Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Make Athletes Dislike Your Race Before Even Participating: The Santa Cruz Triathlon

I am a fan of race-morning packet pick-up. In fact, I believe it should be an immutable truth of racing for all races that don't involve ridiculous planning logistics (like an Ironman). No Olympic distance race should be without this option.

What if your car breaks down? What if you get there late the night before, because you're coming from some other family/work obligation? What if you simply can't afford to spend the night in your race's location, but are willing to get up at the butt crack of dawn to enthusiastically participate?

Santa Cruz Triathlon, I hope you're listening. This race ironically opened itself up as a collegiate race, offering a student discount, hoping to draw competition, while at the same time making packet pick-up available only until 3pm the day BEFORE the race. I say ironically, because a student discount will not cover the price of a hotel in Santa Cruz, where the cheapest, crappiest motels start at $130/night in September. To cover that, you'd have to offer entirely free entries.

That is how to make athletes dislike your organization before they have even participated in your race.

It is clear that you've made a promise to bring revenue into the city of Santa Cruz, as giving back to the community is your non-profit race's primary goal, but by making packet pick-up available only until 3pm the day before the race, and making it mandatory, you are grossly alienating the one faction of athletes you were so enthusiastically courting: college students. And, for that matter, you're ticking off anyone else who loves triathlon, and lives close enough to make the trek to participate in your race--but not twice in two days. The cost in gas alone to make the double trek is ridiculous.

We will still spend money in Santa Cruz. We will eat at Saturn Café. And we will be glad to pay the entry fee, knowing that it will help the local community. And we might have even gladly shelled out the cash to spend the night, but being forced to do so only embitters what would have been an otherwise enjoyable decision. Let us decide if we'd like to stay or not.

So, Santa Cruz Triathlon, your race looks fabulous. It is sure to be a ton of fun, and to do a lot of good for Santa Cruz, as was originally intended. But do not force your athletes into difficult financial decisions beyond deciding whether or not to pay your entry fee. The only difficult thing you should be forcing us to do is jump into the freezing ocean at 8am on Sunday.


  1. Wow. What a lame idea. Lousy race directing turns me off a race faster than anything else...that and a hefty price tag on a po-dunk race.

  2. this is something I hate also, Erin. Sometimes it can be justified if the race has a huge field or has to start very early like some 70.3 races. But for Loympic distance or sprints race morning registration should be made available.

  3. Yes it should. Everything about the race I mentioned (having now completed it) was fabulous. It was extremely well produced, but that was a giant sore spot on an otherwise commendable production.