Tuesday, March 11, 2014
This reportedly means that those events, including the Columbia Triathlon (Olympic), Eagleman (70.3), Chesapeakeman (140.6), and two "Irongirl" triathlons, will be held in 2014. Details of the deal are not known (or perhaps even finalized?), so whether WTC finds it appropriate to run the entire series ad infinitum is up in the air.
My prediction: WTC keeps the Columbia Triathlon as a marquee qualifier for its 5150 series championship. The Columbia Triathlon earned that status for the first time in 2012 when the short-lived DC Triathlon folded. Based on the level of competition at the Columbia Triathlon, it brought truly top athletes to the championship event in Iowa (Hyvee).
WTC obviously keeps the Eagleman, one of the most sought-after 70.3 races. As an aside, I have not a clue why Eagleman was so desirable an event. Although I've never run it, I have run the Chesapeakeman, which follows the same roads and swims in the same water. It's pretty if you like stark, lonely landscapes. Perhaps it was the time of year, perhaps it was the Kona slots that were available, but Eagleman has been a big hit. WTC ownership will not change that in the slightest.
And WTC unloads everything else. No way there will be a Ironman Cambridge, MD (Chesapeakeman) every September. First, September is already overcrowded with Ironman races. Second, the town is not large enough to support a four-day event with 2500 athletes and two spectators per athlete. Third, Ironman racing is a destination sport. Cambridge, Maryland, is a pleasant place to eat crab cakes and run a race, but it is not a destination. Chesapeakeman's only hope is that members of the TriColumbia board want to form a new entity just to run the smaller events and have struck a deal with WTC to keep the race alive for long enough for that to happen.
Is this good? Bad? Indifferent? Commenters on the Slowtwitch post (linked above) are generally maudlin regarding the loss of a non-profit entity putting on nice local races. The problem is, as Ted signals in his comment to my prior post on this topic, the loss was inevitable: a non-profit cannot realistically compete on the WTC scale. Some commenters suggest other regional promoters were available (and interested) to pick up the races, but I'm a skeptic. It takes a serious organization to run an event like the Columbia Triathlon. Perhaps it could be scaled back to ~500-700 athletes, but that would be a very different race. In contrast, WTC can run it at full throttle.
Finally, I doubt other promoters were available to pick up the entire series. WTC may have offered to keep the smaller events afloat for long enough to see if they can be run on their own, in exchange for priority in purchasing the desirable events. If the alternative was shutting down Chesapeakeman and Irongirl, perhaps this is the best of two unhappy options.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
To place the enterprise in appropriate historical perspective, one source dates the first "official" triathlon race to 1974 in California. (It does reference triathlon in the 1920s in France but gives the distinct impression that the sport was not a sport until the '70s.) Tri Columbia's Columbia Triathlon has been run continuously since 1984.
The report is that the enterprise is inches away from folding. (Hat tip to frequent commenter D__, who as founder of a mid-Atlantic power triathlon team is frequently in the know on these matters.)
Why? The blame seems to revolve around a high level of competition. A few years back I ruminated here on runningprofs on the developing triathlon market, noting that the entry barrier to putting on a mid- or short-course race was little more than permit fees and insurance.
On the basis of my three (extraordinary) Tri Columbia events and observation of the firm for several years, I will add a slight bit of texture: there is substantial market segmentation in triathlon. There is Ironman, Challenge and Rev3 (three large, well-funded promoters); there is the category including Set-up Events, Sommer Sports, and similar mid-tier promoters putting on race series; there is the category of similarly mid-tier single-even promoters like the Silverman Triathlon folks; and there is the infinity of club races.
Ironman et al. have created brands of extraordinary value and have turned "triathlon" into their customers' first-priority week-long vacation. Mid-tier races are for the committed few who want to race several times per year and are less concerned about getting their backs slapped at the water-cooler the following week. (For fun, try bragging to a colleague that you just finished the "Chesapeakeman" or -- I did this once -- "Great Illini." Doesn't quite have the same ring.) Club races are for early and late season "gotta get my speed workout in" AND for "cross this off my bucket list" athletes.
Tri Columbia's problem was that it fit squarely in the middle tier. That firm offered a first-rate race experience for regional athletes. For many of us it was the unofficial start to serious training and racing. In 2013 the competition in my age group at the Columbia Triathlon was better than at much larger -- and much better known -- races including the Nation's Triathlon, Timberman 1/2 Ironman, and Lake Tahoe Ironman. (With similar perceived output on my end, in my age group I was 18th at Columbia compared with 3d, 11th and 12th at the other races.)
Tri Columbia tried, though, to compete in the top tier. The Columbia Triathlon had become the go-to black-label race of choice for pros resting between their Kona qualification and their Kona training cycle. Not many of those pros were mid-Atlantic locals, suggesting that a large chunk of money was going to appearance fees. Other large chunks of money were clearly going to making the races first-rate: the level of support and amount of swag at Tri Columbia events is much greater than at regional competitor Set-up Events events.
What lesson? Unless you have large dollars behind you, to run a triathlon race series you need to be lean and regional/local, unless you want your lunch eaten.
I received this email from the Chicago Marathon organizers:
Registration for the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been postponed until March 19 at 12 p.m. Central Time to finalize a routine yet comprehensive assessment of our new registration process. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your patience and understanding as we aim to ensure a seamless registration experience for all who wish to register for the event.
Thumbs up for beta-testing! Is this a lesson from the ACA experience?
Last I heard, this October race was tentatively on a few calendars. I'm not going to enter, but I might enjoy cheering and pacing if there is a good excuse for doing so.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Here's the closing line:
"As the story of Big Law indicates, competition can be good, but only when it truly brings out the best in us."
OK, agreed. Now help me to understand how to know where the line exists and I can condense six weeks of Rule of Reason classes into one day.