You can't help but feel a bit sorry for triathlon organisers in WA over the last 12 months. Due to a mixture of shark sightings and bad weather none of our state championship events this season have had swim legs, sprint, standard or long course. None. At the Busso Half in May last year the swim leg was effected by a shark sighting. At Busso Ironman in December the swim leg was cancelled due to another shark and then at the Half on the weekend we saw the swim called off due to bad weather. Locals have started calling ourselves the Duathlon State and that is probably fair enough. It has been one of those seasons where they just can't seem to get a break. On the weekend you saw that the organisers were visibly frustrated and that is pretty understandable.
I feel particularly sorry for the organisers from the Busso Half on the weekend. To the outside observer the event must have looked like a bit of a shambles. Swim leg cancelled, top three women disqualified. What the hell was going on?
While it may have looked like a disaster from the outside, really criticism of the organisers for how the race on the weekend unfolded would be manifestly unfair. Most of what went wrong at the race was outside the control of the organisers and they really did a great job of trying to salvage a bad situation and put on the best event they could. It just seemed that no matter what they did though, something else would come along and would mess it up. They just didn't seem to be able to win. They sure tried hard though.
Once it was obvious that a swim wasn't going to happen, the organiser did a great job of communicating the change to people and getting the modified race underway. Little things like getting Crowie up at the briefing to re-assure people about the event were clever moves and really did help to get people back on track. The transition to the changed event worked so well that I think the event started only about 20 minutes behind schedule. Pretty good going really.
Once the event was underway it was run with the efficiency and professionalism that we have come to expect from these events. Very slick. Unfortunately the mood at the event and the number of spectators was down, but given the conditions that was pretty understandable. Most competitors I spoke to felt like they had got a good day of racing though, not many felt hard done by. That is a testament to a good recovery by the organisers.
The last thing to really go wrong at the event was the debacle with the women's race. Really that was not a great situation, but once again I don't see that the organisers had much choice. They must have been tearing their hair out when the issue came up, but once it did they had no option but to deal with it, and deal with it they did, in the only way they could. People have asked me, if people turned early, did that mean the course was poorly marked, but that is a bit unfair. You wouldn't normally expect an event to mark all the points where you shouldn't turn around, that would be the whole course. In the end the onus is on the athlete to know where the turn around is, if they aren't sure they should ask. The athletes shouldn't rely on assumptions, prior knowledge or even the lead bike. The orgnansiers provide maps, they provide markings at the turns, they provide briefings, I really can't see what else they can do.
Yes, I definitely feel sorry for the organisers, they didn't do much wrong, but I suspect they will be punished for it. I am not sure many people would label it a successful day.
When it comes to these kinds of events it doesn't take much to shake people's confidence and once people lose confidence in an event they stop turning up. Anecdotally I have already heard from non Perth athletes who have said they wouldn't come to a race in Perth given the issues that have plagued us. If you think about it, if you are travelling and have a choice of Cairns, Port Mac or Perth, the choice at the moment is fairly straight forward, nothing major seems to go wrong with the other two.
The one saving grace that the Busso events have is that are pretty assured of major local support. Enough locals will keep coming to these races to ensure they are sustainable, however, I suspect the events will see a dip in participant numbers over the next few years. Unfortunate, but to be expected. Hopefully the numbers remain high enough to assure the future of the events, but I guess time will tell on that one.
Ironman has just signed a contract to continue the Busso Half in May for another three years. I know I was not alone in breathing a sigh of relief when I heard that. There is a feeling around town that races in Busso are currently on thin ice. I really hope I have that wrong, and I suspect I do, given the amount of local support, however, I know that race organisers are also feeling the pinch of lower participation numbers. They can't keep running races with waning numbers.
Deep down we all know that WA just needs a knock out season to get confidence back up and get some of the positivity back. The 2017/2018 season really was so forgettable that it was almost laughable. People have short memories and so what we need is a few great races to get things back on track and hopefully that is what we will get in the 2018/2019 season. I know I am not alone in wanting to forget about the luck we had in the 2017/2018 season, put it behind us and get on with things.
Fingers crossed next season is going to bring a bit more good luck our way.