Trek Women’s Triathlon: The name changes but the people and magic remain the same
Posted Mar 12 2009 4:12pm
Focus on getting women to the finish line in a nurturing environment continues with founders of previous Danskin Series
This week, race production manager Maggie Sullivan and Triathlon Hall of Famer Sally Edwards are visiting Austin to promote the new Trek Women’s Triathlon series which will have a race in Austin on May 17. While technically this is a new race series, it is actually being run and produced by the very same people who put on the Danksin Triathlon the last 19 years. Meanwhile, there is still a women’s triathlon with the Danskin name in it, but with completely new management team. So while this other race has the Danskin brand, the Trek Women’s folks are going to great pains to stress their race is the true Danksin experience.
Confused? The confusion over the name and which race will be the better experience is part of the reason Sullivan and Edwards are crisscrossing the country all spring to promote and educate the public about the new Trek Women’s Triathlon. Last night, they held a kick off event at RunTex and this evening the will hold another party at 6 PM at Bicycle Sport Shop Central at 517 South Lamar. The events include swag, training advice, opportunities to find training partners, and give-aways of some free race entries.
“We want people to know all the things they loved about the old Danskin series will continue with the Trek Women’s Triathlon series plus some great new aspects,” Edwards told me. “In some ways we are victims of our own success in building the previous brand, but we believe the people make a race special, not a corporate brand.”
Maggie Sullivan was the sole employee at Danskin putting on the previous race series since 1990 and worked with Sally Edwards who was the race spokesperson to create the unique women’s only experience. She decided to break from the company and establish her own company Xxtra Mile, LLC, to continue races like the Danskin when she saw changes happening in the company and the women’s apparel market.
Trek Women' s Triathlon Series Manager Maggie Sullivan
Danskin sold the brand two years ago, and Sullivan wasn’t sure how the event would change with the change in ownership. She wanted to put the people who had created the event in charge of how the race was run. “I have a passion for building opportunities for women to find the athlete in themselves and this race is an extension of that passion,” Sullivan said.
The way forward was not always clear: the day Sullivan resigned from Danskin the stock market dropped 800 points. With marketing dollars tight, she wasn’t sure she could find a title sponsor to continue what Sullivan and Edwards have built. “Trek stepped up to the plate and raised the bar when it comes to women’s focused events,” Sullivan continued. “We were able to keep all the same local race organizers from the previous series which is a testament to our dedication to empowering women’s events.”
Sullivan’s new company is majority women owned, and this focus in integrated into all parts of the race production. In addition to continuing to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Team Survivor, 7% of the gross revenues of the race will be donated in the local race communities to charities that help put women part in the workforce.
There will also be new race categories this year including Physically Challenged, Athena (over 150 pounds), and Women in Uniform which will cover women in the armed forces, fire fighters and police. “We already broke new ground in the previous series by being the first to do swim angels and when I volunteered to always be the last athlete across the line,” Edwards stated. “We created a race that emphasizes good energy, sisterhood and inclusiveness. But when Maggie asked me how we could improve the race, I thought about how I want the race to truly reflect the diversity of American women. These categories are a step in that direction.”
Triathlon Hall of Famer and Trek Women' s Triathlon spokesperson Sally Edwards
Edwards has seen a lot of changes in triathlon since she did her first one in 1978 and her first Ironman in 1981. “Back in that day, women who raced triathlons were considered weird, plus our race purse were less than the guys,” Edwards continued. “We were told ‘well there are fewer of you racing.’ That seemed incredibly unfair. I raced the same course as the men; why should I be penalized for the field size?” She said women’s involvement in endurance events has jumped greatly with 60-40 male/female splits in most triathlons and over 50% women’s participation in shorter running races like 5 & 10 Ks. This has lead to more respect for female athletes.
“Our goal is to get the couch potatoes of their duffs and being active,” Edwards said. “It is a harder than 5K fun runs and walks because a lot of women are intimidated by the word triathlon, but the triathlon lifestyle is a true total fitness.”
Sullivan hopes the women who were so loyal to the Danskin series will recognize the experienced hands from Danskin are running this series and make it a success. She hopes to build on a successful triathlon series to also produce supportive women’s only, single sport events like running and cycling events.
“We know what it takes to make a great race that women will want to come back for whether it is the atmosphere or safety,” Sullivan said. “You are only as good as your last race.”