I would like to start off by congratulating all of the athletes and thank everyone for participating and supporting Barrelman Niagara Falls!
Social Media Being Used Positively
Many of you might wonder why I spend as much time as I do on the Facebook Barrelman Group page. It’s pretty simple. I really want to hear what the athletes have to say. It allows us to understand what you are thinking and also ensures you hear accurate responses to comments, questions or advice. To that end our ambassadors like William (Mack), Yvonne Lipinsky, Marty Lipinsky, Daniel Brousseau and Michael Telpner do a great job and from what I saw, were 100% accurate in their responses to questions posted by athletes.
Over the years our Barrelman Group Facebook page has become a resource where athletes can get accurate answers to their questions on a year round basis. A real added bonus for us this year were the post-race comments and suggestions posted by the athletes that will help us make some decisions for the 2023 race. It was very encouraging to see such positive and constructive feedback. We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to dialogue with you, which in turn gives us food for thought and will hopefully make subsequent races even better. It is all about a continued great experience for our athlete/customers.
After seeing so many great suggestions or questions, I made a promise on the Barrelman Group Facebook page to write an article, which will hopefully explain some of the situations on race day that affected aspects of the race, the reasons we have made or make certain decisions and announce possible changes for 2023. To that end Jason Vurma, Carolynne Simons and I have read your comments, debriefed and discussed possible changes for 2023. We have taken all of the comments and suggestions to heart and will consider them in our discussions in preparation for 2023.
Below you will find a lot of information on aspects of the race that athletes were curious about and, in some cases suggestions by the athletes. Thank you to all who took the time to provide your suggestions, whether by email and/or social media. Multisport Canada has and always will listen to the athlete/customer!
Once again, thank you!! – John Salt
Post Race Video
Introduction – What is changing and what might change
Before you delve any further we want you to know there is a great deal of information in this article. The first section discusses the new run course and some of the behind the scenes on race day this year. There is also an announcement on the plans for the swim start in 2023 and the reasons behind our decision.
The rest of is fairly brief and on areas that we plan on changing, adjusting or adding to make race day better for you and your family and friends For some of you it might only have passing interest and some may want to read in detail. Either way, I hope you enjoy the read!
Swim Course Start – Now and Then
Over the past seven years we have given consideration to different ways of starting Barrelman. That is why I understood why it was a hot topic on social media. Just to give you an idea of some of the reasoning behind what has to be considered we have listed different start options below:
- Self Seeding/Rolling Start ala Ironman
- Time Trial
- Shortened time between age group waves
- Changing the age group order and Elite Age Group
- Group waves by projected swim time
- Based on Projected Finish Time
One of the things we ask athletes to consider is that before deciding on a swim start strategy, the race must be analyzed in its entirety and first of all make decisions to ensure athlete safety. In the case of Barrelman one of the biggest safety factors is the nature of the bike course and what we must do to help spread athletes out after the swim and onto the bike. With safety being the number one goal and athlete experience a close second. Here are some of the things to consider, most of which are bike course safety centric, since it plays the biggest factor in overall athlete safety.
- A Self Seeding or Rolling Start is not ideal simply because there is not ample room at the Welland International Flatware Centre to organize and start 900 to 1,000 swimmers.
- The logistics behind a time trial start and communicating with each athlete, given the footprint of the WIFC, see Self Seeding, would be problematic. We also believe that the start of a race like Barrelman Niagara Falls has to be special. To have 900 to 1,000 swimmers starting in a Time Trial format would feel anticlimactic and we do not want to take away from that experience.
- In the case of having less time between waves, there is an increased likelihood of larger packs, drafting and overall more crowding, simply because of the flat bike course. While some may suggest that the wind helps break up packs, we cannot possibly know what wind conditions will be like on race day, therefore it is not a factor.
- Historically data will give us a time range when most of the athletes in an age group will finish. One of the reasons we allowed athletes to request starting in an Elite Age Group wave is because these athletes have a greater likelihood of being the top athletes in each age group. If these athletes started in the later waves it would increase the amount of passing on the bike as they worked their way to the front. We did realize that this may have not been completely fair to other age group athletes and it was the reason anyone could request the Elite Age Group start, providing they had the resume. Ultimately we made the decision for an EAG start wave so as to improve safety on the bike course. This topic was one of the most discussed in the past week or so with the consensus that Elite Age Group should either have it’s own awards and not impact the age group standing or there should not be an Elite Age Group start.
- All swimmers are not created equal when considering that the swim is the shortest leg of any triathlon. One must also think about the fact that a great swimmer might be a very slow cyclist, which takes you back to potential issues on the bike course. Another consideration, also voiced by swimmers in the Barrelman Group page, is that waves based on swim times will ultimately keep most of that group fairly close to each other. This results in more contact in the water, a safety and athlete experience issue. It also would mean more swimmers coming out of the swim at the same time, resulting in more packs on the bike and a safety issue
- We have speculated that waves starts based on Projected Finish Time is probably one of the better ways to group the start waves. They should not negatively impact the bike course safety considerations and should, for the most part, still keep the race spread out. The reasoning being that with a projected finish we are not giving uneven weight to any of the three disciplines. Great swimmers may not be the fastest cyclist or the best runner. Great cyclist may be very slow swimmers etc. The main reason we were unsure of using projected times is we felt that some first timers may have difficulty giving a projected finish time and we did not want to create any additional angst for athletes racing this distance for the first time.
Next Years Plan For The Swim Start
Given the above we have decided to have swim starts in 2023, which are based on Projected Finish Time. The Multisport Canada Triathlon Series used Projected Finish Times as the basis for forming the start waves this past summer. The project was such a success that it has given us the confidence that the process can be used for Barrelman Niagara Falls in 2023.
As part of the registration process for 2023 you will be able to choose from six groups of finishing times. The groupings are based on historical data combined with the logistical considerations we have to take into account. Please note: Once you have registered you will be able to go to your Race Roster dash board and just your group choice at a later date.
Run Course Distances – What happened the day of the race?
After this year’s race we heard from a number of athletes that their run watch software was telling in the run was actually 20.4 to 20.5km and not the planned 21.1km. There was some concern that leading up to the race we might not have measured the course accurately. The fact is the course as shown on the website and measured the day before the race was the advertised 21.1km. Here is what you didn’t know and what can affect race production.
On race morning Jason Vurma was made aware of a situation on the roads for the run course, by our crew as they were setting up. Given there was not enough time to remeasure the entire course the situation necessitated reconfiguring the run course on the fly and a best guess scenario. As it turned out the adjustments did leave the run about 600m short.
The reality and moral of the story is that good race production must be planned as near to flawless as possible however, it also means we have to be ready to adjust and reconfigure at a moments notice on race day. Knowing athletes always want results to reflect an accurate time, distance and splits we contacted Sportstats and asked them to adjust the results accordingly. You can see them here.
New Run Course Was A Hit!
Several months ago we announced a new run course for 2022 and I can honestly say that initially I was very concerned. We had fought for almost 3 years to be given permission to have the run go past Niagara Falls twice. We did that because we knew that section of the run would be something unique and we didn’t want to lose it.
At the pre-race briefing we explained the reasoning why the Niagara Parks Commission could no longer allow the run to go past Niagara Falls. The simple reason being major infrastructure changes and construction along that section of the run. After the initial disappointment we realized that this might in fact may be a positive for the athlete experience.
We know in past years athletes were not enamoured with going down the twenty-one stairs behind the casino, TWICE. We also knew that after those stairs the descent down Murray Hill was not always a great experience, simply because of pedestrian traffic. On top of that at the bottom of Murray Hill was an extremely busy intersection with both heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
We realized that the hill on Burning Spring would become an uphill and then a downhill, leaving a degree of difficulty still in the run. The out and back section in the Dufferin Islands would remain as an aid station and a shaded section for athletes and spectators alike.
Judging from the many, many positive comments it appears our concerns were not and issue and athletes enjoyed the new run. WHEW!!!
Things We Are Reviewing and Planning for 2023
In the coming weeks and months we should be giving you updates on:
- A new awards structure in 2023
- Spectator “Hot Spots” and food options
- Accommodation Options
- Race kit design
- The Athlete Guide
Would you like to be a Barrelman Ambassador?
The role of an ambassador of an event of race is defined a person who represents, speaks for, or advertises a particular group of people, activity or brand. In the coming weeks we will be taking applications for Barrelman Ambassadors. If you are interested please email email@example.com with the Subject Line: Barrelman Ambassador Application. We will send you an overview of the requirements and perks for being a Barrelman Ambassador.
Finally we would like to tell you that registration is OPEN! We have an Early Bird rate in place until October 31st, so don’t delay and register today here!
I hope you found this informative and that it also answered any questions you may have had. If you would like to offer a suggestion, which you feel would make the race even better, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, please feel free to start a discussion in the Facebook Barrelman Group. We are always interested in what our Barrelman family has to say.
Founder, MultiSport Canada and Race Director, Barrelman Niagara Falls
President, MultiSport Canada