Sunday, September 2, 2012

Triathlon Race Series and Companies - Simplified

Today is the Hy-Vee 5150 Championship race. 5150? Hy-Vee?

The 5150 indicates it's the Olympic/International distance championship race for the 5150 series, owned by World Triathlon Company (aka Ironman). Hy-Vee is the sponsor, a chain of grocery stores in the midwest.

We are now in championship race season and it can quickly get confusing. There are a number of prominent race series - Ironman, Ironman 70.3, 5150, ITU, Xterra and prominent race production companies - Rev3, HITS, Challenge series. They vary on race distances offered, types of venues (i.e. city or amusement park), and drafting. I thought I'd take a few minutes and try to sort out some of the biggies for myself as well as others. Let me know if I've missed anything major or have anything incorrect

There are other race series in addition to the major ones I list below including many popular regional series. For instance, I participate in the Virginia Triathlon Series races as part of SetUp events. While there is no year-end championship race, they do offer overall and age group awards for season-end standings for each participant's five best races. I only race in USAT sanctioned events, which would include (I suspect) most of the races below.

These are some biggies with championship races:
World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) - controls all things M-Dot branded. Races that use the same distances as Ironman, but that are not owned by WTC, are often called iron-distance or "full" triathlons. Similarly, half-iron or "half." The 5150 series corresponds to an Olympic or International distance race, with 5150 indicating a 1.5k swim, 40k bike, and 10k run. (Technically they are off by a factor of ten and it should be 51500 but that makes for an awkward logo). These races are all non-drafting (bike), and each of the race distances has a championship race.
  • Ironman (140.6) - Championship is in Kona, HI
  • Ironman 70.3 - Championship in Las Vegas
  • 5150 - Championship in Des Moines
ITU World Triathlon Series - the International Triathlon Union series features draft-legal cycling, with multi-lap bike and run courses that are designed to be spectator-friendly. This is the style of racing that was used in the Olympics. The series culminates with a Grand Final World Championship, that is run as part of a multi-day event that includes World Age Group Championships, Paratriathlon, and Aquathlon.

Life Time Fitness Triathlon Series - This features six non-drafting Olympic distance races culminating in the Toyota U.S. Open Cup race in Dallas Texas in October.  Noteable races include Nautica South Beach Tri, CapTex, and the Life Time Chicago Tri.

Xterra - This is an off-road series of generally shorter races (i.e. 1.5k swim, 30k bike, 10k run) with single-track mountain biking rather than road biking, and trail running. There is a championship race.

You'll see these series too, though none feature championship races.

Rev3 - The Revolution3 company focuses on "family fun" races that take place at amusement parks around the country. They offer one Full Rev (140.6), Half Revs (70.3) and Olympic Revs.

Challenge Family Race Series - This is a European-based alternative to Ironman races, with primarily full-distance races and a few halves. They boast some of the fastest and most difficult courses including Challenge Roth, Challenge Cairns, and Challenge Barcelona.

HITS Triathlon Series - This is an offshoot of the Horse Shows in the Sun group. This new race series offers a full "desitnation" weekend of racing with events at every distance from sprint to full and an "open" race of a 100m swim, 3 mile bike, and 1 mile run, that is free to enter.

While the expansion of triathlon is terrific, one hopes it doesn't get so complex and fragmented that it turns people away. I've seen that happen in other sports. As an age-grouper, I'm glad to just race in anything USAT sanctioned and and leave it at that.