Monday, June 7, 2010

Last week I actually spent the morning as a spectator instead of an athlete and surprisingly I had a good time. The only other time I was at a triathlon and not racing was years ago when I was thinking of getting into triathlons and went to watch a sprint down in New Braunfels. At that one I had no idea what I was watching, but yesterday I learned a lot and not just about racing. I observed quite a bit of chaos from the race organizers that frankly scared me. Things that as a racer you take for granted.

Yesterday was the 20th year of the Cap Tex Tri in Austin. Its a good race. Probably the biggest in Austin (Longhorn 70.3 may have more participants). The race includes an Olympic, and a Sprint. In some years it attracts a lot of big names and it always fills to capacity with average the average Joe trying to complete his or her first triathlon.

Yesterday I went to the race with the goal of watching some of the pros and picking up some secrets that will help me win too. In the end I learned more about the spectators and race directors than anything but I did find a few things to work on in my own racing.

The first thing I noticed was cadence. On the swim, bike and run. All the fast athletes kept a high cadence in all disciplines the entire race. Next was that the pros suffer just as much as the back of the packers, they just do it at a higher speed. Yes, they are mortal. Also, there are no real secrets to transitioning faster once you get the basics. The real difference between the pros and the rest of us is that they do it faster. That's it. That is what I learned from watching the pros race. Maybe I was blind. Maybe I know everything already (highly unlikely) but I was surprised that I did not get more out of it.

What I learned more of was how much it takes to run a race and how much chaos goes on on race day that most of us athletes never see. Some of it scared me!

I was sitting at a corner watching the bike and some guy in a van, obviously lost, decides that he will not only ignore the barriers but will drive the wrong way on a one way street. As he crossed a barrier he stuck his nose right into the bike course and almost took out 3 of the race leaders. They actually had to swerve across the road to not get hit.
I also was surprised that even 45 minutes after the race started cones and barriers were still being placed to show the race route. Several different athletes almost made wrong turns because the course was not clearly marked.
Spectators, do you not realize where you are? Did your parents not teach you to look both ways before crossing the street? Over and over again I saw spectators ignore the volunteers, not look both ways, and cross a part of the course only to almost get run down by a bike or a runner. Several of the pros had run ins with spectators who were crossing the street. Oblivious to the fact that they were on the race course, which strikes me as funny because the reason the spectators were there was to Watch a Race! It took 20 minutes for the race director himself to show up and start putting in barriers. I wonder if this is something that the pros see all the time? By the time us average age groupers are on the course all the holes have been plugged and the sheer amount of bike or run traffic scares off people wanting to enter the course.

Triathlon is a great sport and I appreciate all the spectators that show up and cheer us on. It is really a hard sport to watch though. People stand in one spot trying to find their husband, dad, brother, wife, etc.. in a sea of people who are flying by at 20 MPH. If they are lucky enough to find that person the contact is only a couple of seconds and then he or she is gone again and may not be back for a long time, depending on the race length that could be hours. In some cases the course is an out and back so people see their loved ones for 1 or 2 minutes in transition and that is about it. Thanks to all and to my family whom have waited in the blazing humid heat and in the freezing cold just to see me in 5 second spurts. It means a lot to see a friendly face.

To sum up, the two most important things I learned are:
  1. I don't want to be a race director.
  2. I'd rather be racing.

1 comment:

Marv said...

Good post--I have been an RD for half marathons and you are right on about the chaos that goes on that sometimes is not seen by participants. Once we had a mobile home being moved block the race course. Once, it turned off hot and we almost ran out of water and were shuffling water between aid stations and buying up all anyone had in stores. Once, a small mentally challenged young man took a wrong turn and got lost in town...I had cyclists, police out looking for him while the wailing, tearful Mother clung close to me. I have had groups of volunteers not show up leaving the race course unmarked and unmanned unti just before race start. I can just imagine what putting on a triathlon must be like.

I so agree also with friends and family who come out and sometimes sweat it out to get brief glimpses of us having our fun and doing our thing. God bless them for their selflessness.