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Oh, COVID era racing, what a strange beast, what a mixed bag of emotions. So excited to be back out racing, so not thrilled about the thousands of unmasked spectators leaning against the fences yelling.
Now that we’ve had a few races here in the U.S. with certain standard COVID safety protocols, we’re all starting to get a little used to what works and what doesn’t. While there are quite a few things we’ll be excited to ultimately do away with once everyone’s vaccinated and rates eventually drop to manageable numbers, there are also some things that have turned out to be better than before. There are things we hope stick around: working from home, the ability to make appointments for lap swimming, virtual gym classes, drinking in parks.
And that’s true when it comes to racing too. There are some COVID safety protocols that we actually prefer now, that we really hope stick around in the future. Here are our top five:
- Designated check-in times. Look, my husband once—and I am not making this up—waited almost two hours in line to check-in his bike at 70.3 Worlds. While most of us don’t have to stand around that long, we’ve all waited in lines to pick up our bibs, to set down our transition bags, to hang up our bikes—right at the pre-race time when all we want to do is not be standing in line. This is silly and unnecessary. Much like making swim appointments, making appointments for registration and gear check-in is the life solution we didn’t know we needed.
- Virtual race briefings. The big caveat here is: You have to actually watch the virtual briefing. Just because there isn’t some guy up on stage telling you about the no passing zone doesn’t mean you can ignore the no passing zone.
- Slot roll down by email. I get it, I get it. Slot roll down live and in-person is exciting (not to mention profitable). Will the winner turn down their spot to Kona?! What if it rolls down and the person who gets it cries out of excitement?! What if it keeps rolling down all the way to me?! Can I run up on stage and hand over my credit card fast enough?! But it’s all a little unnecessarily stressful too. With COVID protocols mandating that you claim your slot during a designated window, the roll downs are now happening by email later in the day or the next day. And isn’t it so much more civilized now, so much less high stakes if you get stuck in traffic on your way to the awards ceremony.
- Getting your bike, gear, and morning clothes right after you finish. Do you remember how long you used to have to wait to get your stuff out of transition once you were done? Three beers, that’s how long—unless you could sweet talk a volunteer into letting you sneak in. Now I don’t know if this was just a quirk of St. George or if race organizers didn’t want volunteers having to handle athletes’ dirty clothes and were trying to keep people from congregating, but we could walk back to T2 straight from the finish line and pull our bikes and bags out immediately. And it was fine. Why didn’t we do this all along?
- No more handshakes or touching iPads. OK, just generally, I think we could do away with these things. I’m not sure why we ever decided rubbing our palms together was a necessary gesture of greeting. And those communal iPads at events, where every person who has just rubbed palms with someone else, who may or may not have washed their hands after coming out of the port-a-potty, then uses their fingers to sign their name and check all the waiver boxes? Yeah, those were always gross, even in pre-COVID times.
BONUS: There are those who would say good riddance to body marking, sayonara to permanent marker tattoos, but I say: No! I say, are some things not sacred. How will everyone in the office know you did a triathlon if you don’t get to tell them constantly that you did a triathlon. Also, it will be much much harder for you to find your photos without your number all over your body. And don’t you really do this for the epic photos after? Otherwise, why risk COVID at all.