Tuesday, January 10, 2012

M-Dot races versus the rest

i've been kicking around whether or not i really want to do the HITS triathlon series in Ocala at the end of March. ever since i saw the first magazine ad last summer, i was intrigued. i thought, finally, another company that will give WTC a run for their money.  the turnout for the first 2 have been less than desirable (see total numbers below). keep in mind that they hold 3 races on Saturday, the "open" which I believe was like a super sprint distance and was free to anyone who wanted to do it, the sprint distance, and the olympic distance. on Sunday is the half and full distances. the numbers you see below are total participants (all men and women together) for the first 2 races of the HITS series:

California race (12/3/11 and 12/4/11)
open: 141 (remember this race was free)
sprint: 253
oly: 192
half: 119
full: 21

Naples, Florida (this past weekend - also Disney marathon weekend)
open: 83 (free)
sprint: 168
oly: 141
half: 61
full: 17 (4 females total out of this 17)

i have said this since the series first started advertising, that they are charging too much for their entry fees ...pretty much what an Ironman event is charging for their races. that is preposterous! if you are the new kid on the block of triathlon race organizing, regardless of how much experience your consultants have (read: six-time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott will serve as a key advisor and spokesperson for the HITS Triathlon Series), you should be trying to entice athletes to try out your events. once they can prove that they offer a quality product that can stand up to IM events, then maybe you can justify the registration fee but not when it's your first year and you have no proven track record. personally, i try to spend my money wisely and i do my homework before making any big purchase. shelling out $300-$700 for one single event is a big purchase to me and from the homework i have done thus far, my gut says that the HITS 70.3 event in Ocala, Florida is a no go for me. plus, i've been hitting the forums to see what others who have raced in these last 2 series had to say and it wasn't all that positive.

i did a little research online regarding the registration fees for similar off brand races of the 70.3 and 140.6 variety. the prices listed are the highest rates charged, not the price you would pay if you registered early and also how many total participants involved. here is what i found:

~Great Floridian (aka: GFT) 140.6 (200 participants) - $500.00
  No70.3 at GFT.

~Redman (in Oklahoma) 140.6 - $400.00 (100 participants total in 2011)
  Redman 70.3 - $300.00 (165 total participants)

~Rev 3 (using Cedar point as my reference) 140.6 - $525.00 (not sure how many participants)
  Rev 3 half iron distance - $250.00

~Chesapeake Man (in Maryland) - 140.6 - $375.00 (216 total participants)

~Beach to Battleship (in N. Carolina) 140.6 - $475.00 (674 total participants)
  B2B half iron distance - $250.00 (818 total participants)

most of the races listed above have been around a long time, so they have a proven themselves, regardless of whether it is an overall great experience, just okay, or not good at all. sometimes the numbers of participants doesn't tell the entire story. for example, i think that the first 140.6 that i did, the Great Floridian, is avoided by most triathletes because of the amount of elevation involved on the bike course and because it isn't an M-dot race, not because it isn't a well run event. and, before ironman came around, the Great Floridian was THE destination for anyone wanting to do a full iron distance race. back in the day, they used to have about 800-1000 athletes competing. now they are lucky to have 200.  in my experience, GFT cannot compare to Ironman Florida and that is why they can't and don't charge $700 like IMFL can. i did notice recently that HITS lowered the price of their full just a tad from what I remember first seeing, but they are still charging the same for the half distance that an ironman event does. crazy i say.

what do you all think?

much love and peace out!


  1. I think the prices of some tri's have become insane! It's really disturbing b/c like you say, for someone just getting into the game, unproven, you don't know what you'll get.

    I can say that Chesapeakeman is run by my local Columbia Triathlon organization and they put on top-notch events. For a good rate (the best IM rate out there?). So it can be done.

  2. wow, your research is baffling! The numbers blow me away!

    Think Rev had ~400 full including aqua and pros.

    I fully agree on price. Even if it is $50 cheaper that is the way to go... however, over the past year H and I have discovered why they can kind of charge the same fees... mainly the difference is that people will gladly travel and pay for lodging and travel for WTC. However these other companies provide a more "local" destination. We don't mind paying those race fees if we don't have to lodge or pay for airfare/bike shipping you know? In the grand scheme of things, it is still cheaper for us.

    Now, the HITS numbers... HOLY PATHETIC! That actually blows my mind KC... wowzers. I think you could win it ;)

  3. When I was trying to decide on where to race my first 70.3 I was seriously considering one of the HITS series - main reason I didn't was exactly what you brought up here.... why pay about the same exact price as an well established M-dot race. This post reassured my decision:)

  4. You have put a lot of thought into this post and am grateful you shared the data. I am surprised of the turnout for the HITS races. I was hoping they could bring more competition in the field.

    I think triathlon race prices are very high across the board. But you are right they should establish a foothold first before demanding such a high price.

    And I agree with the previous poster, you could win!

  5. According to the comments on Slowtwitch, the first couple of races were a diaster if not down right dangerous for the some of the athletes

    I'd stick to the more well established series if the prices are the same

  6. It looks like they are seriously overreaching. 5 races in one weekend? Stick with 1-2 races per event and make sure they are well run and well attended. With so many options, its no surprise that there are fewer entrants and less organization. I'll stick with WTC and other established races for now.

  7. They are definitely charging way too much for a new series. I agree, lower the price initially, build your reputation and then charge more if you need to. When they first announce their schedule, some of the races listed as a full had mileage just short of 140.6 which was kind of a turn off. Why do a full distance that was 132 miles? They have since corrected that issue and changed the distances. I also think too that their schedule came out kind of late in the year which would not allow a whole lot of time to train for an early January race. It would be interesting to see how many are registered for Ocala as of today.

  8. The # of participants doesn't bother me, I usually prefer smaller races. But I totally agree with you on the price! I did a no name half and loved the experience and price. I'm doing another IM just because it will be my dad's 1st and it seems that it is all in the name for 1st timers, but I've decided if I ever do another 1/2 or full iron distance after that I'm looking for a different series but only if it is cheaper!

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  10. The other thing I hate about the WTC races is the length of time required to be onsite. I mean athlete checkin for IMFL ended on thursday before the race on saturday? You can show up friday night in Wilmington NC for the Beach 2 Battleship and still put on a great race saturday. I don't want to take a full week's vacation to race.

    I'm not doing any more WTC races until I want to make a run for a kona slot. The difficult entry, cost and length of time are absurd. Rev3 has the street cred to charge what they charge, but I'll pass on the HITS as well. I want to go local and cheap. B2B just raised the price this year. Last year's full iron registration was only $240.

  11. I wrote a long response to this, hit Publish and it disappeared. Aggh! Blogger!!

    Ok, so anyway. Synopsis: I'm a big fan of first time races. I've followed HITS and their races and I believe they are passionate about what they are doing and while many see it as they are too ambitious, it's hard to establish a brand in a M-dot dominated market.

    I know they have offered a lot of discounts for their races for. One for almost 50% on Active.com's Schwaggle for one of the Texas races. I was tempted, but have my eye on a later season race, but definitely considering for next year.

    Let me see what I can do... don't rule it out just yet. :)

  12. WTC has it all figured out...

    They make you show up at least 2 days before the race so they can promote to the local chamber of commerce the amount of money coming into the community (plus checking in 2500 is a little different than 300 at other races)

    And at no other race can you "officially" say you are an Ironman. Call me a snob, I will pay an extra $100 for that...


  13. Notice that my frugal ass will be doing the cheapest of all the 140.6 events. I hear you though, it is frustrating. For me the biggest issue is that there are no events nearby. Closest Rev is in Connecticut, Closest Hits is in up state NY. I wish I lived in FL or TX that's where the action is.

  14. I can't remember what I was going to write b/c I'm now jamming out to Radio KC.....oh yeah! Thought returned:

    The sport in and of itself is expensive and so you want to lure people in with price since you are not a WTC sanctioned event. Nobody is talking about getting HITS tattoos right? It's new for sure but if you keep charging the same price and don't bring the same atmosphere it will be hard to sustain for sure.

    Having spoken to them they are very smart and seem well organized so they are probably taking their learnings and preparing to apply that to their future races and essentially get people there.

    I like the fact that they have multiple events b/c you can get family involved. For example Karen could do the sprint or olympic one day and I cheer her on and the next day I could do the full or half and she cheers me on. Of course she is just getting started so we have to hope that they are still around next year and we can go to Corpus or Mineral Wells.

  15. nice research KC

    my next IM will likely be B2B

  16. the idea of not having 400 other people on top of me in transition is actually a selling point.

    ALL the races are getting expensive and the costs of this sport is rising all over the place.

    There is a half here in New England (in NH) that is only $100 ;) and has several hundred participants.

  17. @Patrick Patrick!!! Come join Team Country of Texas! We will gladly welcome you!

  18. You know its twice as bad for us b/c we typically have to pay 2 fees b/c Joe and I BOTH race....so when we look at 600-700/race its almost 1400 in entry fees then hotel, travel etc...We try to do a lot in TX because my parents live in Houston/The Woodlands and so its an easy stopping point and we can just go for 1 night to Austin, Galveston, Corpus....or race there in/around the Houston vicinity...or we do Gulf Coast Races from the FL panhandle to La because again...only 1 night stay required after shelling out $$$ for entry fees...even the little locals races really add up....We're paying almost 500 to run in half marathons this weekend...because we both do it...and we'll need a hotel b/c its in Baton Rouge....This is the 1 thing keeping me from having my 2012 race schedule planned out....there are so many I'd love to do, but I'm not taking out a 2nd mortgage to do so...
    We shall see....

  19. Bob pretty much nailed it. We all like to bitch about WTC but the fact is they put on one hell of an event. IT feels big. The communities they go into really get behind the races because of the economic boom associated with 2500 athletes and probably 3x as many family and friends descending upon the town.

    When WTC came to the Woodlands last year I read in the city council minutes that it was estimated $13-15million would be brought into the community over the length of the contract. That is huge for The Woodlands.

    HITS, REV3, and smaller independents cannot offer this to communities, yet! Lets hope that changes but the good news is that increased competition will make it important for the race companies to make the experience perfect for us athletes and you can make an argument that Rev3 is excelling at this and, so far, HITS is doing rather poorly.

    Oh, guess I am saying I will not pay the price HITS is charging. They have not earned the right to charge what they are yet. They have two races within driving distance for me and cost was the main reason I never even considered them.

  20. I don't have a ton of experience as I've only done some smaller races and then Steelhead 70.3 IM race last year. I will say that the IM race was incredibly run and organized as some of the other races were sub-par. I am DEFINITELY going to do an Ironman event for my first 140.6!!!

  21. I can't imagine doing a full with less than 20 other racers. That sounds like a very lonely ride and run. I hope the HITS series takes off. It sure would be nice to have more choices.

  22. You forgot the Michigan Titanium!!! :) http://www.mititanium.com/

    Early bird pricing for the 140.6 is $345 and $185 for the 3/4 Distance

    Of course, this is their first year, so there aren't any participation numbers yet. They are expecting 600 or so for both events.

    The HITS series was actually brought up this morning at the MiTi volunteer meeting. If they don't improve their numbers, they aren't going to be around for very long.

    Any ways, I completely agree with Bob. I've only done the one WTC event and despite the price, I really enjoyed myself and would definitely spend the money again (heck, I did for IMMT already :) ). That said, I do want to try a non-WTC so that I can compare it personally. All of the major non-WTC races you mentioned sound fabulous and I have heard nothing but good about them.

  23. Their potential pitfall for HITS, and the potential pitfall that many start-up businesses get themselves into, is to compete with the 900 pound gorilla head on.

    Someone needs to find new ways to present the races. Find a niche that is unique but still presents a "standard" product in it's proper form.

    BTW, I've found that this can't always be solved by being cheaper. People will pay for quality and new and unique ways to engage with what they love. And whoever does this needs to be in it for the long run. "Ironman" is like "Kleenex" or "Ziplock" - so entrenched in the vernacular.

  24. I don't think it's neccesary to do an M-Dot race to be an Ironman.

    I think you're absolutely right about the GF races and the reasons people don't regularly go to Clermont anymore.

    I also believe you hit the nail on the head: it's about getting the most for your money. If the course is challenging but doable and the event is well-run, people will want to do the race. That's why I don't see the need to only do an "Ironman" sanctioned race.

  25. When I was considering my first 70.3 this year I looked at HITS Traverse City, but the results from last year showed a lower participation just like you found. I chose Steelhead instead, but not necessarily because it was an M-Dot race. I considered Rev3 Cedar Point and still might do that race next year.

    Race organizers like those running MI Titanium seem to have the market pricing figured out better than HITS. HITS has a good variety of races, but until they reduce the price I don't think they will get the turnout.

  26. I was blown away when I first saw their prices. For an unproven series, especially one trying to take on so much, there is no way I'm paying the same I would for a WTC race where I know what I'll get. Plus, they don't have a triathlon background (HITS = Horses In The Sun). They need to run some deals to get some participants and then prove they know how to run a race. With the reports I've read, I'll be surprised if they even make it through their first season.

  27. I think HITS put a lot of bank into having Dave Scott as their spokesperson and thought, perhaps overzealously, that he alone would bring in the athletes. True he'll bring in some, but part of what the IM brand sells is the experience; the chute, the lights, the music. I've done Redman twice (70.3) and supported friends doing the 140.6, and the Finish atmosphere is nothing like the IM finish. Nothing. Those who finish late finish to crickets. It's sad, but you kind of know that going it. Incidentally, Redman makes a huge donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Foundation every year -- that's their main goal of the race. You're right though. HITS needs to prove themselves first, before charging what they do. I will say I like their concept of doing all the races in one weekend... it makes for great fun. They definitely have potential to be something competitive, but have to mind the path they follow.

  28. It's funny because I'm signed up for an IM this year and am a member of Team Rev3. Kind of backwards, right? I think for me, I just like IMFL's course - it has nothing to do with it being an m-dot race. I like the time of year that it's in as well. But, I had to budget out a year in advance to sign up. With that being said, I've heard amazing things about the non branded 140.6's (Rev3 included) and can't wait to do one. The $$ savings is huge for me. As is the personalized touch. Will I boycott IM because of the price? No. Will I try other brands because of the price? You betcha.