Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Respect the RD! Interview with TriUtah

Proudly presenting Part II of our "Respect the RD!" series with TriUtah's Dan Aamodt. Here he provides a little tri history, reveals who would be on his Utah Triathlon Mount Rushmore, and admits to some funny pre-race rituals he does as a race director.

Thanks for the time, Dan!

What's your athletic background as a triathlete?

I was the typical young kid who had way too much energy- playing football, basketball, and baseball. In my teens I ran cross country and track. I began participating in triathlon when I was a junior in high school (1988) after watching the 1987 Ironman World Championship on TV. Hawaii was always my goal, and I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in it twice (1993, 2013). Now, I typically pick one or two events each year that don’t conflict with TriUtah’s schedule to participate in, and I head to Kona each fall to volunteer and/or cheer Utah athletes on.

What were some of the first races you remember in Utah?

The Heber Valley Triathlon was a biggie in the late 80’s. My first race was Payson Onion Days Triathlon. It was a Swim, Run, Bike format. I remember knocking on someone’s door and asking to use their toilet… In 1988 and 1989, There was the Heritage International Triathlon in Provo. All the big pro’s came for that race. Scott Molina, Scott Tinley, Mike Pigg, Paula Newby Frasier, Erin Baker, and others raced because of a big prize purse. Unfortunately, the race organizers failed to pay the prize money to the pro’s and the event died.

behold, the royal onion

What led to you taking over TriUtah a few years back?

I was VP of Business Development for a fundraising company in Dallas. We managed and produced product sales, capital campaigns, special events, online fundraising campaigns, etc. for non-profits. When they asked me to re-locate, I didn’t want to uproot my kids out of their school programs and daily life, so I resigned. I had always wanted to put on some events, and had my half marathon in Draper, so I called a few organizations to see if they would consider selling. My first call was to TriUtah, and we seemed to have the same goals and synergy as far as growing the sport and servicing the endurance world. Chris Bowerbank and John Anderson were amazing and we agreed to terms fairly quickly. I’m indebted to them for helping this dream of mine become a reality. Looking back, I believe volunteering at Ironman Hawaii for so many years (since 1994), creating the bug to host events.

From your perspective what are the 2 most challenging aspects of putting on a race?

Administratively, it’s the waiting game with municipalities and other organizations to get permits approved. On a participant level, we want everyone to feel they get what they pay for and have the best experience possible; so we try to do some extra things like the iced towels at the finish line, extras in bags, or labeling the bike racks, etc.

What are your biggest pet peeves as an RD?

Nothing. I love what I do!

What were your general thoughts on the 2016 season?

I loved 2016! The water levels were high, temperatures were fantastic, and the athletes here in Utah are the best!

How about looking forward to next season?

I’m very excited for 2017. The sport is healthy; we are promoting youth participation, and love working with the communities we have relationships with. We are expanding out with new sponsors (announcement coming soon) who are going to help us reach out to new markets and new potential participants in order to grow the sport. We are also marketing Brineman outside of Utah this year.

A Utah triathlon Mount Rushmore is announced, and it's up to you to determine whose faces get etched in stone. Whether past or present, who would get the nod and why?

I’m a little nostalgic, but overall I would say 1) Barry Makarewicz - if you don’t know his history in the sport in Utah, you should. 2) Chris Bowerbank & John Anderson -before TriUtah came around, you had to travel to Idaho or Colorado or even further to participate in an openwater event. 3) Richard Barnum Reese - the first CONSISTENT race director in Utah. You may not have liked his no frills, bare bones events, but you couldn’t help love the guy after the races. He also started the Utah Runner and Cyclist Newspaper in the late 80’s & through the 90’s. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago… racing at Schofield, an event he started. 4) Every athlete who has stood at the starting line of any triathlon in Utah! (editor's note: anyone know an up and coming Michelangelo? That last one's gonna be a doozy...)

Same question I asked Cody... in your opinion what's the current state of triathlon in Utah vs. 10 years ago? 5 years ago? 2-3 years ago?

As an athlete, the state of triathlon in Utah is healthy. As an industry, endurance sport participation is currently trending down. Not because of participation rates, but because of the number of events. In 2016, there were 84 triathlons in the State of Utah- from municipalities, non-profits, to TriUtah to Ironman St. George. Comparatively, San Diego County, Orange County, and Imperial County combined, with 3.5x the population, had just under 50 triathlons in 2016. Utah is a very entrepreneurial State, which creates new organizers coming and going. It's fantastic that we as athletes can pick any race, any weekend! As a race organizer, we just need to make sure we are improving each and every year and have a strong foundation for growth.

Additionally, because of the large amount of events in Utah, combined with the overwhelming interest of athletes wanting to participate in Ironman branded events (which I whole heartedly support), we have been working with Ironman by setting our event dates to become prep races for Ironman distance races. (For example, East Canyon is a great primer for Coeur D’Alene 70.3, Brineman for Kona/Arizona).

How can we continue to grow the sport?

Promote the sport, and support the local events. As I mentioned before, we are creating an initiative this year to promote triathlon and our events specifically to new market channels in order to expand our “new” customer base. We have a wonderful triathlon community here with Amazing clubs like Wasatch TriClub, Salt Lake Tri Club, and Balanced Art Multisport  and it is our goal to help these clubs grow as we grow.

Do you have any pre-race rituals as a race director?

There are three things I do at each venue. 1) after setting up the run course, I run it in the middle of the night. (Brineman was a beast at 2 in the morning this year! 2) I personally affix the race numbers onto the bike racks after the entire venue is set-up, (our manager Randy always wants to take that duty away from me but I won’t let him!! haha— and 3) I read every participant's name and number to myself the night before the event. There’s no magical or meaningful reason, I just like to see the names of people participating.

Main Site:  TriUtah

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