5430 SPORTS PLANS NEW TRIATHLONS FOR 2014
By Dana Willett
It really hit me at the Peak this year. I was announcing and handing out awards, and I had the chance to hug and congratulate so many people. I really miss that. Jodee and I both have missed that – what we did with 5430 in the past. That connection is what made it so special. We communicated on a personal, immediate level with athletes, provided immediate responses, and we were able to put on events that were special and memorable. Jodee made the awards, we had great prizes from sponsors – it was reasonably priced and a great bang for the buck. Our races were done with passion, and we’ve really missed being a part of that. And so, we’re back.
If you’ve been a part of the triathlon community in the greater Boulder area for any amount of time, you've heard of Barry Siff. He and his wife Jodee owned and directed the 5430 Tri Series (Sprint, Peak & 70.3) until Ironman purchased the series from them a few years ago. But Barry’s robust history in endurance sports pre-dated the tri series by more than a decade.
Barry directed over 100 multisport events since 1998, including adventure races and camps, winter triathlons, numerous nationally acclaimed summer triathlons, cycling events, and running races. As an athlete, he has completed over 50 marathons, 10 Ironman triathlons, and virtually every major adventure race in the world from 1998-2003.
Barry also currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of USA Triathlon.
Today, Barry & Jodee announced they are bringing 5430 v.2 back, with a goal of two races in 2014: one in the greater Boulder area, and one in Arizona. “We want to start on a smaller basis, and see where it goes,” Barry commented. “We want to bring the spirit back out. I’ve found in the last four years, especially with the shift to running events, that there is so much more for me in triathlon.”
In addition, Barry will provide consulting services for events in the U.S. and internationally. His expertise is in great demand: “There are lots of folks, athletes and fans, who live in areas with plenty of participants but no races. They need help to put on a race. There is not a book on how to do it, and there’s only a handful of folks out there who have this kind of knowledge. So I’ll go and help with course design, transition areas, timing, promotion – everything down to the bike racks.”
A published author of two adventure racing books, would he ever write a guide on race management and promotion? “Probably not. Not on the nuts and bolts aspect. It would be more of a ‘Tales from the Past’ piece, like the story of the 2000 mis-printed race shirts - the logo was off-center, and that wasn’t right. We wanted a quality shirt for our athletes. So the order had to be re-run overseas and rush shipped, arriving at Boulder Reservoir at 3:00 a.m. the day of the race.”
“That’s the thing about good race management,” he continues. “You have to do things right. You have to have the combination of great customer service, proper pricing, and a great event, not just a race. If you put on a great event, it works. You need a strong expo that is meaningful to the athletes, and sponsors who provide you with prizes for athletes, not just a cash payment that you put in your own pocket. And entertainment – bring on the hot air balloons and sky divers!”
The 2014, 5430 events will likely include an Olympic or sprint distance, and may also include a kids event. Barry notes, “We love, love, love kids triathlon. 5430 Sports is definitely all about a family feel.”
When asked about the full IRONMAN coming to Boulder in 2014, Barry says he is in full support: “Boulder has always been meant for a full IRONMAN. In fact, in 2001, the original owner of 5430 Triathlon, Beth Spiegel, put on a full ironman distance triathlon in Boulder. It ran for two years, with about 200 athletes racing. The bike went to Fort Collins – it was a gigantic undertaking. In 2003 and 2004 it was reduced to a 70.3, and by 2004 Beth was ready to sell, and that is when Jodee and I bought 5430. So it’s not a surprise the full iron distance has come back around.”
He continues, “I have a vested interest in IRONMAN’s success, and Jodee and I are big fans of IRONMAN. We have been hopeful for a full IM in Boulder for a long time. It is very expensive - $675 is a lot of money – but I pay it, and my friends pay it, so I don’t fault IRONMAN. IRONMAN is a business and also an entertainment provider. But I am glad Jodee and I don’t have to have the same focus with our events.”
Regarding entry fees, Barry is adamant about fair pricing. “Look, when we were putting on the Peak, we were offering $35,000 in prize money, and we were only charging a $90 entry fee. It was an internationally recognized event, and there was plenty of swag, prizes and great food, like the Whole Foods breakfast buffet. We got by and we were profitable – it can be done,” he says.
He also has an opinion about the number of smaller races in the area, especially the ones he calls “copycat races,” commenting, “We’re not sure we’ll have our 2014 race at the Reservoir. It’s not out of the picture, but we’re looking outside as well. IRONMAN is not doing the sprint there next year, but Boulder may be oversaturated with copycat races. I didn’t like it back when we owned the series, and I don’t like it now. There are too many races with only 200-300 athletes. I’d rather see that in another town. I’m not enamored with there being so many of them. The fact that you can’t play music or use the speakers at the Res before 7:00 a.m.? We created that problem because of the number of events at the Reservoir. I’m not ruling out Boulder by any means; it’s close, we know the course . . . but there are other areas that might be fresher, and you want to get the right date, too.”
He continues, “There have been many tris around the country this year that have been cancelled due to low participation. It’s not because there aren’t enough participants – the sport continues to grow – there’s just more events than ever. The cream will rise to the top. If you have a reasonable cost, good value, good food, good partners and sponsors, you’ll survive.”
Despite Barry’s various roles over the past years, one thing has remained consistent: his very positive relationships with other race directors. He has great respect for other locals in the business, namely Dave Christen of IRONMAN Boulder (“He is a great guy, and I am a big fan. He is customer focused, and that gets tremendous respect from me. He has done a good job on designing the new course for 70.3 and also the full next year.”); Lance Panigutti of Without Limits (“I know Lance really well – he actually learned a lot from 5430 back in the day. He puts on good races that are well-run and he really cares about the people. He has the formula down for smaller events and races, and he’s a terrific athlete himself.”); and Darrin & Jill Eisman of Racing Underground (“I have the utmost respect for Darrin & Jill. They like smaller events, and they truly know what they are doing. Darrin is a great athlete, and he is at the top of my list in terms of the respect I have for him.”).
Barry believes he speaks for these race directors and others when he says, “We all care about our athletes. And we all ARE athletes. We know what we want when we are racing, and so we try to provide that in our events. We are able to be successful because we are closer to the roots of the sport, from an athlete’s point of view.”
To learn more about the new 5430 Sports events, watch for developments on the 5430sports.com website.
To meet Barry Siff, hear him facilitate a Boulder 70.3 Pro Panel at Runners Roost on July 31st, including Pros Tim Don, Rachel Joyce, Drew Scott, and Liz Blatchford. Visit the event website for more info.
Have a story idea or local triathlon news to report? Email Dana Willett.