USA Triathlon Race Director Summit Attendees Inspired to Dream Big for 2019

By Caryn Maconi | Feb. 06, 2019, 12:15 p.m. (ET)


The USA Triathlon Race Director Summit, held Feb. 1-3 in Colorado Springs, brought race directors from across the country to Colorado Springs to share ideas, network and forge relationships.

The women’s-only Mighty Mujer Triathlon in El Paso, Texas, is the unicorn of grassroots local triathlons. 

The annual 300-woman race is broadcast live on El Paso’s local NBC affiliate, enabling participants — many of them recreational or first-time triathletes — to feel like Olympians for the day. That type of play-by-play weekend coverage is typically reserved for large, international-caliber races (think IRONMAN World Championship-level).  

So how did race director Gabriela Gallegos do it? Rather than keep it a secret, Gallegos shared her story with 75 race directors from across the country at the USA Triathlon Race Director Summit presented by ACTIVE Network, held Feb. 1-3 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs. 

Gallegos, also a member of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors, offered her best tips on building relationships with local media, identifying story angles and securing valuable coverage. Race directors walked away with a challenge to approach their local news stations with a similar offer — now that they know it’s possible.

Gallegos, meanwhile, was more excited about meeting and learning from other Summit attendees than she was about sharing her own experiences.  

“When I hear about someone doing something really unique, I think about, how would that translate, would it translate and does it make sense for me?,” Gallegos said. “And I think all of us here realize that this is also a business, and there are things you need to consider that are beyond, ‘Oh, they had so much fun!’ Well, could you pay your staff, and what’s going to make the difference with that? I think that conversation needs to happen. The people who are here are the ones that actually know the most, and so I can learn the most from them.”

Race Director Summit, executed by the volunteer-run USA Triathlon Race Director Committee, is an opportunity for race directors to come together to collaborate, network and share best practices, while gaining continuing education units (CEUs) to advance their professional development. Attendees heard from industry experts on social media, event marketing, cost management and more, and engaged in a variety of small-group discussions and breakout sessions. 

PHOTOS: Check out photos from the entire weekend at Race Director Summit

The weekend also included the Groundhog Day Race Directors' 5k, held on the grounds of the Cheyenne Mountain Resort golf course. Attendees had the chance to meet and run with IRONMAN legend and ITU world champion Timothy O'Donnell, who led Saturday's 5k and participated in a meet-and-greet and autograph signing. 

Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO; Barry Siff, USA Triathlon Board of Directors President; and staff from the organization’s events, marketing and sport development departments were onsite to collaborate with race directors and gather feedback throughout the weekend. Presentations focused on equipping race directors with the useful tools and top-level support from USA Triathlon to make their races successful. 

Eric Opdyke, who will be taking over as Race Director Committee Chair for 2019, said this year’s Race Director Summit had a different feel than in years past. 

“My biggest takeaway has been USA Triathlon’s commitment to the race director community,” Opdyke, who runs the REV3 triathlon series, said. “It’s very obvious, and the race directors have noticed. I think they’re more excited than ever, and they feel like they’re being supported by USA Triathlon more than ever.”

A key component of race director support in 2019 is the Race Director Toolbox. This collection of webinars, one-sheeters, templates and guides covers topics ranging from packet pickup and volunteer support to media relations and emergency contingency planning. 

USA Triathlon also offered this year’s Race Director Summit at a cost-effective registration fee of $199 to encourage participation from a wider scope of race directors.  

For first-time attendee Marcus Robinson, the Summit was a source of ideas and inspiration as he gets started in his career as a race director.

“The Race Director Summit has been on my radar for about six years now, and this was finally the year that it was in my budget to attend,” Robinson said. “I’m going to make sure it’s in my budget to attend going forward, because there are little gems and nuggets of information that you pick up from experienced race directors just by being in the same room. You never know what you can learn just by being here, who you might meet, and what connections you could make that might benefit you and your business when you take this knowledge back to your community.”

For more information about USA Triathlon Race Directors, and to find race director resources and support, visit usatriathlon.org/racedirectors.