Rev3 Williamsburg Race Review

Doran | June 25th, 2013 - 4:17 pm

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Wow, where do I start with this past weekend’s Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic Triathlon?  Let’s just say I’m really mixed in my feelings.   I had my first Olympic Distance PR in FOUR YEARS, but it was also the most poorly organized triathlon event I’ve ever attended.  In order to give both the race review and my personal race report their fair shake, I am going to divide this into two different posts.  We’ll save the best for last, which means unfortunately I’ll have to discuss the Rev3 Williamsburg event now.

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the reasons I chose this race was because I’ve heard so much about how Rev3 looks after the athletes, both pro and age group.  So I paid $175 to enter this race.  Basically twice what a typical Setup Events race costs.  As someone who has done over 40 triathlons, from small local events to Ironman and Nation’s Tri with thousands of people, this was the absolute worst produced event I’ve attended.  By far.  So let’s delve into some of the gory details.

For one, this race had two transition areas.  While this is not the norm, there are several races that I’m aware of that have this unique feature.  So right off the bat, Rev3 made a decision to make this race more complicated for the athletes.  I can say with certainty, I’ll never do a race with two transitions again, it is just too much added hassle to be worthwhile.   I can understand why Rev3 chose to do this, the Swim/T1 location at Jamestown Park did not have adequate facilities or space for a large expo and finish festival, nor probably enough parking.  So they had T2/Finish Festival on William & Mary campus about 6 miles away.  I can see how two transitions is manageable, and in this case, more desirable for Rev3, but they completely failed at basic race execution and taking care of the athletes and spectators.

Saturday – Swim Practice, Check-In/Packet Pickup, Bike Racking

This race, like many other big-time races, featured a mandatory packet pickup, either Friday or Saturday, rather than a race-day (Sunday) option.  Also, you had to rack your bike on Saturday.  Fair enough.  Rev3 also offered a chance to swim on the course on Saturday morning from 8am to 10am.  All of this is pretty typical.  But add in the timing and locations, and suddenly your whole day is spent running around Williamsburg pre-race.

We turned up at about 9am for the swim practice.  This may be a good time to mention that in the days before the race, Rev3 had nothing posted about the water temperature, which I guessed was going to be very close to the wetsuit legal line of 78 degrees.  So I tweeted at them on Friday and they responded with 76.3 degrees.  Wetsuit legal.  But what if I hadn’t tweeted them?  We all just guess what it would be on race day?  Anyway, I was very excited to check out my new full-sleeve Xterra Vector Pro wetsuit that I won from Travlete.com and hadn’t used in open water yet.  The suit felt great, very buoyant with good flexibility.  However, with the water this warm, I decided to stay with my usual sleeveless Xterra wetsuit on raceday.  Anyway, Rev3 seemed to have a small handful of officials at the swim, but I did not see any rescue personnel, so what made this different than me just showing up at a state park and swimming?  Anyway, with the swim scheduled from 8-10am, packet pickup was from 10am to 7pm on Saturday.  So we got in the car and headed across town to packet pickup and the expo.  This part went smoothly and efficiently.  Within 20 minutes we had our packets and had checked out the small expo and merchandise tent.  So it was now about 11am and we had one task left.  Bike check in at T1 back near the lake, but that didn’t open until 2pm.  So we went to lunch at Williamsburg Winery (quickly becoming a favorite lunch spot of ours) and waited to drive back to Jamestown Park to rack our bikes.  We put on the race numbers, went for a little ride to loosen up, and then proceeded to rack our bikes.  Again, this activity itself went very smoothly, and I even met a reader of this little blog.  So I have to say hi to Megan and I hope she had a great first half ironman.  It’s now 2:30pm and we’ve taken from 9am – 2:30pm (5.5 hours!) to accomplish what could have taken an hour if transitions were in one place, and AT MOST 2 hours with the current setup if Rev3 had considered the timing of the events and allowed bike racking to start early in the morning, or had the swim later in the day.  By the time we got home at 4pm we were pretty beat and still had to get prepared for race day, which was again complicated by the two transition system.This is also when we devised our plan for race morning.  In the end, it worked out, but no thanks to Rev3.

Swim Practice - see any Safety Personnel? Nope.

Swim Practice – see any Safety Personnel? Nope.

Luckily I had CJ looking after me, so I was in good hands!

Luckily I had CJ looking after me, so I was in good hands!

T1 - not yet ready to accept bikes

T1 – not yet ready to accept bikes

Bike racked in T1, and semi-protected from rain

Bike racked in T1, and semi-protected from rain; nametag was nice touch

Sunday – Race Day

We drove to T2 first (arriving at about 5:30am) and quickly set up our run gear, then drove to T1 (arriving at about 6:00am) to prepare our bike gear and obviously start the race with the swim.  We had to drive both places, because while Rev3 offered shuttles for athletes and spectators to get from setting up T2/Finish to T1/Swim in the morning, THEY DIDN’T OFFER A SHUTTLE FOR SPECTATORS TO GET FROM THE SWIM BACK TO T2/Finish!!!  This wasn’t a problem for Conor and I, because obviously we’d be racing and end the bike leg at T2, but how would Conor’s fiancé Ashley, my wife CJ, and any other spectator get back to T2?  Walk the 6 miles?  We had no choice but to drive to both locations in the morning.  After we exited the swim, inexplicably the “Swim In” entrance to T1 and “Bike Out” were reversed from the day before, making it difficult to find our bike racks and yet another execution error on the part of Rev3.  So many people had made the same decision and drove themselves to T1, that cars were parked on the path that was supposed to be part of the bike course!  Should not a volunteer been assigned to help with parking and keep the path clear? So at the last minute they changed it so bikes exited onto the main road, rather than the blocked trail.  This change also made it more difficult for the spectators to then get in their cars after the swim and drive to T2.  CJ and Ashley navigated through bikers and traffic and finally found parking about a mile from T2.  It took them about 45 minutes and they barely made it there in time to see Conor and I come in off the bike and begin the run.  I should also mention in here, that during T1 we had to stuff our wetsuits and goggles, etc into a bag, which Rev3 would pick up and deliver at the finish line for us to claim after the race.  This wasn’t a big deal, and everyone has to do the same thing, so it really didn’t bother me.  But it would soon be an issue.

The bike course itself was generally well marked with enough traffic control and volunteers to show us the correct way.  There were a few tricky little sections, but I can’t really complain here.  I did not see ONE race official checking for drafting penalties.  Not one.  Were there any? I have no idea.  The bike and run had arrows on the ground, with different colors for the Half Ironman and Olympic distance races. There was no confusion about which course to follow.  However, on the run course the arrows often pointed in the wrong direction and there were just enough directions/volunteers not to go off course.  I was not impressed, considering it was an out and back, they really only had about 4 miles of run course to mark properly and maintain with aid stations, directions, and volunteers (including the Half, which did the out-and-back twice).   I will say the aid stations were adequately staffed and supplied with water and Gatorade (and maybe other nutrition as well, I didn’t need it for Olympic distance race).  They also had tubs with cold wet sponges, which are REALLY nice, especially for the longer distance races.  I definitely took advantage of them.

So far I haven’t exactly painted a positive picture of Rev3.  But to this point nothing was terrible, it was just a bit inconvenient in terms of timing and logistics.  But post-race is when the real egregious issues arose.  I finished the race, elated from a new PR, and happy to share in Conor’s celebration of 4th place (from what we could tell at the time).   After recovering for a few minutes and catching up with Conor, Ashley, and CJ, it was time to begin replenishing my body with energy and fuel to repair the damage I had just inflicted on it.  However, the post-race food was nowhere to be found!  There was a tent and a catering company set up but the food wasn’t ready yet.  Since there was a Half Ironman and Olympic race going on at the same time, and I was up at the front end of the Olympic race, I wasn’t initially bothered by this.  To pass the time I went over to the huge computer monitors and tried to look up my results / split.  No luck, they weren’t loaded yet.  So we waited around for a while and 30 minutes later, still no food and no results.  At this point, many people had finished.  The DJ was apologizing for the lack of results and encouraging people to leave the timing tent alone and let the get the results sorted out.  Soon this “encouragement” turned very negative and he was actually calling individuals out over the PA system and saying things like “You, the blonde guy by the results tent, I am talking to you.  If you don’t leave the timing guys alone, I will add 5 minutes to your time.  Yes, I’m serious, let them do their jobs.”  I could not believe it.  Granted, type A triathletes are annoying about their results, but is this how ANY company would treat their customers?   After TWO HOURS of waiting we didn’t have our results or our food so we were ready to leave.  Conor and I went to grab our gear and go, but we were still missing the bags from T1 containing our goggles and wetsuits.  Rev3 had not yet got them to the finish line.  It is now about 11:30am, approximately 3 hours after the last person exited T1 and as faster Half athletes were beginning to finish and a vast majority of the 477 Olympic athletes had finished.  Where were our T1 bags? The food finally showed up and hundreds of athletes got in line.  We were hot and pretty upset at this point, so we got our bikes and walked the mile to where CJ and Ashley had parked, in order to drive somewhere to get some decent food for lunch.

Very nice finishing chute

Very nice finishing chute

After our meal, we returned to T2/Finish at about 12:45 and were surprised to find the results computers shut down, and still no bags.  It was beginning to get hot and we were absolutely pissed by this point.  At around 1pm individual pick-up trucks stuffed with T1 bags in the back seat and truck bed began to show up, as well as a box truck.  Too few volunteers were working very hard to get them out and organized.  Hundreds of angry athletes were lining up to get their stuff and get out of there.  However, they would not let the athletes get their own bags. Rather, you had to wait for a volunteer to ask you your number, find your bag (with number on it) and hand it to you.  With only 5 or 8 volunteers and 1500 athletes, many of which had two bags (dry clothes and T1) this was not an efficient process.  Around this same time they announced results of the pro race, interviewed the pro’s and began to set up for age group awards.  By this time, some semi-readable but still messed up results were available online and at the computers, so they decided to start with age group awards.  Conor and I each received age group awards, which I would definitely say were above average.  Each person received a medal that interlocked with the finisher medal, goggles, powerbar nutrition gels/bites, a Rev3 pint glass (they ran out before they got to me) and a gift certificate to the expo tent (1st place in AG was $25, 2nd place in AG was $15), so I got a Rev3 coffee mug.  I’m such a sucker for coffee mugs.  Anyway, all in all it was a very solid awards ceremony, with a nice stage and good prizes.  Finally, a little of the Rev3 brand showing through all of the chaos and disappointment.  The same can be said of the race shwag.  At packet pickup everyone received a nice Rev3 visor, and at the finish line you received a very heft finisher medal and long-sleeve t-shirt.  Combine this with my age group awards bounty and I would say this is about double what I would expect from a $80 or $100 race which is about right, since I paid double for the entry.

Awards Stage and JumboTron - definitely far and above your normal race

Awards Stage and JumboTron – definitely far and above your normal race

Shwag - AG awards stuff on left, general finisher merch on right

Shwag – AG awards stuff on left, general finisher merch on right

Summary  

As you can guess, I’ll never do another Rev3 race again.  Nor will I do a race with two transition areas, unless I have a very, very good reason.  This was the inaugural Rev3 Williamsburg race, and I understand all first time races have some kinks to iron out.  But the shortcomings of this race went well beyond that, and Rev3 failed at even the basics of event production.   Basically everything I said here, and more is discussed on the slowtwitch forums.  I wrote this before checking them, so everything in here is my experience, many had even worse complaints.

In summary, I did find some positives in the race:

  • Good shwag (big medal, visor, longsleeve t-shirt, age group awards)
  • Packet Pickup and Bike Check-in were very quick and efficient
  • Small touches, like athlete names under their number in transition area
  • Well-stocked aid stations on the run
  • Nice finish line area with big stage and big jumbotron TV
  • Results computers would have been nice if they had results ready
  • Great promotion of the pro athletes (posters in transition, interviews afterwards, media leading up to race, very good prize money)
  • Cool contests, like best finisher photo and a green screen to take funny photos
  • Anyone can go down finisher chute with athletes, unlike Ironman-brand races (of course this also annoys the athletes directly behind the person with three kids trying to make it down finishing chute).

Unfortunately the list of negatives is a bit longer:

  • Bare minimum of kayak/safety crew during swim (and I think many Half participants cut the course – later confirmed on slowtwitch forums)
  • Last minute transition 1 / course changes due to poor planning/parking support
  • The shuttles appeared to be insufficient, causing people to be late and they delayed the start of the race
  • Bare minimum bike/run course marking / marshalls
  • TERRIBLE spectator viewing & spectator logistics (driving, parking, lack of shuttles, etc)
  • Poor planning of swim practice, packet pickup, and bike check-in timing
  • Getting Dry Clothes and T1 bags to Transition
  • Running out of age group prizes (the age group BEFORE mine…aaahhhh)
  • Post-race food arriving 2 hours late for Olympic athletes and a little late for fast Half athletes
  • Mix up in the results, which as of Tuesday after the race still aren’t quite right online
  • Volunteers not fully informed or very helpful
  • No food or drink available for purchase by spectators.  At a half ironman, spectators are going to be there for 6 or 8 hours, would be nice to have a concession stand for them.

5 Responses to “Rev3 Williamsburg Race Review”

  1. Paul Martinez says:

    Great job with the AG win, by several minutes. Really impressive stuff!

    I yelled at you on the course and talked with you after. I too was disappointed with many things about the race production. Unless they flat out apologize or offer some big discount to a future race I doubt I’ll do another.

  2. Doran says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for saying hello and dropping a note on here. Really good to meet you. I for one am looking forward to just doing a smaller VTS race without all the hassle. Let me know when you’re going to race again!

  3. […] now that we have the good, bad, and ugly of the actual event production out of the way, I’ll share a little bit about my personal race.  As explained a little bit in a […]

  4. Meghan Manion says:

    That is a fair assessment of the race Doran. Thanks for the shout out here too!

  5. […] I immediately signed up, despite my semi-disastrous experience with another first time race, Rev3 Williamsburg.  However, this time, I knew they wouldn’t be taking any of my gear […]

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