by Ron Adkins
Heart of America Triathlon News
Despite the racing teams and tri clubs, triathlons are pretty much an individual sport. Racers generally train on their own, and for the most part, are out to beat their own personal bests, not to beat a particular competitor.
And those cheering them on are usually the loyal family members and significant others, standing in small groups with hand-made signs and cowbells. Except for Kona, and sometimes during the Olympics, triathlon coverage in the mainstream media is limited.
That’s why John Snitko’s brainstorm is such a great idea.
For the 2015 running of the Pigman Long, Snitko introduced a VIP area, complete with picnic tables, food and drinks, and a commanding view of the race. For a small fee, race fans could relax comfortably and cheer on their favorites.
“Having your own designated Porta-Potties alone is worth the price of the wrist band,” said volunteer Sue Schnelling.
Snitko, owner of JMS Racing Services and director of the Pigman triathlons, is a long-time superfan of triathlon and is always looking for ways to prosper the sport and to make race day an enjoyable experience for all involved.
“With the new course layout,” he said, “I wanted to make sure the fans had a safe place to watch the race. It gets rough finding a place where you’re out of the way and can still see what’s going on.”
Snitko agrees that the sport of triathlon is growing stronger every season. More first-timers are entering the Heart of America series, bringing their entourage of family and friends to cheer them on. It’s also growing as a spectator sport. Fans of the race are coming out in greater numbers to experience the excitement of triathlons. Soon, such venues like a VIP area will be a necessity on race days.
Tim Palmer, a member of the Midwest Extreme Tri Club, and professional caterer, provided the food for the VIP area. He was impressed with the concept.
“I think John has really come up with a great idea. This is really trend-setting,” he said. “This area gives people a nice place to watch the action and enjoy some amenities at the same time. Places like this can only help draw more fans out for races.”
“This sure beats sitting in a lawn chair on the side of the road,” said one fan enjoying a yogurt parfait and orange juice while doing the Sunday crossword. She paused for a moment to cheer her son out the transition and on to the bike course.
The placement of the VIP area was not only great for fans, but Palmer observed he thought there was another benefit.
“It can only help the performance of the runners,” he joked. “They’re going to smell hamburgers and sweet corn about a mile up the road. That kind of enticement can only improve their final times.”
A win-win for spectators and competitors alike.