Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 Utah Races: THE PEOPLE'S VOTE

Top 10 Utah Races Part 1 was based solely on # of participants, showing trending over the past few years.

For Part 2, we thought it would be fun to see what the people had to say, so we reached out to around 30 race connoisseurs with a simple question: what are your Top 10 Utah races?

We targeted people throughout the state, in addition to others we knew had raced a good mix of north and south. Ultimately 25 people responded: 15 men & 10 women, as well as a good mix of regular humans and freaks of nature.

Although not perfect, we feel it's a good sample size.

The "points" system is simple: a race got 10 points if it was #1 on someone's list, 9 points if #2, etc, etc, down to 1 point for #10.

Without further adieu, here's the consolidated Top 10 from all the lists we received. About half of the respondents added comments, which we've summed up in the bullet points.

Hope you enjoy!  Go to our calendar tab to find links to all these races and more.

#10 - Rock Cliff (60 points)

People Dig:
  • Beautiful venue
  • Jordanelle Reservoir
  • Bike course - some saying it's the best
  • Run course - unique half road/ half trail
  • Great production
General theme:
  • An underrated race

#8 (tie) - Jordanelle (63 points)

People Dig:
  • See Rock Cliff... same venue with similar positive attributes
General theme:
  • A classic!

#8 (tie) - Kokopelli (63 points)

People Dig:
  • Very well organized 
  • Great spectator race 
  • Sand Hollow Reservoir
General theme:
  • Great late season race

#7 - Herriman Black Ridge  (74 points)

People Dig:
  • Bike & run course: challenging but fun 
  • Proximity within the valley 
  • Great all-around race
General theme:
  • Several people credited RaceTri with adapting to circumstances and making the race fun no matter what (eg. The infamous rec center pool slide start when Black Ridge closed unexpectedly)

#6 - Salem Spring  (81 points)

People Dig:
  • Great pre-race atmosphere 
  • Great post-race party 
  • Salem bridge finish
  • Nice small town feel
General theme:
  • With no Olympic distance, several people called it the best sprint tri in the state

Chris Hammer on his way to the win at Salem

#5 - Daybreak  (92 points)

People Dig:
  • Point-to-point swim 
  • Great run course around lake 
  • Post-race atmosphere
General theme:
  • Great "urban" tri in the heart of Salt Lake valley

#4 - Icebreaker  (99 points)

People Dig:
  • The word "fun" was used in every comment 
  • Great way to kick off the season 
  • Great pre/post-race atmosphere 
General theme:
  • Organized chaos!

Aaron Shamy getting the crowd amped pre-race

#3 - Toughman Utah Half  (125 points)

People Dig:
  • Awesome run course 
  • Fast & fun 
  • Great half for beginners
General theme:
  • Rumors of a swim venue change in the works?

#2 - Echo  (139 points)

People Dig:
  • Deep, competitive field 
  • Good for beginners as well 
  • Great venue
General theme:
  • Many consider the Echo Olympic to be the most prestigious local race on the calendar

Local Legend B.j. Christenson at Echo

#1 - St. George 70.3  (159 points)

People Dig:
  • Challenging; a true test 
  • National field, with fun "bragging rights" among locals 
  • Community support
  • Worth the price
General theme: 
  • Scenery meets misery!

Related Posts:

Complete Top 25

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top 10 Utah Races Part 1: # Participants

As 2016 winds to a close, we thought it would be fun to do a little analysis on races in the state.

With an international field, St. George 70.3 is obviously the biggest Utah tri. Here's a look at participation over the last six years... from 2011-12 it was still a full Ironman, then a 70.3 from 2013 on.

Excluding SG 70.3, here were the top 10 local races in the state in 2016, solely in terms of participation (individuals, no relays).  These are from the races in our database (which were used for our ranking system)... apologies if we've missed any events.

You can also see trending over the last six years:

1) Sand Hollow (sprint/olympic combined): unfortunately looking at the trending, this May race has probably been hurt by SG 70.3... but it still drew the largest field this year

2) Echo (s/o combined): a Utah classic, barely edged out Kokopelli & Daybreak for 2nd

3) Kokopelli  (s/o combined): Sand Hollow Reservoir strikes again!

4) Daybreak (s/o combined): great venue, continues to grow 

5) Icebreaker: especially impressive as a sprint only race... becoming a must do season opener

6) Jordanelle (sprint/olympic combined): another Utah classic & legendary venue

7) Bear Lake Brawl (s/o combined, which are held on a separate weekend from their half/full): never done this one personally, but a great option especially if you live up north

8) Toughman Utah Half: outside of SG 70.3, Utah's largest half distance race. Look for this one to continue to grow, as attempts are reportedly underway to move the swim venue away from Utah Lake

9) Lake Powell (s/o combined): never done this one, but clearly a great venue. Pulls participants from multiple Southwest states

10) East Canyon (s/o combined): only been around a few years, but off to a great start!

Check out the calendar tab on our site to see these and other races. We'll continue to build that out as more dates are announced.

Lastly, of course just because a race didn't make this list doesn't mean it's not great... for what it's worth some of my personal favorites have smaller fields.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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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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