The Remaking of SoCal's Triathlon Calendar

If you were doing triathlons in Southern California in the mid-80s, your season started with the calendar-perennial L.A. Triathlon Series at Bonelli Park. These races have ebbed and flowed, attracting from 400 to 900 per event. These were warm-ups for the big stuff, and they still are.

But the season really took off, in earnest, with the Wildflower Triathlon. This was the big flagship season kick-off. Wildflower. Then Bakersfield (now a late-season race). Then Bass Lake (that was a Natl Championship at one time, believe it or not). Also in there was Mike Braunstein’s really fine triathlon in Mission Viejo. It was a terrific schedule.

We would down the season with Kona, of course, and then for the big ol’ season-finale party we all took the ferry over to Catalina Island and even the sober among us may have let our hair down a little. How things have changed!

Wildflower is gone. Will it come back? Don’t know. But the big pressure applied to the Indy races was by Ironman. This isn’t good or bad. It just is. The SoCal season properly starts now with Oceanside 70.3. Yes, we still have the Bonelli Park series. There’s one other wrinkle; we now have robust pool triathlons. The most notable in the L.A. area might be the Pasadena Tri, in early March. I’ve spectated this race and it’s a terrific little warmer-upper. Triathlon’s biggest booster, Bob Babbitt, is a big fan of pool tri and if you go check one out, I think you’ll see why.

Now the L.A. metro season is bookended by, as a Summer-starter, the new Herbalife24 Triathlon in the heart of Los Angeles (starts at Venice Beach, ends in downtown L.A., basically takes you the reverse direction of the L.A. Marathon)...

... and the Summer-ender, the Nautica Malibu Tri, which just got supersized.

About that Herbalife24 L.A. Tri: I’ve seen it twice now, from 2 different sources (maybe you got those emails), at a 10 percent off discount. Here’s a link to the race, the one I got from our Federation is USAT3. That’s what I’m going to use. Ian Murray and I will be at the Canyon/Slowtwitch 360 Lab Triathlon Experience in Austin, Texas, June 1. We’re flying back to L.A. that night, and both of us are dong the Sprint distance the next day.

About Malibu, more properly the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. This has always been a big race under Michael Epstein, and he still puts this race on. Two guys seem just to strike gold when they put on a race, Michael on the West Coast, and Stephen Del Monte (Delmo Sports, Atlantic City 60.3, Escape the Cape) on the East Coast. This year, Malibu adds a half-distance. The big trend over the last 15 years has been the move to half-distance. In way, you might say that this distance is what dominates the calendar. The SoCal season starts with this distance in Oceanside and in St. George, which is in Utah, but is in a way a SoCal race, about the same drive time as Wildflower was (maybe that has led to WF’s demise, notwithstanding that iconic Central Coast race attracting 5,000 triathletes last year). And now the season will end with a Half.

When I asked you all what your “A” race was back in 2010, three-quarters if you said a full Ironman (or Indy race of that distance) or a Half-distance. As I’ve polled you over the last decade, that’s remained a constant. Just last month I polled you again, and of those that have an “A” race (9 in 10 of you), about three-quarters say it’s a half or a full, half of you the Half-distance the other half the Full-distance.

What has changed is that you are now much more willing to participate in an Indy half-distance. I asked you, 6 weeks ago, “Not what do you WISH you would or could do. Rather, for whatever reason, what are you most LIKELY to do?” An Indy or a 70.3? A quarter of you said “both.” The other three quarters will choose one or the other, and you’re split almost down the middle.

The Nautica Malibu Half is somewhat inconveniently placed on the calendar if you’re intending to race 70.3 Worlds, which is in Nice, France, and there’s a 70/30 chance I’m going to skip Kona this year and go there instead. So, while I’d like to participate in the Nautica Malibu Half, I think I’ll sign up for the Malibu Sprint, just in case I make it to 70.3 Worlds as a participant (this old body can only embrace so much abuse, and a pair of Half-distance races a week apart is too much abuse!).

This calendar rewrite is a little disorienting, and I think it’s a trend that we’re seeing across the U.S. We have north of 100 Indy half-distance races on our North American Multisport Calendar, in addition to 40ish IRONMAN 70.3 events. But I also note that of all the various distances longer than Oly and shorter than Full, the most popular was 1mi. swim, 40mi. bike, and 10mi. run. I’d like to remind our SoCal readers that the Santa Barbara Triathlon’s distances are 1mi. swim, 34mi. bike, and 10mi. run. It’s Saturday, August 24th, and I think I’ll do this race as a tuner for 70.3 Worlds, God willing, the creek don’t rise, and the knees hold out.