United States.

By my count, in 2015, there were 31 full iron distance races in the US, excluding Kona.  Approximately 28,000 athletes finished those races.  That sure seams like a lot of races and a lot of athletes, right?

This graph shows the distribution of athletes finishing each of the iron-distance races in 2015.  Note that I was unable to find results for a few races (Vineman, Redman and Bear Lake Brawl) and one race was canceled (Michigan Titanium), therefore the overall numbers are likely a little skewed.

chart

It’s pretty clear from looking at the chart above that the vast majority of athletes who did iron distance races in the US in 2015 did them as a branded M-Dot race.

graph2

The bottom line here is that the options for athletes wanting to do an iron-distance triathlon that is not an Ironman brand race are severely limited.  And even shrinking.

Well documented is the fact that Ironman purchased the historic Vineman race earlier this year and discontinued the iron distance race.  The pool of race candidates appears to be shrinking even further, with the rumored sale of Setup, Inc’s Beach to Battleship (a popular independent race in North Carolina) to Ironman.

This leaves not even a full handful of non-Ironman branded races for an athlete to consider:  Rev3 Triathlon’s Cedar Point race, Sommer Sports’ Great Floridian Triathlon, Michigan Titanium, and the full distance races that HITS puts on at each of their venues.

Here’s the issue:  if you read Triathlon bulletin boards, blogs and websites, tons and tons of athletes bemoan the race experience and product that Ironman puts on.  They complain about entering the water with close to 3000 other racers.  They hate the blatant drafting that happens at some races.  And they complain about the cookie cutter approach taken for race medals and swag.  All that being said, athletes still sign up for Ironman brand races as if they are going out of style.  Many races still sell out within minutes or days of opening to the public.

Certainly one could argue that first-timers personify the word ironman with the brand Ironman.  Why wouldn’t they?  M-Dot does a hell of a job marketing their races and brand.  They have an awesome TV show that inspires lots of newbies to take up the sport. They put their logo on everything from watches to mattresses to people’s leg.

But if so many people talk about not liking M-Dot and hating certain aspects of their races, I don’t understand why people don’t sign up for other brands’ races?

I mean, seriously?!  HITS races averaged just 28 athletes per full distance race – and that average was skewed by Palm Springs (which had 129 athletes).  Most of their races had fewer than 20 athletes!  Neither Challenge Atlantic City nor Rev3’s Cedar Point race had more than a couple of hundred athletes.

The two biggest independent races were Beach to Battleship and Great Floridian – both with slightly less than 500 athletes each.

I just don’t get it.  People complain about M-Dot, but don’t sign up for other brands.

And therein lies the problem.  Without a sufficient athlete population at a particular venue, putting on an iron distance race just isn’t an economically viable proposition.  I have no idea what a break-even point might be in terms of the required number of athletes at a race, but I’m positive that said break-even is higher than 20 athletes.

If we athletes really do want an alternative to Ironman branded full distance triathlons, then we need to step up and support some of the independent races.  Go sign up for Rev3’s Cedar Point race.  Go do Great Floridian.  Do a HITS race.

Because if you don’t, in just a few years, I am not positive that there will be such a thing as an independent iron distance race.  The smaller races will likely fold.  The bigger races may get gobbled up.

And that lack of race diversity makes me sad.

Five Things NOT To Use TRISLIDE For

What TRISLIDE does for endurance sports-related chafing is what a hungry teenage boy does to a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos.  TRISLIDE makes chafing disappear!

sbr_sports_trislide

TRISLIDE is a continuous spray  anti-chafe skin lubricant that is all the rage in the multi-sport community.  This stuff seriously is bottled awesomeness.  This non-sticky all-day lubricant is used anywhere you might have chafing…wetsuit neck openings, saddle area, feet.  Basically – you spray and forget!  TRISLIDE isn’t like that gooey stick stuff that other competitors offer; it’s a spray-on silicone that works wonders!  Ever have a hard time getting out of a wetsuit?  Spray TRISLIDE on the outside of the cuffs and ankle openings, and you will literally fly right out of your suit!  You can share this (without fear of contracting some pesky critters or having someone else’s extra “hairs” latch on to your body).  TRISLIDE won’t stain your Tri-Kit, and it won’t melt in your transition bag either.

I’m not going to lie – TRISLIDE is SERIOUSLY slippery!  The product comes with a warning to not spray Tri-Slide on the floor as it will make the floor extremely slick and could lead to falls.

So, with this knowledge, here are the top five things that you COULD use TRISLIDE for – but you really SHOULDN’T use TRISLIDE for…

# 5:  Rusty bolt un-stopper

TS_bolts

Yes, you could use TRISLIDE to loosen up those rusty bolts – and this stuff would probably work as good, if not better, than your trusty can of WD-40 or a massive amount of elbow grease.

# 4:  Personal….ahem….lubricant

TS_censored

Now, we all love some lovin’, but please…..don’t go there with TRISLIDE.  It’s for external use only.

# 3:  Saucer Sled Accelerant

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We’ve all watched the movie “Christmas Vacation” and seen what Clark Griswold can do to a saucer sled with his cereal varnish.  TRISLIDE would make Griswold’s varnish look like glue.  Beware if you do try TRISLIDE as an accelerator for your sled.  If you use too much at one time, land speed records could be broken.

# 2:  Hair Pomade

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Every triathlete wants to look great when they leave transition, and who doesn’t like the “slick” look in their hair?  But seriously…instead of TRISLIDE, go to the drugstore and purchase some Dippity-Do or some other hair gel.  Heck, even Vaseline would look good.  Just don’t use TRISLIDE….because if you do, instead of your girlfriend slowly running her fingers through your hair, her hands are likely to slip right off and hit you in the eyes.  And no one wants to get poked in the eye.

# 1:  Flamethrower

TS_Flamethrower

Who hasn’t wanted to light some aerosol aflame and use as a firestarter?  Why not try your hand at a little welding?  Meet a pesky dog on your run?  OK.  There MIGHT be some potential good uses if you could use TRISLIDE as a flamethrower.  But, don’t do it.  Use a can of Aqua-Net Hairspray instead.  Besides, I’m not even sure if you can set TRISLIDE on fire.

OK.  It’s settled then.  Don’t use TRISLIDE for any of those five things.  Do use TRISLIDE to prevent chafing and hot spots.  Do use TRISLIDE to help get out of wetsuits in a jiffy.  Do share your TRISLIDE with others and not worry about some space-suit wearing dude from the Centers for Disease Control showing up to escort your lube away to some quarantined location.

Just so you know, TRISLIDE is one of the amazing sponsors of the Rev3 Triathlon AG team.  They periodically send me products to use.  I LOVE their products and would use them even if they didn’t send them to me…they are THAT GOOD.  To learn more about TRISLIDE and other products made and sold by SBR (namely Tri-Swim Anti Chlorine shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion) and Foggies (anti-fog towelettes), click on their website:  www.sbrsportsinc.com.