By Mike Tarrolly
My first Ironman experience was as a spectator at Ironman Louisville. Aside from how nuts I thought everyone doing the race was, the most pressing issue on my mind was the mind boggling logistics of such an event.
Nearly 3,000 athletes, bikes and timing chips. 65 miles of closed roads for the bike, thousands of volunteers, and 3 sets gear bags for each athlete. Cops everywhere, endless streams of water, ice and fruit and pretzels and on and on and on. My head was about to explode.
I made a silent vow to never criticize a race director and that lasted about one race. It was probably something to do with scheduling something too early in the morning or something stupid, but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was just generally unhappy or stressed about the race.
I’ve done four full Ironman races now and am still fascinated with race production. As a generally unorganized person, the whole race directing thing seems like a recipe for disaster. I’d surely have nightmares about forgetting to order water.
That’s why it was so cool to talk with Stephen Del Monte, race director for Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City, along with several other races. It took about two minutes before I realized why so many people told us he’d be a great get.
I mean, how many race directors do you know that make videos by paddling out into the water to show you sighting points on your way back to shore? Or walk you through the layout of transition? Or visually show you changes or tricky parts of the bike or run course? Really cool stuff you can check out on his video channel.
He is very transparent with his customers and promptly admits when he makes a mistake (often in his video series “Confessions of a Race Director”). He told a story of a race he produced where there was a 4 inch lip in the road that caused 42 flat tires. He immediately admitted fault and gave each of the athletes free entry to the next year’s race.
I was kind of blown away by that and asked how he handles bad weather that cancels a swim or bike and his answer was fascinatingly logical.
We could have talked for a couple more hours, but we hit on a lot of cool stuff and it’s listed below. His passion for triathlon is contagious and I really hope it catches on in the sport.
Here are some of the topics we cover in our interview (embedded below) with Stephen Del Monte:
- The secrets to producing a great race
- The one thing that upsets triathletes most.
- He addresses the Ironman critics and explains why Ironman is the best event company there is.
- He also explains how the Ironman relationship works with local race directors.
- Why many triathletes are intimidated by Ironman Branded Races and why they shouldn’t be.
- What he thinks is the best Half
- The ONE THING Race Directors cannot get away with
- Your number one concern as an athlete entering any race.
- Why Ironman gets so many volunteers
- How he deals with weather cancellations and shortened courses
- How Ironman is putting pressure on grass roots races and why that’s a good thing.