Falls Creek vs the Futile Chasing of PBs
You’ve probably heard by now all about the awesome new long course triathlon at Falls Creek, Victoria. I lined up with 500-odd others (I think we were all a bit odd to be there) at the start of this brand new race, soaking in the atmosphere that was unique in my years of experience in triathlon. I’m not talking about atmosphere in terms of the location; I’m talking about the atmosphere of 500 athletes lining up for a race that would be way different to anything they had ever faced.
There were so many unknowns such as how racing at that altitude would affect the body, not to mention the concerns about hypothermia and the technical nature of the bike and run courses. I would imagine it would be like the start line of an Ironman where EVERY competitor was an Iron virgin. These brave souls (yeah, o.k. I’m talking it up a bit) were going against the grain as far as the direction of triathlon, especially long course and Ironman triathlon, over the last ten years.
In my view the sport has been ‘painting itself into a corner’ for two reasons:
1. The tendency of many/most triathletes to race each year in the search of a personal best (PB) over the distance, leading to a notable movement of competitors to the faster races and courses. The clear shift of competitor numbers between Australia’s two M-dot races in Port Macquarie and Busselton is a good example.
2. The event owners who understandably are trying to attract the biggest fields their races can accommodate as they are trying to run a profitable business after all. It seems now that if you want to get the numbers, offer a lightning-fast course.
So what’s this about the futile chasing of PBs? Well, think about it. If your main motivation in this sport is to improve your race distance PB year after year, there is the temptation to find faster races to enter, especially if you have not achieved your PB goal in your one key race of the season. I believe this leads to the trend of competitors to enter races such as Ironman WA, Ironman Austria and Shepparton Half Ironman* for example, at the expense of races like Ironman Australia and Ironman St George (it will be interesting to see the final competitor numbers for the 2011 Utah event, it sounds like an animal of a course).
This leads to a problem. Once you have done one of the faster races (and hopefully got that PB), where do you go from there? Back to the same race(s) next year, I guess. As an age grouper that gets satisfaction from a PB, I fully understand the reasoning behind the current trends. I also think that races like Busselton are great for a first attempt at the distance and this has likely attracted a lot more triathletes to race over the Ironman distance than would otherwise be the case.
However, in my case I start to lose a bit of passion for the sport if I front up to the same races season after season. Like most of us I have my favourite races and try and fit them in each year but I’m also always on the lookout for something new, a different experience that will fire me up a bit and keep the passion burning (I better leave it at that, I’m starting to get a woody).
Enough waffling, what I want to say is we are lucky to have organisers like SuperSprint that take the risk on a brand new event at a brand new location in Falls Creek where PBs are just not going to happen (unless it was your first attempt at the distance, in which case you are a hero for choosing this event for your first!) It was great to be part of this race and I was impressed by the toughness of the course AND the fairness of the competitors. I guess you don’t enter a race with this many unknowns in order to draft or otherwise cheat your way to a result.
On another note, I’m already hearing talk from competitors about how SuperSprint can improve the course by taking out the steep hill from each lap of the run. Come on people, I think you’re missing the whole point of a race like the Falls Creek Long Course Triathlon State Championships!
Controversially yours, Rob Hill
*Shepparton can be a very fast course – with good weather conditions. When it’s 43 degrees celsius with bushfire smoke in the air on race day I’d probably move it to the other list!