From the Ground in St. George

Just shy of 2,000 athletes took on the Intermountain Health IRONMAN 70.3 North American Championship St. George this weekend. (Editor’s Note: say that race name five times fast. Good luck.) The “Land of Endurance” sure did her job when it came to showing off her beauty, and it’s still amazing to me that people from all over the world travel to my home state of Utah to race together in the sport we love.

From the pre race press release, here are a few stats about participation in this year’s event:
- Over 2,000 registered participants from 29 countries, regions and territories and 48 U.S. States
- The top five countries represented are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, and Chile.
- The top five U.S. States represented are Utah, California, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada
- 18-year-old Camille Mayes from Meridian, Idaho is the youngest female athlete racing
- 18-year-old Bryson Carter from Washington, Utah is the youngest male athlete racing
- 75-year-old Virginia Krantz from Orem, Utah is the oldest female athlete racing
- 74-year-old Robert O’Bryan from St. George, Utah is the oldest male athlete racing

Looking at course logistics, IRONMAN and its race host communities have really seemed to have figured out point-to-point shuttle systems. While road closures can be a pain for us trying to cover the race, they have figured out how to have 2,000 athletes on course without completely ruining the locals' way to get around town. It is remarkable how much combined effort goes into these sorts of things. The balance of athlete needs for a successful race experience and local community needs are drawn on a very thin fine line and IRONMAN and the Greater Zion Community look to have gotten it right to my eye. The family friendly environment allows for big cheers from start to finish

The one thing that the start and finish numbers tell us is that this course is hard. For example, none of the featured names above finished and one didn't even get to the start line. Based on the finishers in the IRONMAN App, and my calculation of about 2,000 starters, you had a nearly 25% DNF rate. Now, keep in mind that it is my assumption that we had around 2,000 starters, but that’s because the last bike rack with bibs up to 1950 was filled, and then you had the relay teams on top of that.

But while the course is hard it's also fair and it's also really great from an athlete perspective because you are all together on the 2 loop run. The long out and backs allow for athletes to race together while the loops of the golf course section allow for the athletes to have enough variety to feel as if they aren't being treated like herded animals.

My personal “State of the Union” while at the and after the race…

While the community of ZION did its job. IRONMAN needs some work on somethings. Walking around It didn’t feel like the “North American Championships.” The age group athletes were present and the professional athletes were present but the expo was pretty dead and the vibe just wasn't that exciting at first. Race day was very different as it should be when almost 2,000 athletes showed up at Sand Hollow. But that feeling used to be the whole weekend not just race day.

Race production at IRONMAN seems to be better than ever.. But IRONMAN still seems to be dealing with staffing issues and some directional challenges still. Example: the PRO Series is awesome, but i'm not 100% sure it's what IRONMAN’s focus should be. The broadcast is super legit but it shouldn't be the “Alright, we built it, and now we are done” moment it seems to be. Where are some of the media basics that grew the sport to begin with? Like age group stories in the broadcast? Where are the PR representatives on site to answer questions for local media and to make sure they can get around? Where are the moto’s for large endemic media so we can actually be photo journalists? They have basically cut us off from motos. And if you’re not going to let us out on the course, why does it take so long for them to get photos out? It’s been 3 days since the race finished and we only have 16 photos sitting in the media hub. Then let’s talk athlete experience for a second. Why are we still forcing athletes to only have ONE wetsuit choice to buy on site? Why are expo booth prices so high when you continue to hear the same thing from the vendors that do currently pay the rates say that the “juice isn't worth the squeeze.” When I talk to ALOT of people at company they all agree that these things matter but where and when is the course direction going to come?

Ultimately these are the things that I feel that have been lost over the years. They are the questions and solutions that I will continue to ask and work on. Because I feel like they need to change. IRONMAN isn't perfect and neither are we. But I do believe that our shared community deserves better. We are lucky enough to have the personal relationships with so many people at IRONMAN that allow us to work around some of these issues to make sure we can still share stories with you.

But we have to see some changes directly from the top if we want to continue to show up to these events and we have to see these changes if the sport is going to be able to grow. Loud megaphones only work if there are people around to hear them.