The 2018 Life Time Tri season is about to get interesting…

If you haven’t heard yet, we’re taking some bold steps next year, launching a myriad of new initiatives that the industry hasn’t yet seen.

Our goal is to make the sport of triathlon a bit more friendly for new athletes, as well as enhance the experience of our seasoned veterans.

Why? It’s simple. We need to bring new life to short course triathlon.

Like any industry, if we’re to remain relevant to our existing marketplace, or even consider tapping into new audiences, we’ve got to adapt. We must find ways to convince veterans to have another go. We must invent opportunities for millennials to consider short course triathlon in their evoked set of personal activities.

While we’ll continue producing high-value events in iconic destinations, no longer can our incredible team label ourselves as “event producers.” Instead, we now consider ourselves to be in the Athlete Development business. Each of us are responsible for motivating, educating and physically preparing our customers for the challenge at hand. Make no mistake, this is all heavy lifting – and it’s needed.

After 12+ years in this sport, we continue to believe that short course triathlon still has its place in the endurance universe. We want to inspire and influence the multisport lifestyle for years to come, which is why our 2018 season will focus on these four initiatives:

  • We will simplify our approach.
  • We will increase accessibility to the party.
  • We will incorporate convenience into our sport.
  • We will rekindle the fun factor.

Allow me to explain…

Simplify
Let’s start with pricing. This year, all event prices include both registration fees and insurance. If you’ve ever attempted to explain the concept of secondary participant coverage fees to a non-triathlete, you understand.

Then, there’s the inclusion of both Coaches and Race Officials at each of our 2018 races. If you participated in our 2017 events, you likely observed the “Ask A Coach” booth at the Expo. This will be a standard next year, staffed by race-familiar experts whose duty is to offer complimentary, face to face guidance – from education to motivation, whatever it takes to reduce confusion and/or enhance the athlete experience.

Speaking of our Race Officials, you may notice something a bit different from them in 2018: actual athlete interaction. New penalty assessment is here. Gone are the days of being surprised with 2 or 4-minute additions to your finish times. Now, should an Official experience a rule infraction, they will automatically communicate with the offender – who will subsequently be directed to a penalty tent placed beyond T2. Much like Ironman and ITU, athletes will serve time penalties while on-course. Once they cross the finish line, there are no modifications to timing – which alleviates many historic awards ceremony issues. Stay tuned for full details on the 2018 rules.

Accessibility
Our goal is to make triathlon more diverse and more appealing to the masses. That means we need to be prepared to offset typical barriers to entry, often educational, physical training or financially-focused.

As for education, we will continue to offer free programs in every market, from Tri101 webinars, to fully-immersive first-timers’ programs. We will also offer physical training options, from online training plans to complimentary swim clinics to comprehensive (fee-based) in-club coached sessions. Of course, we’ll continue to support Women For Tri, local Para Tri organizations, inner-city development programs, and others looking to expand triathlon’s reach.

We’re also excited about our new scholarship program. We get it – triathlons are not cheap! To support those in financial need, Life Time Tri is proud to introduce a unique program to ease the possible financial burden. Twelve race entries will be donated across each of our events. Learn more.

Indoor Triathlons return on January 21, 2018. This national event series is the ultimate promotional opportunity for our sport. Last year, more than 6,000 individuals (the majority with zero triathlon experience) participated in the 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run events. At only $30 each, these are hot commodities (and each limited to 100 participants). Like our outdoor races, registration opens November 1. Details here.

By the way, the 2018 2XU New York City Triathlon returns to general entry this year. Gone is the lottery process, which started back in 2010. With 4,000 slots up for grabs, and now accessible to a first-come, first-served audience, this race will quickly sell out.

Convenience
Simply put, triathlon is anything but convenient. Tons of gear. Early mornings. Long waits. This sport can test anyone’s patience. Where we can, we’ll expand the model in place at the Chicago Triathlon, with flexible transition access, allowing for late check-ins or early check-outs.

In 2018, we will offer beginner-friendly starts at all races. During registration, participants will notice a new set of “race divisions,” where they select from either Competitive or Recreational groups. These new divisions (e.g. First-Timers, Friends + Family) will begin at separate times from the often intense, veteran triathletes. Allowing athletes to start with, and participate alongside, others of their choosing is long overdue. Further, some events will feature “Early Bird” or “Late Owl” start options – scheduled at the extreme ends of the day. Because these individuals are taken out of typical Age Groups, they are designated as Recreational athletes, thus not eligible for competitive awards. Capacities will vary by event.

Another convenience we’re incorporating into select event is race day Packet Pick Up. Available to the first 25 individuals at South Beach, CapTex, Minneapolis and Tempe (more races to come), athletes will be able to skip the Expo and check-in on race morning – a huge convenience for those with busy weekend plans, or those hoping to avoid hotels. A $25 convenience fee will apply.

The Fun Factor
If we’re not having fun, what’s the point?  We’re taking a stand, rolling-up our sleeves and mandating that everyone enjoy themselves while participating in our events! Sure, it’s OK to be (a bit) serious, but in the end, we want to see your smiling faces at the finish line. Staff and volunteers will be there to greet you, and to properly “knight” you with some new hardware. Through our partners at Athlinks, we’ll eventually be able to celebrate first-timer finishes and PRs, too – right in the finish chute!

Last week, we debuted the 4-person Mixed Relay competition in San Diego – to rave reviews! In the near future, we plan to unveil more experimental race formats like this, offering unique iterations of the classic swim-bike-run format. Chicago’s Triple Challenge will certainly return in 2018, as well as a new “Double” format in select markets.

Finally, it doesn’t get more exciting that the 2018 Life Time Tri Championship event, held within the 2018 2XU NYC Tri on July 1. We’re recognizing and rewarding the fastest athletes across the Life Time Tri Series with a blowout in NYC! Free biking shipping, a $50K prize purse and VIP access is only the beginning. Two qualifying races remain: South Beach (with expanded qualification standards [6-deep] due to Escape to Miami’s cancellation) and CapTex in Austin.

 

So, that’s our plan. We realize this is a lot, but it’s all necessary. Necessity stimulates innovation. Innovation leads to growth. Or so we hope.

Over the next 13 days, and forthcoming weeks and months, we’ll continue to deep dive into each of these innovative programs, philosophies and opportunities. Meanwhile, mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 1 at noon when registration opens for all 2018 events.

Let’s do this!

Scott “Hootie” Hutmacher
Brand Manager, LIFE TIME Tri