With just over 100 participants on Sunday, July 19th, the iDaph Events team proved that, with an abundance of planning and safety precautions, successful live endurance events are still a possibility for our community. Participants donned face coverings before and after the event, had their temperatures checked and kept themselves socially distanced from other participants. Those safety precautions certainly didn’t hinder the irreplaceable excitement of an in-person event, and participants were happy to be racing again in a competitive environment.
“This coronavirus has really forced us to make some big changes in the endurance event industry,” says Daphne Kirkwood, Owner of iDaph Events and Race Director for the Asheville Triathlon event. “And there just isn’t a cookie cutter way to design and produce an in-person event during a pandemic. But I’m really happy with how safely everything turned out for this in-person, multi-sport event.”
Patton Park was a great alternative to our previous venue in Asheville, due to its proximity to the Oklawaha Greenway, and its large 50 meter pool. Patton Park is maintained by the YMCA of Western North Carolina and owned by the City of Hendersonville.
Race Results - Top Finishers
The overall female and male winners and new course record holders of the Asheville Triathlon in Hendersonville, were Jenn Stanton and Ricky Flynn. Jenn Stanton is a pro triathlete from Charlotte, NC and had a time of 1:15:46. Ricky Flynn, also a pro triathlete and from Greenville, SC, completed the course in 58:23.
READ OUR BLOG ABOUT JENN STANTON AND RICKY FLYNN
Sonni Dryer, who’s the head triathlon coach for Queens University in Charlotte, was 2nd in the men’s division with a time of 1:05:22. Abby Smith was the second place female finisher with a time of 01:16:38. Abby’s brother, Connor Smith, came in third in the overall male category with a time of 01:06:18. Both Abby and Connor are locals, and currently attend Asheville School. CLICK HERE FOR RACE RESULTS
Changes due to COVID-19
In order to ensure the participant’s safety, transition zones looked a bit different this year. Instead of having bike racks set up in a typical transition zone, participants were asked to transition at their vehicles. With a sprawling parking lot dedicated to the transition zone, participants were asked to keep all of their equipment, bikes and gear in their vehicles.
“This type of transition provided a contactless and socially distanced event throughout the entire transition from swim to bike, and from bike to run,” Daphne said. “And people could just keep their bikes on their bike racks at their cars until they got into transition. It went really well. They had plenty of room to set up their things in front of, behind, beside and or in the median/grass area. We also had spaces in between some cars giving additional space.”
The swim format also looked different this year. This year, participants were given a wave start time based on the swim time they submitted when they signed up for the event. They were given a full minute before the next swimmer entered the pool, which usually gave them an entire lane to themselves. We also socially-distanced participants, 6 feet apart using circular, removable stickers on the pool deck, while they were waiting for their turn to swim. We never had more than 25 swimmers at the pool or on the deck at a time. Everything was very spaced out from start to finish. No spectators were allowed at the pool or at the finish line.
“Overall, the event took a few hours longer to get everyone through the swim, which is quite a change from the Asheville Triathlon in the past, but that was our way of making sure swimmers were properly spaced apart, socially-distanced and safe,” Daphne said.
Other changes to the event included increased signage regarding safety protocols and sanitization, temperature checks at the entrance (conducted by PT Solutions), a drive through packet pickup the day before the event, and the absence of an after-race party. Participants were asked to bring their own nutrition and water, and to wear masks before and after the event. Spectators were asked to wear masks at all times, and were limited to a small number of designated, socially distanced spectator cheer zones on the course.
The event did have its hiccups…
There was some confusion at this year’s event out on the bike course, and that’s where the presence of volunteers were sorely missed.
“We had to cut back on volunteers this year due to COVID and, although we tried to emphasize prior to the event that participants should check out the race resources with our social media course previews, course maps, a digital event guide and pre-ride or drive the courses, not everyone took advantage of these opportunities. In a socially-distanced event participants really have to pay attention to where they are going. Since there is so much space in between participants it is nearly impossible to follow someone around on the courses. I know when you’re in RACE MODE it’s sometimes easy to miss course markings on the pavement and yard signs with arrows, etc. Next time we will continue to emphasize the importance of knowing the courses and the markings.” said Daphne.
“The bike route had a quarter mile gravel section on it so that didn’t work well with some of the narrow tires on triathlon and road bikes,” Daphne added, “and there was some talk of the transition between swim to bike and bike to run, being too long, which unfortunately is difficult to change considering the location of the event and spacing protocols necessary for a safe event.”
“But, all in all, people said they would come back and do it again! In fact, according to our race survey, 83 percent said they would come back in September and/or next summer if we decided to have this same event in the same location. We took a lot of time to plan this event with safety and social distancing in mind, and we took the pandemic very seriously throughout the entire event. It was great to see people racing again and having fun. We had to get creative and do a lot of meticulous planning, and it was worth it!”
The Asheville Triathlon was a strong boost for the local economy. Most of the participants were from the Asheville area, but almost 40% of participants traveled 50 miles or more to attend. Because of its success, iDaph Events is planning to hold another triathlon at a future date at the same location. Details will be posted at https://idaph.net/.
“iDaph did a fabulous job putting on the event with the location switch - everything from the drive through packet pick up to a rolling swim start and finish line bags to-go. It was definitely a different race day experience, but it worked.” ~ Jenn Stanton, female overall winner.
“I thought the race did a good job with using specific COVID protocols in order to make it a safe and fun experience for everyone. ~ Ricky Flynn
“Thanks for a great race and race plan. I felt safer racing yesterday than going to the grocery store.” ~ Carlton Beverly Cooper
“Just wanted to say thank you so much for an incredible event this morning. It was my first tri and it was a blast - felt safe, so so organized, and positive. I know there ended up being some challenges with the bike but you guys truly put on an amazing event..” ~ Catherine Beck
Listen to our AVL Triathlon post event recap podcast covering the event details from start to finish.