Where is triathlon going

Triathlon is a young sport. I have only been doing triathlons since 2006 and in that short time have seen massive growth within our community here in Minnesota. New faces and lots of new races. Exciting stuff. We may have a few cold months here but we are lucky to have lots of lakes and parks and thus many fabulous venues for races.

A few weeks back I read some interesting thoughts by Brett Sutton. He wrote about WTC, the owners of Ironman. You can read his entries here Part 1 and here Part 2.

Here is one of the more compelling parts (from Part 2):

“We could stand for the following:
1 a real and honest drug policy within sport
2 a policy not war on drugs but an education through health that drugs is not a choice
3 be a warrior against obesity in our society
4 champion the average guy and girl who want to make a  positive difference in their lives
5 to be the lightening rod  of education of healthy practices for our next generation

All while we advertise our sport thru a proper professional circuit with prize money that is at least not an embarrassment to our sport.”

This got me to thinking about the reasons I love triathlon and where our sport is going. As a pro and a coach it is easy to get tunnel vision and only think about performance, performance, performance. Racing fast is obviously my priority and the priority of my athletes. In the bigger scheme of things how important is racing fast? The last line of the quotation puts us ‘fast’ people in our place. We, the pros, should be out there battling each other to inspire and excite people to jump in or at least take notice of the sport. WTC is having trouble identifying the value of pros and making the most of us. Organizations like Rev3 and Challenege capitalize on the pros and make us an integral part of spreading the sport. Not only do Challenge and Rev3 offer better prize purses but they market the pro races vigorously which is a win win win win for them, for us, for sponsors, and for anyone we can inspire to take part. The pro side side of the sport could be an excellent vehicle to generate awareness and interest – just look at what Frank Shorter did for running.

As Brett points out triathlon has the potential to help in larger ways. What better way to get people outside, having fun and getting fit? With a performance orientation triathlon is expensive, time consuming, and skill-intensive. If we relax on performance expectations and focus on participation, is triathlon really that expensive, time consuming or demanding of skill?

Here in Minnesota there are many great value-oriented races. You could do a fun local event every month of the summer for the price of a single expensive event like Lifetime Minneapolis. What kind of bike is necessary to enjoy regular rides and a few races? For basic equipment one could get by spending a few hundred dollars. Even to get started with performance oriented equipment you could get an all inclusive package from Gear West Bike for less than two thousand dollars. Triathlon does not have to be an expensive endeavor.

If you swam, bike, and ran 30-60 minutes each twice a week you could get all the fitness you need to participate in and enjoy a short triathlon. Working out six times a week would be great for health and weight loss and the mix of swim, bike, run would spare the newer athletes the pains of pure running and hopefully the robust mix would help with people’s motivation. As soon as we start thinking in terms of performance, the amount of time goes from a reasonable 3-6 hours to 8-20 hours a week.

In terms of skill required, if we aim for basic swim stroke competence and some reasonable comfort on and ability to manage a bike we are set. A few lessons from a coach and consistent time spent on each sport and people would be ready to participate.

I got excited about triathlon in 2006 because I was good at it and because I love swimming, biking and running. I am eager to continue exploring my own potential in the sport and to help my athletes get faster. Isn’t it also exciting to think as our sport matures over the next 5, 10, 15 years how big it could really get? How many people could we get involved and active? If you want perspective on how far the sport has come in the last decade go talk to Kevin at Gear West Bike – he has been part of it all. Looking forward if we created the right programs through triathlon shops and gyms we could make it easy and affordable to get started. Creating this type of program to make our sport more accessible is a goal of mine. I taught a ‘my first triathlon’ course last spring but need to find an outlet for the class that is more inclusive. What is your vision of the future of triathlon?

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One Response to Where is triathlon going

  1. Chris Hawes says:

    Nice post. We need more people to press these issues

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