Friday, December 16, 2016

Respect the RD! Interview with USTriSports

Putting on races would be a piece of cake, right??


Check out this great "behind the scenes" perspective from Cody Ford, a local triathlete who also partners with Aly Brooks to run USTriSports.

Thanks for the time, Cody!

What’s the history of USTriSports?

USTriSports started in 2009 with the Daybreak Triathlon. Aly Brooks and Greg Fawson, both Daybreak residents, founded the company. As the Daybreak community was being built out, it quickly became apparent that the lake and walking trails that circle the water would be an ideal location for a triathlon event. The thought was basically, “one of the best racing and spectating venues around is right here in our neighborhood!” so the race was launched. It was a hit and got a lot of great feedback right away.

The success of Daybreak led to the formation of the “Salt Lake Triathlon Series,” which included Daybreak, Rock Cliff Triathlon, Stansbury Park Triathlon, & the Spring Sprint Triathlon at the Kearns Olympic oval. In 2010, Greg moved to Germany, so my wife (who was best friends with Aly growing up) and I decided to get involved and bought Greg out.

From that point, we grew to a total of 8 combined triathlons & running events that we organized at our peak, and also got into timing races with the start of TruTiming. At that time, Milliseconds was really the only local timing option for triathlon events and we felt there was an opportunity for another timing option in the market. Around that time, we sold the Rock Cliff race to RaceTri, and as part of that agreement, we contracted with them to time their races for a few years. Over the years, we have timed events throughout Utah, Idaho and Arizona. The first year we launched TruTiming, we literally timed or organized a race every single weekend from March thru October. Over the last couple of years however, we decided to begin to narrow our focus a bit to allow more time to be able to train for our own racing goals and also to put more time and energy into building up our main races: Daybreak and TriathaMom.

How about the future?

We are excited for the 2017 race season! In the past we did entertain a couple offers to sell and exit the business, but never were able to come to terms financially. That was the genesis of scaling it back. We couldn't maintain it as it was and continue to do the job we wanted part time. We enjoy doing this, and feel we can be successful long-term with these fewer events. Potentially in the future we’ll look to add another race or two as opportunities come available.

Let’s talk about Daybreak… that’s a great race, and had arguably the best field for a local race in 2016. What was the deal with the water this year though? Anything we can help clarify?

Last year we had a very successful event. A number of athletes have done Daybreak every single year, and many made the comment that last year was the best one yet.

A lot of people don’t realize that the Daybreak lake has a water filtration system… the HOA out here, they're quite uptight about that type of thing. To be honest, the water quality is much cleaner than many other triathlon venues. Daybreak as well as the HOA both do independent testing on the water quality. As a USAT sanctioned race, part of our certification is to test the water prior to the event. We did that in the weeks leading up to the event, with no issues found.

In addition, as we do every year the week before the race, myself and ~30 others swam the complete swim course. We check out conditions, remove any debris we find, etc. None of us had any issue with the water whatsoever.

That said, there were reports of a few athletes getting a rash known as “swimmer’s itch” at this year’s event. It was the vast minority of people, but in the days of social media, when a few people have an issue it can easily become magnified. Swimmer’s itch is a rash that clears up after a few days, and is not unique to any body of water. Sand Hollow and the swim venue at Ironman Canada to name two of many have had similar reports in years past. This was the 8th year of the event, and the first report of any kind.

Ultimately, there are always some risks associated with open water swimming. In addition to all the testing, we’ll be taking additional measures to further minimize any risk this year. We want to do everything we can to make sure athletes are safe when under our care.

Is the race date known?

The Daybreak Tri will be June 24th this year and TriathaMom will be held August 19th. Registration opens for both races on January 1st!

What are the most memorable performances you can remember from Daybreak over the years?

There were some epic battles a few years in a row between David Warden & Alex Bowcut, with sprints to the finish line if I remember correctly. It was cool because you had a teenager at the time in Alex vs. the cagey veteran, then PowerTri owner and tri podcaster Warden.

Jorge - Doctor Delicious last year, not sure if he set the course record or not, but he certainly killed it. Local pro Ashley Paulson and a number of others had great showings as well.

Has course changed due to construction in the area over the years or stayed pretty much intact?

The course has evolved, but over the last 3-4 years it’s been essentially the same. In 2011 we introduced the Point to Point swim which has been really popular. Last year we also changed the TA location which allowed for more room and worked well. We will be adding a couple more officers to help with traffic control but we do not anticipate any major changes to the course.

In an ideal world, what are two things you wished were different about triathlon in Utah?

My ideal situation would be more of a working relationship with other race organizers, having more of an open discussion on race dates, etc. I think there could be more of a sense of community in addition to having successful individual events.

On the athlete side I guess I’d like to see more people volunteer to gain more of an understanding about what goes into a successful event. It takes a lot of planning, effort and energy to provide a safe and fun event. As an athlete myself, I see a lot of races that are kind of hokey and poorly run during the event. Some people care about that, and some don't. Hopefully, when everything goes smoothly during an event, people recognize and appreciate the effort and time that the race directors and volunteers have put in.

What’s the most rewarding part?

Being a part of the Triathlon community is awesome. One of the most rewarding experiences that I have had is being a part of TriathaMom, We absolutely love putting that on. It’s a women’s only pool swim, sprint triathlon.

The whole idea of TriathaMom is “beginners encouraged, experts welcome.” This is a perfect event for those who want to try a triathlon, but maybe feel intimidated or don’t think they can. Maybe they don’t think they have adequate equipment. We wanted to put on a welcoming, family event with a carnival type atmosphere. We provide bounce houses, cotton candy, sign making stations and other things to help entertain the kids and dads during the race.

Many moms sign up almost a year in advance, and many have trained for 10 months+ for this event. Maybe it's the first race of any kind they've done. As part of registration we ask them “what's your story, why are you doing this?” and we read the stories as they’re crossing the finish line. There are so many stories of people overcoming amazing obstacles and have used our TriathaMom event as something to help push them.

Some stories like “This is my fourth year doing TriathaMom and I’ve lost 60 lbs. training for this event since I started,” and “I’m a 2-time cancer survivor and I wanted to show my kids that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.”

There’s a group of ~30 women from Colorado, and this is the one event they do together. They’re continually growing their group, helping other people realize they can do it. Seeing the sense of accomplishment on their faces is very rewarding. We don't give out podium awards. We do time it, but it’s the greater sense of who you are. If someone has a mechanical issue on the bike, multiple women will stop and try to help. It’s a unique event and is one of the most fun, inspiring and rewarding experiences to be a part of.

What are some of the hardest aspects of putting on a race?

Coordinating with local municipalities, police/ traffic control, & getting permits can be a big challenge. The big stressor is making sure that everyone who gets in the water and goes out on a bike makes it safely back to the TA. It’s also a challenge to try and put on a quality, professional event while still trying to make money. As an athlete, at many races as I’ve finished the race the first thing that goes through my head is “wow that's really anti-climactic.” I’m biased, but in my opinion creating the sense of accomplishment and energetic atmosphere at the finish line is one thing we do very well, better than other local events. Our PA announcer does a fantastic job as people finish the race helping to create that environment.

In your opinion what’s the state of triathlon in Utah today vs., say, 10 years ago? 5 years ago? 2 years ago?

Ten years ago, triathlon in UT was certainly at or near its peak. I think as a large part, this was prior to the “fun run” type events, the color runs, mud runs, neon light runs, bubble runs, etc. Runners looking for different ways to be active started getting into triathlon, and events started popping up most weekends. I think eventually we lost a lot of people who used to do 1-2 events a year just to do something different.

Over the last 2-3 years, there’s been a resurgence in the tri community. Many things have contributed, including the exhaustion of some of those gimmicky events. Some of the fads are dying down now. Part of it too has been the popularity of some of the local clubs; for example BAM and SLTC continue to grow year over year. Having that sense of community certainly has helped grow the sport. Within the clubs there are elite athletes… people see that and want to be doing what they’re doing. Before these clubs it was more fragmented. The leadership who head up BAM and SLTC are certainly energetic, proven leaders, and many people support and follow them. Other marketing and exposure, from Utah’s own Iron Cowboy to Utah Tri Buzz are definitely contributing as well.

Main site:  USTriSports

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