Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can Sport Still Awe & Amaze Us?

Long Jumper Bob Beamon at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games

One of my first distinct memories of the Olympic Games was watching the Long Jump competition at the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympic Games as a 7-year old live on TV - back when NBC actually showed stuff live! That was where American Bob Beamon broke the then world record of by an almost preposterous amount of nearly 2 ft( about 50cm), to push the new record to 29ft. 2 1/2 in.(8.90m)! That record stood for 22 years, until another American, Mike Powell broke it in 1991.

A short video of Beamon's jump can be seen here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEt_Xgg8dzc

I looked on, watching on TV, in true awe and amazement. Even Beamon was completely overcome with emotion, not by the win, by by the magnitude of what he had done - ounce it sunk in. He fell to the ground and was unable to get up or walk for a good long time after the distance was announced. He had jumped so far, it was almost beyond the measuring system they had in place! It was beyond what many thought a human could jump! But it was all real!

Later that day I was out in our back-yard with my Dad. He got out a tape measure and we measured off 29 feet. I stood at one end and my Dad stood at the other and I had my second moment of awe and amazement looking at my now distant Father and wondering, "How could someone jump THAT far"?

Do we still feel that sense of awe and amazement today, when new records or sport performance reach new heights that seem, exceptional? I wonder.

The first final of the Rio Olympic Games in Athletics was the women's 10,000m race. In that race, running only her 2nd 10,000m on the track Ethiopian Almaz Ayana crushed the standing 10,000m record for women, running an astonishing time of 29:17.45 - completely solo! She left a field of world class runners WELL behind breaking the previous record by 14 seconds! It was one of those extraordinary Beamon-like performances, that has announcers running out of superlatives.

However, no sooner than the diminutive Ayana was across the line and social media started to light up with talk of how, the record could NOT be "clean"! After all, the the record being broken, set by the Chinese runner,  Wang Junxia     was, almost for certain set by a runner using some form of Performance Enhancing Drug (PED). A number of the Chinese women who were part of that training group, called "Ma's Army", after their coach, Ma Junren, have admitted they were all using PEDs of one form or another at the time!

Consequently with controversy and questions swirling around it's hard to be in awe and to be amazed any more.

The true believers, the really naive, and many sport officials, will say - "Look, there are no positive tests". We have to conclude they are clean". But we know now, that athletes can be tested over the course of their careers hundreds of times, and never turn in a positive test. Exhibit-A in this regard would be Lance Armstrong - tested hundreds of times, never positive (one suspicious), and 7-Tour de France wins! Of course, as we know Armstrong admitted after-the-fact that he was using various PEDs all along and stripped of all of those Tour de France wins.

Who can we believe? What are we to make of exceptional and extraordinary sports performances now? Are we to be immediately skeptical, or can we to look on in a state of awe and amazement?

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What A Week!


So busy this week/weekend, they had me working two microphones at the Welland Triathlon! Photo - Irina Souiki


My Race/Event Announcing work this year reached some form of a huge peak in the last week!

On Wednesday, I flew to Halifax to work with the RunnerSpace crew on the live stream broadcast of the Aileen Meagher Track Classic at St Mary's University - part of Athletics Canada's National Track League Series (NTL) in the run-up to the National Championships and Olympic Trials in Edmonton, that start next week. It's always a pleasure to work with Bob Akamian on the commentary.

The Halifax meet was extremely well organized. The high-light being hurdler Nikkita Holder achieving the Olympic Games qualifying standard - something she was hoping and needing to do before the actual Olympic Trials.

I flew home Thursday. Friday night it was time for the New Balance Guelph Inferno Road Mile - right in downtown Guelph. This is always a fun event to work at. More communities should look into holding Street Mile runs like this!

Then it was on to Welland, for the Day-1 of the Rose City Triathlon on Saturday Morning - Race #2 in Multisport Canada's season lone ReCharge With Milk Triathlon Series. This was the 10th year for this awesome race, but in a new home, at the Welland International Flat-Water Center in Welland, ON - home of Canoe/Kayak Competition at the PanAm Games last summer. This may be the perfect triathlon event location in all of Ontario, and perhaps all of Canada!



The Welland International Flatwater Center, may be the BEST triathlon race venue in Canada!


After I wrapped up at the triathlon for the day, Multisport Canada Founder, John Salt and I appeared via video link at an important conference in Ottawa organized by The Tandem Project on Para-Sport!

After that it was time to drive back to Guelph to work ounce again with the RunnerSpace team on the live stream of the New Balance Guelph Inferno Track Meet at Alumni Stadium on the campus of the University of Guelph on Saturday night - another of the Athletics Canada NTL Meets. Bob Akamian and I were joined on the show by two-time World Champion Hurdler Perdita Felcien. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with Perdita. My role, on the commentary was to provide track-side analysis, and post race interviews with race winners when we could fit them in. The meet concluded with the Canadian 10,000m Championships on the track for men and women. Olympic Marathoner Eric Gillis won the men's race and PanAm Games Marathon Bronze Medalist, Rachel Hannah won the women's race. Other highlights included, Taylor Milne getting the Olympic Standard in the 3000m S/C and breaking the track record in the process!

At the conclusion of the meet in Guelph, it was time to drive back to Welland for Day-2 of the triathlon there on Sunday - the featured long-course race being run over some new distances -  2k swim/56k bike/15k run. Conditions were hot and windy, but nearly 400 triathletes competed had a great, time and marveled at, again what an awesome triathlon race location the International Flatwater Center is!

I'm taking it easy this week and weekend!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My 2016 Race/Event Announcing Schedule

Bringing in the last finisher at the Toronto Island Triathlon! Photo - My Sports Shooter


I have a busy schedule of race/events that I will be working at this year as Race/Event Announcer. Below you will find my schedule.

I love doing this. It's a great privilege and honor to be involved in so many amazing race/events over the course of a year.

Safe and happy training to you all. I look forward to seeing you on many start lines and being a small part of your dreams and ambitions at the finish line.

Let's DO this!

My 2016 Race & Event Announcing Schedule is as Follows:


Feb 19 - 21 Athletics Canada National Indoor Championships for ACTV & RunnerSpace http://www.athleticscanada.tv/

Mar 4/5 - Athletics Ontario, Indoor Track Championships - http://athleticsontario.ca/

April 3 - Toronto Triathlon Festival VIP Event - http://www.torontotriathlonfestival.com/

Apr 24 - Paris-to-Ancaster http://www.parisancaster.com/

May 1 - Goodlife Toronto Marathon http://www.torontomarathon.com/

May 8 - Ottawa SportingLife 10K http://www.sportinglife10k.ca/Ottawa/

May 15 - Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York https://gfny.com/

May 27 & 29 - Grey County Road Race & ITT http://greycountyroadrace.com/

May 28 Spin-The-Lakes Tour - http://www.bikemuskoka.ca/

June 4 - Destination Races Leesburg, VA Wine 1/2 Marathon http://destinationraces.com/runvirginia/

June 5 -  Becel Ride for Heart http://www.heartandstroke.com/

June 10 - Cambridge Mile http://www.runforlife.ca/classic-mile/

June 11-  Recharge with Milk Woodstock Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/woodstock/

June 22  - Halifax NTL Meet for ACTV & RunnerSpace http://www.athleticscanada.tv/

June 24 - Guelph Inferno Road Mile http://www.speedriverinferno.com/

June 25/26 - Recharge with Milk Welland Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/welland/

June 25(night) - Guelph NTL Meet for ACTV & RunnerSpace http://www.athleticscanada.tv/

July 9 - Recharge with Milk Belwood Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/belwood/

July 10 - Toronto Triathlon Festival http://www.torontotriathlonfestival.com/

July 16/17 -  Recharge with Milk Gravenhurst Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/gravenhurst/

July 24 - TriFun Kids Triathlon http://www.trifunkids.com/

July 31 - Recharge with Milk Kingston Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/kingston/

Aug 6/7 - Recharge with Milk Bracebridge Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/bracebridge/

Aug 20/21 - Recharge with Milk Toronto Island Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/torontoisland/

Aug 27/28 - Recharge with Milk Wasaga Beach Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/wasagabeach/

Sept 1 - 5  Tour of Alberta - http://tourofalberta.ca/

Sept 10/11 - Recharge with Milk Georgina Triathlon http://www.multisportcanada.com/georgina/

Sept 16/17 - Centurion Canada http://www.multisportcanada.com/georgina/

Sept 18 - Barrelman Triathlon http://niagarafallstriathlon.com/

Sept 24/25 - The Canadian Track Cycling Championships for Cycling Canada - http://www.cyclingcanada.ca/

Sept 29 - Oct 1 Milton International Classic for Cycling Canada - http://www.cyclingcanada.ca/

Oct 2 - Cycle For St Joes http://www.foundation.stjoe.on.ca/

Oct 17 - Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for 680 News/Traffic http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/index.htm

Oct 29 - CXTO  - http://www.cxto.ca/

Nov 5 - OFSAA XC for ACTV & RunnerSpace http://www.athleticscanada.tv/

Nov 28 - Canadian Cross-Country Championships for ACTV & RunnerSpace http://www.athleticscanada.tv/

If you are looking for a Race/Event Announcer to add an entertaining, and engaging presence to your race/event, and take it to the next level, please contact me - stevefleck61@gmail.com or 416.888.7324

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Magic Show

The MultiSport Canada HQ Trailer at the Kingston Triathlon (one of the longest running triathlons in North America!)

I first heard the term, "The Magic Show" in the context of endurance sports events, from 8-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser, when Paula was working for Graham Fraser, when Graham was running all of the Ironman races in North America. Paula was referring to the Magic Show that was the travelling road show that was Ironman at the time - moving from race location to race location, arriving in the Ironman race site, in town-x, and transforming the race site, into the amazing thing that the Ironman race site was with all the bells and whistles! But this could describe almost all triathlons, running and cycling events. The Magic Show goes on all over the place at thousands of events every weekend!

Endurance sports races/events, be they triathlons, running or cycling all do this. They transform a city street, a park, a conservation area, where ever the race is, into what the race/event participants see on race day. Almost everything, be it the finish gantry, the porta-potties, the signage and so on, has to be brought in and set up. The transformation for some of the bigger races - say the big city Marathons, or the Ironman triathlons can be extraordinary.

However, the work, and the magic, that goes into even mid-sized races/events, is substantial! I am the official race and event announcer for the ReCharge With Milk triathlon series in Ontario that is run by MultiSport Canada (MSC). These are triathlon events that can have upwards of 1,000 entrants.  The series itself is 11-events stretched out over the course of the summer in Southern Ontario. It's the largest triathlon series in Canada! At each event venue, be it a quiet conservation area, or a busy down-town location in a mid sized city, the Magic Show goes on and they transform the place into an awesome race venue for the athletes.

With a triathlon you are really putting on three races - a swim race, a cycling race and a running race, with a transition area, a space for an Expo and then the finish area infrastructure. It's a lot of work to get this all organized and set up and each race site is unique. The minute details - just keep coming and coming: Heavy rains the week before have made a part of the what was supposed to be the transition area boggy. A change in road permitting, will not allow access to a certain road. Last minute road construction that was not communicated can close roads. And so on!

The MSC crew move all their stuff in and out for each event in the series - it's remarkable to watch the set-up and the tear-down that happens and the work that goes into all this!

Nothing seems to phase the MSC crew - even horrific race-day weather - which is rare, but NEEDS to be planned for with details, is all worked out in advance, so when they face it, there is a plan and you implement it. Nothing is left to chance! That's part of the Magic Show to! Although, that's not really magic, just extraordinarily amazing planning and implementation!

I've often said, if you want to hire a Race/Event Director - hire a Triathlon Race Director, because, they are not putting on one race, they are putting on three races simultaneously!

Race participants know none of this. They just show up and expect that everything will be in place. That there will be no wait at the porta-potties and that the 10K run is . . . measured to be exactly 10K. (With mobile GPS now, even course length accuracy is very important). That everything will be taken care of for them at the race. The expectations for running, triathlon and cycling race/event participants these days are VERY high. An event management company like MultiSport Canada knows this, and they go overhead and above to make it a great experience for each and every participant.

MSC Founder John Salt* even stands just past the finish-line at every race and shakes the hand of every person that crosses the finish line. I've heard John say, "If you want to know if an athlete had a good time at your race, just stand at the finish-line and shake their hand. If they have a good or bad day they will tell you right there. In 14 years, I've only had a few that were unhappy"!  Now that's being in touch with your customers!

And that's the story of the Magic Show!

* Some bonus content: A podcast - Bob Babbitt interviewing MSC's John Salt http://www.babbittville.com/babbittville-radio/john-salt/ A great listen!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

It's All About The Rubber!


For now - on a good road!


Life's to short to ride on lousy rubber!

I've never understood this - people spend thousands on bikes and then go cheap on the one part of the bike that connects them to the ground - their tires! Not sure why that is. This small contact patch, your front and back tires have with the road, is vitally important to the performance and enjoyment of your riding.

Many are paranoid about punctures, and this over-rules EVERYTHING when it comes to tire choice. It is worth being worried about, but not to the extent that many cyclists and triathletes concern themselves with. I've found the best clincher tires, installed properly to actually be remarkably durable! My wife, top coach and elite level road racer Paolina Allan and myself, ride a considerable number of kilometers in a given year of riding. On average, we get 2 - 3 flat tires between the two of us each year. That's it!

Our current tire of choice is the Continental 4000S II tires. We've had these tires on most of our wheel-sets for several years now. We ride on a combination of good roads, bad roads, really bad roads, and even stretches of gravel roads a couple of times a month. We don't baby these tires in any way . . . and that's the flat rate: 2 - 3 on-the-road flats/year. Last year I think there was only 1 between the two of us!

Over the course of many years of cycling, we've ridden the best tires from, Vittoria and Michelin as well, and the results are similar.

I'm not a numbers and tech-guy but those that know far more about this than I do tell me that, the Continental 4000S II's offer the best all around combination of performance, and reasonable durability of all of the top tires these days. I like the feel of them, and on the durability side, our own on-the-road experience speaks for itself. Also, they go on/off all the rims/wheels that we need to get them on/off easily - particularly after they have been on a rim for a bit and inflated at the proper pressure.

I can't emphasis this enough - proper installation of tires, from the removal of old tires and a flat tube through to the installation of a new tube and tires is VERY important. It's not that hard, and it is something you very well may need to do on the side of the road on a training ride or a race! No one should need to make, "the call of shame", nor need to abandon a race because of a flat tire! It's a minor inconvenience! If you know what you are doing, it's a 2 - 3 minute exercise and you are back rolling again in no time. There are numerous online resources for this. Commit to being able to do it yourself! Many get flat, after flat, after flat . . . these are almost always installation issues.

Which brings me to my final point about rubber and tires - many over inflate. Triathletes are notorious for this. It will vary from tire size to tire size, and rim shape ( the new wider rims vs standard rims), and rider weight. But generally speaking, the proper psi, is less than you think - which will render a more comfortable, smoother and ultimately faster ride. Check with your tire mfg - most have a chart on their web sites.

As always - Your Mileage May Vary(YMMV)


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Friday, January 2, 2015

Triathletes - Two Special Requests for 2015!

Two time Olympic triathlon medalist, Simon Whitfield now encourages others to experience triathlon. Here's he's helping out para-triathletes at the Toronto Triathlon Festival. Picture - Bob Hatcher


No New Year resolutions for me. However I do have some requests for you.

Are you a triathlete? Have you been at it for a few years now? If you have, and you know the ropes, I have a couple of special requests for you for 2015:

1. Encourage two people to do their first triathlon this year! Help them out. Be their mentor, and make sure that they get to a starting line of a triathlon race sometime this year. Don't drone on and on about all of YOUR training, the 50 hours a week you train, and the 200 Ironman races you have done! That's most likely to discourage your recruits. Keep it simple, for them.

Many small local races ( read on to #2) have basic entry level triathlons, that are very short. You barely need to train for these things. A decent level of fitness, commitment and an open mind, is all that is required. The ReCharge With Milk  triathlon series run by Multisport Canada in Ontario has races called a Give-It-A-Tri (See - the name is perfect for first timers!) at many of their events. The distances are: 400m-swim/10K -bike/2.5K-run. This is something anyone can do, with a basic level of fitness and training.

2. Race More! There's a movement in the food business of eating local. It's better for you. It's better for local businesses and farmers and it's better for the environment. I'm saying - Race Local. It's better for you. It's better for local race organizers and businesses and it 's better for the environment!

These races don't have to be big, long, "world championship" type of events. It can be a local 5K, or perhaps a local sprint triathlon. Don't discount the 5K - 5K run fitness is the foundation of all other running performances! That 18 - 30 minutes you stay right at the edge, will tweak ALL of the key physiological parameters to make you faster at ALL races distances!

Finally, we do all this training so that we can race - that's where the thrill, emotion and the fun is. Don't you want to experience more of that, and be better/faster? Years ago there was saying, that seems to have been lost in the mists of training time  - "Racing IS the best training" It's true!

Change things up this year!

Get more people into this great sport of triathlon and get out and race more yourself.

See you at the finish line!

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Fast & Furious - Is Shorter Better for Triathlon?

The racing at the Las Vegas USAT Super Sprint was fast and furious!

In the space of 48 hours back in September I saw the two most exciting triathlon races I had seen in some time, live and in person.

At Interbike on a Thursday night, under the lights in Las Vegas, I watched the finals of the USAT Super Sprint Series, produced in cooperation with Marc Lee and Kanga Productions. This short and sweet, swim/bike/run racing, all took place in a large vacant parking lot, that was a stones throw away from the famous Las Vegas strip. The women's final, in particular was a barn-burner, with all 10 women, swimming, cycling and running neck and neck, and with a desperate and exciting sprint finish to the line, that almost needed a photo-timer to sort out!

I hoped on a plane shortly after the women finished in Las Vegas, and headed back home, and directly to the Subaru Centurion Canada Cycling event on Friday, in Blue Mountain, about 2 hours north of Toronto where I was working as the Race and Event Announcer. Part of the Centurion weekend of events, was the Subaru eGames triathlon - in set up and concept it was similar to the USAT Super Sprint, with very short, repeated legs of swim/bike/run. Unfortunately, inclement weather necessitated the cancelling of the swim, which turned the eGames triathlon into a duathlon. Despite the absence of swimming, the racing over the very short, multiple lap run and bike legs was very exciting, with the winners in doubt right up until the end.

Video highlights of the Subaru eGames are here - http://vimeo.com/108393955

Earlier, in the summer, I watched on TV some of the ITU World Cup event from Hamburg, Germany. The part that I watched was the 4-person, national team relay - 2 men and 2 women, racing again, over very short multi-lap swim/bike/run legs, and then when done, tagging off to a teammate. The race was amazing - with non-stop action, and some interesting strategy thrown in of which athlete would go in which position for the various national teams. The whole thing lasted less than an hour and made for great spectating and TV!

A year and a half ago, I was part of a two-day consultative exercise, that brought together many key people in the sport of triathon, from race and event management, from sports administration, from the media, and some top level marketing people. Also invited were Canadian Olympians and Olympic medalists from 4 different sports! The focus - come up with a new style or format for triathlon racing and competition. We did come up with something exciting - but for now, I'll have to keep this under wraps. Like the above examples, I can tell you that it was short and fast!

One interesting conclusion, that came out of the above two-day consultation was an agreement, that while we thought this new short and fast concept could be a winner, ironically, the current modern-day-triathlete, may not be a big fan of it! And that is why triathlon right now is at a bit of a cross-roads - some exciting shorter race formats are being experimented with, but for the most part the larger masses of Age-Group and participatory triathletes are more focused on longer races and seem little interested in it!

The situation is somewhat akin to what Nordic Skiing went through a number of years ago - the skate technique changed everything. In particular,  the format of the racing. Shorter race formats started to be introduced, which were much more viewer friendly on-site, but also for TV. At first this was met with a fair amount of resistance from traditionalists, but after time, people started to come around to their popularity.The sprint events at FIS Nordic Skiing events now draw the largest crowds, the biggest TV numbers AND, perhaps most importantly, young skiers are being drawn into nordic skiing, because they want to do the sprint events!

On that last point - could there be some lessons for triathlon there?

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