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Day 75 – Left Turn, Clyde


Don’t click away. You’re going to love this video. If you’ve already seen it, then you might like the story behind it…

An Epic Race

In 2008, a race company called SetUp Events and the Wilmington Family YMCA joined forces to put on one of the most extensive events in the SE North Carolina region. It was a USAT sanctioned ultra (iron) distance triathlon that covered four counties plus the cities of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.

Athletes began their day on the beach of Banks Channel and ended their day at the USS North Carolina, a battleship turned museum across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. The name of the race: Beach 2 Battleship.

To Turn Or Not To Turn

The race was a logistical nightmare for several reasons. First of all, it was a point to point race. Second, it included a full iron distance race and a half iron distance race. If the full distance bike course had been two loops then the half course could easily have been a single loop. However, that was not the case. Half course athletes had to make a left turn at mile 33 while the full course athletes kept going straight.

You probably know where I’m going with this. Read on anyway.

Athletes are responsible for knowing the course. It says that in almost every athlete guide (I think it says that in almost every athlete guide). Yet race directors do their best to place directional volunteers at crucial intersections and turning points. There were at least six volunteers at this intersection where the half course athletes were required to turn left. Volunteers stood along the road for 200 yards leading up to the intersection yelling, “FULL ATHLETES GO STRAIGHT. HALF ATHLETES TURN LEFT.” The pavement was marked with bright orange paint. There were cones in the road. There were sandwich board signs on the side of the road. In 2016 I even posted a video that explained the intersection in detail (It’s a really good video ;-))

The Unlucky Few

Without fail. Every year. At least one half course athlete would go straight and/or at least one full course athlete would turn left. That’s to be expected. Some people don’t listen.

The part of the story that gets me is that most, not all, but most of these directionally challenged athletes blamed the race director for their mistake. One year I was driving the van that rides around the bike course looking for athletes that need help. At mile 40 of the full course, there was a young woman who was clearly in last place. I drove along side of her, rolled down the passenger window and asked how she was doing. I had no intention of pulling her from the course, because at her current speed she had a chance to finish before the cutoff. She spent the next 60 seconds yelling at me about how she got lost because she turned left at that “confusing” intersection. Apparently, she didn’t see any of the signs or notice the cones. Neither did she see or hear the volunteers. I guess she didn’t study the course map either.

I heard reports from my friends at the aid stations the she was still complaining to anyone within earshot of her. I believe them, because I was at the bike finish when she rolled in. She had just made the cutoff and I could hear her bitching to the spectators and volunteers about how she got lost. She was so angry that she quit the race and never came out of transition to start the run.

I heard second hand about another case study: the long course athlete that rode the entire half course. I don’t know how true this is, but when he came into transition he knew something was wrong by the distance on his bike computer. He claimed he had no idea that he was on the wrong course. For 23 miles he had no idea that he was on the wrong course! I heard that our race director, being the nice guy he is, drove this athlete out to mile 56 and dropped him off so he could continue his full course race. Did the race director actually do that? I don’t know.

So that’s the story behind the video. Just do me a favor and please study the course maps for your next race. Because if you get lost, it’s not the race director’s fault.

Until tomorrow…

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