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Posted: February 17, 2005

Triathlon: Somersault Promotions brings Ontario's Only Iron Distance Triathlon to Ottawa

Background:
Ontario's only "ironman distance" triathlon will take place September 3rd in Ottawa.

Somersault Promotions has added an iron distance race to "The Canadian", a multisport event which includes:
THE CANADIAN Iron Distance Triathlon, Duathlon & Relay,
THE CANADIAN HALF Iron Distance Triathlon, Duathlon & Relay,
THE CANADIAN SPRINT Triathlon & Relay,
THE CANADIAN Try A Tri, and
WYLIE RYAN Kids' Surf & Turf.
 Somersault owner, Terry McKinty at the 0024 Thousand Islands Triathlon
Somersault owner, Terry McKinty at the 0024 Thousand Islands Triathlon

The Runner's Web chatted with Somersault owner, Terry McKinty, about his rationale for adding the Iron Distance race to an already successful event.

1. Runner's Web(RW): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Terry. What was the motivation behind adding the Iron Distance race to the already successful Canadian Half?

Terry McKinty(TM:: Thanks Ken. First let me say how pleased we are to have RunnersWeb as our internet media sponsor. We believe that you touch the start and finish line world better than anyone and reach many of those who we feel might consider our event.

As for the reason behind our decision, well it is a combination of commitment and idiocy. We think Ontario has one of the largest populations of triathletes in the world. And literally hundreds of Ontarians enter and complete Ironman distance triathlons all over North America and the World. yet there isn't one in Ontario. so we said what the heck, we have a Half Ironman Distance race already, let's keep the courses open for another 8 hours and put one on here.

What a venue! Ottawa has to be one of the world's most beautiful cities and we have a course right in the heart of the city, with traffic free roads.

2. (RW): I understand that use of the term "Ironman" is not allowed for other than events that are sanctioned (and controlled) by the World Triathlon Corporation. Have you heard from them?

(TM: Well, yes we did hear from Ironman North America, when we first initiated the event. We were using the name Ironman to describe the race distance, and they took exception to that. So at their request, rather than getting into a disagreement with them, we changed the reference to "Iron Distance". We haven't heard from them since.

3. (RW): What are your expectations for the Iron Distance event for the first year and beyond?

(TM): We really don't know what to expect in terms of participation. Our goal is to try and hit 200 in the Iron Distance, while maintaining our 300 plus in the Half Iron Distance. Is that a reasonable expectation? I don't know. But we are encouraged by the early season registration - we are at more than 25 % of our goal already in the Iron Distance, which is quite encouraging. . So we will see. I think we will be about 1200 plus in total participation on event day, making this event one of the largest in Canada.

4. (RW): What has the response to-date been from the local multisport community?

(TM):The response has been awesome. We currently have more than 20 people on what we are calling our advisory group. All of these people have skills and experiences that will benefit the event tremendously. Our goal is to make this an Ottawa event - one that the whole local multi-sport community feels it has an ownership in. We are working hard at this concept and I am excited about the commitments we have to date from key players.

5. (RW): Has adding the Iron Distance helped with sponsor recruitment?

(TM):Not yet. We haven't aggressively pursued sponsorship. I am of the belief that participation has to drive an event. If enough people want to do it, it will happen. sponsors add the icing. We have been successful in attracting Rogers Cable TV as a sponsor, and are just now starting to approach the corporate sector for support and sponsorship. We will see how it goes, but it won't drive the event.

6. (RW): Do you expect the Iron Distance to attract participants who would otherwise do the Half or do you expect that it will bring new participants?

(TM): Our hunch was that it would do both. So far, it has. We have many locals entered, but our first entry was from Nashville Tennessee and we have several others from out of country and province. Let's face it, we are much less expensive than an "Ironman" race, but I think we will offer a package that is quite attractive and finishers will be able to compare their times to those in the "Ironman " races.
 Canadian Half Ironman 2004 Winner - Suzanne Russell
Canadian Half Ironman 2004 Winner - Suzanne Russell

7. (RW): What percentage of participants in previous events have been local? Do you expect this to change for the Iron Distance event?

(TM): Ottawa based races in our event program are comprised of 90% of participants who have driven less than 1 1/2 hours to get here. This is quite different from The Canadian, where we anticipate that 40% of the participants will drive from outside that radius. So far, this is the case.

8. (RW): How has the preparation for this year's event been going, any major problems?

(TM): We have only encountered strong support locally. The City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission who are the 2 main course providers have been generous in letting us close the roadways we need for 16 hours to let this race happen. We still have some challenges in devising a new Transition Zone Site, that is necessary to accommodate the expected increase in numbers, but things are generally moving along smoothly.

9. (RW): Are there any changes planned for the event, location, organization, etc?

(TM): Our current event site and T-Zone have accommodated the 900 participants we had last year, but cannot handle the expected 1200 this year. The great thing about the site area, is we have several options available to us to make it work with the anticipated larger numbers.

10. (RW): Somersault is a hobby/business with you? What motivates you to take on such a substantial undertaking?

(TM): We learned in 1997, that it is very difficult to make this a business that can provide a family with a living. In 1998, when we began to operate as Somersault Promotions, we made a family decision to not rely on the event business to support us. I work full time for CAHPERD, the Canadian Association for health , Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and that has been great. I am a physical educator by background and the salary I earn there is what my family lives on. That allows us to operate Somersault, without the pressure of having to make a lot of money - and good thing for that, because it doesn't - it is a nice part time job. I am an ex-athlete and coach who has had two open heart operations and a total knee replacement. I don't coach anymore and can't participate, so events is how I stay connected to a lot of people with whom I identify. I think events give a lot of people a reason to get out there everyday and train to stay fit an healthy. I like to think we play a part in their regime.

11. (RW): While you have focused on the Canadian, Somersault offers a number of other events. How many total participants did Somersault serve last year? Can you talk about the series of events you organize?

(TM): In our 7 events last year, we attracted 5400 participants and about 1000 volunteers. We are very proud of that. Our niche, if we have one, is offering something for everyone, and catering to the "average adult". We have shied away from the truly elite stuff, because we really like working with everyday people. Our goal in 2005, having added 2 new events, is to have 7000 participants attend our events. Early season registrations indicate we have a chance at that.

12. (RW): What is your background as an athlete? I know you have an extensive running background. How did you get into the multisport business?

(TM): You and I go along way back Ken. As President of the Ontario Track & Field Association in the late 70's - the start of the running boom - and you as the organizer of the National Capital Marathon we crossed paths and I can say that you were instrumental in supporting the adult running movement in Ontario. I was a high school teacher and club coach who ran with the kids and coached a few to National Championships, up in Sudbury. My personal achievements were modest - 1:54:00 in the 800 metres at age 30, around 4:00 minutes in 1500 metres and a best of 31:50 in 10Km. I found up in Sudbury that I could actually affect more people by organizing events than by coaching, so over time I gravitated to event organization and away from coaching. I arrived in Ottawa as the National Competition Director for the Canadian Track & Field Association. I love all sports and particularly start and finish line sports where everyone is heading in the same direction and can achieve their goals no matter what others do.

13. (RW): Thanks for your time Terry, and good luck with the Canadian and the rest of the Somersault program for 2005.

(TM): Thanks Ken for being such a big supporter of participation sports in Ottawa and abroad. I hope The Canadian can add to the mosaic that makes Ottawa such an amazing city of healthy fit people.

For more information on the Canadian Iron Distance Triathlon and other events organized by Somersault Promotions visit their website at: Somersaultpromotions.com.


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