Friday, June 15, 2012

HITS Changes Venues

Not surprisingly, an announcement came out yesterday (6/13) that the HITS Series Triathlon in Colorado was moving from its previously announced Fort Collins location. They took down their maps from the website some time ago, and in the interim, a huge forest fire has blown up just west of town. The bike course runs right through areas that are currently closed and under evacuation orders. It may be weeks until the fire is full contained and even months before it is controlled. The race director had no choice but to move and of course, this is all happening very late.

Before I discuss the new venue, let me tell a story from high school.

Being a triathlete now, it’s hardly surprising that I ran cross-country and track in high school. My school, Greeley West, was a member at the time of the Northern Conference which included nine schools in Greeley, Fort Morgan Loveland, Longmont, Niwot, and Sterling.  Only Fort Morgan and Sterling are not what you would call Front Range cities. In fact, in the case of the latter, it sits some 90 miles northeast of Greeley. It’s far enough to the east that you can’t see the mountains from there. It was also my least favorite road trip. Since we were riding a slow school bus, the trip took something like two hours each way across completely desolate country. All through high school I travelled there twice a year—once for cross-country and once for track.

So you guessed it, HITS is moving their venue to Sterling. Specifically to a place I’ve not been called North Sterling State Park. So while I doubt this would have enticed me to register in the first place, I can’t really complain about the move. This was a tough spot for race director Mark Wilson. I suspect his only other option would have been a complete cancellation of the race which would have been bad for everyone.

Here are a couple of photos that were provided in the e-mail sent to participants yesterday:

Not exactly a ride through the mountains, but on the other hand, that ride would have now consisted of burnt out trees, assuming the area isn’t still on fire at the end of July.

Here’s what I see as the implications for the race now that it has been moved:

·        A faster bike course. The official route has not been posted, but based on descriptions from the HITS website, I don’t think there will be anything tougher than a 4% grade and that will only be for just over a mile. I think this can be done a good 20 minutes faster than the mountain course.
·        Heat. I planned on it being warm by the time I got off the bike, but I also think that a course that was going to go over 7000 feet would also offer a little relief. Likewise going down through the shadows in the Poudre Canyon. Stephen Long called the eastern plains the Great American Desert. He wasn’t wrong. We might get a break, but it could also be very hot.
·        A flatter run. As I noted in my post about the Horsetooth Half Marathon, the run course was going to consist of several very steep hills. The reservoir is basically built on the side of a mountain and as a result, the terrain is hilly. There’s a bit of a hill that forms the dam around North Sterling Reservoir, but, for the most part, it’s a flat area.
·        Travel. The Fort Collins venue was only about 30 miles or so from my parents’ home in Greeley. It’s a good place to stay before a race in the area. Since Sterling is 90 miles away (and the venue even further) traveling on race morning is not really an option. My brother (also doing this one) and I are going to have to get a hotel. That, in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. However, Sterling is a little town and any last minute needs for things like nutrition, etc. many not be easily met.
·        Site Unseen. I’ve driven the old bike course, and actually run on a fairly good sized chunk of the old run course. I also had plans, before the fire, to do a practice ride on the course. Given how far away it is, I doubt I’ll be driving up to practice either. It won’t be the first time I’ve gone to a venue site unseen (that was the case with TriRock last year) but it’s always better to have a little first-hand reconnaissance.

I’m glad the organizers have decided to hold the race. It would have been a bummer to have it canceled. There are other 70.3 mile distances, but none are very close. The Ironman Calgary 70.3 is the same day (July 29) but that’s an 1100 mile road trip. Honestly, there aren’t many races nearby that time of year—the Boulder 70.3 was sold out months ago.

I remain concerned that so many people will end up bailing due to the venue change that a cancellation will happen anyway, but, on the other hand, those folks would be eating their entry fee. I hope my fellow registrants will roll with it and stay with the race, the same as my brother and me.

Thanks for reading.

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