What can the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 teach us about the Pittsburgh Triathlon?
It was smokin’ hot on June 4 when we arrived in Raleigh to immerse ourselves in all things Ironman and all things tri. Temps would top the 90 degree mark and we were ready to ‘get our tri on’.
As organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon, our team is well versed in endurance event planning. Our event weekend includes a marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 5K, kids 1-mile run, toddler trot and a pet walk – 40,000 participants in all. So organizing and operating the Pittsburgh Triathlon should be a piece of cake – right?
Well, maybe . . . maybe not
We definitely understand the logistics and operations of single sport event – like running a race but add two additional sports to the same race and everything changes.
The expo, though not as expansive as the Marathon’s, was more like a Triathlon 101 class than a place to pick up your race bib and shirt and shop. So what do the athletes need to do and know? Well, we were responsible for providing athletes with their swim caps which we marked with their race number, telling them what time their swim wave started, showing them the stickers with their race numbers to be placed on their bike helmet, bike and gear bag and to make sure they had their bib for the running portion. We then directed them to pick up their timing chip and shirts.
Next up, an informational meeting at the expo that all athletes were encourage to attend – and most did. Weather, transition areas, rules, regulations, penalties and even spectator locations were reviewed in detail. The presentation was offered each day of the expo and at different times to ensure everyone could attend. It was well worth the time to attend.
Now moving onto race day. The Ironman 70.3 swim start is reminiscent of the corrals at the Marathon start line with color-coded swim caps instead of bibs. The key take away for the swim was ease of water entry and exit and a lot of buoys tohelp visually guide the athletes. I mean, it’s stressful enough doing an open water swim, right?
Transition area 1 from the swim to bike or TI as it’s called in the tri world is indeed another crucial area of the triathlon which is markedly different than any aspect of the marathon . . . well, maybe the relay.
Flow in and out of this area is critical to a triathlete’s success and positive experience with the event. The bike racks were well placed leaving room for athletes to get in and out of their area quickly. Bike support team members were
available not only near the transition area but they roamed the course as well. Dealing with flat tires seems to be the most frequent issue and when you’re new to the triathlon or just focused on the race, it’s great to have an expert nearby to assist.
Transition from bike to run was less dramatic but they did have volunteers slathering suntan lotion on the athletes that had now been sweating in the sun for several hours. Umm – not sure if I could do that or not.
It’s universally understood that it’s the little things that count and it’s true with a tri too. Mats at the swim start and finish, clearly marked courses and transition area, and how about some ‘pump-you-up” music to keep everyone psyched. It is quite an accomplishment after all!
The trip to the Ironman 70.3 was well worth the time and effort for the P3R team members. The Ironman ops team was well organized and it was clear that they’d worked the Raleigh venue for several years. We learned a lot in our short 48 hour trip to Raleigh but surprisingly we saw many areas where we could add the P3R magic touch and make the Pittsburgh Triathlon unique and special.
Here’s to a new era of the Pittsburgh Triathlon. P3R got their Tri on in Raleigh. Now, it’s time to bring it back to Pittsburgh . . . . only better!