Letter to all race directors
I am writing in regards to the new swim start protocols that are being implemented at some Ironman races and short course triathlons.
I understand and respect the actions and thought that goes into putting on a safe and competitive event. However, this new timed swim start is an atrocity to the sport of triathlon. As a young and fast growing sport changes are going to be needed but we tread lightly.
First off we must realize that the problem of swim starts is a good one to have. 10-20 years ago we had 100-200 people show up to race . Now face with 1800-3000 athletes racing! The sport has grown and thats a good thing. So take yourself back a notch (my self a few notches) and relax, things change and understand that people are only trying to make them better.
Every sport has its challenges and dangers, simply eliminated them one at a time is not the answer. With this new start protocol athletes are no longer “racing” rather simply completing the course and seeing who has the best time. Imagine the winner of Ironman lake Placid, the oldest and most prestigious IM in North America crossing the finish line lifting the finish line tape high in the air to the cheers of the crowd only to find out the next morning that he did not win. You have stolen that feeling and the moment from that winner forever. Imagine this happening in every age group at the boulder sprint or boulder peak triathlon. It all ready has.
Two. while Age Group starts are not the best they at least put all the same “category” together. You cross the line ahead of that person you beat them, plain and simple. This simplistic nature of “racing” is the defining difference between field sports and racing sports. In cycling there are different categories based on ability and how well one has done and you race those people. The other method of “self seeding” one’s self for the swim is horrible. The swim is one very small part of the race. imagine going to your son or daughters track meet and the finals of the 100 meter sprint is “start whenever you want and we’ll time you” not sure there would be many happy parents.
At IM lake placid in 2011 the water temp was too high for wet suits the decision was made to not allow wet suits for folks who wanted to compete for a podium, and spots to kona and allow wetsuits for those who just wanted to complete the race. Even playing field. This decision was bad however, some none wet suit athletes got pummeled by wet suit folks. Separate start times would have been good here. For the short course races, especially the boulder peak and sprint why not conduct a whole different race? They sell out. Pros and top AG On Saturday. Everyone else on Sunday?
Three. Every athlete regardless of ability has the right to a safe race and a good finish time. Yes. They absolutely do. But at the cost of everyone else? When I was in grade school in one of my classes I remember talking about our rights as Americans. Freedom of speech was discussed and, of course, “if I have the freedom of speech why can’t I swear in class?” it’s a good question. There are many areas like this in our world. How do we know what we can do and can’t do? “Because your rights end where someone else’s begin” I never forgot that. How far will you go to accommodate people worries about the swim start?
If the swim start worries someone that much why not just wait 30 seconds to 1 minute for the ciaos to clear? Yes they would “lose time” but that shouldn’t be there concern anyway? If it is then time should be spent properly preparing for the race at hand. What happened to that? Proper preparation. Running is the major cause of injury in triathletes. The training for hardest section of the race puts people on the disabled list all the time should we shorten all the runs?
And what about ones “Time”. what about that clock? For all those concerned about their time in the race how will the clock be calibrated for every athlete across the line for their classic triathlon finish line picture? I remember my first triathlon and my first ironman. I still have those pictures wouldn’t trade them for the world…
Finally, there are few things that compare to the exhilaration of being in the water at the starting line counting down to the starting gun with Three Thousand (3000) other people. All starting at the same time. All facing the 140.6 miles. Doesn’t matter if you are a pro, first timer or a veteran age grouper starting ironman number 15. We are all equal. I want everyone to be able to have that feeling.
I beg those of you making these decisions to tread carefully. You are changing the course and history of the sport in extreme ways. If this kind of “leveling” continues what will an ironman race look like in 5 years? 20 years?