I caught up with Jeremy Davis, owner of Set Up Events, to get the perspective of a race promoter on the first time triathlete experience. Set Up Events is the largest triathlon promoter in the United States, with a series of triathlons in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Maryland. Jeremy is a triathlete himself, and has been promoting quality events for the past 17 years.
How did you get started with Triathlon?
I was watching the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and saw the triathlon as a provisional sport that year. In the 2000 triathlon was going to be a medaled Olympic sport. I had a running background from soccer, and just cycled across South Carolina. So I figured I could learn to swim and maybe go to the Olympics. Then I got in the pool and realized this may not happen as I can’t swim a length without being out of breath.
In 1997 I started a triathlon club at Clemson University with 30-40 members. I decided to promote my own triathlon on campus for the club. We rented out the pool and had a make shift race for eight of us. I enjoyed promoting the event and wanted to do a larger event at Clemson, so I hooked up with Bill Scott. He was doing events in the Wilmington area. We started working together, and triathlon took off. He needed more help, and I had help to give, so my event promotion career was born.
What was your 1st Triathlon?
It was the Columbus Day Sprint Tri in Myrtle Beach. I was 68th out of the water, had the 2nd fastest run split, and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. At the end of the race, i thought, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. I need to do it again.
What percentage of your participants are first time triathletes?
We don’t track this particularly, but if I had to guess somewhere around 10% for a sprint race. If it is a pool swim, that number could be higher. I always ask the people in our novice waves, if this is their first race, and 95% of them raise their hands. Olympic distance events are somewhere around 2-5% of first time racers.
Which events in the Setup Brand are good for first timers?
Any of our events with a pool swim are great for first timers. In our South Carolina series, the Tri the Midlands race is great open water swim for new triathletes. A shorter open water swim is great for beginners as they get the feel of a mass start tri, but may not be intimidated by the distance.
Beginner friendly Setup Events Triathlons:
- NCTS – Azalea Sprint
- NCTS – UNC Wellness Super Sprint
- SCTS – Parris Island Triahtlon
- SCTS – Tri the Midlands
- VTS – Smithfield Tri
- MTS – Druid Hill Sprint
- GTS – Dare to Try – Fort Gordon Sprint
- GTS – Early Bird Sprint
What skills of info should first time triathletes focus on?
I would recommend some kind of clinic of coach before they start training for their first race. Find a training plan so you are optimizing your time, and not just swimming, biking and running with no focus. Also, try not to have anxiety about being super fast on your first race. Do your training, and on race day, have fun. Go and do want you have trained your body to do.
Would you recommend a new triathlete volunteer at a race before their first race?
Of course. As a race promoter we always need volunteers. Volunteering at a race gives a new perspective of all the things that go into successful event. During a race you are self focused, constantly doing a body check, and can’t pay attention to mush else. When you volunteer you can see the other moving parts of the race, and recognize the efforts of all of those involved in the race.
Also, first timers might think everyone that does triathlons has six pack abs, and college swimmer shoulders. When in reality triathletes come in all different sizes, and shapes. There may be a 275 LB. man that flies through an eleven minute swim, and struggles through the bike and run. Seeing the range of the abilities at a race can lower the intimidation level for new racers.
What does the future hold for Set Up Events?
Our goal at Set Up Events is to produce quality events that people can afford to race. We want to capture more of the first time market, and people that want to race against their buddies. We pride ourselves on a family feel, and love to see the same people come and race every event.