You Are An IRONMAN…Race Director!

It started with an email from an athlete that had participated in a local triathlon I operate and race direct.  He asked me if I would be willing at all to get on a call with him to discuss the possibility of bringing and Ironman 70.3 race to our town, Traverse City.  As an owner and operator of a small race management company, I was both stoked and a bit worried.  Would bringing and Ironman 70.3 to our town hurt my business, especially the triathlon I’ve directed for the past decade? Even with my worries, I knew that I needed and wanted to be involved.  If I wasn’t, someone else would.  Why not have it be me? Furthermore, as a finisher of many Ironman 140.6 races I was excited.

A week or so later I got on a phone call with that athlete I mentioned above, Patrick McIntyre, and Trevor Tkach, CEO of Traverse City Tourism, the local tourism bureau. On that phone call Patrick and Trevor wanted to know if I would be interested in helping to create a few possible 70.3 course options that they could present to Ironman.  Having already put a lot of thought into this, I said that I would be thrilled to help.

About five or six years earlier I had thought about putting on an unofficial 70.3 in downtown Traverse City with my then-business partner at Endurance Evolution, Eric Tingwall.  We had a course designed on paper, and had several meetings with city officials, but ultimately decided that it was an undertaking that we weren’t interested in pursuing at the time.  We put the idea in our back pocket and moved on.

When the opportunity to design a course for and official Ironman 70.3 came around, I had already done a lot of the thought work, but needed to do some refining.  I laid out three possible course options, using various staging/transition areas, and presented them back to Trevor and Patrick. Ironman agreed that they would send a representative to Traverse City to take a look at the course options.  This was a big deal for the town.  To even get this far in the process was huge.

A meeting was set up for early spring, and Ironman regional director Frank Lowery came to Traverse City for several days of exploring and research. When Frank came to town, Patrick, Trevor, and I did our best to show him all the great things that the courses and region could offer.

Over the next several months I worked with Frank and Trevor to refine and tweak the courses. They also talked with major stakeholders such as the Michigan Department of Transportation, officials from Traverse City, and other agencies that would ultimately need to give approval for the event.  Eventually in August, Frank and Trevor felt that they had done enough due diligence to officially bring the idea before the city commission in Traverse City.

Several commissioners said they had never received more emails, either in support of or against, any other issue on their past agendas.  One commissioner said she received over 300 emails! After discussing the issue, and allowing for a large amount of mostly supportive public comment, the commission approved the event.

During those months of planning, Frank had casually mentioned the possibility of hiring a local race director for the event.  At that time, I didn’t think much of it.  But now the conversations grew more official, and by the end of August I had an offer from Ironman to become the race director or Ironman 70.3 Traverse City. What started off as casually helping design the courses ended up being a months-long job interview, and ultimately a job that I would have never imagined holding.

I’m thrilled to serve as race director for Ironman 70.3 Traverse City, and hope I’m able to lead the event to great success.