Boulder, Colorado (May 12, 2021) – BASE Performance, LLC, industry-leading provider of endurance sports products announced today that it will serve as the exclusive custom cycling kit provider for athletes on the 2020 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Triathlon Teams, and the Official Custom Cycling Apparel of USA Triathlon through March 2024.
“USA Triathlon is proud to partner with BASE Performance to outfit our U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their pre-race training and prep work in Tokyo, and to provide access to world-class custom cycling apparel for multisport athletes of all levels,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “BASE Performance has a history of designing apparel for some of the country’s top-ranked endurance sports teams, and we look forward to collaborating on custom kits in the years ahead.”
BASE Performance provides custom cycling apparel for high-performance sports teams all over the world. As a cycling kit provider to over 150 clubs, BASE prides itself on developing high quality, high performance, cost-effective apparel for both training and competing. Headquartered in Boulder, CO, BASE has spent over six years working with some of the top athletes in the world to design its line of high-performance apparel.
“BASE is incredibly proud to partner with USA Triathlon and its athletes,” says Matt Miller, President of BASE Performance. “Going into an Olympic and Paralympic year where the U.S. team is poised for multiple stand-out performances only makes such a partnership opportunity all the more exciting.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The USA Triathlon Foundation, in partnership with the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO), is now accepting applications for its second round of COVID-19 Relief Fund donations, with $55,000 in grant funding available. The relief fund provides financial support to members of the U.S. multisport community who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals and organizations may apply for funding starting today, through Monday, March 15.
A portion of the funding was raised through the PTO 2020 Championship Sweepstakes at CHALLENGEDAYTONA, in which past and present professional triathletes from around the globe — including Jan Frodeno, Dave Scott, Daniela Ryf, Mark Allen and Lucy Charles — donated their time and merchandise in a global, 10-day-long prize draw. In addition, the PTO itself contributed to the relief fund by donating all proceeds from its pay-per-view livestream broadcast of the PTO 2020 Championship.
Complete eligibility information and application materials for the COVID-19 Relief Fund can be found at usatriathlonfoundation.org. All applications are reviewed by a seven-member independent grant committee that includes USA Triathlon Foundation Trustees; coaches; race directors; age group athletes; paratriathletes; pro triathletes; and PTO members Matt Hanson and Jackie Hering.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives,” Hanson said. “The multisport community has been a haven for many seeking new challenges, a social outlet, healthier lifestyles, and an all-around way of life — but the sport has definitely not been immune to the impacts of the pandemic. Many individuals lost their training outlets, and many businesses were put under extreme financial pressure. I applaud USA Triathlon, the PTO and CHALLENGEDAYTONA for working to help give back to the triathlon community, and I look forward to reviewing the applications for these funds.”
The Foundation will make all selections, announce grant funding recipients and distribute funds by the week of March 29. Grant applications up to $5,000 will be considered. The Foundation may not be able to support every eligible request for funding. In its first round, the relief fund distributed more than $110,000 in grants to multisport organizations and individuals.
“The USA Triathlon Foundation is grateful for the generosity of the Professional Triathletes Organisation and the individual athletes and donors who gave time and resources to support the COVID-19 Relief Fund,” said David Deschenes, USA Triathlon Foundation Executive Director. “We are proud of the impact the fund has made so far through grants at the grassroots level, and we look forward to providing additional relief as the multisport community continues to grapple with and rebound from COVID-19’s effects.”
“2020 was an incredibly challenging year on many fronts,” said Charles Adamo, Executive Chairman of PTO. “The PTO and its member PTO Professionals were grateful to have the opportunity to harness the interest in Professional Triathlon as a chance to ‘play it forward’ with this fundraising initiative to support those in the sport most in need. We are grateful of the partnership with USA Triathlon and the USA Triathlon Foundation and their fantastic efforts to keep the sport going during these difficult times.”
The Foundation welcomes applications from USA Triathlon-certified race directors and race management organizations; USA Triathlon-certified coaches and clubs; and other individuals and organizations who have been impacted by the pandemic.
Funds may be used to support programs and events that have been rescheduled or postponed due to COVID-19, or to create new programs and events that will encourage participation in multisport activities. All requests must help advance the mission of the USA Triathlon Foundation, which is to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run for all.
Donations in support of the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund are being accepted on a continual basis. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to donate today, or to learn more about the USA Triathlon Foundation and the programs it supports.
About the USA Triathlon Foundation The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $1.9 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.
About USA Triathlon USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). About the Professional Triathletes Organisation The Professional Triathletes Organisation is a not-for-profit entity representing the body of professional triathletes and seeks to showcase the passion, talents, determination, struggles and achievements of the dedicated professionals who strive to realize the highest levels of the sport and inspire all those who are a part of the triathlon community.
Kyle Coon lost his sight at the age of six after a battle with Retinoblastoma—cancer of the eye. However, not having sight has not stopped him from pursuing vision. Since then he has become a competitive rock climber, downhill skier, runner and triathlete. He was planning to compete in Tokyo at the 2020 Para-Olympics
I was in my tuck behind Alex doing my best to be as small as possible to slice through the air bombing down Highway 24 from Woodland Park towards Colorado Springs. We were alternating coasting and spinning in our biggest gear but we were going so fast that pedaling was doing little to nothing. We’d latched onto the draft of a motorbike going somewhere in the neighborhood of 55mph/88kmph and he began to pull away. We put down just a little power to try and stay in the draft and suddenly I felt the timing chain pop off. “F*ck!” I’m pretty sure I screamed. (The timing chain is what connects the pilot and stoker pedals and is how the pilot generates power back to the drive chain which turns the gears attached to the rear wheel.) Alex briefly unclipped thinking he could kick the chain back on with his shoe, but we did the smart and safe thing by pulling over to the side of the road and fixing the chain.
Barely three minutes after we got back up to around 50mph/80kmph though I felt the thing that I really hate feeling on a bike—the snapping of a chain. This time I’m positive I screamed “F*ck!” Along with some other four letter words and invoking the name of multiple deities. I really thought our race against the sun was over.
The Start It was our coach, Derick Williamson, who dreamed up Operation Colorado Over COVID. We were roughly seven weeks into our new normal of self isolated COVID life. The Olympic/Paralympic Training Center was nonoperational except for feeding the handful of athletes who’d chosen to remain living on campus in hopes that we’d be able to resume something resembling training in the near future. There was no word from the USOPC or any International Governing Bodies on projections for getting things back up and running. I’d come off a pretty solid block where I’d again increased my 20 min power and I was now finally pushing better than 3.5 to 1 watts per kilo but had pushed myself so hard that I was now nursing a very tender IT band.
I lived in this limbo of wanting to stay on top of my training and wanting to just curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself. The times I looked forward to the most came when I could talk to my girlfriend over FaceTime audio, and the three times a day I went to collect meals from the cafeteria when I had some form of human contact when I interacted with the cafeteria workers who made it their mission to keep our spirits up and bellies full to the best of their ability. They have no idea how much I looked forward to conversing with them and how sane they kept me.
I knew my fellow Paratriathlon Resident teammates had to also being feeling something similar so I was beyond stoked when Derick proposed a relay style bike ride across the State of Colorado. Not only would we have something to set our minds on to train for, but we could use this opportunity to raise money for those who weren’t as lucky as we were during COVID. The triathlon/endurance community has been hit pretty hard and the USA Triathlon Foundation had set up a relief fund to try and help race directors, coaches, and athletes who had lost their primary sources of income due to the cancellation of so many events across the world. We also recognized that with the massive loss of jobs across Colorado, food was critical to peoples survival. We were lucky that we had so much food prepared for us and we would never go hungry, but there are so many who rely on food banks for mere fractions of what we had available. So we wanted to do our best to help both causes. We set a goal of raising $20,210 and splitting the proceeds between the USA Triathlon Foundation’s COVID Relief Fund and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.
And so we set our sights on preparing for and completing our own race. Having taken part in the ultimate bike relay race just two years earlier (Race Across America) I did my best to help square away some of the logistics of actually getting us from Utah to Kansas. I recruited Paul Majors, who’d been our head mechanic for RAAM and was a general logistics guru having been on multiple RAAM crews, to help as well. The plan was to begin at sunset on June 19 and finish by sunset June 20. Our reason was that June 20 was the summer solstice and therefore gave us the most daylight in which to ride. I recruited my primary training guide in Colorado springs—former pro triathlete—Alex Libin to be my pilot and we were able to get permission for Alex to come on complex once a week to collect me so we could ride the tandem together. We dubbed our ride Operation Colorado Over (>) COVID and it gave me in particular something to focus on besides how incredibly bored and miserable I could become just sitting around my room all day. Finally, the day arrived.
Race Day “Race week!” My strength and conditioning coach, Sam, emailed me the morning of June 19 in response to my email announcing the beginning of the race against the sun that evening. Sam had been in Florida with us eager to watch us race when our Tokyo Selection event was canceled due to COVID. All week he’d been amped up and every time he saw any of us on campus he’d yell “Race week!” It was a reminder to me that we as athletes weren’t the only ones eager to get out and compete. Those people who’s jobs it was to train us, and keep us as strong and healthy as possible were eager to see us compete again, even if it was just against the sun. Our team of cyclists were as follows:
Hailey Danz: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo hopeful
Melissa stockwell: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist, and Tokyo hopeful
Kendall Gretsch: Paratriathlete, 2x 2018 Paralympic Nordic skiing Gold Medalist, and Tokyo hopeful
Kevin McDowell: ITU able-bodied pro, and 2020 Tokyo hopeful
Jack Oneal: Paratriathlete, future Paralympic hopeful and our youngest teammate (only 17, but strong as an ox)
Renee Tomlin: ITU able-bodied pro and 2020 Tokyo hopeful
Rocky Harris: USA Triathlon CEO
Allysa Seely: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist, 2020 Tokyo hopeful
We also had tons of help from volunteer crew as drivers and navigators and mechanics. Derick and Joseph (one of our mechanics) stuck behind or right around each rider when we were out on the road acting as our follow van/support wagon while the rest of the riders were shuttled up the road. Just like we’d done with Team Sea to See in 2018, riders were put on teams of two or three bikes to maximize speed with short pulls ranging from 20-40 minutes in duration. Hailey, Melissa and Kendall got us rolling beginning at 6:30 PM at the Utah/Colorado border and trading off pulls for 93 miles until they reached Montrose, where the rest of us had congregated to wait. Then it was up to Alex, Kevin and myself to get us through the middle of the night over some gnarly technical terrain.
Team 2, shift 1 Alex and I stood by my Chinook Time Trial Tandem as Hailey and Kendall seemed to bounce out of the shuttle van with excitement. Melissa was out on the road finishing up the last pull of the shift. Then it would be mine and Alex’s turn to ride. Melissa came cruising into the parking lot of the Toyota Dealership we’d posted up in and enthusiastically screamed “Go Kyle and Alex! Go! Go! Go!”
Alex and I clipped in and pushed off. I had that old bubbly excitement that comes with the first real steps of an adventure. Our first pull was longer than I would’ve liked for speed purposes, but logistically there weren’t any safe places to pull over to do an exchange with Kevin. So Alex and I started off pedaling easy but ramped it up the steeper the road got. We wound up climbing the majority of the first 12 miles (20km) or so. All the while Derick was in my ear giving encouragement and updates as what to expect coming up ahead. Our shuttle van manned by Joseph L, Sev, and Tracy were also in contact with our follow van and us via radio letting us know where they were located and staging Kevin. Alex and I finally ground our way up over the top of a particularly long steep ascent that topped out around 8000 ft in elevation and bombed downhill for the next 5 mi (8km) or so. It had taken us more than 50 minutes to go just a hair over 20K and a fraction of that time to cover the next 8k. We averaged better than 40mph downhill and briefly touched 50mph before having to lay on the breaks as we slid to a stop and sent Kevin on his way. Kevin attacked the next 25K section with gusto and then handed it off to us again.
It was by now the coldest part of the night and I’d put on both arm and leg warmers to stave off the chill. We time trialed for about 25K holding about 42 mph on average as we only had a couple of little steep kickers. For the most part this section was flat or rolling allowing us to hold quite a bit of speed. Plus we didn’t want to get cold so we had to pedal hard to keep warm. We handed it back off to Kevin to pull into Gunnison and leap frogged ahead to Gunnison where we met up with the RV that Hailey had secured for the team. Kevin rolled in and turned duties over to the team comprising Jack, Renee, and Rocky. This team had a tough slog of a shift as they began riding around 3:00 AM and climbed up and over Monarch pass which at over 11000 ft would be the highest elevation point on the route. According to some projections Derick and Paul had drawn up prior to the start of the race we were ahead of schedule. Kevin, Alex and I started playing a little game looking at the projected time for our next shift and seeing if we could beat it. Our first shift was to have taken 3 hours 48 minutes. Kevin challenged Alex and I that we three could complete it in 3 hours 28 minutes. So we tried and I’m pretty sure we beat that goal. But now it was time to fuel up and rest. Knowing the importance of rest in 24 hour relays I quickly changed out of my sweaty kit, grabbed a quick bite and curled up in an RV bunk doing my best to nap.
We drove to our next Vehicle Meet Point to wait for Team 3 to finish their shift. I think I napped around an hour but as I expected it was just enough to get me through the rest of the race.
We’d parked in a gas station parking lot and when the gas station opened for business a few people went in to get coffee. I was in desperate need of caffein, so Mark (our volunteer RV driver) brought me a large steaming cup of jo. Mark, I owe you a massive thank you and look forward to returning the favor as soon as I can. That cup of coffee kept me well caffeinated for the next 12 hours or so.
Team 3 rolled in right on time and we sent Team 1 back out on the road to tackle the stretch that would take us up and over Wilkerson Pass. This shift in my opinion was the most challenging. There was a lot of elevation gain, it was at a tough time of day and there were some pretty tricky descents. Nevertheless Hailey, Melissa and Kendall handled it like the champs they are.
Team 2, Shift 2
Alex, Kevin and I waited with Team 3 at the RV while Team 1 ground their way through the terrain. We expected them to arrive around 10:00 AM, but that came and went and no one could get cell service to contact Derick or Joseph in the follow van. Radios weren’t picking anything up except the occasional direction or instruction from Derick so we kept having to guess at the girls location. They finally rolled in after Kendall did a screaming fast descent of Wilkerson Pass holding better than 40mph in her hand cycle. And people think I’m crazy for riding 50mph on a tandem. 40mph on a piece of equipment that low to the ground where car tires are taller than you?… That’s crazy!
Alex and I rolled out just before noon. We had now fallen just a bit behind our goal of 24 hours and had to push to close that gap. Alex and I rode hard but had a long climb with little descending. We still maintained a 30Kmph pace to our first exchange with Kevin who bombed downhill hitting better than 80Kmph weaving in and out of traffic as our shuttle van raced to stay ahead of him. Then Alex and I hammered away at a small climb and got into our arrow tucks for what we’d been anticipating since we’d finalized the route we’d take—the screaming descent down Highway 24 from Woodland Park to the outskirts of Colorado Springs. For a good while we were crushing the descent flying at more than 50mph (80kmph) and had even tucked into the draft of a motorbike. And that’s when near disaster struck as the timing chain came off. Alex kept the bike upright and we were able to descend a bit further while making our way to the shoulder of the road. We had to disconnect the quick link on the timing chain and with Joseph (our mechanic) helping us, we got the chain back on. Shortly after we got rolling again though the quick link failed and the chain broke apart and flew off the cranks landing somewhere on the Highway. Alex again got us to the shoulder and we stood there wondering if our ride was over. I seriously thought we either wouldn’t be able to retrieve the chain and if we did that it would be unsalvageable. Zack and I’d been having issues with the timing chain coming off numerous times in the early part of 2020 and I figured it was time to replace the chain in general. Joseph was able to retrieve the chain and had a spare quick link in his bag of tools. He tightened the bottom bracket much tighter than we generally would and we prayed another quick link wouldn’t fail. We made it down the rest of the descent and linked up with Allysa Seely who’d ride through Colorado Springs, circumstances not allowing her to be in constant rotation with us the entire time.
Alex and I were bummed that our chain had decided to fail us twice as we were really looking forward to chasing some of the best known times down 24. We knew we probably wouldn’t get the overall time, but it would’ve been fun to see how close we could safely get. I made a mental note to get new chains and maybe a bigger chain ring for downhill KOM (King of the Mountains) chasing attempts.
Allysa road from our exchange point to Colorado Springs City Hall where the entire team took a knee on the steps for 8min 46 seconds before continuing on. We shuttled up ahead to an exchange point where Kevin took back over from Allysa and then Alex and I time trialed the last pull of the shift. At around 25K and slightly uphill into a headwind this particular pull hurt quite a bit. Not to mention I was tense constantly expecting the chain to snap again. It held though and Alex and I were able to hold around 42kmph for that particular pull before handing it off to Team 3. Now the exchanges and shift change overs were coming fast and furious.
The Final Push
We were more than 350 miles into our race against the sun with less than 150 miles to go. We all knew we had to push the pace in order to beat the sunset. We weren’t going to make it in 24 hours, but we could still finish before the sun sank below the horizon at 8:30 PM. Jack, Renee and Rocky hammered their shift as we got further and further east in Colorado. Then Hailey, Melissa and Kendall had one more very short shift totaling around 20 miles. And then it was back to Alex, Kevin and I for our last shift which was one pull each of about 25K.
Both Alex and I were feeling the effects of the last 24 hours. Alex had been up since 5 AM the day before as he had to get a full day of work in before heading to Montrose to start the ride. Then he only got a brief nap between shifts. Plus, he hadn’t time trialed like this in a couple of years since retiring from full time triathlon. I was also fatigued, my legs were feeling heavy and my confidence was shaky. I trusted Alex on the front of the bike but this 25K pull was on a super busy road with lots of truck traffic and the wind had rarely been in Alex’s and my favor. Additionally, we had the suspect timing chain. Nevertheless we clipped in and pedalled. We didn’t have the strength to time trial like we would in a sprint triathlon, so we settled into a strong tempo effort, something we’d hold for an Ironman and were able to roll into our final exchange with Kevin holding around 41kmph for that final hard 25K pull. Kevin went out and hammered his 25K stretch clawing back a bit of time averaging nearly 45kmph. Then it was back to Team 3 for one last fast shift.
The rest of us shuttled up to a point a little less than a mile from the Kansas State line and cheered as Jack road in on his final pull. Then we all got on our bikes and soft pedaled the final stretch to Kansas.
A little more than 25 hours after Team 1 took the first pedal strokes we reached the eastern edge of Colorado. 483 miles averaging around 20-21mph and climbing more than 22000 ft with a motley crew of triathletes with different strengths and weaknesses we accomplished something we could be proud of. What was great was that it wasn’t about us as individual athletes. It took each team doing their part to get us across the state. Even better, just hours before we started riding on June 19 we’d reached our primary fundraising goal of $20210 and had surpassed it by the end of the ride.
Some Parting Thoughts: There is a concept that was popularized by British Cycling over the last 15 or so years. That concept is “Marginal Gains.” The thought is that small changes or actions yield big results and differences. Funnily enough athletes and people in general know this. When we were brainstorming hashtag and fundraising ideas I proposed 1 penny per mile or $4.83, what seems very small, but multiply that out by 10, 20, 30 people it becomes a big number very quickly. I took the idea from doubling a penny 64 times. Start with and double it 64 times you wind ups with $180 quadrillion. A small change can make a big difference. The same went for what we did in the race itself. Originally the plan was to just use 15 passenger vans and for each team to sleep in those vans at each VMP. However, an RV would allow us to socialize better as well as stretch out. A little thing that went a long way. Renting radios for each rider seems like a big expense but when riders are out there cycling up a hill, tired unsure if they have 1 mile, or 5 miles left an encouraging voice in their ear helps them through. Small changes over time yield big differences.
I think that’s one of things I love most about ultra distance racing as a team. Small pieces come together and each piece plays it’s roll. I am not the strongest cyclist or triathlete on our team but brought a certain skill set that aided in us getting across Colorado in time to beat the sun. Rocky constantly joked that he was our weakest cyclist and he hoped he wouldn’t hold us back. However, Rocky was sandbagging as the combination of him, Jack and Renee blasting up Monarch Pass and time trialing their legs off on the eastern plains kept us on and ahead of schedule.
Originally we had a sprinter van that was going to act as a floater and media vehicle but they quickly jumped in to help become a shuttle van because they were the only vehicle large enough to quickly load and unload my tandem to keep us on pace. Also, Joseph L (who’s owned said sprinter van) hopped out on his bike and rode with Kendall as she tore down Wilkerson Pass down amongst the tires of speeding traffic. Everyone plays their part and collectively work together to make the team a success. We didn’t focus on any one cyclist, group or issue. We saw problems and did the best we could to fix them quickly and efficiently. Everyone who lent a hand played an important role and we can’t thank every single one of you enough. From those who helped us as volunteer drivers, to those who donated, to those of you who just virtually cheered us on, you all were part of Operation Colorado > COVID. We thank you! And if you missed out on this round, I heard some rumblings among the team that they want to do it again someday. So keep an eye out 🙂
Until then always keep an “Eye On Your Vision!”
To read more from Kyle about his quest for Tokyo and seeing life through his vision, go to https://kylecoon.com
The USA Triathlon Foundation was announced today as the charity partner for Endurance Conference, a new virtual conference for athletes that is set to take place June 5-7. Endurance Conference is founded and created by Juan Lopez Salaberry, a sports marketing executive and member of USA Triathlon’s amateur Team USA. The inaugural event is free and open to the public, and it will be completely carbon-neutral in commitment to sustainability.
Note: Endurance Conference is not affiliated with Endurance Exchange, an in-person triathlon industry conference created and co-hosted USA Triathlon and Triathlon Business International (TBI) that held its inaugural event Jan. 23-25 in Tempe, Arizona.
The event will combine different voices in the sport of triathlon, featuring world champions and Olympians, world-class coaches, community leaders, managers and more, with the intention to provide a pure athlete-focused educational experience.
The lineup of confirmed speakers includes: Katie Zaferes, 2019 ITU world champion and 2016 U.S. Olympian; Timothy O’Donnell, 2009 ITU long distance world champion and multi-time IRONMAN World Championship podium finisher; Andy Potts, IRONMAN 70.3 world champion and 2004 U.S. Olympian; Allysa Seely, 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and three-time ITU paratriathlon world champion; Grace Norman, 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and two-time ITU paratriathlon world champion; Chris Hammer, 2016 U.S. Paralympian; Sebastian Kienle, 2014 IRONMAN world champion and 2012-2013 IRONMAN 70.3 world champion; Angela Naeth, Canadian elite triathlete and community leader; Wesley Johnson, 2019 Team USA Awards Paralympic Coach of the Year; Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, Founder of the International Association of Black Triathletes and USA Triathlon Board Member; Tommy Zaferes, elite triathlete and professional ITU photographer; and Justin Lippert, five-time USA Triathlon age-group national champion and first-year elite.
Endurance Conference is free to attend, but participants must register in advance at enduranceconference.com. Donations are encouraged; all proceeds will support the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides grants to those in the multisport community who have been impacted by COVID-19 including race directors, coaches and clubs. The fund has raised more than $110,000 to date, and grant applications are now being accepted at usatriathlonfoundation.org.
“The USA Triathlon Foundation is honored to be selected as the charity partner for Endurance Conference, an innovative event that will bring athletes together virtually to learn from each other and network during this unprecedented time,” said David Deschenes, USA Triathlon Foundation Executive Director. “We are proud to continue driving support for those in our multisport community whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19, and to support those who keep our industry strong so we can enjoy the multisport lifestyle as we know it.”
The schedule for Endurance Conference, as well as the list of presenters, is now available at enduranceconference.com. The conference will kick off with opening remarks from Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO, on Friday, June 5. The event will continue on Saturday and Sunday, offering the chance for athletes of all levels to connect with speakers, be inspired and gain insights on how to perform at the top levels of the sport.
Endurance Conference, happening exclusively online, will not only avoid carbon emissions and support those who are still at home, but will also offset emissions of those who register by planting trees in partnership with One Tree Planted.
“The aim is to raise awareness about the importance of respecting and caring for our environment, which provides a safe-haven for us to practice the sport we love,” said Salaberry, founder of Endurance Conference. “2020 can be a year where we can all come together for what’s important to us, the environment we live in and the people that make it special. It’s important for us to launch this event by supporting those that need us.”
With the hopes of maximizing fundraising, Endurance Conference is partnering with brands to provide value back to the community in exchange for tax-deductible donations toward the COVID-19 Relief Fund. For information about how to partner with the event, and other questions related to Endurance Conference, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Endurance Conference Endurance is a conference created for athletes and their development. Since its inception in the midst of the global crisis in April 2020, Endurance conference has been on a mission to unite and support the triathlon community with our most important challenges, our world and our people. The first carbon-neutral event of its kind is hosted exclusively online to support those in the sport most impacted by COVID-19.
About the USA Triathlon Foundation The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $3 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.
About USA Triathlon USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors – as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation – USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
If you fast forward a few years, I think the Endurance Exchange this past weekend In Tempe, Arizona will be looked at as a potential turning point in Endurance sports. I think it will bring more unity and opportunities to all things endurance whether it’s triathlon or ultra running or pure cycling. Some key take aways were for me were these (with some further explanation below.)
There were many people and organizations from Colorado present; what happens here really matters.
The PTO has a well funded game plan in place to possibly revolutionize professional triathlon.
Without Limits is on to something with their gravel triathlon in Steamboat, click Here for more on that.
Indoor training’s growth with hardware and software (think Zwift) is really just beginning to explode.
There are very inspiring people with great stories especially at the USAT Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
The Endurance Industry is healthy and finding new ways and new experiences.
Dan Empfield (Slowtwitch Publisher) is eloquent and amazingly knowledgeable.
Wait till more folks from cycling and ultra running show up, this conference will explode.
There is a commitment to being athlete focused and driven while growing participation.
This is a fun group of people to join for anyone choosing the Endurance space for a career.
This year’s conference, born by USA Triathlon partnering with Triathlon Business International, was clearly triathlon leaning, but with doses of topics relevant to all endurance sports. Coaches learned the latest trends and training tips and race directors talked about ways to make events more dynamic, fun and safer for all. Industry celebrities like Bob Babbitt and Mike Reilly, and executives like Rocky Harris, Dan Empfield and Barry Siff, while on duty, also mingled and rolled up their sleeves, were very approachable and cracked a happy hour beverage to learn and listen. The vibe was collaborative, inviting, inclusive and fun.
Inspiration abounded from high energy keynote speaker Eric Byrnes, a former Major League Baseball player (one time Colorado Rockie) and an accomplished triathlete. He swam the San Francisco Bay, rode a bike to Chicago and then ran to New York to bring awareness to the Let Them Play Foundation. Dick and Rick Hoyt, the father/son challenged athlete tandem were inducted into the Hall of Fame and there were gasps in the room when you really understood how fast they ran in addition to their IRONMAN feats. For example, they have completed a 10k in 35 minutes and a marathon in 2:44.
There weren’t many dry eyes as Bob Babbitt paid tribute to his long time friend Mike Plant who was inducted into the Hall of Fame thanks to his legendary journalism covering Ironman and introducing the young sport of triathlon to mainstream media. Mike passed away in 2019 and Bob expressed his gratitude and acknowledged Mike’s profound influence on Bob starting Competitor Magazine which led to the Rock and Roll marathon series and so much more.
Colorado was well represented in Tempe with many companies exhibiting product, and executives and experts attended and served on panels in break out sessions. Said Magui Martinez-Pena, sales manager for Boulder’s Headsweats, “it was a great experience for us. This is a very specific conference for our target audience. We saw a lot of excitement about our new products like the new Super Crush visor and event shirts. We had an opportunity to connect with our existing clients and make new contacts. Proud to be part of EE as a TBI partner. We will definitely be there again in 2021!
Matt Miller with BASE Performance, while not exhibiting was booked up meeting with race directors, Tri-club representatives and others collaborating for the upcoming season. “it was great atmosphere to see a lot of key people and a lot of fun,” said Matt.
The recent announcement by the Professional Triathlon Organization (PTO) and their $2,000,000 prize purse for athletes competing in the upcoming Collins Cup reverberated throughout much of the conference. They presented their plan on the first day of the conference and later I met with Chairman of the PTO, Charles Adamo to dig a little deeper.
What I learned was that they believe whole heartedly that an economically healthier, and more sustainable professional triathlon field, will help grow the sport overall and provide a better experience to all participants. They see this happening centered on the Collins Cup, a made for TV triathlon experience similar to golf’s Ryder Cup. They hope this will bring coverage to the pro’s and inspire more people to try triathlon. “Triathlon is an aspirational sport, and the influence of the pro’s on the growth of triathlon and age group participation is very important,” said Adamo.
Eventually there will probably be other triathlons (think golf’s majors) leading up to the Collins Cup where pro’s get points to qualify for the 36 spots to be on a team. They model things much like the PGA in golf and the USTA in tennis where the professionals own the events that make them the most money and captivate world audiences. It will be interesting to see what events might be run by the PTO in the future.
In the last session of the day, despite three days of meetings, a lot of enthusiasm and questions were thrown at the panel talking about “gravel”. Gravel bike races and gravel triathlon and the future of them were hot topics. It was suggested that 2020 will see a bit of retraction in gravel bike racing which seems surprising here in Colorado. Without Limits was represented by Olympia Von Berg on the panel of experts. Many questions came up about gravel triathlon. Without Limits will be hosting the first ever gravel only triathlon this year which will it be sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
Needless to say, like it’s biking counterpart, the gravel scene is a bit organic and unrefined at this point so what will the future hold? Said Olympia after the conference, “people are very receptive to it and excited. Our race will follow all the same rules as a road triathlon. On our course in Steamboat, athletes will ride and run on gravel/dirt only. We think athletes who might be seeking something different, and don’t want a bunch of crazy new gear can take part and have a lot of fun.”
Dan Empfield, Publisher of Slowtwitch and founder of Quintana Roo hosted a session on the hardware of indoor smart cycles and where they are going. The trend is to provide more and more real life feelings while riding indoors. Like Garmins Neo making the bike “feel” the gravel or the cobbles as it simuglates the road you are watching on the big screen. Watch out for more innovations to make the indoor experience more real.
To wrap up, Khem Suthiwan of 303 Endurance said, “the Endurance Exchange was a great melting pot of triathlon industry professionals. Coaches, industry experts, race directors, brands, and governing body professionals all under one roof. It was great to see all the knowledge and ideas coming together in one place. As our sport and its participants evolve, EE was a great forum to discuss and share new ideas on how to take triathlon to the next level.”
A few weeks ago I raced my first draft-legal triathlon at the Sun Devil Draft-Legal Classic in Tempe, AZ, and since then I’ve had several friends ask about my experience. Besides the usual “I swam, I biked, I ran” and the “nothing” or “everything went as planned” play by play race report write up that you frequently see online, here is my take on racing a draft-legal tri…
DRAFT-LEGAL RACING IS F@&KING FUN AS HELL!!!
If you like to race without all the stress of people freaking out about the water temperature, you should race draft-legal.
If the idea of lining up on the beach and then running into the water all at the same time sounds like fun, you should race draft-legal.
If you like to race alongside athletes who just want to go fast and have a good time, you should race draft-legal.
If you enjoy chasing after a pack of athletes cycling faster than you, you should race draft-legal.
If you thrive on pushing in zone 5, 6, 7+ (full anaerobic) over and over and recovering in zone 4 heart rate/power, you should race draft-legal.
If you’re a minimalist and enjoy keeping your transition area nice and tidy without a towel and backpack, you should race draft-legal.
If you love racing on your road bike (sans aerobars), you should race draft-legal.
If you don’t care about qualifying for Kona but qualifying for the ITU World Championships (2019-Lausanne, Switzerland; 2020-Edmonton, Canada; 2021-Bermuda) sounds like fun, you should race draft-legal.
If you’re looking for something different and challenging (because we all know you can finish an IRONMAN, you’ve done plenty), you should race draft-legal.
If you still love training and racing hard but want a life outside of triathlon, you should race draft-legal.
In a nutshell, it was just as fun as it was fast and furious. Even though it was a sport I was very familiar with, it was a different scene that reignited the excitement and enjoyment I have struggled to find after racing 140.6’s for a handful of years. It kicked my ass more than ever and my calves were screaming for two days after the race. Definitely unexpected after racing a sprint distance triathlon, but a great reminder that my body still has a little bit of pep left inside and plenty of ass kicking to do. Until the next one…
A couple of months ago some friends encouraged me to try our first draft-legal triathlon. I’ve been doing non-draft triathlons for nearly 15 years, and thought it was time to try something new. “First” experiences at my age are rare!
This wasn’t just any draft-legal race, this was the Sun Devil USA Triathlon Draft National Championship for age-groupers and collegiate athletes. As a veteran of IRONMAN Arizona in Tempe, I was familiar with the area, except this transition area was on the opposite shore.
On my pre-race shakeout ride, I knew this was going to be a different experience. Packs of riders pre-riding the course passed me on my aluminum Cannondale (the same bike I did my first triathlon with) like I was standing still.
Later, in the practice swim, other swimmers passed me at rates leaving no doubt about the high competition level. This was Nationals after all!
On race morning, USAT officials screened every athlete for draft legal rule adherence before allowing entry. For instance, those with sleeved tops or aero bars were stopped. Officials encouraged a clean transition area by asking athletes to locate tri bags to a corner of the transition area, otherwise the transition was just like any other race, aside from the fact that the transition area was under a highway overpass.
As a beach start, the only thing that I noticed being different was the presence of a blue carpet spread across the beach, freshly swept to display numbered start positions which would be used by the NCAA teams later that day.
When the horn blew I felt like I was in a new, unfamiliar type of race. The best swimmers sprinted to the water and dove in with these graceful, arching dives that propelled them forward fast. Stroking and sighting in the 65 degree water, the remainder of the swim played out like any other open water swim.
Once on the bike, the differences of draft-legal racing quickly became apparent. The first pack passed me at dizzying speeds as I was still tightening my bike shoes. Just two minutes out of transition and I was by myself watching the pack speed away.
Before I processed what happened, someone else came upon me pulling half dozen riders behind him. I tried to jump on the last wheel, but within 30 seconds I fell off and enjoyed most of the first of three laps by myself.
On the second lap, I heard a new rider on my wheel. After clearing a couple of corners, he passed me. I jumped on his wheel and noted his Team USA kit with the name “Hefflefinger” on the backside. I soon realized there was another rider on my wheel.
After 30 seconds or so, Hefflefinger called me up for a pull. I was stoked to work with someone on this race! Here I am on the same aluminum road bike I rode in triathlons 14 years ago, riding in a draft-legal pack! I eagerly take the lead and am careful to not let adrenaline get the bettor of me. I don’t want to drop my new alliances!
We took turns pulling and near the Mill Avenue bridge, I heard a train of guys approaching from behind. As they passed, I made a knee jerk decision to go with them and jumped on the last wheel. As we turn the corner on College and over the hill, I maxed my effort trying to hold on to this new train of guys. We crested the hill, made the turn back over the hill and the caboose (that’s me) came off the back of the train.
Great – I’m starting the third lap the way I started the first – alone!
I abandoned Hefflefinger and the train left me to fend for myself. On the final crossing of the Mill Avenue bridge, I heard another group approach from behind. It was my new buddy Hefflefinger and a couple of other guys. Heff shouted, “jump on”! Relieved to be back with a group, I followed them for the last time and headed to transition.
I hit my lap button running out of T2 in :52 seconds. I saw a few Team USA kits ahead of me, but no Heff. I assessed how I felt about this pace while thinking about a nagging calf injury that kept me from running for a month. My only run; one mile at rest stop driving to this race from Denver!
I had no idea how this was going to go. I tried to catch an older guy in a Team USA kit, but can’t seem to close any distance. We ran through Tempe Town Lake park and onto the Ironman run course again with an out and back on the opposite side of the river from the finish line. I continued at a measured 5K pace until I hit the pedestrian bridge at just past two miles into the race. I increased the pace to the edge of what I think I can hold for the remaining half mile to the finish.
I heard foot steps behind me. I don’t want to get passed! I up the effort to squeeze whatever I have left to propel me to the finish!
I’m wiped! I almost throw up! THAT meant I probably raced beyond my fitness. This race tapped the adrenaline and allowed me to find a new level of effort.
I regrouped with my friends Tom and Todd to share our stories of the race, when Hefflefinger came by. We had a good chuckle about the race and working together. It took experiencing it to fully appreciated the magnitude of working with a group on a draft-legal race. The competition at the Nationals level is high in non-draft, but in draft-legal, it’s another level.
This is fast racing that is so stinking fun! The whole experience of being with friends and seeing familiar faces. I actually gave USAT President, Rocky Harris, a hug while still in my sweaty tri suit – sorry Rocky!
I had a decent race, placing 16th in my male 50-54 AG. I didn’t even come close to the top 10 to qualify for Team USA, but that’s not the point. I had an absolute blast and feel proud of the accomplishment and experience. I’m proud of getting outside of my comfort zone and trying something new for sure. But there’s more. I tapped into a rush of adrenaline yesterday that almost made vomit at the finish line! That’s cool!! Not the vomit part, but the tapping into that much human drive. I want more of it and I’ll be back for it next year!
Coloradans, Tim Hola, Laura McDonald both former Olympic Distance age group champions, and Cassidy Hickey and Jonathan Mason, Sprint Distance champions are competing in the USAT Championships this weekend in Cleveland. Many other Coloradans are competing as well.
Here is the official information about this weekend’s event with links to track and follow along!
Nation’s most competitive age-groupers to race for national titles in sprint- and Olympic-distance events
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Approximately 4,500 of the nation’s top amateur triathletes will return to Cleveland’s Edgewater Park this Saturday, Aug. 10, and Sunday, Aug. 11, for the Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. In addition, an open water swim competition will be held as part of Age Group Nationals weekend for the first time on Friday, Aug. 9.
First held in 1983, Age Group Nationals is USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running National Championships event. Athletes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are set to compete. The youngest athlete on the start list is 15, and the oldest is 90.
Cleveland hosts the event for the second consecutive year, and also hosted in 1992. The main venue is at Edgewater Park. Athletes will swim in Lake Erie, bike and run along the lakeshore overlooking downtown Cleveland, and finish with a sprint down USA Triathlon’s iconic National Championships red carpet within the park.
Athletes must qualify to compete in Saturday’s Olympic-distance race by earning a competitive age-group finish at a previous USA Triathlon-sanctioned event. No qualification is required for Sunday’s sprint-distance race. Both races will be qualification-based starting in 2020, when Age Group Nationals returns to its 2013-2015 host city of Milwaukee. Athletes racing this weekend in Cleveland have access to special qualification opportunities for 2020; more details can be found here.
Racing action begins Friday at 11 a.m. ET with an open water swim competition, hosted by USA Triathlon in partnership with USA Swimming and U.S. Masters Swimming. Athletes will cover a 750-meter course in Lake Erie. Also on Friday, at 6:30 p.m., Greater Cleveland Sports Commission hosts the Sunset Sprint 5K starting and ending at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals finisher’s arch.
On tap for Saturday are the Olympic-Distance National Championships, featuring a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. The first wave of athletes will go off at 6:50 a.m., the last wave starts at 9:06 a.m., and the course will close at 11:45 a.m.
On Sunday, racing continues with the Sprint National Championships, in which athletes will cover a 750m swim, 10k bike and 5k run. The first athletes will start at 6:50 a.m., the last wave goes off at 8:20 a.m., and the course closes at 11:45 a.m.
In both races, athletes will be chasing national titles in their respective age groups. Top finishers in each age group will also earn the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2020 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, in their respective race distances.
At Olympic-Distance Nationals, the top 18 finishers in each age group (rolling down to 30th place) will earn a spot on Team USA. Sprint-distance competitors must finish in the top eight in their age groups to secure a spot for the Sprint World Championships, which will feature a draft-legal format. Athletes may also qualify for the Sprint World Championships with a top finish at the USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Sprint National Championships in Tempe, Arizona, on Nov. 16. For more information on Team USA, comprised of the nation’s top amateur multisport athletes who represent the U.S. at each ITU World Championship event, visit HERE
Eighteen national champions from 2018 will be back to defend their Olympic-distance titles, including defending Olympic- and sprint-distance men’s overall champion Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.) and defending Olympic-distance women’s overall champion Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.). The 2018 men’s Olympic-distance Masters champion, Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), will also be back, as will both the women’s and men’s defending Grand Masters champions, Kelly Dippold (Irvine, Calif.) and Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.).
Returning Olympic-Distance National Champions
Name (Hometown), 2019 Age Group
Abbie Sullivan (Canandaigua, N.Y.), F20-24
Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), M20-24
Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), F25-29
Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), M30-34
Laura McDonald (Castle Rock, Colo.), F35-39
Michael Phinney (Yardley, Pa.), M35-39
Tracy Kellner (Mequon, Wis.), F45-49
Tim Hola (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), M45-49
Scott Erba (Winona Lake, Ind.), M50-54
Stephen Bosic (Walthum, Mass.), M50-54
Linda Robb (Juno Beach, Fla.), F55-59
Kelly Dippold (Irvine, Calif.), F55-59
Lee Walther (Oklahoma City, Okla.), M55-59
Carol Gephart (Hamilton, Mich.), F60-64
Tony Schiller (Eden Prairie, Minn.), M60-64
Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.), F75-79
Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), M75-79
Don Nelson (Tulsa, Okla.), M80-84
In addition,19 of last year’s sprint-distance national champions will return to the start line, including Lippert. Both the women’s and men’s defending Masters champions, Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.) and Vachee Loughran (Glenview, Ill.), are back to defend their titles, as are both of last year’s Grand Masters champions, Dippold and Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
Returning Sprint-Distance National Champions
Name (Hometown), 2019 Age Group
Cassidy Hickey (Parker, Colo.), F15-19
Justin Lippert (Middletown, N.J.), M20-24
Desiree Terella (Fairview, Pa.), F30-34
Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), M30-34
Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), F40-44
Ginger Reiner (Lincoln, Mass.), F40-44
Jonathan Mason (Fort Collins, Colo.), M40-44
Celia Dubey (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), F45-49
Vachee Loughran (Glenview, Ill.), M45-49
Robert Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif.), M50-54
Kelly Dippold (Irvine, Calif.), F55-59
Clint Dowd (Goffstown, N.H.), M55-59
Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), M60-64
Kathy Calabretta (Ludington, Mich.), F70-74
Terry Habecker (Ithaca, N.Y.), M70-74
Lois Leon (Miami, Fla.), F75-79
Sharon Roggenbuck (Hillsborough, N.C.), F80-84
Madonna Buder (Spokane, Wash.), F85-89
Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif.), M85-89
The Cleveland community is encouraged to come out to Edgewater Park, support the competitors and experience the excitement of multisport. Admission is free to all spectators.
LIVESTREAM AND EVENTS APP: Spectators and media can access a free livestream of both races at usatriathlon.org. Live coverage will also be available on Twitter @USATLive. Race leaderboards and individual athlete tracking can be found by using the USA Triathlon Events App, free to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Media, family and friends can also track athletes using a web-browser-based version of the app, available here.
It’s always exciting when the mainstream media covers our sport, especially when triathlon makes it into a paper as big as The New York Times. It’s also always a little entertaining to see what they get right….and wrong. By now, you’ve probably readThe New York Times’story on triathlon participation decline and the industry’s efforts to now attract more (and younger) athletes by eliminating barriers and making the sport cheaper.
In general, yes, the story got the broad strokes right: We know triathlon participation declined over the last five or six years after a period of massive growth in the 2000s. We also know there were a number of reasons for this, some having to do with market shifts and some, yes, having to do with a perception of triathlon as too hard and too expensive. The sport, in general, as outlined in the NYT, is now trying to change that perception and attract more diverse and younger athletes.
But, USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris, said the one big thing they missed: It’s already happening. Triathlon participation is already starting to go back up. “We’re now seeing that trend change,” said Harris.
So, in general, yes, the mainstream media got our triathlon basics right. However, we do have a few triathlete-y specifics (and one big one) we’d like to nitpick.
From 303’s perspective, the local races appear to be doing well aside from the now discontinued IRONMAN Boulder. Last weekend’s 70.3 had about 2,500 people register. The Harvest Moon (same distance) coming up in a month is sold out. The sport seems level but at each race there is a healthy show of hands when people are asked to identify themselves as newbies. Many races include duathlons, aqua bikes, relays and SUP options to cast the biggest net on endurance athletes interests.
“Who wants it more? You or Brad?!” Derick yelled. My brain was foggy, sweat poured off me like I was my own personal rain cloud. I could feel the sweat pooling in my shoes and the shoe inserts beginning to bunch up at my toes. But Derick had said the magic words. I was already running at a sub 6 minute per mile pace but I knew that if I wanted there to be no doubt that I belonged on the Team that USA Triathlon selected for Tokyo next year I needed to push even harder. So with my heart thundering in my ears, my muscles screaming and my lungs burning, I cranked the treadmill speed up again. 5:30/mi, 5:15/mi, 5:00/mi, 4:52/mi…
“The Elite Paratriathlon Selection Committee can not decide who the better athlete is at this time and so they’ve elected to go with the athlete who’s points allow easier access into the top 12 in the world.”
“Bull shit!” I wanted to scream, but couldn’t since I was sitting on a bus riding back from Denver to Colorado Springs after having run a successful BolderBoulder 10K. I’d literally sat down in my seat and opened up my email and had gone from an immediate high to a crushing low.
Currently there are three of us in the American Male Visually Impaired Ranks who are battling it out for the opportunity to represent the United States in Tokyo 2020. Our top Male VI athlete—Aaron Scheidies–is recovering from injury and therefore it’s up to myself and Brad Snyder to pick up as many points as possible and get as highly ranked as possible in the world to ensure multiple slots at the world championship and multiple slots in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings. Given my performance at the CAMTRI American Championship where I’d taken 2nd to Aaron Scheidies by just 1 min 37 seconds, and where I finished 2 minutes and 34 seconds ahead of Brad it was decided that I would get the first World Paratriathlon Series start in Milan, Italy. I went to Italy and raced to a 3rd place finish—it turns out much to the surprise of everyone except myself and my coach. The only two guys to finish ahead of me were the guys who’d taken 1st and 3rd at the 2018 World Championship. So the only people to beat me in the 2019 season was the podium from 2018 Worlds—Dave Ellis, Aaron Scheidies, Hector Catala Laparra… I was feeling pretty good.
Brad was given the opportunity to race at the next World Paratriathlon Series Event in Yokohama, Japan. Brad was able to race to a 3rd place finish as well against a field that lacked anyone from the 2018 World Championship Podium. So I felt that I’d raced better against a stronger field so was confident I’d get the call to toe the start line in Montreal for the third installment of the World Paratriathlon Series. Not only that but I was on a very steep trajectory and if everything played out right I could improve on my 3rd place finish and begin collecting points for the Paralympic rankings which would open up on June 28, the same day as Montreal. Those hopes were crushed when USA Triathlon decided to send Brad Snyder to Montreal instead.
I was frustrated and bewildered. How could USA Triathlon say they didn’t know who the better athlete was? I’d decisively beaten Brad in consecutive races and had made the 2018 World Championship Podium finishers work their butts off to catch me thereby making them really earn their places ahead of me. After 48 hours of stewing over the “decision” and meeting with my coach and a USA Triathlon official who explained the decision further, I decided to just put my head down and train even harder. It wasn’t the first time I’d been doubted and it won’t be the last.
The Decision Explained
To the best of my knowledge here’s how to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the sport of Paratriathlon. Beginning on June 28, 2019, races will begin counting toward a separate Paralympic Ranking. The races that are eligible to be used as points collectors are the World Championship (valued at 700 points for 1st place), the World Paratriathlon Series Events (valued at 550 points for 1st place), the Continental Championships (valued at 500 points for 1st place) and the Paratriathlon World Cups (valued at 450 points for 1st place). How you get into each of these races is based on your World Ranking. The Paralympic Rankings will close on June 28, 2020. In the span of that 12 months we have the chance to race at these various races. Our top three races will be added together to get our Paralympic Ranking. The top 9 in the Paralympic Rankings will qualify slots for their country but no country can receive more than two qualifying slots. So even if the United States had three athletes ranked in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings, the US would only be allotted two slots. The USA can then decide to whom those two slots go.
The International Triathlon Union (ITU) has decided to have a 12 man field at the World Championships this year for the Visually Impaired category. Since World Championships are worth the most points in the Paralympic Rankings, USA Triathlon decided to try and get either Brad or myself into the top 12 in the world so we’d be assured two slots at Worlds and therefore have a good chance at finishing the 2019 season with two athletes ranked in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings. Then in early 2020 USA Triathlon will ensure that the best Visually Impaired Triathletes face off in a race and at that point it will be mano-e-mano and the top two athletes at that point will get the full support of USAT to ensure we both go to the games.
So how do I make sure I’m one of those two that goes to the games? Train hard, race harder, and rise to the occasion.
Six Months into this journey of being a full time ITU Paratriathlete, living and training at the Olympic/Paralympic Training Center, I’ve experienced some extreme highs (including two podium finishes and some truly unbelievable workouts where I pushed myself to new levels) and crushing lows (being left off the team that traveled to Montreal for the first opportunity to collect points toward Tokyo Qualification as well as some truly horrific workouts that left me broken and questioning why I’m doing this to myself).
It has been a learning experience managing the load and stress of training, knowing when to push hard and when to throttle back. When I need a break and when I need to just suck it up.
It was barely two weeks after USAT had made their decision regarding Montreal that I needed a mental break. I’d been hammering away for five months doing nothing but eat, sleep and train. I’d done little else but think about triathlon, run calculations on what it would take for me to get into the top 12 in the World Ranking; what paces I’d need to hold to ensure I finish ahead of the best triathletes in the world… And that stress was beginning to catch up with me. I struggled and fought through every workout trying to complete them perfectly only to fall short. My swimming in particular seemed to be reverting back to beginner level. Immediately after racing in Milan I was effortlessly gliding through the water at speeds I would’ve considered impossible a year before, now I struggled to hold the paces I’d held when I first moved to the training center in January.
I needed to get away and not think about triathlon for a couple of days, even just 24 hours would be a big relief. Fortunately the opportunity presented itself. A friend invited me for a weekend camping trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Having heard that the dunes were an amazing experience and not having camped in about six years I leaped at the chance. And I got my wish. While triathlon lingered at the back of my mind for about 36 hours I blissfully focused on running barefoot through hot sand, splashing in icy cold river water and enjoying a camp stove cup of coffee early in the morning. Tension that had gathered seemed to slowly melt away as I finally realized that my 2020 hopes weren’t over. I knew in my soul that I’m one of the two best triathletes in the country and when given the opportunity I’ll prove that I’m one of the best in the world.
Granted it’s not just me on this journey. I’ve received nothing but support from my friends and family as I pursue what really amounts to a very selfish pursuit. In particular I have to give my guide, Zack Goodman, some mad props for being so incredibly patient with me as I struggle with the highs and lows of this profession. Zack has been at times motivator, voice of reason, frustration sounding board, and ultimately a friend. Whereas I’ve just primarily been a premadonna pain in the ass ITU triathlete
Between Zack and my coach, Derick Williamson, I’ve reached heights in the triathlon world I’d only fantasized about before now. And as they both continually remind me, the hard work is just getting started. I may be six months into this journey, but we have a long way to go on this road to Tokyo. So stay tuned because if there have been highs and lows in these first six months I can’t wait to see what the next six months bring!
2019 Six Month Statistics
Swim: 369762 yards (338100 meters)
Bike: 2250 miles (3620 kilometers)
Run: 526 miles (846.5 kilometers)
Podiums: 2 (2nd Place at American Continental Championships; 3rd at World Paratriathlon Series Milan)
Next Race: July 13, 2019 Magog Paratriathlon World Cup, Magog, Canada