Triathlon America - Hmmm

Last week I competed in the series finale event of the Life Time Fitness Triathlon series, the Toyota Dallas Open(blog post follow).  The next day, or a couple of days later the World Triathlon Corporation announced its new Olympic distance race series, the 5i50. Later that day, which ever day it was, Dan Empfield publish a piece on Slowtwitch on race series entitled "Sometimes you eat the bear". which basically focussed on the value and competition between race series, rather than whether we need race series at all.

I wrote a response, a retort if you will. Personally I don't see the value of them. Although by nature I'm a naturally optimistic person, on this subject I'm completely pessimistic and can't see it as anything other than a land-grab, an opportunity to lock out competition by signing race organizers, locations and cities into contracts/agreements that are hard to get out of. Take for example the current issues around the new Ironman Muncie 70.3 - the big race series organizers are trying to control the sport to ensure that all races meet their standards, have their expense, and in exchange, have to charge similar entry fees. Which of course, small independent races don't. That doesn't mean they are not quality events, in fact the opposite is often true.

Much to my surprise, slowtwitch published my response and you can read it here. So, I'm sat here thinking it's all about the organizers jostling against each other. And so it was today I was more than surprised to see these notional "competitors" and some of the industries behemoths, like, form what can be seen in one respect as little more than a cartel.

I thought I'd look at membership to see if they were geared up to support individual members, here some thing's I noticed about joining:
  • The membership process uses - I'm guessing it was a last minute, free for use service or some such. The disclaimer includes the following "YOU UNDERSTAND THAT PARTICIPATION IN THE EVENT IS POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS" and they wanted an organization name even for individual membership... which belies either something hastily put together or with a foreboding future if its going to have "hazardous" participation.
  • I'm not sure is actually the best way to do these membership things, in fact I can give you a reason it's not. They don't allow you to edit your membership details, for example address change.So you have to do this again via the membership organization, which in the case of Triathlon America, they certainly don't yet since there isn't even a login. This is in stark contrast to for example British Triathlon who 8-years ago provided full membership login and profile update etc. Which leads me to think Triathlon America are not expecting a large individual membership, otherwise they'll have adminstration overload as people email or call the office to change their details. have always been just a front end for finding events and taking money, and despite numerous efforts have never really broken out of that role.
  • Another interesting side effect of using for the race membersip was that active didn't add their normal percentage as a processing fee. Anyone thats used active for a 70.3 or full IM distance race has seen how much the huge "processing fee" is and of course it doesn't take any more processing to handle a full IM registration than it does for a 70.3, so you are left wondering why the huge increase in fees? Certainly some of that si down to the credit card processing, but even here I can't but wonder why can't cut a better deal. Again, years ago British Triathlon handled the credit card processing themselves, passing on the  handling fee from credit card clearing company.  I never thought I'd be holding up the former BTA as a paragon of virtue...
This is I think the first example of how perhaps Triathlon America is shaping up to be a cartel., a Triathlon America founding member are either discounting the processing fee as they have a special business arrangement with Triathlon America, or taking a cut of the membership fee to cover the processing... in either case, in business thats described as a win/win. I guess I should see it as having saved me money, I'm left wondering though even more about active's fees.

So, colour me skeptical, but I can't help wondering what the real purpose of Triathlon America is. You've also got to wonder if Triathlon America isn't taking advantage of the recent departure of Skip Gilbert from USA Triathlon where he was CEO Executive Director until recently. Most of all I'm waiting to see my name on the membership page, one of the benefits of individual membership ;-)
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