A new event broke upon the Long Island horizon of endurance sports. It was the "Ironclad Triathlon." Not to be confused with an Ironman, the Ironclad was a sprint distance event. The perfect starter for a first time multisport competitor. A Sprint distance tri is typically about a half mile swim, followed by about an eleven mile bike phase and a 5 K run. A very good time has a finisher doing the event in about an hour. An Ironman is an Ultra Endurance event with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on the bike and a full marathon run to top it off. But a sprint tri is doable by a well conditioned healthy average athlete who prepares for the event.
So, if Ironclad isn't an Ironman, then where does the name come from? That goes to the sponsor of the event. Held at, and sponsored by Webb Institute, the premier naval architecture school in the US, Webb Institue was founded by William Webb who made his fortune building some of the first ironclad naval vessels. His home, the Pratt Estate was donated as the site of Webb Institute and thus the name of the event devolves from this.
This being the inaugural of the event, we were impressed by how well organized and orderly the event actually was. A credit to the organizers, I am sure that some degree of credit also goes to the experience of the competitors as well. Having participated in the Long Island Winter Run Series, I noted many familiar faces amongst the crowd, so I presume that the field was filled with mature competitors who knew what to expect and how to perform.
If you were to pick a location for such an event based solely upon the beauty factor, Webb Institute would have to loom large on the short list. The start/finish area was located on the high terminal moraine of Long Island overlooking the Sound in which the swim portion of the event was held. The cyclists headed out for an eleven mile tour of the North Shore Gold coast which is a very popular route for recreational and touring cyclists as well. Touring up and down the hilly North Shore topography I am sure was not an easy, although certainly beautiful, ride. Lastly the runners entered and exited the run phase through the arched driveway of the Estate in the midst of a view that can only be described as inspiringly picturesque.
The competitive field appeared to this reporter to be comprised mostly of Triathletes who knew each other. I am certain that being a narrow, but growing, segment of the population, that this was a true observation. Friendly and cheerful, the field appeared to be oriented more toward a good day of healthy fun. Help and advice seemed to flow easily amongst the crowd of 200 plus participants, and for the most part the victors seemed to hang around the finish to cheer in the bulk of the field. It appeared a day of decent supportive fun.
The following text is the impression of our contributing author Aida Gail Perez. A Journalist from Spain, who is writing a book on Cycling in Cities around the world, she was hosted here in New York by Pedal Pushers Online during her stay in The Big Apple. A Triathlete herself, she offered the following informed impression of the event:
The Ironclad Triathlon was just one week after the National Triathlon Trials in Valencia, Spain. This Spanish based race was a professional triathlon in which the competitors are qualifying for a bid in the National Championships. As a result the competition there is intense and very serious. The typical competitor in the Trials is a triathlete with a minimum of two years of competitive experience, so this is serious business.
I observed the Ironclad Triathlon to be a primarily fun event. Even more than that, I got the impression that the organizers were among the more experienced triathletes, who also participated in the race. They finished well and thus improved their overall standings. Triathlon is not just a game anymore, it is not like years ago, when no one knew anything about transition areas or wet suits. Now, as in most sports, we have professional athletes, recreational competitors, and first timers coming out just to enjoy the sport. In Spain we do not compete in the same events anymore. No cyclist would go into the Tour de France just for fun, and in triathlon something similar is happening. The question is: Is that good? Should we compete together or separate professionals and amateurs?
I will go for the second option. No solution is perfect, but we have more positive points in favor of stratifying the competition. Some examples: The professional races would be more likely to grab media attention. Thus, the sport will be exposed to more people and it will become more popular. With such increased popularity athletes will be more likely to try a triathlon. As a result of such popularity the cost of participation will reduce (wetsuits for everyone) and more people will be organizing triathlons, and more opportunities to participate will arise.
The down side will be the lack of opportunities to battle side by side with the toughest athletes, and that might inhibit athletes from going to the next level.
The Ironclad Triathlon was the kind of a triathlon in which we can see classmates battling each other and having fun. They are listening to their bodies and seeing how far they can go. Is not that the aim of a triathlon? I remember when it was that for me.
This particular race was a remarkable first effort. They swam in Long Island Sound, they went up decent hills with their bikes and then ran through some beautiful forest. If that was not enough? Well, they organized it all by themselves. 250 people came together, tried their best and at the minimum, they got the race cap for the swim, the Polar system, food, police and ambulance support, shops selling stuff..., and in general that meant that they had a nice triathlon. Professional or not we enjoyed our sport without feeling we were there for nothing. Does anybody think about playing soccer with David Beckam on the other team? It could be fun for a little while, but probably not for long. Should we go for triathlon with the pros each time?
At this point we should realize that triathlon has become a popular sport. We must accept the rules, and we must accept the growth. Some of us just we like to participate, and others like to win. It's what makes the sport a different experience for all of us.
At the end of the day, the most important is to make the attempt.
Gary: We're Talking with Porter Bratten, The organizer and driving force behind the Ironclad Tri: Porter, you're a student here at Webb Institute?
Porter: Yes I'm a Junior.
Gary: So there'll be a second Ironclad I take it?
Porter: Yeah for sure. We'll have it Yeah!
Gary: This has got to be the most beautiful race I have ever been to. It's an absolutely magnificent place to have a race!
So, talk to me about it, what got you to do this? How Come?
Porter: I started a triathlon club at the beginning of last semester, last August, and we went to one race down in New Jersey and it was a lot of fun. And I thought about going to races around here, but we didn't really have any that were near by, and affordable and so forth. So on the way back from a cross country meet, I proposed the idea of having one here and people were pretty favorable about it, so I started organizing it last October. We've been working at it since then, getting students interested in volunteering, and competing, and it has just kind of evolved since then.
We got some really good timing people and sponsors, like Sunrise Tri our title sponsor a triathlon shop here on long Island and others and that's how it happened. We've also had a great deal of support from Webb Institute, the City of Glen Cove, Glen Cove VMS, and Police helped out a lot. Mayor Suozzi came down to start us off. A lot of local businesses donated prizes and what not. We've had a lot of local support and it has been great.
Gary: The event is very well attended, you sold out the first 200 seats in what a few months?
Porter: We have slightly over 200, 209 including the relays. We sold out almost two months ago. So, yeah, it filled up very quickly. Which I was very pleased with.
Gary: When are you going to open registration for next year?
Porter: Probably In December, maybe January, somewhere around there when I have time. It will be a pretty straight forward process next year.
Gary: Well you've done all the really hard work already in terms of organizing it, this year.
Porter: I really hope so.
Gary: How many Webb Institute students were competitors?
Porter: If I am not mistaken I think we have 18 in all, one relay and 15 individuals.
Gary: What about next year? Expanding?
Porter: The real limiting factor is parking. Even this year we had to park on the road, we'll have to see how that goes. We have to streamline a few things like registration, if we expand it, maybe 250 next year? But we're gonna keep it small, kind of intimate, just because that's the way it is. It's just kind of a family organization and event.
Gary: How did you feel about the bicycle in and out?
Porter: Yeah that definitely has to be rethought for next year. I came in and had to skid to a stop. That was something we didn't think enough about. This was my first year doing it. So, I think we'll have a lane seperating that area, This way, when we have people making the loop, they will be on the inside, and people who are coming in or going out will be on the outside. There will also be a lot more officials directing them at that point. But as far as I know that was the only issue. No one was injured and that is what I was praying for.
Gary: So the folks who walk the hills of Webb regularly, do they have an advantage over the flat landers?
Porter: Well, I have practiced on the course quite a bit, and I was grateful that I could do that. It certainly is a help to know the course, especially the run course, its ups and downs. We had the bike course posted to the website months and months ago so there is no advantage there. But we're students and we work and work hard so we gotta have an advantage somehow! (laughter)
Gary: well thanks for a wonderful event and we'll look forward to next year.
Porter: and the next year and the next year and on and on... Thanks for coming!