Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Races

WTC v. Rev3 in a subjective race-off

WTC is the World Triathlon Corp.  They own all Ironman races, the Ironman name and all things Ironman.  They charge approximately $700 per full distance race and the races usually sell-out in less than 24 hours.  People choose to do Ironman-branded races because they believe them to be (a) better organized, (b) better supported and (c) bigger, showier, more exciting events than non-Ironman-branded races.  Ironman is not the easiest company to like.  They put on crowded events, disqualify racers if family members cross the finish line with them and take a hard-line with any races that use a name similar to theirs (iron-distance races, for example).  I raced Ironman Louisville last year and they ran out of water at several aid stations in the fourth hour of the bike ride on a day when temperatures reached 95 degrees.  I am not a fan.

Rev3 is Revolution 3, a challenger group that claims to deliver a family-friendly events and a racer-focused experience.  They charge approximately $425 for a full distance race and the races take a long time to sell out.  People do Rev3 races because they believe them to be (a) more fun for the spectators, (b) a lower-key atmosphere and (c) cheaper.  Rev3 is organized by pro triathletes, has great prize purses for the winners of its races, puts finisher photos up on the jumbotron at the finish, encourages family members to run through the finish line and makes personalized nameplates for each racer.  Before this year, I had never done a Rev3 race.  They looked nice, but were not much cheaper than Ironman-branded races, so I thought "meh?  what's the difference?"  However, this year GU sponsored Rev3, so I had the opportunity to race for free.  OK, my race entry was free.  Travel to Knoxville, the hotel and meals we had there were not free.

Rev3 Knoxville Half (race report here)

My only experience of Knoxville prior to the race was a UT/UGA game, that the Dawgs lost miserably.  It was hot, the stadium was steep and crowded, the food was uninspired and we were not impressed.  Driving in for the Rev3 race, though, we saw the other side of town. 

The Sunsphere and World's Fair park were beautiful green expanses along the river and we found a good brewpub for pre-race fueling.  Doug signed the kids up for the Kids Adventure Race (a family scavenger hunt) while I checked myself in.  Then, I joined them for the second half of the race until Dagny got tired and needed to ride on my shoulders. 

The kids practiced running down the finisher's chute in the grassy park where the expo was located.  I met Tyler, king of GU and spent the afternoon hobknobbing with him as we gave out samples of GU to the expo attendees.  Overall, Rev3 had a very welcoming, easy feel.

At the actual race, the swim was pretty cold and the current was challenging.  I just told myself that it was hard for everyone, so I did not stress.  The bike course was hilly!  I knew Knoxville was a mountainous place, but I was slightly under-prepared for all of the climbing on the bike.  This was my first try going easy on the bike, so I just rode along.  Coming off of the bike, I was a little loopy and lost my water bottle and then the jacket for the bottle before I finally started the run.  As you can see, I was a bit discombobulated.

The run was hilly, but not any harder than my neighborhood.  In fact, some of it was in a neat Knoxville neighborhood!  I had a blast and brought it home fast to find Doug, Phat and the Blackmons at the finish.  The kids didn't get to run it in with me because they were having too much fun in the bounce house.

I loved this race and would encourage anyone considering a Rev3 event to give it a try.  It was a lower-key atmosphere than Ironman races.  There was no rush to buy Rev3 branded goods, the expo was not crowded and the race course was not full of spectators.  However, I found this to be a refreshing change from the craziness of Ironman races.  All of the aid stations and other support were exactly where promised and plentifully stocked.  The finishline was exciting and it was very cool to be on the jumbotron.  : )

Ironman Wisconsin Full (race report here)

As anyone who has talked for me for longer than 3 seconds this year knows, we raced Ironman Wisconsin this year in Madison with Team Buttercup, Tom and Doug's awesome family.  If you have never visited Madison, it is just plain awesome.  Doug's family has been telling us this for years, I know, but sometimes we are just slow.  We had a blast checking out all of the cool stuff in and around Madison.  Doug's sister Michelle and brother-in-law John drove up and corralled the kids for us.  Here are my girls checking out the finish line.
Here they are with Owen at the Stube in New Glarus.  New Glarus Brewery is also a must-see.  We also tried Linberger cheese at Baumgartners in Monroe, and toured all of the good restaurants and the farmer's market in downtown Madison.
Here are Doug, Katie, Becky and me at the swim start.  I am on the left, then Becky in the long-sleeve, then Doug and Katie on the right.  We found Karen once we got in the water, so it was a perfect way to start.
Love this photo.  I look tough!  Grrrrr!
Here is John, who tirelessly cheered all day.
Uncle Ray and Aunt Rodonna waiting for the slower racers (me!).
I got to finish with Katie, which was AWESOME!
The gang, minus Doug, who was taking the photo.  Love these ladies.  The kids powered through and were up to watch the last finishers come through at midnight, which was really cool.  I cry every time. 
I loved this race, too.  However, after experiencing Wisconsin, Louisville and the Rev3 Knoxville, I would make the argument that the race-director/owner of an event does not matter as much as the venue.  After Louisville, I was really down on WTC, but Wisconsin was awesome in every way because the town was excited about the race and there were tons of neat things to do there.  Knoxville was great for the same reasons, plus the event venue was fabulous. 

However, the best thing about Madison was the monumentally huge bonus of Doug's family making the trip to support us.  We don't know if there could ever be another race as great as that.  : )

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