Front of Pack to Back of Pack Comparison

Last week, I read a really fantastic blog post by former Team Rev3 member Heather Gannoe about an experience she had at a recent running race where she observed first-hand for the first time what a back-of-the-pack racer experiences.  It’s a real eye-opener post – and depicts an environment that a whole lot of us athletes never get to experience.  Heather’s post is a must-read.  Take a few moments to read the comments as well, as they are really remarkable.  You can find Heather’s post (HERE).

Reading Heather’s post reminded me of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago after racing Rev3’s South Carolina race.

I was coming off a really good performance (for me).  In fact, I earned a really significant personal best at the race – and felt really stoked about how I did at the race.  Honestly, I was no where near the pointy end of the race, but I wasn’t the last place finisher either.  Clearly, I was a back of the mid-pack runner.  I wanted to compare my race with that of the professionals who actually won the race that year.

The results blew me away (honestly, so did the pros)!  Ever wonder just how fast a professional triathlete is?  Click (HERE) for my article and a pretty snazzy (if I say so myself) graphical representation of just how slow I was …. er…. just how fast they were!

 

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From Entertaining to Disturbing

I was asked yesterday what was the most entertaining or disturbing thing I’ve seen at a race.  That question really spurred a few vivid memories of races gone by – and the things, both amusing and some revolting, sprang to mind.

Events that we compete in tend to be a cornucopia of sights, smells and tastes.  And trust me, over the years I have seen some doozies!

Take, for example, those triathletes that run out of transition without their shoes – only to turn around and run back in to get them.  I’ve seen that happen at least three times.  What about the triathletes that put on their helmet backwards in transition.  I’ve actually done that before, even though I didn’t leave transition with the helmet on backwards.  I’ve seen people singing to themselves on the run, people skipping, and people bent so far over at the waist that it was amazing they were still (somewhat) vertical.  I’ve witnessed athletes sounding like a motorboat due to flatulence with every step.

I’ll never forget the lady at a local race here in Jacksonville that tied a helium-filled balloon to her handlebars so she could find her bike in transition.  Novel idea, I suppose.  I can only imagine if she were to leave transition with the balloon still tied to her bike, trailing her like a balloon follows a four-year old at the circus.  The same lady was equipped with a 5-gallon bucket of water so she could wash her feet of after the run up the beach following the swim leg.

I’ve seen crazy costumes at races.  I’ve run with a pink-clad Spiderman, been whipped by spectators dressed in S&M outfits, and accosted by a guy in a hot dog costume.  I’ve run by people literally tailgating – cooking out and drinking beers.  During a few marathons, I’ve seen people partaking in mimosas while they watched runners pass.

I have seen pictures, as you may have as well, of an athlete who was so focused on finishing his Ironman race that he defecated on himself and ran I don’t know how many miles with his…um…poop running down his legs.  While getting a Kona spot is a big deal, I frankly can’t imagine what a poopy run would be like.  For the runner or for the runners/spectators near him!

We’ve all likely witnessed our share of vomiting athletes.  Maybe we’ve done it ourselves.  While I haven’t thrown up at a race, one time I did blow a snot rocket right into some other guys face (on accident, of course).

Of course, we’ve seen our share of disturbing images at races.  Images that haunt us or bring back bad memories.  Crash victims, full of road rash and blood.  Cracked helmets.  Broken bones.  I once rode with a guy who did an endo and landed square on his face.  He broke his jaw and lost several teeth.  It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen a rider at a criterium suffer a compound fracture of his femur.

The fact of the matter, though, is that every race has some element of hilarity and some element of disgustingness or disturbingness.  It’s a matter of perspective.  Do you notice the amusing things and tend to not “see” the other stuff, or do you focus on the grime, slime, and vomit?  As a people watcher, I’m drawn to all of it.  I observe, make mental notes, and either smile or say a prayer.  The comforting thing for me is that as a back-of-the-pack athlete, I’m often on a course so long that I get to see lots of things!

What about you?  What are some of the things that you’ve seen at races?  What are your lasting memories?

#TBT – Old School Tri Products

Keeping with the trend of Throwback Thursdays, we’re going way back into the TriMadness vault for this post – and we’re going even farther back in the time machine for what this post is actually even about!

Today’s #TBT post comes from August 2011, and is all about Old School triathlon products!

Rewind to 1989.  I was in the midst of college, and home in Chapel Hill for the summer.  I needed a good summer job, and I was a cyclist – so where did I go?  Naturally, I went to the local bike shop to get a job.  Of course, it wasn’t any plain janebike shop.  I went to work for Performance Bike Shop.  Yep – the mail order bike shop that you may be familar with.  Only, I didn’t work that summer in the mail-order part of the business, I worked in the brick & mortar retail store in the next town over – Carrboro, NC.

Basically, during my time at PBS, I was counter help in the retail store.  I did some minor repairs and built more than a few bikes, but by and large, I was the equivalent of the dude at Abercrombie working the counter selling jerseys, shorts, etc.

In the late 80’s, triathlon was still a new, fringe sport.  And yet, we sold a TON of triathlon related stuff back then.  To share with you just how far we’ve come in terms of triathlon gear, I thought it worthwhile to pull some photos of some of the stuff we sold back in the day…

Enjoy!

This is one of the earlier aero bars – the Profile Aerobar

This is one of the original Profile aerobars, and note the vibrant neon yellow coloring!  This was a highly popular aero bar back in the day.  Notice the lack of shifter placement – most shifters were still on the down tube at this point.

Nike Sock Racer.  The ORIGINAL minimalist racing flat!

Why buy a solid-core disc wheel when you could buy a vinyl wheel cover that you add on to your wheel.  The material was similar to lots of the window shades you can purchase for your car windows.  Cheap speed!

Bolle shades.  Hardly anything better (except the original Oakley Blades).

Why DRINK your electrolytes when you can just CHEW them?!

Ironman and the Secret Access Club

The Internet is burning. And, no, it’s not about Miley Cyrus’ twerking at last week’s Video Music Awards.

Some of the more well-known triathlon communities are up in arms over what they perceive as a slight by the World Triathlon Corporation with how registration for a new iron-distance race happened.

Here’s the backstory: MDot announced a new race location in Chattanooga, TN a few weeks back. They opened registration online earlier this week (I think it was Wednesday) at 12 noon ET. About three minutes later, according to the CEO of WTC, general entry to the race sold out. Subsequent to all that happening, news came out that Active.com, the online vendor WTC uses to process their registrations, went down during the heavy registration traffic, potentially leaving hundreds (or more) of potential registrants in a perpetual “hold” status. Later on, word came out that WTC opened pre-registration for the event to members of certain triathlon clubs, both in the immediate vicinity of the race, as well as nationally.

So what’s the fuss? Another Ironman race sold out quickly. It seems to happen all the time; why should this particular race be any different?

It turns out that some folks are upset that WTC offered preregistration to clubs. Moreover, WTC apparently had instructed the clubs that they offered this capability to not openly advertise or broadcast that this was being done. According to some, this is bad mojo and poor form. WTC, people said, was being deceptive, elitest, and driving a wedge into their potential customer base. People couldn’t believe that WTC had the audacity to pull a stunt like this. There must be some conspiracy or collusion between WTC and key triathlon clubs to corner the market on race slots! Other folks claimed that there must have been an agreement between Active and WTC to “pull the plug” on the servers once the race sold out so as to shut out some athletes.

I’m not sure I agree.

Let’s not kid ourselves…the race was most likely going to sell out. There would be people who would not be able to register for the race because it would sell out before they could get through the system. MDot’s CEO claimed in a post on Slowtwitch that by offering preregistration slots to clubs, they were working to drive the growth of triathlon through clubs. Okay, maybe that’s the truth. Perhaps it isn’t. I have no idea.

To me, this all boils down to market economics, and ultimately, how a firm manages supply and demand. Right now, MDot is enjoying a period of super-high demand. This is really clear given the fact that virtually all of their races sell out quickly. Many “bucket listers” want nothing more than to cross off the list that they did an “Ironman”. So long as that is a prevailing attitude, we’ll continue to see WTC’s races sell out. All MDot did by opening preregistration to clubs was offer an enticement to a targeted, captive group. It isn’t a bad business play, at the end of the day.

And for those that think WTC colluded to pull the plug, well I can’t see that as being true either. There’s some amount of negative publicity that WTC received from both the Active snafu and the whole preregistration for clubs thing. I can’t imagine that any company focused on building brand would purposefully set themselves up for negative publicity. Well, maybe getting negative publicity would be a good ploy for an on-your-knees, about to crumble company, but I don’t recall ever learning anything about that back in B-school.

At the end of the day, what happened is that a race company announced a new race, opened registration, and some people got in while some people didn’t.

I suspect that most of the people complaining about all of this just happen to fall in the later category, and not the former.

Planning My First Race of 2013

It’s about that time of the year when we all are getting fairly serious about planning our races.  Most of us already have a list of the races we want to do – and I’m no exception –  but by “planning” I really mean getting down to the nitty-gritty of PLANNING our races.

My first race of the year is coming up in early May – it’s the Olympic Rev put on by Rev3Tri in Knoxville, TN.

 

Crossing the finish line at the 2011 Rev3 Knoxville.  Awesome finish line!

Crossing the finish line at the 2011 Rev3 Knoxville. Awesome finish line!

 

I don’t do a lot of Olympic distance racing, but this race has to be up there on my list of favorites.  The scenery is beautiful, it’s close to my childhood stomping grounds, and it also just happens to be the place where I set my personal best for this distance

The swim for this race is in the Tennessee River – which flows right through Knoxville.  Transition is essentially at the University of Tennessee football stadium (and happens to be inside a parking garage – so it’s covered).  The bike route is fairly technical – and offers some serious climbing and descents.  The run is a dang attractive out-and-back.  The coolest part of this race is the finish line – it’s right smack dab in the middle of the World’s Fair park near downtown Knoxville. 

If you’re looking for a super race to kick-start your season with, I’d encourage you to consider this one. 

Another cool fact – Knoxville will be the location for the 2014 Rev3 pro and age group series – you can gain some really valuable information for that race.  Plus, there are bound to be lots of professional athletes in Knoxville this year too.

If you’d like more details on this race, here are a couple of really solid options:

  • My race report from the last time I raced in Knoxville (in 2011) can be found here.
  • Kelly Williamson – last year’s winner – wrote an awesome story called “Rev3 Knoxville Dissected – What You Need to Know” for Rev3’s blog.  Check it out here.
  • Perhaps even cooler than having last year’s winner give you a breakdown on the race course is having last year’s winner telling you how to train for the race.  That’s exactly what happened on Rev3’s Facebook page.  A reader posted a comment wondering how to train indoors, and Kelly posted a response with a workout suggestion.  How awesome is that!?!  Click this link to go to that post on Facebook (it was from yesterday).