Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Magic Show

The MultiSport Canada HQ Trailer at the Kingston Triathlon (one of the longest running triathlons in North America!)

I first heard the term, "The Magic Show" in the context of endurance sports events, from 8-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser, when Paula was working for Graham Fraser, when Graham was running all of the Ironman races in North America. Paula was referring to the Magic Show that was the travelling road show that was Ironman at the time - moving from race location to race location, arriving in the Ironman race site, in town-x, and transforming the race site, into the amazing thing that the Ironman race site was with all the bells and whistles! But this could describe almost all triathlons, running and cycling events. The Magic Show goes on all over the place at thousands of events every weekend!

Endurance sports races/events, be they triathlons, running or cycling all do this. They transform a city street, a park, a conservation area, where ever the race is, into what the race/event participants see on race day. Almost everything, be it the finish gantry, the porta-potties, the signage and so on, has to be brought in and set up. The transformation for some of the bigger races - say the big city Marathons, or the Ironman triathlons can be extraordinary.

However, the work, and the magic, that goes into even mid-sized races/events, is substantial! I am the official race and event announcer for the ReCharge With Milk triathlon series in Ontario that is run by MultiSport Canada (MSC). These are triathlon events that can have upwards of 1,000 entrants.  The series itself is 11-events stretched out over the course of the summer in Southern Ontario. It's the largest triathlon series in Canada! At each event venue, be it a quiet conservation area, or a busy down-town location in a mid sized city, the Magic Show goes on and they transform the place into an awesome race venue for the athletes.

With a triathlon you are really putting on three races - a swim race, a cycling race and a running race, with a transition area, a space for an Expo and then the finish area infrastructure. It's a lot of work to get this all organized and set up and each race site is unique. The minute details - just keep coming and coming: Heavy rains the week before have made a part of the what was supposed to be the transition area boggy. A change in road permitting, will not allow access to a certain road. Last minute road construction that was not communicated can close roads. And so on!

The MSC crew move all their stuff in and out for each event in the series - it's remarkable to watch the set-up and the tear-down that happens and the work that goes into all this!

Nothing seems to phase the MSC crew - even horrific race-day weather - which is rare, but NEEDS to be planned for with details, is all worked out in advance, so when they face it, there is a plan and you implement it. Nothing is left to chance! That's part of the Magic Show to! Although, that's not really magic, just extraordinarily amazing planning and implementation!

I've often said, if you want to hire a Race/Event Director - hire a Triathlon Race Director, because, they are not putting on one race, they are putting on three races simultaneously!

Race participants know none of this. They just show up and expect that everything will be in place. That there will be no wait at the porta-potties and that the 10K run is . . . measured to be exactly 10K. (With mobile GPS now, even course length accuracy is very important). That everything will be taken care of for them at the race. The expectations for running, triathlon and cycling race/event participants these days are VERY high. An event management company like MultiSport Canada knows this, and they go overhead and above to make it a great experience for each and every participant.

MSC Founder John Salt* even stands just past the finish-line at every race and shakes the hand of every person that crosses the finish line. I've heard John say, "If you want to know if an athlete had a good time at your race, just stand at the finish-line and shake their hand. If they have a good or bad day they will tell you right there. In 14 years, I've only had a few that were unhappy"!  Now that's being in touch with your customers!

And that's the story of the Magic Show!

* Some bonus content: A podcast - Bob Babbitt interviewing MSC's John Salt A great listen!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

It's All About The Rubber!

For now - on a good road!

Life's to short to ride on lousy rubber!

I've never understood this - people spend thousands on bikes and then go cheap on the one part of the bike that connects them to the ground - their tires! Not sure why that is. This small contact patch, your front and back tires have with the road, is vitally important to the performance and enjoyment of your riding.

Many are paranoid about punctures, and this over-rules EVERYTHING when it comes to tire choice. It is worth being worried about, but not to the extent that many cyclists and triathletes concern themselves with. I've found the best clincher tires, installed properly to actually be remarkably durable! My wife, top coach and elite level road racer Paolina Allan and myself, ride a considerable number of kilometers in a given year of riding. On average, we get 2 - 3 flat tires between the two of us each year. That's it!

Our current tire of choice is the Continental 4000S II tires. We've had these tires on most of our wheel-sets for several years now. We ride on a combination of good roads, bad roads, really bad roads, and even stretches of gravel roads a couple of times a month. We don't baby these tires in any way . . . and that's the flat rate: 2 - 3 on-the-road flats/year. Last year I think there was only 1 between the two of us!

Over the course of many years of cycling, we've ridden the best tires from, Vittoria and Michelin as well, and the results are similar.

I'm not a numbers and tech-guy but those that know far more about this than I do tell me that, the Continental 4000S II's offer the best all around combination of performance, and reasonable durability of all of the top tires these days. I like the feel of them, and on the durability side, our own on-the-road experience speaks for itself. Also, they go on/off all the rims/wheels that we need to get them on/off easily - particularly after they have been on a rim for a bit and inflated at the proper pressure.

I can't emphasis this enough - proper installation of tires, from the removal of old tires and a flat tube through to the installation of a new tube and tires is VERY important. It's not that hard, and it is something you very well may need to do on the side of the road on a training ride or a race! No one should need to make, "the call of shame", nor need to abandon a race because of a flat tire! It's a minor inconvenience! If you know what you are doing, it's a 2 - 3 minute exercise and you are back rolling again in no time. There are numerous online resources for this. Commit to being able to do it yourself! Many get flat, after flat, after flat . . . these are almost always installation issues.

Which brings me to my final point about rubber and tires - many over inflate. Triathletes are notorious for this. It will vary from tire size to tire size, and rim shape ( the new wider rims vs standard rims), and rider weight. But generally speaking, the proper psi, is less than you think - which will render a more comfortable, smoother and ultimately faster ride. Check with your tire mfg - most have a chart on their web sites.

As always - Your Mileage May Vary(YMMV)

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Triathletes - Two Special Requests for 2015!

Two time Olympic triathlon medalist, Simon Whitfield now encourages others to experience triathlon. Here's he's helping out para-triathletes at the Toronto Triathlon Festival. Picture - Bob Hatcher

No New Year resolutions for me. However I do have some requests for you.

Are you a triathlete? Have you been at it for a few years now? If you have, and you know the ropes, I have a couple of special requests for you for 2015:

1. Encourage two people to do their first triathlon this year! Help them out. Be their mentor, and make sure that they get to a starting line of a triathlon race sometime this year. Don't drone on and on about all of YOUR training, the 50 hours a week you train, and the 200 Ironman races you have done! That's most likely to discourage your recruits. Keep it simple, for them.

Many small local races ( read on to #2) have basic entry level triathlons, that are very short. You barely need to train for these things. A decent level of fitness, commitment and an open mind, is all that is required. The ReCharge With Milk  triathlon series run by Multisport Canada in Ontario has races called a Give-It-A-Tri (See - the name is perfect for first timers!) at many of their events. The distances are: 400m-swim/10K -bike/2.5K-run. This is something anyone can do, with a basic level of fitness and training.

2. Race More! There's a movement in the food business of eating local. It's better for you. It's better for local businesses and farmers and it's better for the environment. I'm saying - Race Local. It's better for you. It's better for local race organizers and businesses and it 's better for the environment!

These races don't have to be big, long, "world championship" type of events. It can be a local 5K, or perhaps a local sprint triathlon. Don't discount the 5K - 5K run fitness is the foundation of all other running performances! That 18 - 30 minutes you stay right at the edge, will tweak ALL of the key physiological parameters to make you faster at ALL races distances!

Finally, we do all this training so that we can race - that's where the thrill, emotion and the fun is. Don't you want to experience more of that, and be better/faster? Years ago there was saying, that seems to have been lost in the mists of training time  - "Racing IS the best training" It's true!

Change things up this year!

Get more people into this great sport of triathlon and get out and race more yourself.

See you at the finish line!

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