How Life Time Tri Plans to Make Short Course Triathlon Great Again

The eight-race series just kicked off a huge makeover at last weekend’s Minneapolis Triathlon.

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The eight-race series just kicked off a huge makeover at last weekend’s Minneapolis Triathlon.

In January, IMG announced its Escape From Alcatraz series, five races that gave top athletes slots to the iconic, always-sold-out (and expensive) Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. Now Life Time Tri aims to give IMG a run for its money by taking pages from obstacle course racing and Ironman to create its own short course series, culminating in the inaugural Life Time Tri New York City Championship next July. The goal: to make tri friendly and accessible to new triathletes, while getting vets stoked on going short. Here’s how they plan to do it.

First, USAT is out. You don’t need a USAT license to race the Life Time Tri series, and the series won’t apply USAT rules. Participant licenses and sanctioning primarily benefit races by providing them with liability insurance. Life Time Fitness is a massive company (127 gyms in 27 states) with its own insurance policies that the tri series is leveraging to eliminate the need for coverage through USAT.

What that means for racers: you don’t need an annual USAT card and you won’t get $15 tacked onto your entry fee if you need a day license. The entry fee is the final price tag.

And instead of using USAT officials, Life Time Tri will implement Ironman and ITU rules assessment. So you will never finish one of the eight races (see schedule below) to find 4 minutes mysteriously tacked onto your time. Instead, officials will throw you in the dog house/penalty tent should you get caught for drafting/littering/blocking/whatever. So you will always know where you finished in relation to everyone else when you cross the line.

Second, you can pick your wave. Just like in OCR (that’s obstacle course racing to the uninitiated), you can choose what time you want to race, and pay a premium to race in the elite first wave. (To be fair, Life Time Tri events have always had this exclusive elite wave.) But wait, there’s more! You can also elect to start together with friends in non-competitive waves, choose an early wave if you want to make it to afternoon tea, or a later wave if you want to sleep in. There will still be age group waves, but these extra options are meant to entice new racers while still giving those who want to compete head-to-head with their peers a true race.

Third, transition is flexible. No more showing up to rack your bike at 5 a.m. when you’re not racing until 8 because transition closes at 6. Select events will give athletes more fluid transition access so you can rack when you need to, and grab your bike when you’re done without waiting around.

Fourth, and certainly the most exciting to triathletes who love to race, the top three finishers in each age group at each of the eight races in the series will earn guaranteed entry into the first Life Time Tri New York City Championship on July 1, 2018—and the opportunity to compete for a $50K prize purse there. And the first 50 people to register on-site after the awards ceremony at each of the series races will get their bike shipped to the New York Championship for free.

The announcement solidifies the Life Time Tri series’ evolution from a big-time pro racing series to an amateur-focused experience. In the mid-2000s, the series helped catapult the careers (and bank accounts) of many pros, including Andy Potts, Hunter Kemper, and Greg and Laura Bennett, with a half-million dollar total prize purse. Life Time announced the removal of pro prize purses last year in favor of improving the amateur experience, making it one of several race brands, including Rev3 and Hy-Vee, to reduce or remove pro purses in favor of age group competition.

To streamline a sport that has a lot of moving parts, Life Time Tri pared down their events from the 13 offered last year to the eight, concentrating on major metropolitan areas. They did it to incentivize travel—they want their events to be destination races.

Life Time Tri also restructured their race organization, going through a similar makeover to the one Ironman had when it went from regional operations to a more centralized structure to maintain a consistent race experience and branding across all of their triathlon events.

“Ironman owns the luster of triathlon and they’re out to dominate the world, which is great,” says Scott “Hootie” Hutmacher, Brand Manager of Life Time Tri. “But short course triathlon has almost fallen off the map. So this massive initiative is to help shake things up a little bit, help our industry evolve, be a forward leader and try some new things out.”

The new format 2018 Life Time Tri Championship qualifying race season includes:

Date Race
Saturday, July 8, 2017 Minneapolis Triathlon, Minneapolis, MN
Sunday, July 16, 2017 New York City Triathlon, New York, New York
Saturday, August 27, 2017 Transamerica Chicago Triathlon, Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 17, 2017 Tempe Triathlon, Tempe, AZ
Sunday, September 24, 2017 Escape to Miami Triathlon, Miami, FL
Sunday, October 15, 2017 Life Time Tri San Diego, San Diego, CA
Sunday, April 15, 2018 South Beach Triathlon, Miami, FL
Monday, May 28, 2018 CapTex Triathlon, Austin, TX
Sunday, July 1, 2018 Life Time Tri New York City Championship, New York, New York

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