I am normally a bit of a seat-of-the-pants racer, waiting until near the deadline before signing up for an event. There are several local events that I truly enjoy and then I sprinkle in some others based on timing, travel and other considerations. At the end of last year, I decided to sign up for the inaugural Ironman Memphis 70.3 scheduled for October. With this commitment, I planned my race season to build toward this event. I signed up for a few races during their Black Friday promotions to save some dollars and seal my commitment.
Like everyone else’s plans, mine changed dramatically in March 2020. Postponements turned to cancellations and even training routines were abruptly altered as facilities closed. I maintained a level of fitness by running and biking near my home, but really missed the camaraderie and drive of participating in events and training with other athletes. Eventually training opportunities with other people appeared, but still there were no races for much too long.
In the past month, I’ve had the privilege of participating in two multi-sport events. I have been reminded of how I have taken racing for granted and just how special it is to have an organized event where like-minded people can pursue the challenges of swimming, biking and running.
The first event in Springfield, Illinois was produced by Tri-Harder Promotions. Steve O’Connor and his team did an excellent job of managing the Sprint, Olympic and Half Distance races in the capital city. With many eyes focused on this race, safety protocols were top priority. Distancing, contact limits and enhanced personal hygiene combined to make the event very safe without losing the essence of the race.
Tri-Harder communicated regularly and thoroughly prior to the race to make all participants aware of the steps taken to ensure the safety of athletes, staff and volunteers. Wellness checks, limited-contact registration, transition corral spacing, time-trial start and increased self-reliance were the main changes that led to a safe and successful return to racing.
From what I saw and heard, athletes were compliant with the changes and welcomed the opportunity to race under the new conditions. I applaud the efforts of O’Connor and his team to devise a plan, seek approval of all governing bodies and then execute the plan without incident. As one of the first post-COVID races, most of the enhancements were new to everyone. The experience helped me to appreciate all those who work behind the scenes to make it possible for athletes of all abilities to participate in events that test our training, fitness and grit.
Last week I participated in the Great Illini Triathlon at Lake Mattoon near Neoga, IL. While it’s a smaller, grass-roots event, the Great Illini was professionally run with an emphasis on safety for all the participants Again, limited contact, increased spacing and the use of masks were highly encouraged from registration to post-race activities.
Mattoon Multisport and Champion Chip 24/7 produced a great event for over a hundred participants. Sprint and Half Distance races were offered with relay, duathlon and aqua-bike variations available for those not wanting to experience all three disciplines. I am grateful that organizers were able to produce these events during the summer of cancellations and quarantine. I’ll have a brief update on each race later, but wanted to send out my sincere thanks to everyone who is making it possible to return to racing.