Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twittercast at St. Anthony's Triathlon

This year I volunteered to assist with the first-time Twittercast of the famous St. Anthony's Triathlon ( in St. Petersburg, FL. If you are not familiar with Twitter, check to learn more, but in summary, Twitter is a micro-blog where people can subscribe to your updates and you to theirs and people post short messages, or Tweets of up to 140 characters from the web or their phones. A Twittercast is a broadcast over Twitter and I can be found at

In this case, Athletes for a Cure, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, hosted the Twittercast of St. Anthony's Triathlon with the help of a fellow triathlete, blogger and podcaster, Triboomer (, aka Brian. You can follow TriBoomer at My job was to provide real-time updates of the pro race as the men and women battled for prize money in this season-opener race held in late April each year. Scott Zagarino, the Managing Director of sports Marketing for Athletes for a Cure, Greta and I posed for this picture after the race. Please visit the Athletes for a Cure web site for more information about the work they do to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer.

Brian and I agreed to meet at 5:30am on race day. I came prepared with my beat-up, old hybrid bike, water, snacks, mobile phone, a clipboard, pens and paper and course maps all stuffed into a backpack. Just as Brian and I met near the body-marking area near transition, the race director came over the PA and announced that the swim was cancelled for all but the pro race due to dangerously choppy conditions on the water. Brian and I briefly discussed the approach for the spotting and providing updates and I was off to the swim start. The water was rough and the wind was up, but the pros were out warming up and getting ready. I began sending text messages to Brian ahead of the swim start and let him know when the race had begun.

I then jumped on my hybrid and was off to get positioned to cover the bike race. I came to a nice corner of the course where cyclists were both headed out and coming in from a couple mile stretch of road. They had to slow down and that made it easier to read the numbers off their shoulders and bikes. I began feverishly texting race numbers in the sequence that they were rolling by. It was hard to keep up as I was busy writing down the numbers on my clipboard and then texting the results when I had a break between cyclists. Brian and Greta would then translate the race numbers into names and send out updates on the Twittercast. Brian and I tried talking on the phone for updates, but due to the wind, it made it too difficult to hear, so it was back to texting. With enough men and women pros having past, I repositioned on the bike course to about mile 20 can caught the race leader and the chase group and they were powering down the road. I was the only spectator in this area, so I cheered for the riders as I wrote their numbers and transmitted the results back to Brian, who was putting it out on Twitter in nearly real-time.

I notified Brian that I was headed to the run course and I made it to mile 5 and started reporting again. I had covered a lot of ground on my old bike, but I was now seeing the final push to the finish as these athletes dealt with the rising temperature and humidity. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't know who was in the lead by name, but just by number. The women's race was very close with the top three all within 50 feet of each other while the male leader had a sizable lead. I kept tapping out race numbers and commentary and Brian kept the 10,000 or so people listening in on Twitter updated.

It was a blast and a cool way to see the entire race and I'm happy I was able to help with the event. TriBoomer/Brian was great. I read over the TwitterCast when I got home and it was really cool to see how he and Greta had translated my cryptic updates in to a broadcast.

If I'm not racing St. Anthony's next year, I'll probably be riding around on my old, green hybrid, race texting results to whoever is listening.

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