1) Most racers (new and experienced) do not know the rules of the sport they compete in and the spirit in which they are enforced which is to keep races safe and fair.
1A) Coaches should review the rules with their athletes to make sure they understand how to race in an overcrowded race (the norm these days); this is to ensure they do not get a penalty for drafting, position or overtaken (the most common). I understand that people "need to race their own race" but if you get swallowed by a pack and cannot get out, don't complain after the race or at the very least...if you get caught - MOVE OUT OF THE GROUP by speeding up or slowing down. Duh.
I believe it is also a coaches duty to explain the rules to folks as well as train them. Think Little League or bowling leagues...not only do you 'train' but you learn the rules. You don't see kids running to second base first (normally) so their coaches are teaching the physical skills as well as what the rules are. Why doesn't this happen in triathlon? If you know the rules, you can really use them to an advantage when you race with ignorant racers (the majority in IL and WI).
2) Competitive racers (who don't know the rules) will cry to the head marshal about breaking a rule they truly don't understand or know about once penalized.
3) People do not like to get penalties - but they do make a SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in your race experience and how the competition unfolds. As an athlete, you should DEMAND from race management that USAT marshals are going to be enforcing the rules on the course.
4) If you are a 'jack hole' to race management, volunteers and breaking rules on the course and getting penalties...I don't recommend being a 'jack hole' to race marshals too. Some of the behavior I witnessed was insane. I wonder how much of a prick this guy is in his daily life and why he has ANY friends at all.
5) NO USAT MARSHALS...you should be asking the race directors - Why? Money? Or is it that they don't want racers "experience" interfered with by enforcing the rules? (Hello...Ironman/WTC...any comment?) Just think if you did an Ironman race, paid your $500 and you got a penalty for drafting (6:00). Then you got a penalty for 12:00 for running with grandma and your entourage down the finishing chute for a total of 18:00 of penalties. Would most Ironman athletes care? Probably not, most are there to finish which is just fine. Take the penalty and deal with it. But if you are qualifying...hmm, this changes the race a bit, eh mate?
What if you get a position foul called out you in Ironman (this is all hypothetical because USAT does NOT MARSHAL WTC races any more) 6:00, then you draft, 12:00 and at the finish grandma comes out to run in with you to the finish line or my personal favorite...you pick up your newborn and you carry them across the finish line with their little head and bones getting jarred. (Call child cervices if you ask me - you should not be a parent because you are not thinking about your child.) If this is a USAT marshaled event...that is a third penalty and a disqualification. WTC's reasons for not having marshals is clearing up a bit? If not, I'll spell it out. You get DQ'd for racing this way. You go on Slowtwitch.com's forum and whine about how "unfair" race management is. It hurts business.
Worse yet, it causes race management to CHANGE and IMPROVE racing because other COMPETITION in the race management business says, "I can do that better."
2,500 people x $500 = understand now? Even after paying for police support (all day), permits for noise and race venue, food & drink (remember - Gatorade PAYS to be a sponsor)...we are talking about a lot of MONEY here. Product licensing, people LINING UP to pay their $500...just think about how big this is. There are 38 Ironman races across the globe.
I always understood the business end but now I SEE HOW IT EFFECTS OUR RACE EXPERIENCE. Don't like drafting and all the cheating? Go to an area that has USAT marshals for all its area's races - or expect a draft fest and don't bitch about "cheaters".
6) The Minneapolis, MN area is the best area to race in in the midwest if you want races where the competitors EXPECT TO FOLLOW THE RULES and are now USED TO USAT marshals on the course...YES, it actually changes the competition experience.
7) For every idiot who whines about their penalty...there are EIGHT PEOPLE who walk up and thank a marshal. I had one complaint and EIGHT people come up to me and say, "Thank you for keeping us safe/legal/fair race." The complaint was from a small "highly competitive" female who was sitting in behind a large male into the wind for about 2:00 in her aerobars while riding 6" from the guys wheel in front of her. Based on some of the HORRIBLE bike handling skills/crashes I saw yesterday...NEVER, NEVER do that unless you have really good medical coverage and you don't mind using it.
8) The marshals I met are good people who want fair, safe races. They do this because they truly love the sport.
So ask your coach what the rules are and see if they know. That will tell you a lot about them as a racer. More importantly, ask the race directors of your favorite races of why they do or do not employ USAT marshals at their races. If they don't already, ask them to get USAT marshals to enforce the rules.
If they don't...take your wallet and move to a different group of races immediately. Race director types will understand that move real quickly and they will have to change the way races run. This is especially true in Wisconsin and Illinois. Me? I'm looking at races in Minnesota - looks like I'm traveling to race fair, good races. Who's up for Turtleman?
PS: funniest thing I saw (or should I say pathetic) was a complaint filed about a penalty for a lost water bottle written this way, "Apparently it is is penalty to have a bottle slip out of your hands and not go back and get it. I am never doing another USAT marshaled event." The guy signed his name and put his race number down. For those of you who don't know, that is a 4:00 penalty. The penalty for LITTERING...in the county I was in yesterday is $500. I wonder if paying $500 for a lost water bottle would make him more upset than his 4:00? I also wonder if he would have gone back and picked it up if he knew the rule or that he would really not loose much time for getting the bottle? (You KNOW that if it was a WORKOUT and he dropped his bottle...he would have picked it up.) I hope all races are marshaled by USAT and we never see guys like this in races. It takes 1:00 to stop and pick up a bottle. 4:00 is a high premium to litter.