ITU World Triathlon Event San Diego – wow, what a race.
The event looked to be a top-shelf production, as with all the other ITU World Triathlon Events. I feel proud that the U.S.A. could host an event of this caliber at the birthplace of triathlon.
It’s hard for me to know where to begin to comment about this event; but I'll start with a lesson for all triathletes wanting to swim faster.
I watched the event live on ITUTV for under $3 USD. If you're a racing geek and want to see how the fastest triatheltes in the world do it, you can pick up a load of tips by watching the the live event - or the taped long version. If you don't have that kind of time or maybe patience, let me help. We'll begin with a sighting lesson.
For any triathlete that wants to see how the pros sight during a fast - and I mean FAST - paced swim without losing a stroke, see the race coverage at this link. The link provides total race coverage or the taped long version. You can watch as much as you please, but if you’re pressed for time and want to see a great demonstration of how to sight while swimming fast, watch the time segment from 12:55 – to 13:10. In 15 seconds Helen Jenkins shows you how it’s done.
If you’re still lifting your mouth out of the water to breathe while you sight – you’re losing time.
Last week I traveled to Belize City as one of the facilitators for an International Triathlon Union (ITU) Level I Coach Education Course. I consider it a tremendous honor to be chosen to be an instructor for coach education courses around the world.
As soon as the report is posted on the ITU website, I’ll post a link here. That link will contain more information about the course itself. Coach education is part of ITU’s world-wide effort Sport Development portfolio.
Participants included Aesha Garel, Giovanni Alamilla, Jamie Usher and Peter Castillo from Belize. Maria Shakira Gooding and Quanah Patino from Trinidad. Felix Molina came from Mexico and Brett Petersen traveled from the U.S.A. Course facilitators were Rodrigo Milazzo from Brazil and myself.
As a special privilege, we were invited to do the swim practical session at a private island owned by Victor Foreman’s family for 50 years. Named Forman Isles, this small two-acre island is home base for the family lobster fishing business. Not an easy business, as they have to defend their livelihood against thieves, hurricanes and sharks.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter thieves, hurricanes or sharks. You can see in the photos below that the group enjoyed the beautiful water, Peter tried out fishing, Aesha found sea urchins, Rodrigo found a lobster hiding in a conch shell and Maria was able to capture the group having fun.
I’m a lucky dog to meet such smart and wonderful people ~
Above, back row left to right: Peter, Felix, Brett, Rodrigo, and Giovanni. Front row left to right: Jaime, Quanah and Aesha.
Peter doing fishing with a throw line - spool stowed on his head.
Aesha finds sea urchins.
Rodrigo shows a lobster living in a conch shell.
Island owner Victor Foreman shows the jawbone of a shark. (A Nurse Shark?)
My first Olympic love was the Winter Games. I can hardly wait for the action to begin. As you might expect, several of the athletes on the US Olympic Team are from Colorado. It never hurts to root for the home-state gang.
I did see on the news this morning that Lindsey Vonn (said to be the Michel Phelps of the Winter Games) has an injured shin. May this highly-talented skier heal quickly.
In addition to the Olympic Games, this weekend is the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships in Norway . Recall I’ve told you in past postings that the ITU is looking to get the sport of winter triathlon into the Olympic Games. Information on Worlds is found on both the ITU website and the official World Championship website.
Before diving into information about the race, first I’ll tell you a bit about Huatulco [hwa·TOOL·co]. Prior to the trip, I had not heard of Huatulco, located within the state of Oaxaca [wah·HAH·cah]. Huatulco is approximately 150 miles north of the Guatemala border.
Huatulco is one of those coastal cities that have the ocean as a front yard and the mountains in the immediate back yard. It is worth noting that some of best surf waves in Mexico are in this area. Additionally, the Huatulco National Park contains the “most important coral communities of the Mexican Pacific”.
Large portions of the Huatulco resort area are located within an "ecological zone". Good portions of the area is protected from future development and is serviced by modern water and sewage treatment plants so that no waste goes into the pristine bays. Huatulco has been awarded the Green Globe certification, and it is the only resort in Mexico to receive this prestigious award. (Green Globe is the worldwide benchmarking and certification system for the travel and tourism industry across the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental management).
Beautiful beaches and mountains translated to a tough, hilly, technical bike course for elite racers. Most racers were happy that the race organizers planned a relatively flat run. The course was a two-loop swim, eight-loop bike ride and a four-lap run. The women’s race went off at 8:oo am and the men’s race at 10:45. As you can imagine, as the day went on, the temperature went up.
Short videos of the women’s and men’s races can be found on the ITU website.
I traveled to the race to help support the ITU Sport Development Team. The Sport Development program is rooted in Olympic Solidarity. My role is to help athletes with questions on issues such as pacing, nutrition recommendations, pre-race strategies for dealing with the heat and generally giving support to individual athlete goals. The athletes were:
- Place top 10 to remain on their home country’s funding program
- Place better than at any previous World Cup events
- Podium place
On race day, I am usually found arriving early at the transition area with the rest of the support team (Libby Burrell team leader, Jeff Donaldson bike mechanic and Diana Palmer athletic trainer/medical). I help with all pre-race issues and watch the swim start.
After the swim start I made my way to the hill on the bike course. I’m not sure how long the entire hill was, but the grade on the lower section where I stood had to be at least 15 to 18 percent. (It is similar to the steepest section of Old Stage Hill for those that have done Boulder Peak triathlon.) From that section, the course levels some before it kicks up again to the turn-around island. In the sweeping downhill section, riders were easily going in excess of 50mph. Do this eight times.
It was the hill that took the toll on racers. Athletes running a 39 x 25 had to be out of the saddle and powering up this hill to keep in contact with the pack. If the uphill isn’t enough to crush you, the high speeds on the winding downhill section would. I saw several athletes grabbing brake on that section of the course. Only those with good bike handling skills and a dare-devil need for speed were able to benefit on the downhill.
The women’s lead pack stayed mostly together. It was a different story for the men as Matt Charbot from the U.S.A. made a gutsy move about midway through the bike ride. Other riders tried to make a break, but his stuck. Ruedi Wild from Switzerland saw that the pack was not responding to Charbot’s move, so he broke too. By lap 7 of the bike, Charbot had built his lead to 3 full minutes on the main pack and 2 minutes ahead of Wild.
Equally as impressive, both Charbot and Wild held their leads on the oppressively hot run.
Congratulations to all the athletes that achieved their goals.
What I do as race support is but a small part in the overall scheme of this excellent ITU program. The ITU is coordinating a world-wide effort to grow the sport on multiple levels. This is an enormous task; but it is producing results – measureable results. Kudos to the ITU Sport Development program that is enriching a number of International Federations, their respective athletes and coaches around the world.
1) Athletes in the swimming pool at the Las Brisas resort
2) Athletes waiting for the pre-race briefing, left to right: Min Ho Heo, Emma Davis, Fabianne St. Louis, David Bardi (coach), Mehdi Essadiq, Leonardo Chacon, Michel Gonzalez
3) Libby Burrell, ITU Sport Development Director in the foreground with incredible Huatulco shoreline in the background.
There are just a few important races left to score the all-important points that determine which countries get three, two, one or no athletes on the start line for the Olympic Games.
The first important race occurs this weekend and is the 2008 Lisbon ETU Triathlon European Championships. This race is considered a Continental Championship race, earning more points than a World Cup event, less than a World Championship event. For the points breakdown, look here.
There will be no USA athletes at this race, because it is a Continental Championship event. The Continental Championship event for the USA was the 2008 Mazatlan PATCO Triathlon Pan American Championship event, held the same weekend as the Tuscaloosa trials race. Our top-ranked athletes (sans Shoemaker, who already has his Olympic slot) were all at the Tuscaloosa trials race. While the trials race was exciting, there were no ITU points awarded for this event. Points are critical, especially now, as you know.
Jesse, you noticed that Polyansky popped past the USA and we lost our third men's slot. Not only did he step past the USA, he also stepped past Switerland's Olivier Marceau. Now Switzerland becomes the country we need to beat out to be the last country to secure three slots.
Unfortunately for the USA, Switzerland and Russia will have the opportunity to score points this weekend, while the USA (Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed) and Australia (Brendan Sexton) will not.
Dmitri Polyansky (RUS - three country slots): 2500
Olivier Marceau (SUI - three country slots): 2452
Hunter Kemper (USA- two country slots): 2359
Matt Reed (USA): 2305
More than likely, Polyansky and Marceau will both pass Sexton this weekend for accumulated points at this weekend's race.
Polyansky is working from a base of thirteen races, only nine of which count in the total, so his lowest scoring race will be dropped. Marceau is working from a base of only five races, so any points he accumulates will count in his total.
The next race that counts is Madrid. All of the men discussed above are on the start list for that race. As discussed previously, watch for all of the countries discussed above to be positioning their bubble-points person (or people) for a maximum points score. For us, Friman (World Rank = 72), Fretta (WR = 114) and Seymour (WR = 181) should all be working for Kemper and Reed to help them get that third country slot.
Recall, athletes must be ranked in the top 125 in the ranking to be eligible for the Games.
The final race that counts is the World Championships in Vancouver on June 8th. All of the contenders will be there as well.
After the European Championships, I can give you a better guess at what needs to happen for the USA to get that third slot back.
If we do not get the third men's slot back by the end of the World Championships race (the cut off for Olympic ranking points), Big Matty Reed loses his Olympic slot. The final slot will be determined at the Des Moines race. Carefully read the USAT's Amended Selection Criteria at this link to see the selection process in print.
You can watch the European Champs as well as the Madrid race live on the ITU website, Tricast Live.
Do you plan to watch the South African Richard's Bay World Cup online at the ITU website this weekend? Perhaps you should?
In the world of getting Olympic slots for your country, recall from my column about the qualification process that only eight countries will get three men and three women on the start line at the Olympic Games.
Which countries can send three athletes per gender is determined by the "2008 Olympic Qualification" document found on this page. Just select that document to read all of the gory details.
What it boils down to, is Hunter Kemper is currently our third place, USA ranked male and his ranking points total 2359. Complete rankings can be found by selecting the "2008 Beijing Olympic Qualification Rankings" document, found here. Know that the USA is currently the last country to qualify three men on the start line for the Olympic Games.
The country closest to taking that spot away at this weekend's Richard's Bay World Cup race is Russia, specifically Dmitri Polyansky. His current Olympic rank puts him a mere 53 points away from Hunter Kemper. Looking at the scores he's accumulated in his recent races (419, 379, 293, 252, 238, 221, 167, 126, 126) you can see it is completely possible for him to replace his lowest score with a good performance in Richard's Bay.
I have not tried to do the math to figure out what place he needs to get to score that 53 points, but the race point system can be found here by selecting "ITU Points Critera".
If the USA men lose that third slot, the only way to get it back is by Hunter having a solid race at Madrid World Cup. That start list can be found here or the ITU BG Vancouver World Championships June 8th. World Championships is the cut-off date for the Olympic qualification process.
The last country to earn thee starts at the Olympic Games, for the men, depends on the following gentlemen racing for their respective countries. They are all separated by a couple hundred points, as of 4/26/08:
Brendan Sexton - Australia (2507)
Oliver Marceau - Switzerland (2452)
Hunter Kemper - USA (2359)
Dmitri Polyansky - Russia (2306)
Know that all of these guys are on the start list for the Madrid World Cup, found here.
Unless Kemper can perform well, and keep his points higher than the men listed above, we won't need to worry about qualifying a third man to the Olympics at the Des Moines World Cup race.
I'm writing this note on Friday evening in Rhodes. All of the athletes needed to arrive by today, specifically 5:00 pm, in order to get their preferred start location on the start line.
On race day, athletes are introduced in the order of their world ranking. After being introduced, each athlete immediately walks to the starting box of their preference. For this race, starting boxes are marked on the carpeting that overlays a wooden platform. The wooden platform sits directly on the beach and it will be a run, then dive start.
Sometimes, the start lines are on top of pontoons located in the water. A pontoon start is a diving start.
This morning, some of the Team BG athletes swam in the pool that sits in a beautiful location overlooking the ocean. Other athletes wanted to swim in the ocean to test the current and water temperature. This will be a non-wetsuit swim due to the 26-degree Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit) water temperature.
It is fun to hear athletes from different countries speaking their native languages. While I know the world is a big place, traveling to international races is always a great reminder for me that I live in a very small corner of earth.
Five of the nine athletes racing for Team BG at this race were at the Vancouver race I supported in early June. That particular race was cold and rainy. It was a wetsuit swim due to the chilly water temperature.
Somehow, one of the athletes got the wise idea that if any of them placed in the top ten, the support staff should take a dip in the cold, cold, cold water. I did take my suit and towel with me on race day, expecting I would take a blue-lip dip. The highest placing Team BG athlete was 11th.
That athlete, Lisa Norden, wanted a proposition for this race.
Gale says to herself, "Sweet! The water is wonderful here, I'd be more than happy to go in and pay on that bet."
Before knowing the proposition, and based on my assumption, I say "Sure, a race bet is in order!"
Ah...not so fast...Lisa's proposition for this race was that if any of the athletes on Team BG place in the top 10, support staff will take a plunge off of the 5-meter platform that sits in the ocean within the circumference of the course.
As promised, more on the race to the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon.
In some sports, there is a single trials race to select the Olympic team. This has been the case in swimming and running in past years, as examples. Show up to one event, lay it all on the line to make the team. Hopefully, when the Olympic Games come along, you can lay it all on the line one more time to get on the podium as the top of your game, top in the world.
There is certainly attraction to a single event carrying the title "Olympic Trials". There are also some downsides. If you happen to be ill, injured or have an equipment problem at the Trials, your Olympic hopes are done. If you happen to be one of the best in the world, our USA hopes of you being on the podium are done because you didn't make the team.
If the USA knows you are one of the best in the world, why doesn't the National Governing Body (NGB) of USA Triathlon simply appoint you to the team? A committee selection process must be carefully designed to rule out personal biases, preferences and political picks.
Some sports do appoint team members through a selection committee, such as USA Cycling.
I have served on two USA Triathlon Olympic Selection Process Committees and designing a process to select the Olympic team is not easy. I've attended a US Olympic Committee seminar where all of the sports shared their selection processes, including the trials and tribulations of each process. I can tell you there is not a single, perfect selection process design.
The design for USA Triathlon's Olympic Team Selection Process was intended to give athletes more than one opportunity to make the team. This reduces the non-selection of top athletes due to illness, injury or equipment problems. It gives experienced, long-time World Cup racers an opportunity as well as giving newcomers an opportunity.
Yes, there are three races and some might argue that chasing the final spot on the team is too exhausting. Reasonable argument, except the last female to make our 2004 Olympic team was also our only medalist, Susan Williams.
For those of you that have not been following World Cup racing, I will continue this blog series to help you learn about International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing and our Olympic team. The race to Beijing begins in just a few weeks.
A few quick facts and links for those of you that love details:
Triathletes must be ranked in the top 125 in the world to be eligible to compete in the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon. World Rankings are updated after key races and can be found under the "Rankings" tab at the ITU site.
The 2008 Olympic Rankings are based on World Cup performances between June 1, 2006 and June 8, 2008. All the details for the International Triathlon Union's Olympic Qualification process for all countries can be found here.
The entry process into World Cup events is limited. The selection process for USA athletes into World Cup events can be found here.
As the 2007 ITU World Championships wrap up this holiday weekend, elite triathletes around the world begin aiming for the 2007 Beijing World Cup races on September 15 and 16. It is a qualifying opportunity for many athletes and the last opportunity for racers and staff to see the Olympic course prior to the Games. A dress rehearsal not to be missed.