The New Sport Of Kings: A Conversation With Jeff Henderson, Part Deux and Giveaway!
Posted Mar 25 2010 9:15am
My conversation with race director Jeff Henderson was excellent. I only wish that I had more time to sit down with him and follow up on a lot of my questions. Good thing I have no problem being an incredibly persistent nuisance. I may just have to pick this guy's brain somewhere down the line again.
TDOF: Jeff, it seems like the excitement with triathlon is a fairly recent phenomenon. Over the last couple of years, I have had more and more of my friends, and colleagues sign up for their first sprints, and some are now considering longer events. Why is triathlon garnering such widespread popularity now?
JH: I think the popularity of the sport is regional. There are big differences between the east coast and pacific northwest with regard to its popularity. Right now, triathlon is far more popular on the east coast, but it is slowly gaining popularity in the northwest. The popularity has to do with a couple of things:
First, a lot of America is mired in this obesity epidemic, and triathlon is at the other end of that spectrum. Triathlon, as you know, is a lifestyle. You think about nutrition, sleep, hydration, training, and keeping physically fit, not for vanity, but for performance.
Secondly, I think that people are just looking for the next challenge. The fastest person is doing an Olympic distance triathlon in two hours. No one sees an olympic distance as the ultimate endurane challenge. A lot of people are decent runners, or swimmers, or bikers, but seldom do newcomers come to the sport with experience in all three. Triathlon is both mentally and physically demanding. That is attractive to a lot of people looking at challenging themselves.
TDOF: How about competition? Do you think a lot of people who use to compete in high school and college are just looking for an opportunity to remain competitive ?
JH: Sure, and when people are seeing their friends training and competing in events, they say, "If they can do it, I can do it too."
TDOF: Have the entrants into triathlons diminished at all following the multisport phenomenon?
JH: Surprisingly, they are all growing. More triathletes means more races. Partly, they both feed each other.
TDOF: I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but when the Ironman World Championships was broadcast live on universalsports.com , I kept my computer on the table, and would watch, and check parts of the race throughout the day to see what was happening. I would love to watch triathlon on television. Obviously, there are some inherent problems with it becoming a television sport. When NBC airs the Ironman, they edit it into a pretty two hour package and cover the winners and three or four other "feel-good" stories. Is this just the reality of the sport, or can triathlon make the jump to a mainstream television sport?
JH: I think that triathlon will continue to grow and become more and more mainstream. The draft legal olympic distance was driven by television. The reason it was accepted into the Olympics had to do with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) asking the ITU to create a race that would be under two hours. Part of the reason is the IOC wants the marathon to continue its tradition of being the marquis event. So the ITU decided to combine the longest pool swim (1.5 km,) longest track distance (10 km) with a 40 km cycle. It debuted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with decent success. Elite triathletes are finishing that under two hours. The advantage to this distance is that every discipline is a loop course and it is draft legal. This way, great cyclists are neutralized a bit so the races remain close, and because of the loops (often ranging from four to eight in both the run and the bike,) athletes are not disappearing into the countryside for prolonged periods. Spectators get more of the race.
TDOF: What is next for the sport? Where do you see it going from here?
JH: Winter triathlon is still trying to gain acceptance into the Olympics, and it is steadily gaining more popularity with the multisport community in the United States. It is extremely popular in Europe, but we do not have a tradition of cross country skiing like they do in Europe and there are not as many places in the winter to do it.
TDOF: My son competed in his first triathlon last summer and really loved it. Is triathlon something that more youth are getting involved with?
JH: Yes, more youth are getting involved providing growth. They have a lot of relays, youth are attending youth championships where three compete on each team. Each would do short tri. Something like an 800 swim, 8 mile bike, and 2 mile run. These are becoming social events in Europe, where the whole family goes and makes a day, or weekend out of it.
TDOF: If I raced Craig Alexander one-on-on, do you think I could beat him?
TDOF: I started swimming sans fancy drinks in coconut cups with umbrellas about four years ago.
JH: In that case, definitely not. Crowie would be so far ahead of you after the swim that you wouldn't stand a chance.
Followup: The first part of my post dealt with the cost of running races. I asked Jeff if we could have a giveaway for one of the events that he puts together. Since most of my readership comes from the east coast, Sir Jeff has graciously allowed me to post an entrance fee giveaway for the Fly By Night Duathlon at the Watkins Glen Motor Speedway on 29 May, 2010. Here is the skinny on the raffle. Since some of you may not want to be considered for the raffle because you live across the country, those of you who do, will get:
1) one entry for leaving a post indicating that you are down for some duathlon on 29 May.
2) You will be given an additional entry if you head over to the Musselman Triathlon page on Facebook and become a member. Leave Jeff a message letting him know what a cool hombre he is, and that you saw the giveaway on my blog. Leave a post letting me know you've done so.
3) Post this contest on your blog and leave a post letting me know you've done so.