Behind the Scenes, Beyond the Podium with Racing Underground

By Kate Agathon, Campus Cycles

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at an organized sports event? How much time and effort does it take to go into a single event? How do organizers deal with the unexpected while still pulling off a successful event? And finally, what details do organizers wish participants knew?

We are doing a two-part series on some of the area’s most well known events and event organizers. This week, we recently caught up with Racing Underground owner Darrin Eisman about what it takes to hold an event. 

For nearly 30 years, the Eismans have organized a number of Denver-area triathlons and duathlons including the Littlefoot Triathlon, Barkin’ Dog Duathlon, and the Chilly Cheeks Duathlon series.

Darrin on Chilly Cheek sorta day!

“I’ve been racing since 1979, and I never get tired of being around races. I love everything about them. The people are great, the atmosphere is amazing, and I enjoy seeing everyone finish- from the elite racers to the first timers,” enthused Eisman.

In 1995, Darrin and Jill founded Racing Underground to produce and time running races and multisport events. Since then, they have worked on more than 1,000 successful events in that time. In addition to approximately 20 events of their own, they provide timing services to a select number of additional races each year. These events are often booked years in advance.

No such thing as a season

Event planning is a year-round process; not just a season. Darrin and Jill have no down time. Planning for the next year’s event begins the day after the current event is completed, when they begin to lock in a date and submit permit applications. Once a date is approved, they update the race website, schedule medical and police support, open registration, and begin promoting the event. 

Over the next few months, t-shirts, finisher medals, and swim caps are ordered; artwork is completed, post-race food is decided upon, volunteer groups are organized, and porta-potties are ordered.Two weeks out, water samples are tested (if it is a triathlon), participant packets are built, trucks and trailers are loaded, and final race details sent to participants. Finally, race weekend involves set up (which is extensive for a triathlon) and marking swim, bike, and run courses and hosting an early packet pickup.

A typical race day begins at 2 AM with final setup and course markings, and ends 14 hours later after the final medal has been awarded and the last meal served.

What most participants don’t know

Refunds and deferrals are common requests from participants. However, participants may not fully understand the impact of their requests. For example, when asking for a refund or a deferral, most don’t realize that the money has already likely been spent on an event t-shirt, event swag, and food. 

For events like those held by Racing Underground that have no event sponsors, the majority of the total event costs are covered by race entry fees. Therefore, by asking for a refund or a deferral, participants are unknowingly putting the next year’s event in the red. 

2020 in particular was brutal.

During the pandemic, Racing Underground had to give 100 percent credit towards future races for several events, including the 2020 Barking Dog duathlon. Even though they had already paid for race day items and knew they were making the responsible choice, it was a sickening feeling to realize they were tens of thousands of dollars in credits.

“We work with lots of events, and the no-show rate on races this fall has been extremely high – sometimes 25 to 30 percent or more. We (and most race organizers) offer fair refund and deferral policies, and those policies have deadlines based on when they begin spending the bulk of the entry fees on the event,” explained Eisman.

Despite the return of a full event calendar in 2021 and sold out events, they discovered that participation could surprisingly still be dicey. According to him, this year more than any previous years, there has been, what he describes, as a “massive number of refund and deferral requests” during the final week leading up to the races.

He attributes the increase in refund and deferral requests to the pandemic. “I know it may seem harsh to a participant who can’t receive a refund or a deferral after the deadline, but races operate on fairly small margins and giving a large number of refunds or deferrals to the following year can cause a race to disappear,” he continued.

T-shirts, medals, swim caps, food, etc. are all bought specifically for each participant; in other words, every detail of the race is based on the number of people who have entered. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon to begin planning next year’s event in the red.

Unexpected happenings

For race organizers, some things are beyond control. One year, the burrito vendor was not available. Their daughter and a friend ended up making quesadillas for everyone at the last minute. Another year, participants mistook a spectator for a volunteer and headed in the wrong direction. Then there was the running race up Mt. Evans that was planned. Some creative and strategic planning was made (wave starts, limited numbers, contactless pick up, etc.), people were onboard, and at the last minute, the City of Denver shut the event down by not allowing parking in the space it owned.

“When everything was shut down at the end of March 2020, we worked hard to come up with plans to safely hold our events. For months, we developed detailed plans, got encouragement from venues and local authorities, then they were shot down. Over and over again.” said Eisman.

The experience was surreal. One week, they were lauded for their effort, the next week, they were vilified for things beyond their control (such as terminating an event at the last minute). By the time winter 2020 arrived, they were allowed to host the Chilly Cheeks Duathlon Series. However, less than two weeks out, there was an uptick in COVID-19 and only 75 participants were allowed. There was the omnipresent concern of money, compounded with ensuring the participants had a great experience.

“ After crunching the numbers, I determined that we could just break even if we and our staff worked for free, and all volunteers were true volunteers with nothing in return except seeing smiling faces at the finish line. It ended up being one of my favorite years for the 20 year old series!” he exclaimed.

In order to keep their community of athletes engaged, they began to host free weekly virtual races (one running race and one bike race) to keep them racing.  Once races started to happen, Racing Underground was able to hold its Littlefoot Triathlon in September 2020. It was limited to 175 participants, and sold out in 4.5 hours. They took it as a promising sign of things to come.

Transforming an event into an experience.

Why have registration fees increased over the years? Attribute that to a change in expectations. The advent of social media has made what used to be a simple race into a cultural event to enjoy with friends. Long gone are the days of race entrants being greeted at the finish line with some bananas, bagels, and a paper cup to use at the water cooler. Thanks in large part to social media, triathlons and duathlons have become experiences, according to Eisman. “Once upon a time, an entrant would expect to receive a race number and an occasional t-shirt to commemorate participating in the event,” mused Eisman. “Now, people want medals, swag, food, and entertainment of some kind,” he said.

In order to stay in business, they had to change with the times (no pun intended). Interestingly, turning the event into an experience has also helped maintain its unique identity, distinguishing it from the plethora of other events added every year. Races build a loyalty over the years, and improving the racer experience helps to draw in new participants,” he explained.

Finding ways to mix up events also draws more participants. This year, the Colorado Special Olympics triathlon was included as a part of the Littlefoot Triathlon. Eisman exclaimed, “It was truly inspiring, and the best part was when one of the Special Olympians won a new bike from Campus Cycles in the post-race drawing!” 

Although the work can be exhausting and sometimes frustrating, Racing Underground’s Darrin and Jill Eisman and their dedicated team find reward in producing events that celebrate and encourage participants to achieve their athletic potential. 

For now, 2022 has already begun.

Still a Couple of Triathlons in Colorado in October

By Bill Plock

The Last Call Triathlon at Boyd Lake near Loveland was the last triathlon along the front range but there are still a couple of opportunities to race in Montrose and Alamosa. The Black Canyon Triathlon (Montrose) October 2nd and the Splashland Triathlon (Alamosa) October 19th are still on the calendar. These are pool based triathlons and in Alamosa the pool is a hot springs–and the swim is last.

With fall colors peaking in the high country, a trip to either venue will be full of color and adventure. We caught up with Montrose resident Julie Burdick who participates in all of the Southwestern Triathlon Series triathlons to learn more. As a busy mom of twins and recovering from Covid, she is looking forward to this week’s triathlon more than ever.


About Julie

I live in Montrose, and I teach swim lessons at the Montrose Community Rec. Center, and will begin lifeguarding next week.  What I like most about living here is the nice climate, the many different outdoor activities I can do in the mountains, lower elevation areas and the reservoirs, and the many sunny days that we as Coloradans are able to get outside to enjoy them.  What I like most about teaching swim lessons is interacting with the kids and watching them blossom into little swimmers.  It’s very rewarding.  


How did you get into triathlon?

I think my first triathlon was the Black Canyon Triathlon, here in Montrose, back in 2004.  I spent the summer training and actually did well.  I decided that I would like to do it again the following year. I was raising young twins during that time, so I couldn’t always commit to triathlon training in the summers. When the twins were of high school age, I really delved into the sport.  It was the summer of 2018 that I noticed the Series, and athletes being recognized at the last triathlon of the season, which back then was in Montrose.  I decided that the following summer I would commit to training and complete the whole series.  So in 2019, I did that.  Los Alamos, Gunnison, Montrose, and Alamosa.  I loved them all.  

Covid took away the triathlons for all of us in 2020.  I contracted covid also, so my training took a big back seat.  I am happy to be back this year.  I look forward to training longer distances someday and completing Olympic distance triathlons.  My goal is to someday complete a half-iron man. My biggest obstacle now is finding the time to do the training that that would require.  But that is my goal.

What do you love most the series?

 What I love most about doing the series is having that next event to look forward to, keeping on with the training, seeing the people I’ve met in triathlon again at the next event, encouraging each other and sharing our stories of races and training, and the general camaraderie between us all. I’m always inspired by the many different people who do triathlon; their different ages, body shapes, athleticism, backgrounds, from kids to senior citizens, it’s a very beautiful and inspiring thing.  Triathlon is for everyone, I see that at every event, and it makes me happy.  

        
Tell us about each event?

Highlights about each event?  Well, let’s see.  I think for Los Alamos, it was the crazy steep hill on the bike course that everyone was complaining about, and the scenery there was beautiful.  Gunnison has great people and even though the run is longer, it’s a really nice run course through a park and I enjoy the hot dogs!  Montrose, my hometown, I think has the nicest pool facility and before covid, there were free 10-minute massages for the athletes after the race, I loved that.  Alamosa it’s the hot springs pool where the swim takes place.  When you get there in the morning, it’s quite cold because of the time of year and it’s early morning.  The steam rises off the pool outside and it’s just lovely.  It’s also a backward triathlon, which is different and keeps things interesting and fun and knocks you a bit out of your comfort zone.  Run, bike, swim.  


How as the Black Canyon Triathlon affected the Community?

In Montrose, I have seen the Black Canyon Triathlon affect the community in such a positive manner.  The general energy at the event is always very exciting and a bit festive.  There are kids who are excited to be doing the race, whether they are racing as individuals or on teams.  Their energy in infectious.  The parents are always so proud and supportive and helping them through the transition areas and sometimes even accompanying them out on the bike route to keep them on track and encourage them.  I always hear bystanders, who are affected by all the positive energy, wondering if maybe they could do it next year.  I see a lot of sparked interest, and I think that’s mostly because they see that not everyone has to be a top world class athlete to do a triathlon. It’s something that is achievable.  Some people are intimidated by the swimming.  But when they see that there are people swimming in the triathlon who are not great swimmers and they are doing whatever it takes to get those ten laps done (doggy paddling, backstroke, taking rests), they aren’t as intimidated by it anymore.  Some people aren’t runners, but that’s okay, too.  You can walk as much as you like and it still counts!  


Why should someone from the front range make the trip?

I would tell someone on the front range to check out the Western Slope for triathlon and the Series because it’s beautiful here!  It’s quiet, peaceful, less traffic, beautiful views and countryside, pretty laid back!  It’s real nice.  We have nice courses, too.  And nice people.  🙂 

How has the series impacted you the most?

Doing the series, and triathlon in particular, has had a big impact on me.  It gives me goals, a reason to get out there and swim, bike and run.  I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally when I am healthy and fit and the combination of swim, bike and run keeps things from getting monotonous.  Just when you get tired of swim training, you can get on your bike, or go for a run.  I just feel so much better when I’m active.  Doing the series keeps me going all summer.  I love it.  And I love the hoodie we get for completing the Series.  I wear it with pride.  

Register for the Black Canyon Triathlon Here: https://blackcanyonsprinttriathlon.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=7504

Register for the Alamosa Triathlon HERE: https://splashlandtriathlon.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=11434

St. George, Iconic Race and a Look Into the Future; Coloradans do Well!

By Bill Plock

The authentic joy Lucy Charles Barclay beamed to the world the second she broke the tape is something I’ll never forget. It gave me goosebumps and seemed deep seated, especially as she came to hug her husband with tears running down her face. I have never seen or felt such happiness.

Barclay, like all the athletes battled very unusual weather with a down pour of rain and hail and lightening that threatened the race. With a Barclay comfortably in the lead all day, she knew she was having “a day” and said at the press conference recalling her thoughts, “they better not cancel this race!” 

Gustav Iden of Norway didn’t quite lead the entire way but went to the front of the pack on the bike part way through and never looked back. Fellow countryman and gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt was in that lead group when he suffered a serious mechanical failure with his wheel and fell out of contention. Boulder’s Sam Long, with a solid swim battled hard to ride into second place never did catch Iden. Iden won by 5 minutes retaining his World Champion status he gained after winning in Nice in 2019. 

The second place finishes for Long and another Boulder resident, Jeanni Metzler may be a glimpse into the future of the sport.  Just two years ago Long finish 26 minutes back and has kept a poster of Nice in his “pain cave” as motivation ever since. Metzler has been climbing the ranks and finished 3rd in Boulder a few weeks ago behind Taylor Knibb and Emma Palant Brown, but in St. George she beat both of them. 

Metzler passed Knibb just a few minutes out saying later, “I didn’t want a sprint finish with Taylor as I don’t think that would’ve gone well.” Knibb finished about 30 seconds back and the two training partners and friends shared exuberant hugs in the finish area . 

It felt like the finish area was filled with camaraderie and respect unlike any race I had seen before. This wasn’t “new blood” so to speak, but in way it felt like a new group of champions and future champions were making their mark in St. George. At the press conference, the top five male and female finishers all were under the age of 28. It’s a young group who genuinely seem to enjoy each other. 

Of the ten, eight raced together at the Collins Cup just four weeks prior. When asked if that played into the feeling of camaraderie, Sam Long said, “I do think we all got to know each other there. It also could be because we are all pretty young, it was a bit of a different atmosphere. And I also think the sport is changing, where you can talk smack but in a friendly way and at the end everyone knows it is for fun.”

Besides Coloradans, Long, Metzler and Knibb, several age group athletes made it in the top five. In no particular order. Colleen D’Reuck, Diana Hassel, Mike Wein, Eric Long (Sam’s dad), and Sandi Wiebe. 

So what about Kona maybe moving to St. George? 

St. George is an iconic venue with massive hills to run up and down. And the ride up Snow Canyon provides a separation point (along with an amazing picturesque backdrop) just before athletes start their run. There is speculation that the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona will move in the future and St. George seems primed to be a top choice. It has all the features that make a world championship course with hills, weather exposure, and a welcoming community and a downtown finish with plenty of potential to the house larger crowds seen in Kona. It is certainly more accessible than Kona and far less expensive for athletes, spectators and industry supporters. 

Sand Hollow reservoir is great for the swim with plenty of room for transition. In Kona the iconic pier is busting at the seams with room (barely) for 1,800 athletes. In St. George 4,200 athletes competed. Undoubtedly the age group women probably don’t love the current format with the last group starting their swim at almost 10 o’clock. In normal years that would force them to be running at the hottest part of the day. This year, some had to be pulled out of the water with the rare thunderstorm that rolled through. 

In previous years, the 70.3 Championship features two days of racing—one for the men and one for the women. In St. George that seems a difficult task with races not generally taking place on Sundays in Utah. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. Next year the 70.3 Championship will return to St. George along with a full distance race in June. We shall see!

But for now, the young group of pro’s stole the show and perhaps this race will serve as a springboard for future success for all of these athletes as they scatter into the world doing more races. In fact, watch this coming weekend in Chattanooga where Sam Long will attempt defend his title as champion and battle rival Lionel Sander—keep an eye on that!

Adams State Professor Shares Why She Loves the Southwest Triathlon Series

By Bill Plock

Last year, with a limited race calendar we discovered the Splashland Triathlon in Alamosa with some fun history. It’s a late October race with a swim in a nice warm hot springs pool on the edge of town. We discovered it’s part of the Southwest Triathlon Series with races in Gunnison, Montrose, Alamosa and Los Alamos New Mexico. The Montrose triathlon, called the Black Canyon Triathlon is October 2, and the Alamosa, Splashland Triathlon is October 19th.

We chatted with Adams State University Psychology Professor, Gina Mitchell, a veteran of the series to find out why she loves it so much. The Alamosa triathlon has some fun history, check out our article from last year. (303 Article)

Gina Mitchell

Q. What do you like most about living and teaching in the Alamosa area? 

My favorite thing about Alamosa and the valley is the small town atmosphere and the different cultures of the valley that I get to be a part of. As a professor, I’m connected to academics and university culture and as a farmer’s wife, I’m connected to the larger farming community of the valley. 

Q. How did you get interested in the Splashland Triathlon and then the Series? 

I got interested in the triathlon at a 5K I was running. Splashland was advertising their race. It seemed like something that would challenge my fitness level and introduce me to new types of training. 

Q. What do you love most about doing the series? 

The challenge of sustained competition. Rather than training ending after one race, I push myself to train harder for longer. I also like to challenge myself to do better in each race. It makes me work harder to have another event coming up and knowing that I can best my time. I also feel like I can redeem myself if I have a bad day! 

Q. Each one is a little bit different, maybe highlight one thing you like best about each race? 

Each race is very different. In Los Alamos, the bike course is very hilly – for someone from the flat valley this is a challenge that I normally wouldn’t get. In Gunnison, I like the trail running and I love the post race food and drinks! Montrose has a great pool facility and generally speaking it has more participants that create more competition. In Alamosa, the run is first. Running is my favorite event – its nice to have it first to be able to run without being tired out from biking and swimming. 

Q. How have you seen the triathlon affect the community and vice versa

Over the years, the triathlon has grown in numbers. This is great for Splashland and Alamosa. Hopefully, those that participate are able to see all Alamosa has to offer. Since the Splashland triathlon started, the city has also developed another triathlon that includes biking, paddle boarding, and running. This event was very successful last year. Perhaps the Splashland triathlon has inspired more people to get outdoors and participate. I’ve also seen people in the community enjoy and participate in the triathlon with no prior training. It’s an event that helps people get more active. 

Q. What would you tell someone in the front range as the best reason to come try a tri in the series

All the tris in the series have a variety of participants – ranging from very competitive to first timers. It can make for a good race for any skill level and help people get more active. The pools swims are less intimidating than an open water swim if it is your first triathlon. Also, all the events are typically raising money for various community causes – its great to get to participate in something that ultimately will help other people. Finally, competing in the tris helps you see a different part of your state and see what life is like in smaller towns like Alamosa! 

Q. How has doing the series impacted your life the most?

It’s made me work harder in a variety of different capacities. The training can be time consuming, so I have to work harder/more efficiently to complete tasks in other areas of my life. My training is more intense – I work harder because I have a specific event/goal in mind. It has also given me courage to try new things – before competing in the Alamosa triathlon, I had never had any swim training or competed in any swim event. I was nervous to try it, but giving it a go made me feel like I can be successful trying new things! 

Preview of the Showdown in St. George at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

By Bill Plock

303 is heading to St. George to bring you in-person coverage of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. With no Kona this year, all eyes are on the desert of southwest Utah. With a hilly run course, fast bike and a predicted temperature near 100 degrees, the real sizzle isn’t the rubber meeting the road, it’s the clash of top triathletes on heels of the Collins Cup that has no doubt sparked some rivalries.

In the women’s field in particular, the match up of Daniela Ryf and Taylor Knibb seems most intriguing. At the Collins Cup they went head to head and Knibb had the biggest victory of the day of all athletes crushing Daniela by double digit minutes. But Daniela reportedly wasn’t feeling her best and we all know of the four time IRONMAN World Champion capabilities. No doubt she is looking for some revenge. Obviously as the championship, the field is stacked. Maybe there is a chink in Ryf’s armor? Maybe not, but Lucy Charles, Ellie Salthouse, Sky Moench, Paula Findlay and Jeanni Metzler, all with great races in Slovakia could be in the mix at the end. No doubt there are others like Holly Lawrence who crashed in the Collins Cup could fight for the podium.

The mens field offers similar drama with Sam Long, the top ranked American and one of the favorites will have stiff competition from Lionel Sanders, Gustav Iden and fellow Norwegian and Olympic Gold Medalist Kristian Blummenfelt. Last May, Long and Sanders battled shoulder to shoulder in St. George and the two have had some fun social media banter in the last 12 months. After the race in May, Long said he knew he could take advantage of the downhill with his long stride and he did so almost winning so it will be interesting to see what happens. 

The Norwegians are going to be tough to beat. Both Iden and Blummenfelt have had fantastic seasons. Iden handedly won his race in Slovakia and Blummenfelt has focused on training for St. George since winning Olympic gold. With no Jan Frodeno, putting odds on this race is challenging. There are many podium worthy contenders like Chris Leiferman, Rudy Von Berg, Alistair Brownlee, Ben Kanute, Javier Gomez, Sam Appleton and maybe a dark horse to watch is Collin Chartier from Louisville, Colorado. 

Collin was a guest this past week on the 303Endurance Podcast and talked about his experience at the Collins Cup and his preparation for St. George. He has had a breakthrough season and narrowly finished second in his race in Slovakia. If he hadn’t had some stomach issues, he may have won. He is doing some special preparations on his bike with shorter cranks and gear ratios designed to open his hips for a faster run in St. George. Have a listen here to learn more: https://303endurance.libsyn.com/collin-chartier-collins-cup-recap

Off to the desert, stay tuned! 

The Tri Doc, Jeff Sankoff Shares Insight on Heart Health in Wake of Tim O’Donnell’s Heart Attack

Recently Emergency Room Physician and very accomplished IRONMAN veteran athlete Dr. Jeff Sankoff shared on his podcast, thoughts on heart health and specifically talking about what probably happened with Tim O’Donnell and what that means for triathletes in general.

In this podcast he replays a conversation with USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris who reveals some health issues he has overcome and warns triathletes to know your health history and get check ups. The overall message it seems is that simply being fit doesn’t mean you are healthy. That fitness does not overcome something like heart disease.

It’s a good listen, about 30 minutes and Dr. Sankoff brings in his colleague Dr. Matt Holland, a cardiology specialist at Denver Health. They discuss some very specific factors about things like what causes heart attacks versus cardiac arrest. What really is the “widow” maker and how so many different things can cause a multitude of outcomes. But the conversation is also re-assuring in terms of how most all of us can avoid these things and how rare it really is for someone like Tim O’Donnell to have experienced this.

Go here; https://www.tridocpodcast.com/episode/episode-73-bonus-episode-tim-odonnels-heart-attack-what-does-this-mean-for-the-rest-of-us

Dr. Sankoff is dedicated to helping triathletes (athletes) train healthy and his podcast features many great topics and guest dedicated to this mission. His website is https://tridoccoaching.com. Learn more about him here and subscribe to his podcast.

Dr. Jeff Sankoff

In a small world twist, Dr. Sankoff treated 303’s Khem Suthiwan almost a year ago when she came to the ER with a torn retina she sustained on bike ride.

The Collins Cup, Even Super Bowl One Didn’t Sell Out, But it Was a Pretty Good Start–a Few Ideas for the Future

By Bill Plock

In 1966 Lamar Hunt unknowingly named the Super Bowl. The owner of the Kansas City Chiefs in the American Football League led a movement to compete with the National Football League. The champions of each league would play each other in a championship game in 1967 leading to a future merger of the leagues. Lamar Hunt wrote NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle a letter in July of 1966, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.” He later said the named popped into his head watching his kids play with a super ball. That super ball, along with Lamar Hunt are the in the Football Hall of Fame and we all know “Super Bowl” stuck and it’s one of the most watched events on the planet. But that first game didn’t even sell out, it takes time.

Triathlon’s “Super Bowl” happened today in Slovakia, it was called the Collins Cup. Yes we have Kona and the IRONMAN World Championships but that is about individuals, today was about the teams and the sport and profession of triathlon.

The Collins Cup was designed to mirror golf’s popular Ryder Cup pitting three teams of 12 athletes (6 men, 6 women) against each other. One team from Europe, the United States and Internationals. 

The goal, to make professional triathlon a better spectator sport thus attracting more money to make the profession more lucrative and sustainable. 

Will it work? Did it work? It’s too early to say but nobody predicted the wild popularity of the Super Bowl. Triathlon will never be that popular but lets see what happens. 

The Professional Triathlon Organisation orchestrated this “made for TV event”. Viewers watched 12 matches with one competitor from each team racing. Each match started 10 minutes apart. The entire race lasted about 5 hours. Cameras were all over the course capturing the 36 athletes racing in their own three person race. It was fun to watch and the coverage was good as was the announcing. It was especially fun to have Tour de France commentator Phil Liggett behind the mic. His voice just adds a tone of familiarity and importance. 

Team Europe won, followed by the United States and the the Internationals. No surprise there. 

By far the story of the day was U.S’s Taylor Knibb, again. She absolutely crushed her competition and notably IRONMAN World Champion and number one ranked Daniela Ryf. Taylor beat her by almost 17 minutes. By far the largest gap of any match of the day. Her final time of 3:30 was the best time by almost four minutes over any women and only three minutes behind IRONMAN male World Champion Patrick Lange! And Taylor did it on a road bike!

Said 303 Podcast Director, Rich Soares, “Having the best triathletes in the world racing for teams makes for great competition.  Having the fantasy competition really added to the engagement and the eventual upsets and surprises.  I Loved seeing the Olympians race against long course champions.  My big question, where was Olympic gold medalist Flora Duffy?  Knibb vs. Duffy right now would be Pay-Per-View worthy!”

But let’s break down the event. It’s a good start if you like triathlon, know some of these athletes and understand what they are trying to do. A better start if you have raced long course to appreciate the speed. And a fabulous start if you know anything about the Ryder cup and how match play works. But even if you don’t know the Ryder cup, the announcers did a good job of explaining what was going on and how the points were earned. Where beating competitors by more minutes meant more team points. That alone kept every race important and each athlete motivated to stay close. The motivation of working for the team was very real. We heard Jan Frodeno say how hard it was when he was told with 2k to go that if he could increase his lead by 30 seconds it would mean an extra point for his team. And he did just that—busted a move and exhausted himself even with a comfortable lead over Sam Appleton. 

The points were key to making the races compelling. Otherwise there were almost no close finishes and little shoulder to shoulder running and drama at the finish line. I think that needs to change somehow. Having 12 matches and virtually no finish line drama was a bit of a miss. 

The television coverage was good with plenty of coverage all over the course. And the interactive “maps” showing arial views of where the athletes were, sort of like Harry Potter’s Maurader map, was cool. I would’ve like to see a huge arial map showing where all athletes were on the course with “flags” showing speed/pace. 

One thing that was severely lacking, and would’ve added a lot of energy were spectators. Even more riding through towns with fans, but there were barely any. And the finish line was small and not very electric. That was disappointing. 

Rich Soares adds, “The Olympics is a hard act to follow.  After weeks of Olympic village and Odaiba Park with it’s massive blue carpet area, I was a little underwhelmed by the Collins Cup venue.  Great camera angles and on course coverage no doubt.  Being right after the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic might be limiting, but I would love to see this in a bigger city with crowds next time.”

I thought they (PTO) might steal some ideas from NASCAR and feature more data like heart rates and watts and give more stats like min/mile, mph and other effort indications. I think more of that data would be appealing to non-triathlete watchers who get speed and data. I’m sure getting athletes to agree to reveal that data might be hard. 

In general I liked format and match ups. I felt the racing was a bit lonely with not enough dueling on the course. Maybe matches should be with 6 or even 9 athletes so teams can work a bit together on the course with more potential for drama at the finish line. 

But I also have a Super Bowl ticket stub when a ticket cost $30 and my dad thought that was crazy. $30 might get you a parking spot a mile from the stadium these days. You gotta start somewhere! 

By the way the fantasy aspect Rich talked about; fans and media could predict the outcomes and fans could win prizes. I took a few chances hoping for some upsets but finished in the middle of the pack of the Team US media. The European Press mimicked the European athletes and kicked ass!

The final standings:

INDIVIDUAL MATCH RESULTS

Match 1 
Taylor Knibb USA 3:30:11 – 6 points
Daniela Ryf EUR +16:43 – 3.5 points
Teresa Adam INT +22:58 – 1 point 

Match 2 
Lucy Charles-Barclay EUR 3:33:46 – 5 points
Katie Zaferes USA +4:16 – 2 points
Paula Findlay INT +4:53 – 1 point 

Match 3
Jackie Hering USA 3:35:19 – 4 points
Anne Haug EUR +2:23 – 2 points
Jeanni Metzler INT +3:24 – 1 point

Match 4
Ellie Salthouse INT 3:38:36 – 4.5 points
Skye Moench USA +2:01 – 2.5 points
Holly Lawrence EUR +5:29 – 1 point  

Match 5 
Emma Pallant-Browne EUR 3:34:45 – 4.5 points
Chelsea Sodaro USA +1:13 – 3.5 points
Sarah Crowley INT +8:27 – 1 point  

Match 6
Katrina Matthews EUR 3:35:12 – 5.5 points
Jocelyn McCauley USA +5:42 – 3 points
Carrie Lester INT +10:42 – 1 point 

Match 7
Jan Frodeno EUR 3:20:22 – 5 points
Sam Appleton INT +4:38 – 2 points
Sam Long USA +5:09 – 1 point 

Match 8
Gustav Iden EUR 3:13:28 – 6 points
Collin Chartier USA +7:13 – 2 points 
Kyle Smith INT + 7:16 – 1 point

Match 9
Lionel Sanders INT 3:19:13 – 3 points
Sebastian Kienle EUR +1:06 – 2 points 
Andrew Starykowicz USA +1:51 – 1 point  

Match 10
Daniel Baekkegard EUR 3:15:27 – 4.5 points
Ben Kanute USA +1:23 – 3.5 points
Max Neumann INT +10:58 – 1 point  

Match 11
Braden Currie INT 3:27:13 – 5.5 points
Matt Hanson USA +5:16 – 2 points  
Patrick Lange EUR +6:44 – 1 point 

Match 12
Jackson Laundry INT 3:18:28 – 3.5 points
Joe Skipper EUR +00:38 – 2.5 points
Justin Metzler USA +3:45 – 1 point

TEAM STANDINGS

Team Europe – 42.5 points
Team US – 31.5 points
Team Internationals – 25.5 points

Fantasy Football, Why Not Fantasy Triathlon at the Collins Cup, Great Prizes

LONDON, ENGLAND: The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) today announced the Collins Cup Fantasy Competition that will take place in the run up to the Collins Cup in Samorin, Slovakia on August 28th, 2021.

The Collins Cup Fantasy Competition follows the well-received Tokyo fantasy game and utilises the PTO’s pioneering Race Data and Statistics site, which has given fans of the sport unrestricted access to current and historical racing data like never before. It is the next step in enhancing fan engagement and will be a fun way for Triathlon fans as well as all sports enthusiasts to follow the race.

The Collins Cup Fantasy Competition will feature the races of the inaugural Collins Cupwhere fans can predict which Team Europe, International and USA PTO Professionals will come 1st, 2nd & 3rd in each race match on 28th August 2021. The Collins Cup is the PTO’s flagship event and is a new race format modelled after the Ryder Cup, which will see teams of European, International and USA athletes pitted against one another and put on display the excitement, rivalry, drama, and personalities of the sport of triathlon.

The Collins Cup Fantasy Competition will start on August 25th as soon as Captains unveil their picks for the race matches at the Collins Cup Opening Ceremony, which will be broadcast on the PTO YouTube Channel, Collins Cup app and Collins Cup website beginning at 5pm BST/ 6pm CEST/12 noon EST.

The Grand Prize is an all-expenses paid trip for two to the 2022 Collins Cup. Second and third place finishers will receive a TAG Heuer connected watch with GPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate sensor. In addition, there are many more prizes to be won courtesy of Wahoo, a premier partner of The Collins Cup, including Wahoo KICKR Bikes, Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainers and Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL multisport watches, giving fans the chance to snag some fabulous triathlon merchandise as well as displaying their knowledge of triathlon by correctly predicting race outcomes. Sign up to play at protriathletes.org/fantasy.

Christophe Balestra, Chief Technology Officer of the PTO, stated: “The gamification of triathlon allows the PTO to engage and showcase the sport in new ways and to a much wider fan base. Given the passion of the triathlon audience, the fun format of the game and the prizes on offer, the Collins Cup Fantasy Competition will be enjoyable experience for fans”.

About the Professional Triathletes Organisation
The Professional Triathletes Organisation is a not-for-profit entity consisting of both men and women professional triathletes who have come together to form a representative body which not only gives them a meaningful voice in the way the sport operates but a means to contribute to its growth for the benefit of the entire triathlon community. The PTO seeks to showcase the passion, talents, determination, struggles and achievements of its dedicated professionals through iconic events, reimagined broadcast and compelling storytelling, inspiring global sports fans to watch, engage and participate in Triathlon. The PTO’s inaugural flagship event, The Collins Cup, will be held on 28th August 2021 in Samorin, Slovakia and will be a head-to-head showdown between the world’s greatest athletes to determine who rules triathlon.

Download and sign up FREE to watch live matches, exclusive content, live shows, replays, highlights, features, and electric archive footage.

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Live broadcast globally available on The Collins Cup player, excluding in Europe where the live broadcast will be exclusively available on Eurosport 2, the Eurosport player and Discovery+ in selected markets.

Find out how to watch The Collins Cup in your country here.

Meet Collin Chartier, 3rd at IM Boulder 70.3, Heading to Collins Cup for U.S.–Interesting Background.

By Bill Plock

A couple of weeks ago at IRONMAN Boulder 70.3, the Sam’s, Sam Long and Sam Appleton crossed the finish line first and second, to nobody’s surprise, but then came Collin Chartier. If you had taken a poll of spectators not many probably would’ve picked Collin to be next. But why?

A “peak behind the curtain” will tell you being on the podium totally made sense. Collin answers some questions about his career and background here. He will be a guest on an upcoming podcast on the 303Endurance Podcast.

  1. Can you give a brief overview of your career and how you ended up in Colorado

My dad did a sprint triathlon in the late 90s while we were living in Spain. I was only 4 years old at the time. I would like to say this is where it all started, but it didn’t. He hated swimming and never did another triathlon.

Living in Fairfax, Virginia, I swam year around for summer league, club, and high school teams and played soccer. In 2008 my friend from the swim team invited me to do the Dewey Beach Triathlon in Delaware, and this is where it all began. In 2010 I started competing in the Junior Elite series with Endorphin Fitness (Richmond, VA). 

After high school, Zane Castro recruited me for triathlon at Marymount University, the first collegiate varsity triathlon program at the time. I competed in the collegiate series and a few ITU races through out 2013-2017. 

Collin Happy at the finish line, photo: Khem Suthiwan

The day after my last final exam in 2017 I packed my car and drove out to Colorado. 

I spent the previous summer in Colorado, I was invited to the U23 elite camp at the Olympic Training Center in preparation for the FISU University Games in Nyon, Switzerland. It was at this race where I placed 9th, a few seconds off of Rudy Von Berg, where I started to believe in myself as a triathlete. A turning point in my career. My uncle lives in Littleton and he invited me to come out after graduating to support me training in Colorado. 

In 2018, I joined Origin Performance, Ian O’Brien’s ITU training group. This was my first exposer to a daily training environment among likeminded athletes. I raced 14 times in 12 countries that year. I learned a lot from that year, mostly what not to do in training and racing. 

I saw my first professional wins in 2019. I had started to figure out what it takes to perform at the continental cup and World Cup levels. My run had been my biggest challenge, always dealing with injuries and inconsistent volume. I started to stack consistent milage and create durability. The highlight of this year was my 11th place finish in the Miyazaki World Cup, running a 31:37. The previous year I placed 50th and had a terrible experience in the rough swim and just wanted to be done with the season. This cemented in me that I was improving and I could try for a World Cup podium in 2020. 

2020 was a challenging year. It began with a life threatening car accident in early February while I was on the way to the airport flying to the first races of the season. 

My body was beat and bruised, yet I still went to Honduras and Cuba for the first continental cups of the year where I didn’t perform too well. 

Then the pandemic happened and the racing season was put on hold. 

I went to Karlovy Vary World Cup in September as an alternate. I paid my own way and traveled independently. I flew into Croatia, rented a car and drove. At this point, travel from USA to the EU was banned and there was a lot of confusion as to who could travel. I was stopped at many borders in Europe and questioned. I didn’t get to compete in Karlovy Vary so I continued on to IM 70.3 Aix en Provence. When I got to Aix en Provence to check out the course, I got the announcement it had been cancelled. I arrived to Girona where my friend said there was a race going to happen, Platja de Aro half distance triathlon. I finally got an opportunity to compete and I won by almost 15 minutes. Little did I know this was a mistake, competing for no prize money or rankings. I learned after the race that I could go compete at the Spanish National Championships for half distance in Bilbao just 6 days away. I traveled to Bilbao and struggled through a wet and cold race, finishing 2nd to Javier Gomez Noya. After crossing the finish line, I could not walk. Something was wrong. I figured I had strained my hip flexors. 

I had been on the start list for Arzechena World Cup in Italy, 2 weeks after Bilbao. I am still in pain with walking and running, but I decide to go any way. I felt I could still race well. I crashed during the race and took all the skin off my butt, shoulders, and back. I had stitches and had been full body wrapped in gauze. 

Once back in Girona, Spain, I got my hip checked out and I had torn my hip flexors and adductors. I decided to end the season and start rehabbing the injuries. 

In my rehab, I discovered the sport of ski mountaineering and it did not cause pain in my hip, so I went all in. I started training daily and racing on the weekends. 

I started 2021 skimo racing in the US, doing 6 races with a few wins and podiums in Colorado and Utah. I even went as far as competing for the US at the ISMF World Cup Finals in Madonna di Campiglio Italy. After being competitive in the US races, I was brutally crushed among world class skimo athletes. I strongly believe you can learn the most when you are thrown into the deep end and learn to embrace uncomfortable situations. I am no stranger to being in over my head. 

If my skimo debut is an indicator of who I am, then what I do next is no surprise. 

I put myself on the start list for Challenge Mogan Gran Canarias, (a super stacked field!) just 4 weeks post skimo World Cup. I haven’t been swimming, biking, or running much while focusing on skimo. I jump start the triathlon training with a really intense 3 weeks of training and then a week taper into the race. 

I was testing whether or not skimo fitness would translate to triathlon performance. It turns out, it doesn’t. 

I placed 16th and just didn’t have the power on the bike or the durability to maintain run pace. Every run mile I positive split. It’s not bad for not much training, but I wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be fitness wise.

I returned to Colorado to put in a 2 month training block ahead of IM 70.3 Des Moines. 

I hadn’t made the conscious decision to commit to 70.3 racing full time, I was only following racing opportunities and to try to pay my bills. I was also getting the hint that USA Triathlon wanted me out of the picture during the Olympic qualification cycle. I had enough points that I could get on some of the few races happening during the pandemic and they wanted some their lower ranked athletes whom they support financially in those events, so I stayed clear of their political drama. 

I am now in the situation where I have had some success in 70.3 racing yet I still have the World Triathlon (previously ITU) points and drive to continue in short distance racing. I will have to decide at the end of the year which path to take. I know USA Triathlon has voiced to me that WT racing is incompatible with long course racing, but now we are seeing many athletes, like Taylor Knibb and the Norwegians, have success at both. This could be the first time in the history of our sport where we are seeing a blending among short and long course athletes, which I believe is overall positive. 

2. Do you like (or not like)  being a bit of an unknown in the 70.3 distance and what are the advantages and disadvantages to that?

It’s funny because I had become known for my 70.3 ability pretty quickly, just not among the US social circles. I have been in interviews in Colombia after my debut 70.3 and win in Cartagena 2019 and in articles ahead of the Spanish National Championships. I was projected to have a podium placing at Challenge Mogan among Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange. I had been more well known around the world then in the US. I am not sure there are any advantages to being unknown. I like the 70.3 races because you either have the fitness or you don’t, and the result doesn’t matter how well known you are. 

3. What did you learn most at the Boulder 70.3?

If Sam Long goes by, you better follow for as long you can. I made my move too late and he was gone. 

If you don’t commit to racing all out, you will seek the comfort of the group and the race will be dictated to you. 

Chainring selection is important, 58 tooth would have been wise for this course.

4. As a pro, what are the biggest challenges you face and what do you like most

Financial. I don’t have any sponsors and need to race to get a paycheck.

5. What is your greatest opportunity to get better

Time in the sport, consistent training year to year.

6. What other sports did you play growing up? Who are some of your sports heroes.

Swimming and soccer. Michael Phelps.

7. What interest do you have outside of Endurance sports? What did you study in College and what might you like to pursue someday after triathlon is all over

I studied Health Sciences in a pre-Physical Therapy program. Endurance sports is my only interest. 

Pro Xterra Triathlete Brian Smith Loves His Hometown Triathlon in Gunnison–Coming Aug 28th

By Bill Plock

Brian Smith has raced on the biggest stages, like at the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii or in the Winter Triathlon World Championships in Europe, but he loves his hometown sprint triathlon in Gunnison too!

Set at the Gunnison Recreation Center, racers complete a 500 yard pool swim, 14 mile ride and a 4.2 mile run. It’s a pretty fast course but at altitude Brian feels at home. “I love racing here in town and at altitude among friends and family.” Brian has been on the pro circuit for a couple of decades and mostly focuses on off-road triathlon there days.

He competed a few weeks ago at the Beaver Creek Xterra Triathlon and finished 4th overall, only a few minutes back of Boulder’s Sam Long, the recent champion of IROMAN Boulder 70.3 and on his way to the Collins Cup as America’s top ranked triathlete. Sam is also about 20 years younger than Brian….Brian is going strong at 45.

He has lived in Gunnison for many years now and likes that the triathlon, beyond a fun and fast day is a fund raiser for youth sports in Gunnison. Brian also competes in the other races in the Southwest Triathlon Series in Alamosa and Montrose. “There are some good competitors in this area and I hope we can attract more from the front range to try these well run triathlons.

Here are few questions Andy Elfin, the Race Director for the Gunnison Triathlon asked of Brian.

Andy Eflin – What do you like about the Gunnison High Triathlon, what makes it different?

Brian Smith – “I love the fact that it is a flat run, it’s off road, and it’s at altitude – those are the three things that make it a really good fit”. “The bike portion is flat and fast, we used to have the one segment on dirt, the fact that it is all on asphalt now, people can use all of their triathlon equipment, like their disc wheels, now they do not have to worry about trashing any equipment”. “We always have good safety with signage and volunteers in key locations for the bike course”. “Our pool facility is great it is usually in very good shape and it is good to be able to open the doors to let fresh air in during the event”.

Andy Eflin – How do you feel the transition zone works at the Gunnison High Triathlon? 

Brian Smith – “It is easy to get to the transition zone, there isn’t a big run-out like at other races, you are on the bike very soon after the transition zone”. “I guess the one challenge is the ramp out over the curb as you head out on to the street, but that can be practiced and people can get that down”

Andy Eflin – Yes that is true but the ramp is way better than before we put it there because of the way that the bike tires used to bounce on the curb and then land on the back of your leg.

Brian Smith – “All of those, the swim, bike, and run are all really good at our triathlon, the Gunnison High Triathlon”. “If we can pump it up and make people aware of our race we should see a good turnout”.

Gunnison’s triathlon is August 28th and athletes can dry camp in the parking lot. Click Here for details: https://gunnisonhightri.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=7343

The Black Canyon (Montrose) Triathlon is October 2nd, go here for details: https://blackcanyonsprinttriathlon.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=7504

The Alamosa Triathlon is October 21st and you can go here for details: Alamosa Triathlon

To register for the Entire Southwest Triathlon, go HERE