There has been a lot of debate over the past few years about whether the internet is here to stay, or whether it’s just a passing fad. While the jury is still out on that larger issue, I think we can all agree that there is one area in which the internet has completely revolutionized the distribution of information. It is an area of vital interest to all of us as triathletes. I refer, of course, to online adult entertainment.
No, only kidding! What I meant to say is, the area of online race results. Race directors have done a pretty good job embracing this new technology. They can now get results posted online with impressive speed. In many cases, by the time you drive home from the race and take a shower, you could already log on to the Net and see just how many competitors in their seventies and eighties came in ahead of you. You could, that is, if you had any idea where on the Net to look!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent hours of frustration trying to find race results tucked away in some remote corner of the Web. Usually you end up finding the results of every race in the world except the one you happen to be searching for. You can find the results of the same race last year and the year before that, you can find the results of every other race you’ve ever done in your lifetime. You can find results of races that took place before the internet even existed, and races that haven’t even taken place yet. But forget about finding the results of the race you just did last weekend.
Let’s say you just finished a race called Joe’s Triathlon. You’d think all you’d have to do is go to www.joestriathlon.com, where you’d find a giant link in the center of the screen saying “CLICK HERE FOR RACE RESULTS.” But life just isn’t that simple. The problem is, usually the results aren’t posted by the folks who organized Joe’s Tri, who all have day jobs and who organize triathlons in their spare time just to further alienate themselves from their families and take years off their lives from the additional stress. Instead, the results are posted by the companies that do the timing for the race, and so they end up on web sites with such obvious and intuitive URLs as www.industrial timingsystems/triathlon/october/2001/joes/howintheworlddidyoufindthisite.com.
Even if you’re lucky enough to find the right web site, you’re still not out of the woods. The next problem you face is that the typical computer screen isn’t tall enough to display all the names, or wide enough to display all the split, transition and finishing times. This means that, unless your name is way up there at the top of the list (which I can assure you mine is not), you have to scroll down the page to find it, at which point you can no longer see the headings that tell you which numbers are which. Then, once you find your name, you have to scroll over to the right to see all your times, at which point you can no longer see the names to know which row is which. At that point, you are looking at a computer screen that pretty much looks like this:
Whether these are triathlon race results or some new software code from Microsoft is anybody’s guess. All I know is you can drive yourself insane scrolling back and forth and up and down trying to triangulate which numbers are yours and what exactly they mean.
What really got me riled up about this subject was my recent experience trying to find out how a friend did at that Hawaii Ironman this past October. I figured this would be a pretty simple process. I started off by naively typing “www.ironman.com” into my browser. As you know if you’ve ever tried this yourself, that led me to a bizarre site that offered me plenty of information about a small business loan, but nothing whatsoever about the Ironman. It turns out there are probably a thousand websites containing the word “ironman,” but after some aggravation I was finally able to locate what I believe to be the correct site (I’m still not 100 percent sure), which is called “ironmanlive.com” (official motto, which I am not making up: “The most dramatic 17 hours on the web.”).
Once there, I was amazed to discover a concept that takes capitalism to entirely new levels: the pay-per-view triathlon website! The World Triathlon Corporation actually wanted to charge me $5.95 to find out how my friend was doing in the race. Clearly, the WTC has not been paying close enough attention to their colleagues in the adult entertainment business, who have learned that people are perfectly happy to look at free pictures, but when the time comes to pull out that credit card they’ll just click on over to the next site, thank you very much. MEMO TO THE WTC: If people aren’t willing to shell out $5.95 to download pictures of Pamela Anderson, they are extremely unlikely to give you their credit card number to get Lothar Leder’s bike split.
In fairness to the WTC, after considerable searching I was able to find a page on ironmanlive.com where results were graciously made available free of charge. Unfortunately, and again I am not making this up, they were posted in alphabetical order! I was trying to find out how a friend did whose last name is “Kim.” All I was able to determine from ironmanlive.com is that my friend came in 2nd among the five Kims entered in the race. All in all, I think I would have been better off applying for that small business loan.