Triathlon in the New River Valley of Virginia – A Pre-Race Competitive Intelligence Report

Triathlon participation is booming. The number of racers grew to 1.2 million U.S. triathletes in 2009, an 11% jump from 2008 and a 50% jump from 2007.
The Wall Street Journal

Secrets are revealed during body-marking for a triathlon I have written extensively about the business of triathlon, citing multiple sources on the regional economic development benefits of hosting a triathlon. Projecting from 2010 data on the demographics of triathlon from USA Triathlon (USAT), U.S. participation in triathlons in 2011 could exceed 2 million.  That's a lot of "heads in beds" – visitors who stay in an area's lodging, eat in its restaurants, shop in its store, like what they see and consider relocating their corporate offices, buy houses

The USAT-sanctioned TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon will be held on Sunday, June 26, 2011 beginning at 7:00 AM ET in Christiansburg, Virginia, currently with over 200 participants.  Here are thorough, comprehensive official event details from TriAdventure (.pdf), the event's organizers. I've yet to swim in the pool, but I did check out the bike and run courses and consult with TriAdventure, so, on the business of doing the triathlon in Christiansburg, Virginia, I have a pre-race competitive intelligence report for readers of Handshake 2.0.

First a quick overview:  The "tri" in triathlon refers to the three sports comprising the event – swimming, biking, running, usually in that order, often termed "legs," i.e. swim leg, bike leg, etc. What really happens, though, is a participant swims, changes into bike gear during a transition – termed "Transition 1" or "T1" – bikes, changes into run gear during "Transition 2" or "T2," then runs.  Each phase – swim, T1, bike, T2, run – is timed.  I usually finish in the bottom 10th of women overall, but my T2 rocks – I finished 63rd of 80 women in the race but was 4th of women overall for T2 at the recent Salem YMCA Sprint Triathlon (results page) – because I was taught – by the man himself! – the Coach Jim McGehee T2 Technique(TM) – (trademark symbol added by me!)

Second, it's never too late to do a triathlon.  Online registration may have closed, but unless the race cap has been filled, on-site registration is permitted and speedy thanks to triathlon production company Set Up Events.  The TriAdventure Summer Sprint starts at 7:00 AM, the transition area opens at 5:00 AM, and all participants are asked to arrive by 6:00 AM, so I'd recommend arriving between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM for on-site registration.  Important, though – a picture ID is mandatory.

Third, "I can't swim AND bike AND run!" is not a problem.  Relays are welcome!  Get some friends to go with you and do the parts you can't.  You can also do two of the three legs yourself and take a ringer along with you to make up the difference.

Fourth, watching a triathlon is an intense sports spectator experience. Without stands, spectators get to watch the athleticism of brave little kids to stalwart granddads, from novices to seasoned professionals, speeding from sport to sport.   

Fifth, parking is always a pain at a triathlon.  Hundreds converge on an event facility usually with a hundred parking spaces.  A spot or two may be available at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, but I'll park in the designated overflow spaces at Christiansburg High School, put my gear in my backpack, and bike downhill to the CAC. Here's a Google Maps link showing my plan. 

Inside scoop on the TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon:  The transition area will be in the back of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center (CAC). Participants who have completed the swim leg will exit out the back of the CAC to the transition area for T1.  With their bikes, they'll head up the short hill out of the CAC, turn right onto Mill Lane, then turn right onto Depot Street.  When they return to the transition area for T2 to prepare for the run leg, they'll head up the short hill out of the CAC on foot, turn right onto Mill Lane, then left onto Depot Street.  Bike is to the right, run is to the left.

TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon - Bike CoursePlease click the image for a larger view of the bike course.

The bike leg is an "out-and-back" – out one way, back the same way - from Depot Street through various streets to Mudpike Road.  Mudpike is newly paved, has only a few rolling hills, so it will be perfect for first-timers and very fast for cyclists!  For spectators, I recommend walking out Mill Lane to Depot Street because the home stretch is a hill and that's where you'll see the real drama of a triathlon – the heroism of the mom determinedly pedaling to finish her first triathlon at 50, the nationally-ranked triathlete, slim and cut, impossibly accelerating the steeper the hill gets. Once they pass, take a look at the numbers inked in black marker on their calves and marvel at their ages.

The run leg?  Well, let's just say the steep downhill start to the out-and-back through scenic Cambria means a steep uphill finish.  Other hills will provide pleasant surroundings for those of us who will be out there with plenty of time to look around.  My 5K time a month ago at Salem was 44 minutes, so I'll be cheering "You go!" as fellow triathletes pass.  Again, for spectators of athleticism, the place to be will be that final uphill on Depot Street, but most fans will be at the race finish, currently planned for the front of the CAC, listening for the name of their rock star triathlete to be announced over the loudspeaker!

TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon - Run CoursePlease click the image to see a larger view of the run course.

A note:  I am one of a team of individuals who attempted to create the first USA Triathlon-sanctioned sprint triathlon event in the New River Valley of Virginia.  We organized the race two years in a row, then had to cancel it twice due to construction delays past promised completion dates at the event facility.  Do I wish I were writing about that event rather than the TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon 2011, the true first USAT-sanctioned triathlon to be held in the New River Valley?  Yes, I do.  Even now, I still feel crestfallen. That was a huge disappointment.  Ah, well. I don't apologize for being a dreamer and I'm so grateful TriAdventure made sanctioned triathlon happen in the New River Valley. I did my best to be the very first to register for the TriAdventure Tri to show my support and belief. And I'm still dreaming – and predicting - the New River Valley of Virginia will be a destination site for triathlons and multisport events.

Hope to see you, to quote my father, "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," early Sunday morning at the TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon!

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You're invited to read more about the business of triathlon on Handshake 2.0.

Handshake 2.0 is a sponsor of the New River Valley Triathlon. Coldwell Banker Townside, Realtors, BlacksburgLodging.com and One-on-One Endurance are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

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