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3Disciplines: Well Done.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Demerly at Diamond Head, Hawaii

Last year I wrote an editorial on this page called “Collateral Damage” about the 3Disciplines Racing Willow Duathlon. It was highly critical of 3Dsiciplines Racing and the organization and safety of the Willow Duathlon in 2003.

This year I participated in the 2004 Willow Duathlon as a competitor. I am pleased to report that every issue I criticized in my editorial about the Willow Duathlon was fully addressed based on my experience in the event.

The 2004 Willow Duathlon was an excellent event. It was well organized, safe and fun. There were substantial improvements over the 2003 race in nearly every aspect of the event. Ken Krell, race director and boss at 3Disciplines stepped up to the plate and my criticism in a big way. That says a lot about 3Disciplines as a race promotion company and even more about Ken Krell as a person.

Surely every one of us must face criticism of our work in our jobs. But Ken Krell is a relatively high profile personality in the multisport world as a race promoter and as such a lot of his performance reviews are held in the public forum. Sometimes that is fair, sometimes it is not. Ken Krell didn’t waste too much time worrying about what was fair and what was not. He looked at the criticism of his event, acknowledged the shortcomings and fixed them. That is impressive. How many of you do you think could get your ass kicked on Internet sites and forums and come back swinging? Krell did that, and he did it with calm and reserve.

This year at a critical corner the Willow Duathlon had no less than four corner marshals, some waving large red flags, and one police officer with his car. All other corners of the race were also adequately marshaled. I saw at least four motorcycles on the course monitoring the athletes for compliance with race rules.

Aid stations on the course were plentiful and well staffed by race workers who had obviously been trained in how to hand up a cup to an athlete. Based on my experience they performed perfectly, as well as any crew at a World Championship event.

Race volunteers I spoke with were well informed about the important nature of keeping athletes on course. They understood what they were supposed to do to keep athletes on course. Obviously, they had been trained prior to the event. Al Petri & Sons Bicycles sent a full crew to the race and provided technical support for athletes. Randy Step’s Running Fit, Hammer Nutrition, Gatorade, Willow and Oakwood Metroparks, Downriver Goldwings Motorcycle Club, Huron Valley Ambulance Co., Huron Valley Police, Chelsea High School Track and Cross Country Team, EMU Dance Team, the Girl Scouts and others were also at Willow to help make the event a success.

Race bags contained a detailed map of the transition area and the entire course with detailed written instructions. I do not know how many volunteers were at last year’s event or this year’s event. However, I can tell you that at this year’s event there did appear to be significantly greater numbers of race workers.

Speaking of race bags, when I emptied mine out there was a bunch of useful stuff in there. There was a sample of Hammer Gel, Endurolytes, an envelope of Tylenol (now that’s a good idea!) and a bunch of other stuff that was actually worth keeping. If you consider it cost me $45 to enter Willow for day-of race registration and there was no license cost then subtract the value of the stuff in the bag (which we figured was about $12) then the race really only cost about $33.00. That’s cheap for half a day’s entertainment that is healthy and interactive.

I did receive information that a group of 10 or fewer athletes did go off course but when I spoke with two of those athletes after the race they told me it was their own mistake, not the corner marshal’s. This error did not occur out on the road, but in the park, and it was not the mistake of anyone connected with 3Disciplines. Several athletes simply made a goof by their own admission.

Results for the Willow Duathlon were up on the 3Disciplines website early the next day and race photos were even on Multisportphoto.com. In addition to this Ken Krell’s 3Disciplines Racing collected 3 dozen pairs of running shoes and food for the Food From Athletes program, a charity that helps underprivileged families.

After I finished the race I quickly returned to Bikesport and posted a summarized version of the above report on Slowtwitch.com’s fine forum. I was a little disappointed that the thread did not receive nearly the attention that the highly critical thread from last year did. Why is it that people are so attracted to criticism but are not too interested in someone doing a nice job? Thousands of people read the thread from last year about 3Disciplines and their travails with the Willow Duathlon and USAT, but only about a hundred looked at the thread from this year. That’s disappointing.

3Disciplines also was “de-sanctioned” by USAT last year, according to a USAT press release. At the time that seemed like (and still may be) a significant condemnation of 3Disciplines by USAT, our sport’s governing body.

But then a scandal within USAT itself created a nuclear blast in the sport that made the 3Dsiciplines affair look like a firecracker. USAT’s election and voting procedures have been called into question. The procedure for collecting votes, the agendas of the officers, damn near everything within the organization seems either crooked or at least questionable.

Given these circumstances maybe it is fair to say that at best, USAT was the pot calling the kettle black when they pulled 3Discipline’s sanctioning for “Failure to comply with USAT race standards for safety and administrative compliance.” After all, who monitors USAT’s standards for administrative compliance? Given the current election/administrative scandal, apparently no one.

Like the saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. In a case of significant irony, perhaps 3Disciplines not being associated with USAT is like them being the first passenger off the Titanic: They may be better off. The fat lady is a long way from singing on the USAT debacle.

I had the coincidental experience of chatting with several of the upper level players in the on-going USAT controversy over the past few months. I came away with respect for each of the party’s perspectives- and the parties themselves- but acknowledge that they are very polarized. Realistically it is impossible for me to be objective about the USAT mess since two of the key characters are people whom I call friends and have a great deal of personal and professional respect for.

But I can tell a mess when I see one. USAT is a mess. 3Disciplines is not, at least based on my experience at the Willow Duathlon.

Willow was the season opener for the sport and it was a nice reunion. On the way to the race one of my favorite athletes, Ell Bruley, pulled up next to me on the freeway. I waved to Ell on the way to the race. Little did I know Ell would be kicking my ass in the race.

Sometimes when a race starts you sort of form into groups. During the first run I found myself next to Ironman Champion and World Champion Laura Sophiea. It was actually quite an honor to be running alongside Sophiea, I was literally rubbing elbows with a World Champion. You don’t get that at every race. As luck would have it I somehow managed to keep Sophiea in sight during the entire race. That was a significant accomplishment considering she had just returned from a 500-mile training week on the bike in Florida.

Eric Fernando, last year’s champion and his girlfriend Cheryl Klotkowski were also in attendance. Cheryl won the event hands down with here lightening fast run and a tremendously improved bike leg. Klotkowski has established herself as one of the finest U.S. amateur triathletes were her wins at everything from ½ Ironman distance to short duathlons like Willow.

Willow reminded me that short events really hurt and I am absolutely not trained for short, fast racing right now. I would have done better if the race had been a ½ marathon, 112 mile bike and then another ½ marathon. I’m OK for going long right now, but in a short, fast race like Willow I couldn’t get out of my own way. Nonetheless it was good training for me for the Nankin Mills Duathlon and the Grosse Ile Duathlon over the next two weekends. I’ve worked at those events many time in previous years but haven’t raced either. This year I will see it from the racer’s perspective.

I was impressed with the sweeping and obvious improvements Ken Krell made at the Willow Duathlon. He did a fine job and deserves credit for it. If this is indicative of how the other 3Disciplines events will be in 2004, and there is every reason to believe it is, then it will be a good season for 3Disciplines and Ken Krell.

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© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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