The pandemic had changed a lot of things, but it couldn’t stop one group of hardcore triathletes from competing this summer. Last Sunday, just over 100 participants showed up at a park in Hendersonville, NC to do something that most athletes used to take for granted: toe the line at an in-person race.
The Asheville Triathlon, held at a new location in Hendersonville’s Patton Park, is setting an example of what in-person events may look like in the future during the time of COVID-19. “This coronavirus has really forced us to make some big changes in the endurance event industry,” said Daphne Kirkwood, owner of iDaph Events and Race Director for the Asheville Triathlon. “There just isn’t a cookie cutter way to design and produce an in-person event during a pandemic. But I’m really happy with how safely everything turned out.”
Race participants wore face coverings before and after the event, had their temperatures checked, and stayed socially distant from other participants. Instead of having typical transition zones, which usually include close quarters, participants were asked to transition at their vehicles. The rebooted transition zones “went really well,” said Kirkwood. “[Racers] had plenty of room to set up their things… we also had spaces in between some cars giving additional space.”
During the swim portion of the race, participants were given a wave start time based on their projected swim time and were given a full minute before the next swimmer entered the pool. “We never had more than 25 swimmers at the pool or on the deck at a time,” said Kirkwood. “Everything was very spaced out from start to finish.”
And all of those cheering fans? Forget about it. “No spectators were allowed at the pool or at the finish line,” Kirkwood said.
The winners of this triathlon-like-no-other were Jenn Stanton and Ricky Flynn. Stanton is a pro triathlete from Charlotte, NC and finished with a time of 1:05:22. Stanton, also a pro triathlete from Greenville, SC, completed the race in 58:23.
By most accounts, the race was a smashing success. Eighty-three percent of participants indicated they would come back and do the race again. According to one satisfied participant, “I felt safer racing… than going to the grocery store.”
Asheville, North Carolina skyline nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo courtesy SeanPavonePhoto