Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Support Your Local Race

I'll swing by the slowtwitch.com site now and then to see what people are saying on its forum page. I came across a discussion today under the title "Triathlon Seems To suck right Now". (Sorry, I can't figure out how to copy the entire link.)


We all want to rant about different things at some point. There are several ideas coming out of this slowtwitch forum thread. The way I read it, many people are not happy with their experience at some of the "big" races. The entry fees are high, it's no fun having to travel to get to the race, and then there is the problem of people drafting on the bike during the race.

Most of us have dealt with these and other issues at some of the "big" races. I think $500 is a lot of money to pay for an "M-dot" IM and now it's about $250 for an "M-dot" 70.3 race. Some of the big races that aren't under the "M-dot" banner (Escape From Alcatraz, Boulder Peak, etc.) are pretty spendy these days. I don't see the price of gasoline coming down, and good luck dealing with the commercial airlines these days. As far a drafting is concerned, if you put 1000 plus people on the same course at places like Clearwater or SOMA, you are setting the stage for a draft fest.

I have some thoughts on these issues. Among other things, the folks at WTC and NAS are well within their rights to charge $500 for races that fill up within hours of the time that registration opens. If plenty of people are willing to pay that much money, WTC and NAS would be foolish to charge less. Same thing for races like Escape From Alcatraz.

If you are willing to pay $500 for a race, then $4.00 (and even more) for a gallon of gasoline might not seem too bad. Similarly, $15 per bag and $100 for a bike box (one way) on an airline flight (that already costs twice as much as it did a couple of years ago) is another cost that you are willing to suck up.

Drafting (and anyone who blatantly drafts) is cheating and you might think that everyone in a race would be ashamed to draft. However, I'm afraid you will never eliminate it on crowded courses, especially the flat crowded courses. Look at your average citizen. Is he/she upset about baseball players on steroids? What do they think about football coaches who illegally video tape an opposing team? How many cycling fans are willing to support their favorite cyclist who failed a drug test? We live in a country where our government argues that water boarding isn't torture. Is it any wonder that some people feel that drafting in a triathlon is not a big deal?

Is there a solution? Some of the posters on the slowtwitch forum made comments to the effect that they're done with the "big" races. From now on, they're just going to enjoy a few of their local races. I'm not completely put off by the "big" races, at least not yet. I'm looking forward to the BSLT 70.3 in two weeks, but it's just a two hour car drive from my house. However, I did sign up for the Silverman this year, as opposed to IMAZ. Quite a few of the NM Outlaws are going to IMAZ, and they'll have a good time at that race. But I've done IMAZ (and the Half-Silverman) before, and while the Silverman only has about one-tenth as many people, I enjoyed it a lot more. What I appreciate even more are the small "local" races. There are at least eight races within a two hour drive from my house (which is pretty amazing given the sparse population density in West Texas/Eastern NM). They cost $40-$50 to enter, you can drive there in the morning, race, and be home by mid-afternoon. They only attract 100-200 people, they don't put on an expo, and there are no Kona slots at stake, but they're a lot of fun. Thank goodness for these races and for the directors who put them on.

See you at the races!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Saturday, June 7th, was the 24th Annual Milkman Triathlon. Wow, 24 years. What were you doing in 1985? This is a fun race and pretty popular with the New Mexico and West Texas triathletes. It's in the small town of Dexter, about 15 miles south of Roswell (and the Alien Museum). If you find yourself in the area on the first weekend in June, you should give this race a go.

The swim is in Lake Van. I don't know who "Van" was, and I sure don't know why it's called a lake. More like a large pond. The water is never more than four or five feet deep, it's pretty murky, and the bottom of the lake is covered in about six inches of mud. In spite of that, it's a pretty good swim. They stretch a rope with buoys 250 meters from the shore, so you get the same length swim every year. The water seems clean enough and it provides a nice backdrop to the race venue. The water temperature is always in the low 70's for the race, so wetsuits are optional. The "strong swimmers" usually swim without wetsuits. For a more feeble swimmer like myself, I've found that I'm about one minute faster with a wetsuit than I am without one. (9:15 vs 10:15 for the 500 meters.) I went with the neoprene this year, and sure enough I swam 9:15.

The transition area is right next to the lake. It takes me an extra 15 seconds to peel off my wetsuit, but it's still a net plus for me. The 20K (12.4 mile) bike course is an out and back on a sparsely traveled county highway. The road surface varies from "kind of rough chip seal" to "pretty bouncy patched potholes chip seal". A lot of people run with lower tire pressures on this course. There is also one cattle guard on the course. (Think twenty parallel railroad tracks with about two inches of spacing between the rails.) In previous years they have covered this with sheets of plywood. This year it was uncovered, which was no big deal. A lot of us deal with cattle guards on our training rides, and they're no worse than crossing railroad tracks. Just cross them at a 90 degree angle. This year there was a 20 mph wind from the south. Great when we were heading north on the way out, not so great when we were heading south on the way back. I was happy that I was not quite one minute slower than last year.

I needed to run a 22 minute 5K if I was going to match last year's overall time. Back in the day, that would have been no problem. Even now, I could have managed this if that was the only thing I was doing on the day. However, after pushing through the headwinds on the bike, I was never going to finish the run in 22 minutes. The run is interesting. You start off on the road around the lake, then run some dirt and grass trails for a couple of miles, then finish on the road around the lake. The last 100 meters is across a grass field to the finish line. I finished the run in 23:45, which left me about one minute slower overall than last year. Not bad considering the wind on the bike!

This race is part of the "Best of the US" series. The overall male winner was Clay Moseley, who is pretty much the alpha-male among New Mexico triathletes. Uber biker Seth Wilkie was less than five seconds behind Clay. Third, fourth, and fifth places belonged to some "old guys", 48 year old Bobby Gonzales, 51 year old Perry Toles, and 46 year old Jeff Johnson. These "old guys" were able to finish in front of some of the young guns from the local area including Albert Lugo, Jason Atkinson, and Chance Payton. The top three females were Deborah Kidd, Gretchen McElroy, and 50 year old Tamsen Schurman. Pretty impressive, and it shows how you can still be competitive in "middle age"!

This race also recognizes the "First Time Triathletes" by bringing them up to the awards podium and giving them a Milkman coffee cup. I didn't count, but there were more than 20 first timers (among a total of 110 male and 63 female individuals) at this race. They also get quite a few relay teams participating. This year there were 14 relay teams. It's things like this that help grow and maintain interest in triathlon.

Finally, they present the Pegye Jann Marshall Spirit Award at this race. She was an active supporter of multisport who passed away several years ago. People who are presented with this award have made some significant contribution to multisport. This year's winner was Flip Lyle. If you have participated in any of the Southwest Challenge Series races during the past 20 or so years, you know who he is. He pretty much created the series and he is the glue that has held it together for the 20 or so years that it has been around. He has received other recognition from the Guinness Book of Records and from USAT, and it was nice to see him win this award.

Less than three weeks until Buffalo Springs!