Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Changes to the Race Schedule

As I mentioned in this post, my 2014 racing plan was going to be more thoughtful. Unlike last year, I was not going to belly up to the all-you-can-eat buffet of race opportunities and load my tray with far more than I could actually consume.

That was front of mind as I began to register for races.

The three I have registered for were fairly easy choices.

 The Summer Open Sprint is perennial and just like the name indicates; it opens the season for many Front Range triathletes.

The Steamboat Springs Olympic Triathlon was also an easy choice. I love the area and I’ve always been impressed with the quality of race put on by the folks at Without Limits Productions.

Lastly, the Harvest Moon is a great deal for a 70.3 event ($130) and has become a popular race with locals.

All of these races are also capped so no swimming in a permanent washing machine or riding the whole bike in a peloton. I took advantage of early sign-up specials at the beginning of the month.

Then it came time to start looking at Ironman 70.3 Racine. Having done two of their 70.3 events, I actually am fairly impressed with WTC. You pay a lot, but you also get a lot. The venue was also intriguing. However, there was also the issue of getting to the venue.

Option 1 was to drive there. It ensures that the bike travels well and that I have reliable transportation on arrival. However, a one-way drive from my home to Racine is 1058 miles according to Google Maps. In other words, over 2000 miles of driving in the space of a week. Meh. Not so much.

Option 2 was to fly to nearby Milwaukee. It puts me near the race venue but unlike an intriguing and entertaining city like Austin, Milwaukee does not have much vacation appeal.

Option 2.1 therefore, was to fly to also nearby Chicago which could be done relatively cheaply on Spirit Airlines, even after they tack on fees for baggage, etc. We could then spend some time in the Windy City for a few days after the race and make something of a vacation out of it.

However, both variants of Option 2 meant figuring out bike transport either at the lofty cost of $150 with the airline or less than half that using a bike shipping service, but also trusting a rather expensive piece of equipment to a courier. All three options meant finding a hotel near the race venue and the nearest one clearly sells out early.

Taking all of this together, I realized that I would be going through a lot of trouble to do a race that while appealing, was not really on my bucket list. I think Racine probably has some regional appeal, but I’m not in the region.

So I went back to the drawing board to find another race and struck out. There are races in mid-July, but all involve multi-state travel at considerable cost and/or time. Someone in Colorado could probably really clean-up with a 70.3 race that time of year, but so far, there are no takers.

The idea that came to me isn’t really my idea at all. If you listen to Brett Blankner on the Zen and the Art of Triathlon podcast (which I recommend you do) you may have heard him mention a race he puts on called the Iron Baby. You can read the whole back story on how and why that race exists here. The point, however, is that, due to his own circumstances, he could not participate in a sanctioned race. So he just created his own race.

Why not do the same thing, I wondered? So I started planning my own (yet to be named) 70.3 event.

Those of us in Colorado are fortunate enough to have access to multiple open-water swimming venues, including the Bowles Reservoir #1 at Grant Ranch in Lakewood. Best of all, this venue has an already marked 1.2 mile swim course. That’s far better than swimming 1.2 miles in a pool.

The parking lot outside of the lake will be our T1 where my wife will be standing by with the bikes. From there, I’ve begun scoping out rides that will take us safely out of the area and back to my house. My garage will be T2 and the run course will start and finish there. Throughout, my wife has agreed to staff the mobile aid station so that we’ll have all the support we would have in a sanctioned race. The distances will be the same: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.

There will be no banners, crowds, PA announcer or any of the other pageantry and glitz of a sponsored event. On the other hand, the cost will be next to nothing (just some gas plus whatever nutrition and hydration) and the net effect will be the same. No, this does not count toward my USAT standings, but let’s be honest; I’ve never been high on that list anyway.

Of course I’ll always love doing a sponsored/sanctioned event. The crowds, the atmosphere, and the convergence of so many like-minded athletes make for an unparalleled experience.  Indeed, if I had not done so many races already, doing the self-supported thing might not have as much appeal. Since I’ve competed in 16 multisport events, this feels like it might actually be a unique experience.

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