As athletes, many of us may not know what a race looks like from the other side. Not only the hours, days, and months spent preparing for the event, but the drive that it took to make it all come together. It makes you wonder, what is going on inside the mind of the race director? What drives them? Why are they putting on the races that they are? This week, we explore the boss’ brains when it comes to the gurus behind In2Adventure, Australian adventure couple Robyn & Simon Lazenby.
They are the organizers of the 2016 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship coming up November 18-20. They also put on the TreX Cross Triathlon Series, the Snowies Mountain Bike Festival, the LunarC XC Mountain Bike Race, Adventure Race Australia, Corporate Team Building, and other event management.
What is your background that led you to starting In2Adventure?
Our background is a bit of an eclectic mix of outdoor and business experience.
We travelled a lot when we were first married traveling to different posts with the British Army including Germany, Cyprus, and the UK. This gave us both a great opportunity to guide and train in many outdoor activities including Abseiling, Sub Aqua Diving, Rock Climbing, Canoeing, Kayaking and Multi Day Adventure Races which fueled our passion for the outdoors.
From a business perspective we have held a number of management roles mainly focussed around Project Management, Business Communications, Sales & Marketing, Training and Change Management and Simon worked on the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the 2001 Goodwill Games.
“After returning to Australia and spending our days in an office working for someone else, we had a real yearning to get back into the outdoors and to be able to make our own decisions about how we would run a business.”
We loved adventure racing so much that event management seemed like a great option where we could combine our love of the outdoors with our business experience. It also provided an opportunity to dream big, try new things, make mistakes, and to have an outlet where we could imagine crazy, wacky ideas and actually make them happen.
In2Adventure was really born for three key reasons:
- We wanted to do something where we could work together
- We wanted to have the opportunity to create something special that was ours
- We wanted to get back to the outdoors
What is it about off-road sports (cross triathlon, mountain biking, etc) that makes you so passionate about them? Why have you chosen to focus the business primarily on off-road events as opposed to road?
Simple answer, it’s what we love! Pounding concrete pavements and riding on traffic filled roads where you don’t have to focus on much and you tend to just get lost on your own thoughts, for us, just doesn’t compare to mountain biking and trail running where you have to be ‘in the moment’ every second. You don’t know what twists, turns, challenges and obstacles will be around the next corner and you can only tackle these when you are focussed on now. For us that makes you feel alive like nothing else matters.
You also have the added bonus of spectacular scenery, wildlife, and the opportunity to experience all of natures amazing gifts. You just don’t get that on the road and creating an event where other people can experience that too is pretty special.
How do you integrate your enthusiasm, passion, and personality into your events?
We think this is a question that we can’t really answer, this is really a question for our participants and for what they experience at our events.
We’d like to hope that our great love for the sport and desire to create amazing experiences for every participant shows through everything that we do, but we don’t always get it right. The past 10 years have offered many learning experiences which we’d like to think we’d learnt from. But through all that we always aim to do the best job we can and most importantly to do it for the right reasons.
“We hope that our desire to listen to the people that matter, to change when we need to, and to not be afraid to try new things and sometimes make mistakes helps to make our events better as we move forward.”
When we started In2Adventure we talked about why we were doing it and what we wanted to achieve. We then recorded this in the form of our mission, vision and values. Having worked in corporate environments for many years we may have become a bit cynical about such things, however we have always come back to focussing on ensuring that these are not just words on a page, but things that guide our corporate decision making.
Often times this means we’ve had to make decisions which aren’t always in the financial interest of our business which can be very hard, but what we’ve learnt is that in the long run you feel better for it and the whole point of running your own business for us is that we have the privileged of running it in a way that we can feel proud of. We may not always get it right, but we do always care about what we do.
Why go it solo? What have been the benefits or challenges of not being an “XTERRA”, if any?
I guess we haven’t really gone solo with the TreX Series as we have aligned with the official governing bodies for the sport of triathlon including state, national, regional and international bodies within the International Triathlon Union.
We started the TreX Series with nothing but a passion for the sport and the desire to share that passion with the rest of Australia and the financial constraints and very limited budgets meant that although we love the XTERRA brand it wasn’t really an option for us at the time.
Having the opportunity to host state, national, regional and now a world championships is an unbelievable dream for us and we are very grateful for the support we have received in achieving this.
Off-Road, or Cross Triathlon, is an amazing sport with an amazing culture and no matter what the brand, people across the world love it. They just need the opportunity to be introduced to it and discover how brilliant it is.
In the past Australia has had a hard time retaining continual off-road triathlons, what has changed?
When we started the TreX Series we identified that there was not an established market of Off Road or Cross Triathletes within Australia. Through our experience most people did not know the sport existed and did not understand exactly what it was. Most people classed it as another ‘adventure race’ rather than a bonafide triathlon. You would be hard pushed to find one athlete in Australia that at that time said “I am an off road triathlete.”
We believe this is because previously there had been no long term approach to the development of the sport here. There were a number of good ‘one off’ events, but nothing ongoing and long term aimed at building the market.
The TreX Series was really born from this. In 2007 we hosted three sprint events in Queensland and from there we gathered as much feedback as we could and gradually developed the events into a four race series and then into a National Series.
How are you tackling the “long term approach” of developing off-road triathlon in Australia?
A key goal of ours was to develop a pathway where participants could develop and grow within the sport and for athletes to be officially recognized for their achievements. It was also important to ensure we offered events to suit a variety of skills and experience. This lead to the introduction of the Dirt Kids, Junior, Teaser, Sprint, and Standard Distance Courses.
Part of that pathway development was to also offer the market a number of key events and titles to both recognize and acknowledge the athlete’s achievements with in the sport in Australia. Over the following years the series won the rights to host firstly state, then national championships then a regional championship. From that we had a crazy dream that it would be so awesome to be able to invite the world to Australia for a world champs and guess what, it’s 2016 and it’s about to happen!
Anne Gripper the former CEO of Triathlon Australia was instrumental in this as she recognized that cross triathlon offered an opportunity to attract new members to the sport and to the national federation in a time when numbers in the on road version of the sport were mostly stagnant or declining. Her support and encouragement really helped us achieve what we have and we hope that continues into the future.
One of our proudest achievements (although it’s not really our achievement) is when we launched the Junior event in Queensland one of the kids turned around to me and said, “My sport is off road triathlon” and now eight years later we are seeing our Dirt Kids and Juniors from back then racing for Australia at this year’s world championships ready to take on the best in the world. It’s really a dream come true.
Tell us something special that you are doing for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship?
We’ve pitched the event as the ‘Biggest Party this side of the Equator’. This theme really rings true with our In2Adventure principle of ‘participation’ in that you have to race hard, but where you cross the finish line really doesn’t mean anything unless you have a great experience doing it. So our aim is that we will provide the best racing possible as well as the best party to go along with it.
The parade of nations and opening ceremony will be a great way to kick off the event as we launch our very own event anthem ‘Everybody’s Human Race’ written and performed by our very own Adam Thompson from leading Australian 90s band Chocolate Starfish. As MC, Adam will bring his larger than life personality to the event and with him at the helm, it’s going to be the “party to end all parties.”
“There will be a few special surprises that only an Australian event can deliver and to top it all off, the Sunday night presentation party is going to be a cracker.”
We’ve scheduled the events so everyone will have had a chance to recover after their big race and then be ready to party the night away at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa.
We hope that the uniquely Australian welcome that participants will receive while experiencing the spectacular Snowy Mountains Region will also make this a very special time for them.
What did you have in mind when you designed the course for ITU Cross Worlds?
When we had this crazy idea that Australia could possibly host a world championships we had the privilege of attending the past two world championships. These are fantastic courses but also very different to the course in Australia.
We went to two of the most amazing people in the sport, Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack to get their advice as they knew the course at Lake Crackenback which isn’t as gnarly or elevationally challenging as some of the other world champs courses.
“It does offer a high degree of technical riding with fast turning corners and undulations which means a high level of technical skills, especially cornering will be required to come out on top on the mountain bike course.”
Ben and Jacqui echoed some of the thoughts in articles from Conrad Stoltz at the time that to have a course that isn’t just about big, gnarly climbs would be a welcome change. So from there the dream was born and here we are.
The main consideration with course design was competitor experience including technical riding and running, spectacular scenery, diverse terrain, a tough physical challenge, but most importantly lots of fun bits as well. To enhance this we worked with Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa to build a mountain bike trail that encompassed the entire Race HQ area with a number of obstacles including rock rollovers, bridges and technical elements that will keep the crowd entertained on each lap. This proved a real hit at the Australian Champs earlier this year.
You can find out more about In2Adventure and all of there races on their website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.