You’ve heard all the hype and pitfalls of the 5150 series by now, right? It was supposed to unify several Olympic distance triathlons around the country and bring support to events not as large as the half and full ironman events.
They announced it last year, grouping Olympic distance triathlons as their own stand-alone series from the 70.3 and 140.6 races put on by the World Triathlon Corporation. Last October, we mused if the series will make it HERE when the canceled the finale in Florida.
The sad part is that many of these events were at one time a local race that WTC bought. Had WTC not stepped in, local race directors might still have hosted the races (or not).
Was 5150 Kansas City in jeopardy to be cancelled? No one will ever know if it came into conversation, but they had 1122 triathletes (415 sprint, 707 international distance) toe the line last Sunday.
The 5150 Kansas City Triathlon started out as a local event, put on by the RD which also happens to direct IM Kansas 70.3 and IM Branson 70.3. The inaugural race was held in 2009 and this year was the first year in the 5150 series.
In 2009, 489 athletes came to Longview Lake. In 2010, they had 731 and 2011 brought 607. Clearly the event was on the scale with other local triathlons, but adding it to the 5150 series seems to have brought all the triathletes out of the woodwork. Even Carson Christen, an aspiring pro, came from Boulder, CO, to race. A 185% increase from the previous year isn’t half bad.
But, all was not well in paradise. Forums and training groups were abuzz with questions about the events and few seem to know where to go to get answers. Sure, you had Facebook, but hopefully you weren’t getting answers from an intern that may not have properly communicated what the RD meant.
You had some athletes that spoke directly to the race director, but have you played the game where you line up and have a sentence to send from one person to another? Thoughts and meaning can get disjointed when going from one person to another. Others made up their own answers or heard from a friend. Sadly, the Q and A on the race site was not kept up and there was a lot of anxiety leading up to the race.
Were the racks assigned to each spot or a set of numbers assigned per rack? Would it be a free-for-all in transition? Were the crushed stone paths wide enough for the running loop? How was vehicle traffic going to be handled? What roads were closed completely? Would single lane roads be wide enough to handle 1100 athletes? It didn’t help that the organizers opted to drop the formal racer meeting at 3pm and 5pm the day before the race and opted to answer questions one-on-one (verified by a source on site).
So many questions, a new event format, a new bike course and a lot of anxiety was floating around this 5150 race. A new series format to hit Kansas City and you only get 1 first impression.
Race morning was rife with apprehension and relief at the same time. Rack spots were assigned. Whew. Racks didn’t go exactly in numerical order. People in the 1300 and 1400 number range had to find their racks between the 800 and 900 racers. Oops. Relay teams had no rack spot, but assigned a spot along transition fence to prop their bike up. In reality, relay teams didn’t really need a rack spot.
When the PA man demanded transition to empty out at 7am (about 10 times), athletes plodded to the beach, hoping the course could support an increase of 500 racers.
Anxiety eased out as the swim wave starts went orderly and on time. There was an air of confidence with the RD team sending each wave into the intrepid waters of Longview Lake (after all… some bodies have been found floating in the lake in the past).
Yes, the course was pushing maximum capacity. Yes, later international distance waves spilled over with the sprint course athletes on the bike and run. Yes, a swim turn buoy decided it wanted to stretch the course out and tried to float off. Yes, race officials and lifeguards tried to warn swimmers and keep them on the right path.
The race saw at least 4 bike wrecks. One can be attributed to operator error. One was due to a pothole in the road, which you could argue the rider should have been on the lookout for. Two were due to inattentive riding causing a collision. One rider had to leave in an ambulance, but he was awake and moving and it didn’t seem life threatening.
When you look at the big picture, the race expanded (or exploded) by 185% and the biggest issue on race day was a rogue buoy. Bike accidents are a part of the game. They are going to happen and RD’s can’t do much about mixing seasoned triathletes with beginners or operator error. That’s just the way it is. The bike and run legs had ample room to handle the amount of athletes on it at any given time in a safe manor.
Aside from a bait-and-switch from tech shirts to cotton race shirts, most athletes at the finish line had a good day. Most could not have missed the turns offs, transition entrances and exits or have asked for more aid stations on the run. The Kansas City Triathlon had a solid reputation to begin with, and it now seems that adding it to the 5150 series will only strengthen it and draw in more out-of-town athletes.
The 5150 model seems to have worked in Kansas City. It remains to be seen if WTC and the race made enough of a profit to consider it a success. They are, after all, a business and businesses need to make money in order to stick around. Some tweaks about distributing race information in an official capacity needs to be addressed and some investments in race shirts need to be made, but that’s picking nits.
Hopefully running at 1100 athletes is a good spot for a 5150 race to make money; otherwise we may not see the Kansas City Triathlon in 2013.
If you would like my personal and less “professional” take on the race, check it out HERE.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.