At New England Endurance Events, we’re looking forward to the time when we can all race together again. However, we are also mindful that although restrictions will be eased that doesn’t mean many in our athlete community won’t be wary for some time. And we agree with them!
It’s become clear that races in 2021 will not be the same as races in, say, 2019. There will be differences — the extent of which will depend on how quickly the world returns to normal.
We did experience racing in this whole new atmosphere one time in 2020: with our Sea to Summit Triathlon. The NEEE team worked with our permitting entities to create as safe of an event as we thought possible. We reduced the number of participants. We changed the starting and finishing sites to locations which allowed for easy social distancing. We required masks except while racing. We held the athlete’s meeting via Zoom a week beforehand, and adjusted the procedures for packet pick-up. We held a distanced time-trial swim start. We placed restrictions on where family and friends could go during the race. We skipped the after-party (and refunded the portion of the registration fees that would have paid for the party) and the race’s award winners received a box by UPS post-event.
How wonderful it was to learn, weeks later, that not one case of Covid was contracted by our Sea to Summit athletes and supporters during their trip to Maine and New Hampshire.
With that accomplishment behind us, we look ahead to 2021. No matter what the health situation nationwide will be next summer, we are resolved to take extra precautions to keep our athletes safe. Triathlon’s governing body, USA Triathlon, has also been at the forefront in helping race directors plan safe races, and we are very much in touch with them — especially since our June 12 race in Hyannis has been designated the USAT Massachusetts State Championships.
So what should you look for? For one, efforts to create good hygiene will be ever-present. This will range from the addition of hand washing stations to how restroom facilities are located, managed and cleaned. Expect to wear masks when not racing. Likely there will be venue layout changes to avoid crowds of people (whether athletes or spectators).
It’s possible on-site registration will not be allowed, and packet pick-up will likely look different. For races which have held an athlete’s meeting in the past, we will hold remote meetings ahead of race-day and beef up our website pages to provide much more detail about the events.
We may ask you to limit the number of guests you bring to watch. This is a hard one…we know that for so many athletes the opportunity to share their accomplishments with loved ones is important. Let’s see how the situation unfolds this winter and spring.
Look for increased physical distancing at the venue. New England Endurance Events owns bike racks for races of over 1000 participants; it’s likely we will try to use all of them for, say, a 500-athlete race. We may ask athletes to body-mark themselves before arriving onsite. And the swim start…that’s likely to look different.
There is the possibility we will make the decision to not place and staff aid stations in transition areas and on the run courses. As you train this spring, we’d suggest getting comfortable with ways to bring along your own hydration. There are a ton of great products out there (flasks, bottle belts, etc). See what works best for you.
We will be providing recovery nutrition post-race, but it will be pre-packaged and carefully distributed. It’s even possible your post-race nutrition will be included in the goodie bag which you will have received pre-race.
(A side note on this: New England Endurance was one of the first race companies nationwide to cease using single-serve plastic bottles at our events, to help the global effort to reduce plastic waste. We may have to go back to it for a year. We’ll see.)
As racers finish, we may not be able to allow any congregating close together at the finish line or on the beaches and parking lots. The awards ceremony may look a lot different, if it’s to be held at all. (Don’t worry, our winners will still receive their deserved recognition!)
Sound do-able? We think so. One thing is going to bother every one one of us on the New England Endurance race management team: the likely inability to shake the hands (and to hug) athletes with whom we have gotten to know and to cherish over recent years. We will enjoy actually “seeing you” there on race day, we will settle for that, and will look forward to the day when we can get closer.
Stay strong. Stay safe.