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prince C
Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 9:03AM Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course?
voiceofreason
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 9:46AM - in reply to prince C Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Probably the biggest reason is that times are not as crucial as who wins and the actual process of racing itself. Triathletes aren't as concerned about PR's as runners so it doesn't,t matter.

I run a local collegiate xc course which is sometimes used for HS invites. All grass and kept mowed and painted year round, even the start and finish lines. The 5k course is 3.18 miles and the 8k course is 5.05 miles. This is verified every time i run it by gps, and by the odometer on my mountain bike. This isn't a triathlon phenomenon.
not really
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 10:16AM - in reply to voiceofreason Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I don't buy the "who wins" explanation. There's only one winner, so what the heck else is everyone else doing? I also don't buy the "process of racing" explanation either, because superior cyclists and runners just pass swimming types the entire race, and aren't necessarily racing them as much as just blowing by them.

Also, the backbone of the sport is not the elite, it's the average Joe, who has time benchmarks for everything. Heck, triathletes even practice their transition times. So not knowing the distance presents a critical flaw in the sport to these people, especially if you have never raced a particular course. They aren't really racing certain people, because they are in a sting or pack of many, and don't know where their real "competitors" (age group-wise) are most of the time. I have completed 5 triathlons, including 1 Ironman, just to add perspective from someone who is primarily a runner, but has done triathlons just for kicks.
prince C
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 10:26AM - in reply to not really Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I agree with this post. Would you want to run a 5k and have a goal in mind, only to realize it was a 4.8k? I wouldnt. Same rule applies to triathletes who shoot for certain goal times / paces.


not really wrote:

I don't buy the "who wins" explanation. There's only one winner, so what the heck else is everyone else doing? I also don't buy the "process of racing" explanation either, because superior cyclists and runners just pass swimming types the entire race, and aren't necessarily racing them as much as just blowing by them.

Also, the backbone of the sport is not the elite, it's the average Joe, who has time benchmarks for everything. Heck, triathletes even practice their transition times. So not knowing the distance presents a critical flaw in the sport to these people, especially if you have never raced a particular course. They aren't really racing certain people, because they are in a sting or pack of many, and don't know where their real "competitors" (age group-wise) are most of the time. I have completed 5 triathlons, including 1 Ironman, just to add perspective from someone who is primarily a runner, but has done triathlons just for kicks.
not really
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:10AM - in reply to prince C Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Also, if you are a superior runner in an Ironman chasing and passing, do you want to find out after the fact that a course was up to 4.2K short, based on the rule? Kind of stomps on your advantage, eh?
d2xccoach
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:11AM - in reply to prince C Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I've been around triathlons since 1983, raced a ton from 1987-1996 and have been active in production and volunteering since then. I've trained with more runners and triathletes than I can remember, fast, slow and in between. From what I have heard people talking about as we train and just hanging out, I would say runners are 90% more pr oriented than triathletes are. Even people who do both can usually tell you their 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon pr's (maybe even their track pr's) a lot more quickly than their Olympic distance and half Ironman pr. Ironman distance is a different story triathletes can definitely tell you what their Ironman pr is.

To me, that's a big part of why people who produce triathlons don't worry too much about getting a distance exact. Not going to lie, as somebody who does USATF certification for road races it bothers me when I read about some super fast triathlon finish time or split and then you find out the coure was significantly short.

A lot of times it comes down to what terrain you have to work with, similar to setting up an XC course. For example a few years ago we put together a course for a USAT championship. On the Olympic distance course our bike leg was only ~39.5k instead of 40k because there was one out-and-back section that turned around at a town line. To cross that line would have increased the costs to put on the race and would have required including yet another municipality in the planning process. TPTB decided the additional cost/hassle wasn't worth it. The run course for that event measured out at 6.05 miles instead of 10k. I could have easily added a ~120 yard out-and-back section on the run to get it to exactly 10k but that would have added what I call one of those "stupid course features" to what was a real nice loop course. When I asked myself from the racer's perspective would I rather do a 6.05 mile run instead of an actual 10k and avoid that out-and-back it was a no brainer.

On the other hand that event also had a Sprint distance race. The bike course instead of 20k ended up about 21.5k so that we could share a huge chunk of the Olympic distance race. We had an accurate 20k mapped out but it would have meant moving Course Monitor volunteers to completely different spots and training them twice. The chance of that going wrong is pretty high. The decision was made that we'd rather add 3-4 minutes of racing to the bike course than to try to deal with the logistics of 2 different bike courses.

We do make sure to publicize what the distances actually were. That seems like an easy thing for triathlons to do that is missing from the sport.

Another thing that bugs me is that it seems like triathlon distances are almost routinely short if they're not accurate. I'm sure part of that is that fast times get a lot of publicity so you're going to read about those races more. But I suspect part of that is that races want people to put up good times at their race so they'll feel good about it and want to come back.

Part of it maybe is there is no real national or international record keeping body that keeps track of "world records" for triathlon - at least none that I know of. It's not that hard to find out "world records" at the Ironman distance but for shorter distances good luck. If there were such an organization it would lead to courses being more accurately measured in order for the times on those courses to qualify.

Can you imagine if 40 years into modern competitive running there still weren't standards for course measurement and an international body keeping track of records? That's basically where triathlon is today.

Another part of the issue is look at deviations in course lengths for other sports, and ask if anyone cares about what kind of time the winner had. I'm specifically thinking about cycling road races and open water swimming. Even cycling time trials, if you race a 40k is someone measuring the course with a Jones Counter or is it "close enough"? I don't have the background to know.
gdrtyq
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:23AM - in reply to d2xccoach Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Good explanation
tri harder
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:28AM - in reply to prince C Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
there are several reasons. the first has to do with the fixed location of the transition area. you can play around the bike and run legs and where the transitions start/stop but often no matter what you do, the distance isn't going to be exact. second, it is very hard to measure exact distances on water so the swim legs usually have the most variance. it's possible with rope or lasers but i would say that using them are more the exception than the norm. lastly, as written above, times really don't matter that much in triathlons so most people don't really care. there are so many other variables that comes into play not even from course to course but from year to year. having a lot of wind or heavy rain on the bike will slow the bike leg a lot (and likely slow the run down too as people work harder on the bike). you can have times vary wildly from year-to-year on the same depending on the weather conditions. i know that triathletes (usually dumb ones) make comments like "i split x in an olympic distance triathlon so what is your PR?" but it really is pointless to compare times from different races. what matters is what place you came in and who you beat. times don't matter.
voiceofreason
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:38AM - in reply to not really Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
You are thinking of average Joe runners and their benchmarks for everything. I work with many triathletes who don't even know what their event PRs are though everyone i know who runs knows what their 5k PR is. I have never outside of this message board though, heard anyone complain about a course being short or long because the only reason it matters is your own PR. A race is a race.
tri harder
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:53AM - in reply to voiceofreason Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
the only people who care about tri segments being short are insecure runners who don't do tris.
mplatt
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 11:56AM - in reply to voiceofreason Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

voiceofreason wrote:

I have never outside of this message board though, heard anyone complain about a course being short or long because the only reason it matters is your own PR. A race is a race.


Liar or sheltered.
voiceofreason
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:07PM - in reply to mplatt Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Neither. It takes a certain kind of anal retentiveness to be worried about this.


mplatt wrote:


voiceofreason wrote:

I have never outside of this message board though, heard anyone complain about a course being short or long because the only reason it matters is your own PR. A race is a race.


Liar or sheltered.
not really
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:12PM - in reply to tri harder Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Believe me, and other runners I know who do triathlons, we care about how much distance and time we have to pass as many swimmers and bikers we can. I still don't buy it, maybe it's a suppressed thought or need, but even the non-runner triathletes I know are concerned about everything from equipment, to overall times and places, to splits, to transitions, to workout times, to energy replacement strategies/efficiency of products. I don't know who you guys are talking about from my experience, maybe the "bucket list" types?
yuo
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:17PM - in reply to tri harder Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I'm a triathlete and personally it bothers me when courses aren't accurate. I do like to compare splits to see how I went. I've run courses more than 500m long and more than 500m short. Off the bike I usually run high 17's. I've run under 16:30 and over 20 and it really pisses me off to see on the results. It's almost worse when the bike course is inaccurate and you get the hobbyists saying "37 km/h AVG!?!?!? Wow I only usually avg 31, I guess those $3000 wheels and that aero helmet really make a big difference! That explains how the pros are so fast!"
not really
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:21PM - in reply to not really Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
And I don't think this is an "anal retentiveness" issue, because I am certainly not anal retentive with regards to a lot of the stuff triathletes obsess over (equipment, bike type/accessories, garmins, outfit, energy replacement, etc.). In fact, I am the opposite of anal retentive on these issues, because I am more brash in my enjoyment of passing all the people who are worried about all that stuff almost as much as the race itself. I look at it from a race tactic perspective. If you short me on the run, I am not going to do as well overall in the race.
tri harder
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:38PM - in reply to not really Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
do you normally use run-on sentences to try and convey what you think? i know the entire gamut of triathletes, from olympians to 16-hour ironmen, and i never have heard someone complain about the run or bike being the wrong distance. many (most?) triathletes have garmins and people will say things like "the run was short" or "i had the run at 4.95K" but nobody really cares. they certainly don't care in the way that every runner would compare if a 5k were the wrong distance. it's the same thing as in xc races where the actual times are largely irrelevant because the conditions vary so much from course-to-course and from year-to-year.

i don't understand why you think this matters? will you actually change how you bike and run if you know beforehand that the run is 4.9K or 10.2K? get over yourself.
clown question
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:52PM - in reply to prince C Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

prince C wrote:

Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course?



What percentage of 5K and 10K road races are certified?

A lot of the clowns on this thread who spout their PRs have done so on a course that was not certified.
Quibbling Quibblers
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:54PM - in reply to clown question Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
How about this proposition: some people care about an accurately measured course and some people don't.
a little too serious
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 12:58PM - in reply to tri harder Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
10% sounds about right. I would say a lot of trail races are off by close to that amount. I ran a 20k that was almost 14 miles. I ran a 10 mile that was pretty exact until the last "mile" that was a half mile short. I ran an "11 mile" race in the almost identical time I ran a half marathon the week before. Both courses had about the same 2,000 ft elevation gain and loss. I ran a race advertised as a 25k and when I got there I saw it may be 16 miles. After studying the map, I realized it would be 16.8 miles.

When roadracing was starting to get popular, a lot of races had odd distances because they just decided a course they liked and whatever it measured was the distance. It could be 8 miles, 4.8 miles, 7.2 miles or 14 miles. Didn't really matter. Once the sponsors started jumping in with big race series across the country, the distances such as 10k became more standard.
voiceofreason
RE: Why does triathlon allow a 10% deviation in distance in the course? 12/26/2012 1:02PM - in reply to tri harder Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
THANK YOU! Many runners are by nature obsessive and this carries into triathlons. If you are worried about your run course being short so you can make up time, why not spend more time on the bike.


tri harder wrote:

do you normally use run-on sentences to try and convey what you think? i know the entire gamut of triathletes, from olympians to 16-hour ironmen, and i never have heard someone complain about the run or bike being the wrong distance. many (most?) triathletes have garmins and people will say things like "the run was short" or "i had the run at 4.95K" but nobody really cares. they certainly don't care in the way that every runner would compare if a 5k were the wrong distance. it's the same thing as in xc races where the actual times are largely irrelevant because the conditions vary so much from course-to-course and from year-to-year.

i don't understand why you think this matters? will you actually change how you bike and run if you know beforehand that the run is 4.9K or 10.2K? get over yourself.
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