The inaugural Endurance Exchange triathlon industry conference brought together more than 500 race directors, coaches, retailers and others in the multisport community. Taking place on January 23, through January 25, there were three days of learning, sharing best practices and networking at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium.
The event, a collaboration between USA Triathlon and Triathlon Business International (TBI), was created in an effort to grow, inspire and support the triathlon community. The aim was to collaboratively host the US nation’s largest experiential triathlon summit where ‘everyone within the multisport community can learn; share best practices, trends and innovations; network; and collaborate.’
Featuring a line-up of expert presenters from across the multisport community, Endurance Exchange offered content specific to coaches, race directors and retailers, along with general sessions relevant to the entire industry. Sessions included interactive roundtables, question and answer forums, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics relevant to endurance sports.
Among the topics covered were:
- Diversity, equity and inclusion concepts and their relevance to the future of triathlon;
- Mental health and performance;
- CBD usage in endurance sports;
- Creating new and unique revenue streams for your events;
- How to create a successful charity partnership;
- What race directors can do to make their events more environmentally friendly;
- Running biomechanics; and
- The growing trend of gamification of endurance sports.
In addition, professional triathlete and Picky Bars CEO Jesse Thomas and long-time Boston Marathon Race Director and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame member Dave McGillivray delivered ‘entertaining and inspiring presentations, chronicling their experience with the sport of triathlon.’
“I was really seeking out the endurance sports type of conference,” said Jen Myers (Chesapeake, Virginia), a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach. “I’ve been to a lot, but this was pretty different. I wanted something triathlon-specific that would help me grow my business and help me grow as a coach and help me pass that knowledge on to the next coach that I’m mentoring. This is one of the better conferences I’ve been to.”
Eric Byrnes, former MLB outfielder and current MLB Network analyst, and Pasquale Romano, President and CEO of ChargePoint – both avid triathletes – delivered keynote presentations.
Romano’s keynote explored the relationship between endurance sports and entrepreneurship, put into context for athletes, race directors, coaches, manufacturers, brands and other business stakeholders in the multisport industry.
Byrnes spoke about his professional baseball career, his introduction to triathlon and his creation of the Let Them Play Foundation, which supports youth physical education and after-school programs nationwide across the US.
In the summer of 2018, Byrnes became the first person in history to complete a ‘Triathlon Across America’ – swimming 7 miles across the San Francisco Bay, cycling more than 2,400 miles from Oakland to Chicago, and running 905 miles from Chicago to New York City. His journey gave awareness to the Let Them Play Foundation while raising funds to combat the growing youth inactivity epidemic. The adventure was documented by film producer Eric Cochran in ‘Let Them Play – A Triathlon Across America’, which was exclusively shown to Endurance Exchange attendees on Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have to continue to work together and not really think of the triathlon community as separate entities,” Byrnes said. “It’s the old African proverb. You want to go fast, go alone? You want to go far? Go together.
“I think this transcends triathlon, and just busts in to the endurance world. We all swim. We all bike. We all run. We did it as kids and here we are doing it again. We need to celebrate that. We need to think about what’s the best thing we can to do promote the sport going forward to make sure the next generation latches on to it and understands the value of what movement means – not only to the body, but to the mind as well.”
Bringing together the multisport community was the driving force behind the creation of Endurance Exchange, which combined several pre-existing industry conferences into one. Endurance Exchange replaces the TBI Annual Conference, and also encompasses the USA Triathlon Race Director Summit and Art & Science of Triathlon International Coaching Symposium.
“Triathlon Business International is an organization we started for the businesses of triathlon,” said Mike Reilly, USA Triathlon Hall of Fame member and the ‘Voice of IRONMAN’.
“We put on a conference. But now, being able to combine it with USA Triathlon, it’s amazing. Now, everybody gets to come to one place at one time and share their thoughts, listen to speakers, network – all in one place. The combination of the two has been fantastic.”
Reilly served as an event emcee, along with Barry Siff, former President of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors and a current Executive Board member of the International Triathlon Union (ITU).
Race directors, coaches and officials in attendance at Endurance Exchange gained Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to further their professional development, and USA Triathlon Race Director and Coaching certifications and recertifications were also offered in Tempe in the lead-up to the event.
USA Triathlon and TBI partnered to offer eight scholarships to Endurance Exchange to foster diversity and bring varied perspectives to the event, while encouraging the participation of individuals who may not otherwise have been able to attend.
Jenna Horner (Washington, D.C.), president of the George Washington University collegiate triathlon club, was one of the eight recipients. A former gymnast turned triathlete, Horner has an interest in working in the endurance sports industry.
“I’m not exactly sure what I want to do in this industry yet, so it’s given me the opportunity to attend some different sessions and get an idea of what I want to do and learn more about,” Horner said.
Other scholarship recipients included: Deborah Armstrong (Castle Rock, Colorado; coach), Janie Crowl (Salem, Ohio; race director), Remigia Davis (Washington, DC; club administrator), Noah Lam (Stony Brook, New York.; coach, club administrator), Michael Shipp (Washington, DC; coach, student), Anne Torrez (Exeter, New Hampshire; coach, club administrator) and Rachael Weiker (Minneapolis, Minnesota.; race director).
Outside of each day’s programming, Endurance Exchange also featured several ancillary events.
Group workouts were offered each morning of the conference, including:
- Group runs led by Newton Running;
- Triathlete-specific sessions led by Pilates for Sports;
- Strength training led by ASU’s strength and conditioning staff;
- Aswim workout led by USA Triathlon Level II certified coach Kris Swarthout; and
- Outdoor cycling rides led by USA Triathlon’s Project Podium squad.
On Saturday in front of an energized crowd, two-time US Olympic steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti – also known as ‘Fam’ – attempted to break 8 minutes in a two-mile treadmill run. An example of the ‘gamification of the sport’, runners around the world were able to cheer him on in real-time as part of a virtual group run on the Zwift platform. Famiglietti ran the two miles in 8 minutes, 25 seconds.
On Friday night, more than 265 people attended ‘A Celebration of Sport – An Evening to Encourage, Inspire and Ignite – Benefiting the USA Triathlon Foundation’. This included the 10th Induction Class of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame:
- Dick and Rick Hoyt (Holland, Massachusetts);
- Cherie Gruenfeld (Cathedral City, California); and
- Mike Plant (Escondido, California; posthumous).
Also taking place in Tempe in conjunction with Endurance Exchange were USA Triathlon’s Partner Summit and a USA Triathlon Foundation Fantasy Camp with Project Podium.
“Every year, I’ve come for TBI,” said Kyle Jensen, Kronos Triathlon Club Coach from Alberta, Canada. “And of course, this year with them combining everything in to Endurance Exchange, I thought it was a good opportunity to get an even bigger conference and bigger experience and meet more people and get to more sessions and that kind of thing.
“Meeting new people is a big thing and a big reason why I come to a lot of conferences. Networking is really important as a coach, especially in the industry. Those connections that you make a big difference.”