By Pete Williams
No Horsing Around
Perhaps one day we’ll reach the saturation point when it comes to endurance sports events in Florida. But apparently we’re not there yet.
We wrote about the multiplication of obstacle mud runs recently and there seems to be no end to the number of running events of all distances.
The number of triathlon series also continues to grow. There’s Rev3 and TriRock, neither of which has come to Florida, though it’s just a matter of time.
Now an outfit best known for putting on equine show jumping events has decided to apply its event infrastructure to multisport with an ambitious plan to stage the HITS Triathlon Series featuring races ranging from sprint to Ironman-distance events over the course of a single weekend.
That’s right. In one weekend, there will be a sprint, an Olympic, a half-Iron, and an Ironman-distance. There also will be a shorter fifth race, an “open” newbie super-sprint of sorts.
Not sure this will have the appeal of the Goofy Challenge in Orlando, where a number of runners accept the challenge to do a half-marathon on one Saturday in January and a marathon the following day. The only time someone attempts a pair of tris in one weekend is when they race a pair of sprints.
The HITS series is bankrolled in part by Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., one of the nation’s preeminent private equity firms with approximately $9 billion in equity capital under management. Triathlon legend Dave Scott is serving as a consultant and the series has the full blessing of USA Triathlon.
Tom Struzzieri, who created the largest equine show jumping production company in the world, founded HITS. He took up triathlon a few years ago and decided to blend business and pleasure.
The HITS motto is “A Distance for Everyone” but I think they missed a terrific opportunity given their infrastructure and skill set.
This is a group accustomed to working with wealthy horse people in rich horse communities. Given the popularity of adventure racing, it seems they should have created a new obstacle/adventure/steeplechase/relay event with two-person teams and one horse. Heck, that kind of event is what inspired Bob Babbitt to create Muddy Buddy years ago.
Good luck dealing with the logistics of staging races of five different distances in one weekend. Then there’s the schedule. After debuting in Palm Springs on Dec. 3-4, HITS kicks off the 2012 campaign with a race in Naples…on Jan. 7-8.
Struzzieri’s base of operations is Saugerties, New York, so perhaps he can be forgiven for thinking weather is balmy in Florida – even Southwest Florida – the first week of January. It can be lovely or it can be downright chilly. Not sure I’d want to do a triathlon of any distance with temperatures possibly in the 40s or low 50s.
The HITS series comes to Ocala on March 24-25. Again, no guarantee of warm weather, but at least the HITS folks are operating out of familiar horse country for that race. That’s it for the Florida portion of the schedule, which also includes a stop in the storied baseball town of Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sept. 22-23.
It’s an ambitious calendar – a dozen weekend-long events totaling 60 races for a crew that will put on its first triathlon in December.
I wish the HITS folks luck. Anything that provides a distance-race alternative to World Triathlon Corp. is much appreciated, though HITS seems to be borrowing from the Ironman playbook for its pricing — $600 for a full-distance race. Ouch.
We’ll see if they can stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, but I’d be more confident about the success of the HITS series if I were a horse – or at least racing one.