Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick Update

A quick update:

I have been swamped with work over the past week and also preparations for my trip over to Kona for Ironman Hawaii. My wonderful Wife has been over there for two weeks now training up a storm and I am looking forward to meeting up with here this weekend.

Shortly I will be posting up the and featuring the following:

- A report from Interbike
- More editions of 20 Questions With . . .
- Blog updates from Kona during race week at Ironman Hawaii

Thanks for staying tuned in.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Now For Triathlon?

It's been an interesting year in the triathlon business to say the least. While carnage and chaos was the story elsewhere, the triathlon business kept growing. All indicators are as we start another business cycle, that 2009 was another very good year in the business - and 2010 is looking good as well. Wholesale and retail sales have been good and in some cases great. Race entry numbers have stayed steady or have grown. Many are focused on the big high profile events such as the Ironman and 70.3 triathlons, but it's the smaller entry level triathlons that are the true indicators of what's going on. Most Race Directors that I have spoken to recently have told me that their entry-level triathlon events geared for first-timers have been at capacity all year long - a good sign that new people are still coming to the sport of triathlon.

Of course, it's not been a year without challenges, because some big businesses( automotive and financial services) took huge hits, corporate sponsorship of events has taken a down-turn, I am told. Some large events went on without a corporate title sponsor, buoyed by the fact that the successful model in triathlon race management is that the user/participant fees( entry fees) should cover all the hard-costs of putting on the event. Corporate sponsorship, is usually gravy money.

On the retail side I have noticed that it's been a challenging year for more than a few smaller triathlon focused retailers, and/or retailers who came late to the triathlon party and were not that well established when the worst of the economic storm arrived. And there was regional variation as well across North America. In Canada for example, it would be hard to tell looking at the world through a triathlons lens that there was a recession going on! Whereas, in parts of the United States, there were specific areas of the country that seemed to be taking a bit more of a hit, and no surprise, it was in the areas of the U.S. that were hardest hit by the recession - California, and the auto manufacturing centers such Michigan. I note that the really good triathlon retailers have had good to great years and have solidified their place on that A-List of retailers in the business. This group has become stronger.

What now? As we enter another business year with Interbike next week and orders starting to flow in for 2010, many seem optimistic about where the sport of triathlon is at. One issue is the number of brands, that are competing in a number of categories - I know this is the case with wetsuits. People often ask me, "How many wetsuit brands do we need?" Often the trend is that there is a sector giant, such as Gatorade, in the sports beverages category, and then an ever growing roster of other sports beverage makers jumping in. Some well known, others we may have never heard of. The challenge is that retailers, always seem to have a limit as to the number of brands or choices for their customers that they will carry. This seems reasonable - good if you are on that short list, not so good if you are not!

One thing that may have saved the Tri business is the timing of the worst of the economic news and hard-ship. It came, during our "off" season of the fall/winter just past and then when the good news, and that talk of, "green shoots" and some more optimistic news started to come out, is when, our "on" season of spring/summer of this year kicked in. Tri-retailers were lucky in this regard as, so much of just about all other retailing centers around the Christmas selling season - December can make or break the year for them!

Let's hope the good news continues!

(Picture at the top is of power cables and outlets waiting to be distributed to booths at last year's Interbike Trade Show)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

20 Questions with . . . . Simon Whitfield

Next up on the 20 Questions . . .With, is Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Simon Whitfield. This man really needs know introduction. We used to call him the "kid" but now he really is a man and he has become the most consistent ITU triathlete on the planet over the last 10 years.

The Gold Medal win in Sydney caught everyone by surprise - even Simon himself. The Silver medal in Beijing eight years later showed, that he was the real deal with a stretch drive for the ages that came up just a bit short, but in some ways was more impressive than the win in Sydney.

I'll freely admit that, both the Olympic races were emotional affairs for me, personally. Here was a guy from my area, a friend, who had come up through the ranks and made it to the absolute top of the sport. It's the only time that I have ever openly wept watching a sports event. The next time that happens will be when the Leafs win the Stanley Cup or England wins the World Cup of Soccer. I think I may be waiting for these latter two triumphs for awhile. So thanks, Simon for winning big!

Simon has shown over the years that he is that rare athlete, who really saves the best, for the biggest races. Witness the final strides drama at the Hy-Vee race earlier this year( Picture at the top) when, Simon took it, right on the line to win the biggest prize purse in the sport.

20 Questions With . . . . Simon Whitfield

1. Your legacy will be?

SQW - Bouncy castle wrecking ball, great dad and husband.

2. If out for a ride with Lance Armstrong, you would talk about?

SQW - How he deals with being such a polarizing person. People love him or they hate him. How does he stay detached from that noise? Give me some tips......!

3. Peanut butter or Nutella?

SQW - Almond butter.

4. Your Daughter Pippa makes you?

SQW - Laugh a lot. Worry. Laugh a lot more. Be a proud parent.

5. Best thing about being a triathlete?

SQW - Training with the guys. The athletes on the ITU circuit are an amazing group of people.

6. Did you start this compression sock madness?

SQW - It works, plain and simple. Compression socks work!

7. Canada has done really well in triathlon. Why?

SQW - Coincidence.

8. Who will be the next Simon Whitfield in Canada?

SQW - No one. Some great talent coming through but they will be their own people. No need to be "the next".

9. If you could not be a triathlete, you would be?

SQW - Musician. Banjo player. Like the Great Lake Swimmers or Bon Iver.

10. For the ladies - boxers or briefs?

SQW - Boxers, always. Never briefs. Bought briefs recently. Hated them.

11. Ironman, ever?

SQW - Yes. absolutely, when I can't compete at Olympic Distance (don't read too much into that).

12. Did you practice that facial expression at the finish line at the Hy-Vee race ahead of time?

SQW - In my head, many times. The "holy-shit-that-just-happened-I-didn't-see-that-coming..... not-today-at-least.... but-I'll-take-it look".

13. Best moment ever in the sport for you was?

SQW - Winning in Sydney.

14. Is this Brownlee kid the real deal?

SQW - Absolutely.

15. Biggest changes you have seen in the sport are?

SQW - I've been a pro since 1996. So too many to list. The uniform guidelines and the ITU's push to the Olympics have taken the sport to a new level. The new Dextro series is by far the best series we've ever had, aside from the f1 series in Australia.

16. Will the ITU and the WTC ever see eye to eye?

SQW - Nope. WTC "is all about the Benjamens" (I really like the races, and the people, Welchy, Roch, etc. and the athletes are great but the "Corp"......) say what you want about the ITU, they aren't perfect but it's not about money to them, at the core of the ITU it's all about passion for our sport!

17. What happens after London 2012

SQW - 2016 for a fourth..!

18. Victoria, BC is the perfect training venue because?

SQW - The weather, especially in the summer. The lakes, the facilities, the trails, trails, trails. The people.

Jordan Rapp will win Ironman Hawaii when?
SQW - Yes. He really could, not because he's my closest friend outside of my family, I just really think he can.

Who inspires you.
SQW - My friends, close friends.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

20 Questions With . . . . Tereza Macel

This is the first installment of what I plan to be ongoing series of twenty question interviews with people within the world of Triathlon and endurance sports, who I come across in my travels and day-to-day . I did something like this with 3-Time Ironman World Champion Peter Reid a number of years ago they were well received. The popularity of Twitter, and the quick, and witty 140 character response, has inspired me to have another go at this and see where it goes here on my Blog.

My first subject is Ironman specialist triathlete Tereza Macel who, recently wowed us with unprecedented back-to-back wins at Ironman Lake Placid and at Ironman Canada 5 weeks apart. To my knowledge, no Pro Triathlete has ever even attempted that double before. Tereza did, and won not just with the strength of her strong swim/bike, which she had been known for in the past, but now with a strong and steady closing run leg.

We all knew Tereza could swim - two years ago, over a year and a half stretch of time she was the first woman out of the water in five Ironman races around the world. On the strength of some fast cycling, she would lead these races deep into the bike, but would then start to run into problems late in the bike and then really struggle on the run. I shift to training with Brett Sutton and the TBB Team over the past winter seems to have fixed the late-in-the-bike, fade and more importantly, given Tereza run legs, to close with confidence. It's been a year of extraordinary performances for women at the Ironman distance, but Tereza's back-to-back wins at IM Lake Placid in 9:29 and then at IM Canada in 9:11, should be up there with the top performances of the year. At the very least, she is a prime candidate for a, "Most Improved" award, whoever wants to give her that.

With what she's done this year, she certainly is one to be put on a short list to be a serious contender at the up-coming Ironman World Championships in Hawaii a month from now. Certainly with her strong swim/bike, she will be a factor early on and if the run stays steady, you may see here being in contention for a podium spot or better!

20 Questions With . . . . . . Tereza Macel

1. Tim Hortons or Starbucks?
Starbucks - but not for the coffee, for the chocolate covered caramel pretzels.

2. Why Ironmans?
Ever seen me do a fast transition! Hopeless.

3. How hard is an Ironman race?
More than twice as hard as a half Ironman race!

4. Is the Cervelo P4, that good?
If it is not, please don't tell me, because I think it's that good!

5. Who is your real source of inspiration?
My Mom.

6. What is the real difference with you this year?
Team TBB and an increased intake of chocolate.

7. Will you do the Underpants Run at Ironman Hawaii?
No. Not if I decrease my chocolate intake and somehow develop a 6-pack!

8. You raced Short course/ITU for years. Helpful?
Yup! You learn to race yourself into shape.

9. You always list your nationality as Czech, but we all know you as a Canadian, eh! I am confused.
Born in Czech. Moved to Canada. Duel citizenship. Speak both languages.

10. Clinchers or tubulars?
Ask my Bike Mechanic(Husband) I have been known to ride both.

11. If out for a ride with Lance Armstrong you would talk about, what?
Are you saying that I could keep up with him. Thank you. That's cool!

12. Do compression socks really help?
Yes, but they do look really dorky.

13. After Ironman Hawaii you will do what?
Have a big hamburger, just like after every other Ironman!

14. Best time of the day is?
Bed time.

15. When not training your favourite thing to do is?
Watch movies.

16. Husband Chris Bastie is best at?
Trick question. Right answer is everything, right?

17. Do you follow or lurk on the Slowtwitch Forum.
Yes. I must admit that I do.

18. The first words out of your mouth after getting across the finish line at Ironman Canada were?
The brain is the first thing to go in an Ironman. I haven't a clue!

19. Do we need an election in Canada this fall?
No, and we did not need one last fall either.

20. In five years you will be doing what?
Laughing that I wore those dorky compression socks!

Picture at the top of Tereza Macel high-fiving her way to a win at Ironman Lake Placid this past July.