When Carrie James approached the finish line of her first triathlon she was not only cheered on by friends and spectators, but also by dozens of co-workers in matching triathlon uniforms yelling her name and shouting words of encouragement.
"I must admit, there were a few tears of joy at the end," James said. "What was most rewarding is that I felt like I had been crossing finish lines for the three months leading up to the race. I ran my first 10K, completed my first brick workout, raised funds for a cause and much more -- all with my work colleagues there to support me."
The Xterra Wetsuits Solana Beach Triathlon, held on July 27 in Solana Beach, Calif., sold out early this year, and it is no surprise considering San Diego-based The Active Network (whose parent company of Active.com) had nearly 90 employees registered. That represents about 20 percent of its corporate office. Of those 90 athletes, all but a handful were competing in their first triathlon.
The motivation was a local charity, The Monarch School, which is a school dedicated to providing homeless and at-risk children with an accredited education while caring for their basic needs. When all was said and done, more than $58,000 was raised.
"It would not have been possible to get such a large number of first time triathletes to take up this challenge without tremendous support from the company and outside partners," said Allison Reutter, corporate events manager for The Active Network.
To help employees prepare for the event, online training programs were made available and organized team workouts were scheduled. The company's creative director, Arch Fuston, took on the role of head coach. Fuston is an Ironman athlete who already runs weekly "boot camp" workouts at Active's office.
Other employees stepped up to offer swim clinics, and Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman and an Active employee, provided a motivation talk prior to race day. Additionally, local professional triathletes Katya Meyers and Jessi Stensland gave training advice and race day tips.
By working with outside partners such as local bicycle and triathlete shop B&L Bike and Sports, Active was able to offer employees discounts on bike purchases, free bike fittings and repair tips. Additionally, those who hit certain fundraising goals received free registration, team uniforms and a group dinner with Active's CEO Dave Alberga.
"This was not only Active's most successful fundraiser to date, it was also our most successful corporate-sponsored event since Active was founded 10 years ago," said Alberga. "The team training aspect brought our employees closer. And I believe the thrill of accomplishing a personal goal such as a triathlon will also result in our team setting bigger and better goals for themselves professionally."
The race was so successful that employees are now asking, "What's next?" Let's just say the Mission Bay Sprint Triathlon should expect to see a spike in registration.