Race director and owner Dr. Richard Izzo spent a few minutes with us this weekend talking about changes this year made to the Toughman Triathlon bike course. In just 5 short years, Izzo has built one of the largest 70.3 distance races in the country held on the shores of the Hudson River in Croton-on-Hudson. Rich isn't about to rest on his laurels, though, as we learned. This year, he created a closed bike course that adds a completely new dimension to the race.
Paul: Looking back on 2011, what was the biggest improvement to the race?
Rich: I would say that every aspect of our race has improved over the last 4 years. But one of the things we are so proud of is our army of volunteers. In 2008, we had 50 volunteers whereas in 2011 there were 800 volunteers. We are on target for 1100 this year. This is a virtual army of people out there to cheer for the athletes. We added more infrastructure for the 2011 race, from a VIP tent, spectator stands and 15 foot wind wing flags that lined the last mile of the race to an information center. Also our logistics team is up there with the best in the business having several key people that have been in the race organization business for over 30 yrs.
Paul: How many people participated?
Rich: Last year we had 1100 athletes register which made the race a sellout for the third consecutive year and mind you that was with increasing the amount of racers by 400 from the year before. For 2012 we expect a sellout again with an additional 300 racers.
Paul: Did the community appreciate the support for the 911 remembrances and memorial?
Rich: Our team debated if it was appropriate to have Toughman on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. After giving it much thought and with lots of input from the first responders who come out and race, we came to the conclusion that having the race on this date made it more special with the message being "We will persevere". This was the theme of the prayer done by Rev Anthony Stephens...who races every year.
Plus the race raised over $270,000 for 50 charities with the 9/11 Memorial at Croton Landing made from a piece of steel from the World Trade Center receiving a portion of every entry. This year we will be doubling the amount of charity money raised. We will also directly contribute funds to the 9/11 Memorial as well as the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption through the Toughkid's triathlon series Championship on Sept 8th. Our race allows racers as well as volunteers to fundraise for whatever charity they choose through the Toughman Community Fund.
Paul: What are your goals this year?
Rich: Our goals for 2012 are threefold: first and foremost to give the age groupers a safe, great race experience. In that regard we have a CLOSED BIKE COURSE for 5 hrs. This is unprecedented in half iron circles. In fact we are one of the ONLY half iron race in the U.S. that will have this feature. This will enable all racers - especially first timers - to race hard without worrying about car traffic. Plus the new bike course will be faster with only 4 left turns and a lot less climbing. This will reduce climbing by 50% from the older course.
Next our goals are to grow an additional 20% which has been our annual growth rate since inception while at the same time giving the racers a big race feel.
Lastly, it is to get the public more involved in viewing the race. With this in mind, we will be doubling the amount of shuttles on race day with a dedicated shuttle that will take spectators into the town area during the event. As an added feature of our half trail run, we will be detouring the beginning of the run course through the Historic Van Cortlandt Manor trails so that runners can experience more of the natural beauty of Westchester.
Paul: Tell us more about the bike course?
Rich: This year's bike course will be closed to traffic with a scenic view of the Hudson River for more than 28 miles. This is safer, more scenic and will be much faster than in years past. With the dramatic growth of Toughman over the last 4 years it was necessary to make this change in order to make sure that racers were safe and to accommodate our present and future growth. This way racers will ride directly onto and off of the new bike course with no interactions with any cars. Our primary focus is first and always the safety of our age group athletes.
Paul: What will happen to the average bike speed on the course?
Rich: It will be much faster than last year as the amount of climbing will drop from 3800 to 1900 feet. Plus it is only 4 left hand turns.
Paul: How should people train differently this year? Fewer hills, more intervals?
Rich: We have a training clinic on Aug 18th that will take you on the old bike course. If you can ride that, the new one will be a piece of cake.
Paul: Do you have any other surprises in store for us this year?
Rich: First, expect all the same things that have made our race the "MUST DO NY Half Iron" the last 4 years: the 35 foot sailboat at the swim turn around, the 18 aid stations on the run, a volunteer crew that includes: cheerleaders, angels, cross country running groups, community groups, marching band, bagpipers, and "The Devil and Superman", a post race BBQ with chicken, beans, corn on the cob, post race massage by 50 therapists and over $25,000 worth of age group awards.
We have several other new additions this year that will add depth to our team as well. This allows us to give the racers a "big race feel" at an event that is only 30 minutes from NYC, NJ, CT, LI being the largest half iron within 3hrs of NYC.
But one thing you can bank on is that we have many new "surprises" for you racers on the run!
Paul: Thanks for your time, Rich. We're sure this year will be an even bigger success than last year.