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Sevenoaks Triathlon: behind the scenes
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 29th April 2009


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Tri247 paid a visit to the Sevenoaks Triathlon recently, hosted by 7Oaks Tri Club (www.7oakstriclub.co.uk). Our aim wasn't to produce the 'normal' race report - that's pretty difficult, on-site, during a wave start pool swim event (!), but more to report on the event itself.

The race has been consistently full for several years now (it's held twice a year, April and September), and we've seen and heard many positive reports from athletes and sponsors. We wanted to look a little behind the scenes, to find out what makes the event tick, the organisers, the marshalls and also to find out what the athletes thought - irrespective of their finishing position!

The first thing that is blindingly obvious about the race is that while it may well be a grass roots, club organised event - and there were plenty of mountain bikes, hybrids and nervous novices present - it most most certainly is not grass roots in terms of organisation. Many, if not most organisers could learn a lot from the attention to detail and planning of the Sevenoaks team.

TransitionI arrived shortly after 5am, and transition was being set up with an air of calm authority and organisation. Dave Willumsen was running the transition, and said "we're pretty slick now, we've all done this so many times that we know it works and what we need to do."

Signage was crystal clear, transition was fair with everyone having the same distance to travel etc, with bike exit and entry at one end, and run exit at the other.

 

SportstiksThe first guys into the transition showed the popularity of the event with novices, as there were plenty of mountain bikes and nervous questions, all dealt with efficiently and courteously. Mike Clyne walked me through the route from pool to T1. Swimmers were set-off at 30 sec intervals, in the six lane pool, meaning that one swimmer joined a lane every three minutes. This meant that for the majority, two or three swimmers was the norm per lane which seemed more than reasonable and prevented over-crowding in the pool.

Sevenoaks are not a club that fear innovation, and the race was the first one I've attended that has used the new Sportstiks (www.sportstiks.com) 'sticky' number system, which provides you with all of your race numbers on one sheet - plus additional numbers for supporters!

The race was fully chip-timed by Stuart Steele (www.stuweb.co.uk), and that included transition splits too. I remember speaking to Stuart last year who really rated the Sevenoaks organisation, and I asked him what he thought after this year.

Live Timing"It's rare to see the this example of team working rather than just having a race director and volunteers. 7Oaks Tri club actually bring their community together to put these races on and it shows. The emails include the right people and from service provider point of view I knew what was expected.

These people who come together (for no financial gain of their own) are efficient, cohesive and move together as single entity. They are providing a true community effort and they bring the professional aspects of their life to triathlon to create a race which is fantastic to be a part of.

I suppose its easier to ask who is the race director? I think the answer would be "We Are!""

We covered the Sevenoaks bike course in detail on the site in advance of the race in our Garmin Route of the Month article. When I say 'we', I have to say a big thank you to Neil Colvin and the rest of the Sevenoaks cycle team leaders, who when I suggested it responded so quickly and with such detail.

The run course looked an absolute beauty, taking place in the stunning Knole Park, with many runners commenting on the deer that they saw during the race. There was also a nice twist at the beginning and end of the run - Webb's Alley, a short, but very steep pathway that you ran down at the beginning of the run, but then had to struggle up at the end of 8km. The pictures don't do it justice!

Webb's Alley

Another very visible element of the event is the quality and quantity of support from major brands and local business's that the club has been able to attract. This has a direct benefit to the competitors AND marshalls, who all received over-flowing goody bags, prizes, post-race refreshments and the opportunity to win some great giveaways.

  • The custom draw-string bag itself
  • Buff® headwear (customized for this event)
  • Bottle of Gatorade
  • Powerbar drinks bottle
  • A powerbar
  • A powergel
  • A packet of the new PowerBar ‘rideshots’
  • A copy of the first issue of Triathlon Plus magazine
  • Small bottles of Adidas deodorant
  • Small bottle of Sanex Shower gel
Goody bag

Finishers medalAt the finish line competitors received a specially struck medal, Gatorade and For Goodness Shakes! recovery drink, and there were also plenty of spot prizes being handed out, including BLOC sunglasses and goodies from blueseventy and Gatorade.

A nice touch was to have some quality prizes to give away at the prize-giving - the catch being that you had to be present to claim! This helped swell numbers for the prize giving, as a laptop computer (from Sevenoaks Computers), a blueseventy westsuit and a triathlon holiday for two (from Tri-Topia) were on offer in the prize draw.

So, if you are Mike Davies (#403) or Nick Lowe (#195)... you should have stayed around, as you could have walked away with a laptop, as you were the first two names drawn!

One of the reasons why the club is able to offer such value (for a very reasonable £30 entry fee), is the relationships they have built up with their sponsors. They treat the sponsors as true partners, and make every effort to ensure value for both parties, at the most basic level, ensuring that their sponsors are all highly visible. As well as the obvious promotional aspects, it all helped to give a big race feel.

Sponsors branding

Ryan Bowd was competing at the event, and also represents Gatorade (www.gatorade.co.uk) and their support of the race: "The Sevenoaks triathlon is a phenomenally well organised event. The 7Oaks Tri Club gives professional organisers a run for their money in approach and professionalism, but still manage to have a friendly club feel to the event. It is unsurprising that they have so many big brands involved in the race. Now only if they could smooth the hills out..."

L to R, Mark Whittaker, Alex Fairman & Mark Yeoman

Prize winners (1/2/3 men & woman, plus juniors, vets, super-vets and mega-vets) also benefitted, walking away with a trophy, Timex (www.timex.co.uk) watch, BLOC (www.bloceyewear.co.uk) sunglasses and Gatorade towel each for their efforts. The volunteer marshall's (who are all 7Oaks club members), were also not forgotten either. As well as receiving goody bags of their own, they were also delivered fresh coffee and baguettes out on the course to keep them fuelled and warm, as well as included in a separate prize draw contributed to by several of the race sponsors.

L to R, Claire Hitchings, Lara Hawkins, Nicola Groom

The prizes were presented by the three local companies who sponsor the event. Mark Tuvey from Opus Network Services (www.opus-telecom.co.uk), Robbie Herd from Sevenoaks Computers (www.sevenoakscomputers.co.uk) and Geoff Newman from Acorn Recruitment (www.acornrecruitment.com). All commented on what a great event it had been. Robbie Herd actually had Race #1, and took part himself, though did admit "I should have done some training really!"

I spoke to several athletes as they finished, all speaking very highly of the event, and I would expect a very high return rate for the September race. Given that this event sold out months in advance, don't wait around if you want to take part yourself. A sample of the feedback received via the club so far includes:

"Just like to say what a fantastic event your Triathlon was on Sunday. Several of us came down from the Viceroy Club and all feel that it is one of the best events of the year. Really well run and a great, challenging course."

"Just wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for hosting another fantastic event. Despite the increasing (and very welcome) professionalism of the event management, the race has lost none of its character and fun. Excellent goody bag, the best marshals, slick timing, challenging and beautiful course, enthusiastic sponsors... I could go on.  Now I just need to work out how on earth I can get near a 01:19:02 time!!!!"

"I would like to come back in September though so please let me know when entry opens.  Thank you to all involved you could teach some of the bigger events a lot."

"Just to echo lots of the other comments on the organisation. From parking to registration to finish it was great. Friendly, helpful and encouraging marshalls, really easy to follow the routes and I would definitely recommend it to anyone."

It really is great to see the 'club' race scene really working well, and we know that there are plenty of others out there seeking this level of quality.

You can find out more about 7Oaks Tri Club and their races on www.7oakstriclub.co.uk.


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