I gave Bob and Wendy Hanisch a few days to regroup after their key roles as local organizers of the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals, which brought nearly 4,000 athletes to Milwaukee and the largest USAT event in its history.
Wendy not only led the effort to recruit and assign nearly 800 volunteers, she raced in the Olympic distance event on Saturday Aug. 10, and finished 97th in her 50-54 age group. That gave her a valuable insight into the weekend gathering as an organizer, observer and participant.
With a few days to review, she offered this assessment: “We wanted to make this the best age group national championships ever. And we did.”
Bob had a similar positive review: “Milwaukee is on the endurance map now.”
That’s not to say it was perfect, and both listed a couple of the things that troubled both the organizers and the athletes. At the top of their list: the confusion over a policy that prohibited drop bags from the race area and the lack of food and beverage stands around Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
More than a few athletes complained about the rule that kept them from stashing clothing and other necessities near the finish area for a post-race transition. And thirsty spectators wandered about looking for places to buy water or other refreshments.
“There were little things here and there,” Bob Hanisch said.
Peak Performance Professionals, the Hanisch’s coaching and training business, and the collection of groups that staged the races for the first time in Milwaukee have an opportunity to correct those mistakes when the USAT Nats return in 2014.
Wendy said there is room to grow, and expects that the Sprint distance race could draw 3,000 competitors to match the size of the Olympic-distance field. The ITU World Age Group Championships will be held in Chicago in 2015, and the U.S. location is likely to motivate more triathletes to race in the U.S. championships in pursuit of a berth in the worlds close to home.
Overall, the local organizers were encouraged by the overwhelming number of positive comments from the participants. Check out this blog post from Anthony Bagnetto, of New York, for his positive views.
The set up generated positive comments as spectator and athlete-friendly.
“We heard a lot of things like, ‘what a great city, we didn’t know Milwaukee,’” said Brent Foerster vice president of VISIT Milwaukee, the convention and tourism marketing agency.
Wendy Hanisch said she raced hard during the run portion of her triathlon to dip into the conversation of a couple runners going past her.
“I heard them saying, ‘what about that bike course, that was awesome,’” Hanisch said. “One of the volunteers emailed and said ‘I’m so glad I was a part of this. It was life-changing for me.’”
The Hanisch duo made it a point to note that putting the bike course of the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge, the swim segment in the lagoon off the Henry Maier Festival Grounds and the run along Lincoln Memorial Dr. took cooperation from numerous agencies: Milwaukee police fire, the county sheriff’s department, the city health and public works departments and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Those groups will be back together to bring the USA Triathlon nationals back to Milwaukee and use the experience to stage other events in the future.