The Black Diamond Half has hovered around 200 participants. While financially viable, we learned in our first few halfs that athlete experience & safety got messy toward the end of the day. And because we don't particularly want to produce messy events, we cancelled it. Here's why....
Consider the 2018 Ironman Coeur d'Alene with 1,432 athletes that finished under 8:30 (Ironman's official Cut-off). In the last hour of the race, there were 206 eventual official finishers still on the run course - all of them separated by seconds and certainly within sight of each other.
At the 2016 Black Diamond Triathlon, we had only 22 eventual finishers on the course for the last hour, some separated by as much as 15 minutes and miles apart. Not only was it difficult for our run staff, volunteers and radio personnel to keep track of each athlete, each of those athletes at times couldn't even see each other. This eliminated a valuable safety net that Ironman has built in because of their high numbers - the significance of which I hadn't appreciated until after the race. Triathletes look out for each other. Even with a course that's well marked and volunteers in place - things happen. On occasion, well-intentioned athletes make some unexpected turns especially when alone. There were athletes who got lost and others who had a disappointing finish or no finish line experience.. So, discouraged from a messy execution, we cancelled the half for 2017.
Well, we had a lot of requests to bring it back - and darn it, we wanted to bring it back too. So after some thinking, we are bringing it back and putting some strategies in place not just to keep everyone safe, but to guarantee everyone a fun finish line experience. These strategies aren't cut-offs (yuck)...we calling them 'Skip-Aheads' for lack of an industry-specific term. It's something we've been doing at the Lake Meridian Triathlon for a few years.
One such Skip-Ahead that's published right now on the website is on the Run Course at Mile 7.1. (pictured here) Athletes who aren't there before 3:05pm - 7 hours after the women's start - will skip the 2nd 2-mile out-and-back on 384th and continue from mile 9.3 toward the finish. The athlete loses 2 miles (and an official finish time) but keeps moving toward their finish line with athletes in sight. The run staff now has fewer physical miles to keep track of and athletes in closer proximity to each other.
Triathlon's "Cut-Offs" have always felt ugly to us considering the investment of time and money athletes and their families make in preparation for a race and the finish line. It's a tough call for Race Directors, though. We're torn between wanting every athlete to participate in the whole race no matter what, and the reality that leaving a course open indefinitely really impacts volunteers, race staff, the budget and most importantly - athlete safety & experience.
At that Coeur d'Alene 70.3 we mentioned earlier, there were at least 100 athletes who started and didn't finish. Some were cut-off at the swim finish, others on the bike course and run courses. Their day ended - which I suppose is a necessity given the sheer number of athletes Ironman needs to keep track of. Being a smaller race gives us some freedom to create a different experience and that's rewarding for everyone. The natural inclination for a RD is to want great big numbers. More gratifying is producing a great event - no messiness - for everyone involved. That's what we're shooting for.
Thanks for your interest in the Black Diamond Tri - and for reading this to the end! We'd love to honor your preparation in 2019 and serve you up a fantastic experience - including a finish line you'll remember for a long long time. Find RTB Events Here.
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