Monday, January 31, 2011

Point-to-Point vs. Out & Back or Loop Races

The more I looked at my old race bibs the more I thought about the races they represent.  One particular triathlon comes to mind. It's a race for which I don't have a bib, the Macon sprint triathlon.  A point-to-point race that takes place on Memorial Day near Macon, Georgia.  The year I participated was probably way back in 1990.  Even so, it created my aversion to point-to-point races.

A point-to-point race is one where the start and finish are some distance apart, usually something just less than the total distance of the race.  The distance between the start and finish is usually covered with shuttle buses or, in the case of the Peachtree Road Race, MARTA.  The longer the race the further participants have to travel and the more logistical hurdles to climb.  As opposed to a foot race, a triathlon takes the logistical hurdles of a point-to-point race to an exponentially higher level for participants, race directors, and volunteers.  The positive side of a point-to-point race is that the scenery is always changing.

On the other side of the coin, a loop or out-n-back race might be less scenic because participants see the same things more than once.   On the positive side, volunteers can be better utilized, communications between all involved are usually better, spectators are better accommodated, and no sweaty bus rides.  Logistically, they're better for triathlon participants because all your gear is in the same location. 

As I remember it, the Macon Triathlon race itself was fine, the volunteers were friendly, and it's a fundraiser for a worthy charity, the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home.  In the year I participated, race parking was at the children’s home, the swim start was at Lake Tobesofkee, and the run finished at children’s home.  Since the race was on Memorial Day, all gear had to be cleared out of the lake side park after participants started the bike segment.  This was done to make room for families and BBQ'ers to enjoy the park for the holiday.  Race volunteers collected the gear and brought it to the finish.

Following the gear collection, one of my fellow triathletes found himself without his car keys.  They had been left at the park with his other gear.  He eventually located his keys at the finish but not until after I had driven him to the lake and back.

Of course I'm not saying that I'll never do a point-to-point race or even the Macon Triathlon again.  It's just that if I have a choice I prefer a looped course.   

Do you prefer point-to-point races or loop races and why?