Up close with Charlie Patten

Charlie Patten is the man behind the Rev3 Triathlon series and he has a hard working dedicated staff that makes all this happen. Patten however is very hands on and we wanted to see what is going on with him and Rev3 right now.

ST: How are you Charlie?

Charlie: I am doing well Herbert! Thanks for asking.

ST: The Rev3 series started back in 2009 with a single race in Connecticut with a lot of hard work and passion from you. Now that we are headed into the 2014 season, is the fire still as strong?

Charlie: The fire is still strong, I can promise you that! The best news is that along the way, we have picked up some phenomenal staff who believes in the Rev3 mission with all of their being. Their fires are burning as strong as mine. Combined, we created an inferno! Corny, I know. But it couldn’t be more true.

ST: I think there are 12 venues in which Rev3 races take place. How much more is possible?

Charlie: You are correct; we will have 12 venues next year. The sky is the limit as far as expansion is concerned. We have to be more cautious on how we expand though. We do pretty much everything in house when it comes to race production, our staff and equipment are almost tapped out. So our growth will be a bit more systematic and thought out. The number of sanctioned triathlon events has skyrocketed over the last 4 years and as such, a lot of the markets out there are not as viable as they once were. We are currently looking though. Arizona and Southern California are two areas that we would really like to be. Additionally, with this new Rev3 Rush event, many more urban venues are now a possibility.

ST: I guess you can’t reveal which locations in California and Arizona you are eying.

Charlie: That would be a good guess! I can say that we have been up and down the coast of California as well as inland to some of the lakes. As for Arizona, the same thing applies. We have been from Tucson to Flagstaff and everything in between. Texas is also on our short list.

ST: Along those lines, talk about Rev3 Wyoming Cowboy Tough.

Charlie: We added the Rev3 Adventure division a couple years back and it has seen incredible growth as well. About two years ago we got wind that the state of Wyoming was looking for an event to help showcase the resources and beauty of their state. We threw our hat into the ring and were selected to produce this race. The adventure racing culture is almost totally different than that of the triathlete and it has been incredible to be part of. For four days these top teams will compete with very little sleep and its awe inspiring to see them work together as a team. They truly depend on one another in the wilderness which is a drastic contrast to the triathletes that we are used to serving. Again, our Rev3 Adventure team is top notch and we have some of the best Race Directors in the business heading up these events. If you like navigation, mountain biking, climbing and kayaking, you have got to give this a try! To answer the question that everyone might be thinking, just completing a full distance triathlon is not enough to qualify you for this event!

ST: Rush is something new. What was the impetus for that new draft-legal race?

Charlie: Rush has been in the back of our brains for about two years now. Our goal at Rev3 is to create an experience that caters to the athletes as well as their families / supporters. What better way to cater to them then by creating an event where they truly feel like they are part of it. The spectators can see the entire event unfold from one seat in the bleachers. Being draft legal is just an added bonus!

Also, over the past two years we have been thinking about what is next. In talks with my own children as well as others, it became clear that most of the youth have not considered going long yet. USAT has done a good job in educating the youth of our sport. As such, most of the kids we spoke to have no interest in going long. They want short and fast! There is one symbol in this country that no brand (Sorry Ironman) can compete with and that is the American flag! These kids have their eyes on a gold medal! So while this format is great for all athletes, it’s even more exciting for us to be able to provide a great experience for our youth. We get to expose them to triathlon at a young age and hopefully we will be witness to the next triathlon gold medalist. It’s a win - win!

Last, but not least, is the recent addition of women’s triathlon to the NCAA. We think this is huge for our sport. Young girls now have a clear path when it comes to triathlon. We feel that this addition is going to create a huge pipeline for new triathletes and we have to be part of that. This format will give them more opportunities to race at a high level! A quick shout out to Brad Hecker for spear heading this!

ST: It is great that you are enthusiastic about this, but how popular do you think that kind of racing is with the paying public? That type of racing might be an easier sell outside the USA.

Charlie: That’s a great mentality to have if you are a defeatist! However, I do agree with you that this is going to be a tough sell. We have to give this a try though; otherwise I would never be able to sleep at night. This is why the youth of our sport are so important. If we can introduce them to this style of “fun” racing now, wouldn’t they be more apt to stick around our sport as they get older? These kids haven’t experienced anything else in some cases. What if they raced in this format and just grew up thinking that was how all triathlons should be done? It could be a drastic shift in thinking compared to older triathletes that we serve today.

This format of racing, specifically the way we will be doing it, addresses the problem that may be hurting the growth of triathlon and sponsor involvement. That is the non-spectator friendly environment of triathlon as is currently exists today. This format is fun, fast paced, high action and all contained within the viewing area of families and friends.

On a serious note, we may have two 50 meter pools for sale at the end of the year. Email me if you are interested!

ST: For the glow runs that are attached to your races do you mostly get spouses of athletes to run in those events or do you attract a decent number of non-triathlon connected folks?

Charlie: The glow runs were added in an effort to create more opportunities for the family members of the triathletes who are racing with us. The added benefit is that now the communities have the ability to come out and participate in the weekend activities. Often times, triathlon is intimidating to the person who “only does 5k’s” and as a result we have found that the community is put out by that. The glow runs allow us to bridge the gap between Triathletes and the communities they race in. Plus, it’s an added benefit to our sponsors, like Powerbar, who can now expose these new athletes to their brands.

ST: What about Rev3 abroad? Or is that logistically currently just not possible? After all when you go to a venue you travel with a monster sized show.

Charlie: We tried the international expansion a couple years back when we brought Rev3 to Costa Rica. We made some big mistakes in doing so. Note to others, shipping your race supplies to other countries via a big ship, has some inherent risks associated with it. In 2013, we signed our first ever license agreement with a company in Mexico. So this coming October, the Rev3 brand will be hosting our first ever event in Ixtapa, Mexico. We have a great partner in Mexico and they have plans to produce multiple Rev3 events trough out the year. They are great people and share the same vision as our team in the US. In addition to that, we are in talks to do some similar things in Canada. Stay tuned.

ST: How much time do you spend on the road and in a hotel bed each year?

Charlie: Actually, not many! I crash in an RV on race weekends so I can be as close to the race site as possible. My parents and one of my daughters are usually in there with me, so it’s nice to hang out after a long day and chat about all the things we screwed up on the day. We are making memories that will stick with us for life! I think the question is better suited for our Rev3 crew. They come into town as early as Wednesday and stay through Monday morning. A lot of them are leaving their husbands, wives, kids and pets at home. Some of our team will be sleeping in hotel rooms the good part of 3 months out of a year.

ST: Of that travel how much is directly related to the races themselves and how much to the general infrastructure of the series?

Charlie: I would say 75% of the travel is to directly support race production. The other 25% is to search out new venues, travel to shows like Interbike and to attend conference such as the annual Triathlon Business International conference. I’m learning to divvy up the responsibilities though and a lot of our team has been volunteering to go to Ixtapa!

ST: Now that you have been around for a while where do you think the sport is heading?

Charlie: That’s a good question. For us, the sport has seemed to be flat lining over the last 3 years. Not many new triathletes coming into the sport and an equal number of them are leaving. The number of races out grew the athletes by a good amount. Ironman certainly isn’t going anywhere and their brand seems as strong as ever. As I mentioned earlier though, I think the trend in our sport is going to be growth at the youth level and at shorter more spectator friendly distances. The youth segment is by far, the fastest growing segment in triathlon.

Additionally, I think we will start to see more “gimmick” type triathlon events popping up all over, similar to events like Color Me Rad and the 5k Foam Fest. Us Race Production companies are going to have to start getting creative if we want to survive the long haul.

ST: A personal big gripe of mine is that many brands and race series appear to be working very hard to be their own media. That is also something that seems to be also true with Rev3. What are your thoughts along those lines and is there a fine line that some folks walk on?

Charlie: You know Herbert, that’s a good point. In the past, we have been very controlling over the content generated at our events. We are working on being much more open. The problem is that in order to get our races covered, we have to push out our own content to the media outlets on race weekend. I understand that it is potentially at a detriment to folks like Slowtwitch. I know you pride yourselves in providing your readers with unique content. We will be working on that in 2014. Maybe we can put our heads together and come up with some ways to works more closely together.

ST: Any other thoughts?

Charlie: Hhhmmmm. I could go on all day! Three off the wall thoughts.

1. I think the sport of triathlon could have a tough go of it if swim safety standards aren’t increased. It’s our responsibilities to keep our customers safe come race weekend and I think collectively we can do much better. Meeting minimum standards is not enough. The more tragedy that comes to our sport, the bigger the black cloud over us will get.

2. I try to race as many of the Pros that I can. Just to keep them humble. So far not one has beaten me. I’m kind of a big (no fat jokes) deal.

3. I know I mentioned it a couple of times above, but I really want to put emphasis on this. The entire Rev3 team is top notch! Each and every one of them cares about our brand and the experience that our customers get on race weekend, just as much as I do. One of my favorite things on race weekend is watching people cross the finish line and burst into tears. Strange, I know! They burst into tears for many reasons. Primarily, because they have overcome some obstacle in life. That finish line means so much to them and when they cross the line they are inspiring someone else around them. It’s a great cycle and our entire staff feels the exact same way that I do. Come race day, none of our staff is forced to stay until the last finisher (Cedar Point 2 years ago, it was at 2:30am!), but they all stay! They stay because they care. They stay because this isn’t just a job. They stay because they whole heartedly believe in the Rev3 brand. That feeling permeates throughout our races. From our staff, to the volunteers and to the Police who are out on the course.