Pasco County’s Long History of Nude Running

suzanneWhen the Caliente Resort hosts the eighth-annual Caliente Bare Dare 5K presented by Pasco County on Sunday, May 7, it will mark the latest chapter in Tampa Bay’s long history of clothing-optional races.

More than 400 runners are expected to converge on Caliente in Pasco County for what has become the largest clothing-optional race in North America, an event that since 2012 has determined the National Championship of Nude Running.

Many runners have attended the Caliente Bare Dare 5K as a one-and-done, bucket-list race only to return again after enjoying the all-day, post-race party at Caliente, which features seven swimming pools, multiple bars, restaurant, and an upscale clubhouse. The race has drawn runners from an average of 25 states over the last three years. Though runners from all levels participate, the course-record times (15:49 male, 17:53 female) are comparable to those of much larger events.

Nude running in Central Florida began in 1993 when the Lake Como nudist resort, also in Pasco County, debuted the “Dare to Go Bare 5K.” Sabrina Vizzari, the club’s 20-year-old activities director at the time, wanted an event similar to those she had seen while living in Washington state.

The Lake Como event grew gradually and in 1998 drew more than 300 runners due to a marketing partnership with Tampa’s news radio 970 AM, which re-branded itself for the week leading up to the event as “Nude Radio 970.” The race attracts a smaller field these days (135 last year), but still boasts a scenic course on both asphalt and trails. This year’s event, the 25th annual, takes place on April 9.

Paradise Lakes, located adjacent to Lake Como along US 41 in Lutz, for years held a 5K the weekend before Thanksgiving. More recently, the clothing-optional resort has held occasional 5K races at various times of the year.

In 2011, the Cypress Cove nudist resort in Kissimmee launched the “Streak the Cove 5K,” which has attracted between 150 and 200 runners annually to the Orlando area resort. But it’s the Caliente Bare Dare 5K, which debuted a year earlier in 2010 that has become the signature event on the nude racing calendar.

runningtrio2By holding a clothing-optional race at the upscale Caliente Resort and marketing it to the mainstream running community, the Caliente Bare Dare 5K draws a larger crowd than typical nudist club races. Many runners have remarked that they’ve set personal 5K records by competing at Caliente, where the course takes runners on paths along lakes and through the resort’s upscale residential area. All but a 50-yard grassy section is on asphalt.

Unlike most running events, where runners depart shortly after the race or the awards ceremony, most runners stay all day since admission to Caliente is included with the race entry fee, making the event one of the best values in endurance sports. Last year, race organizers replaced the traditional race T-shirt with a 30×60 beach towel and plans to do so again this year.

Though photography and video is prohibited at the race for obvious privacy reasons, several journalists have participated in the event and written about their experiences.

Jessica Sebor, the editor of Women’s Running magazine, became the inaugural female winner of the National Championship of Nude Running in 2012 and wrote about the experience.

“I know it’s going to take more than one Sunday morning to cure my self-consciousness,” she wrote about running nude. “But running the Bare Dare did teach me this: If you don’t challenge yourself, you will never have the chance to be crowned a champion.”


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SUP: False Sense of Security

By Pete Williams

Anyone paddling a canoe or kayak is conditioned to putting on a life jacket before climbing in a vessel. Even avid swimmers will encounter life-threatening situations while paddling. A life jacket or other personal flotation device (PFD) can save your butt.

So why is it that it’s still common for many if not most stand-up paddleboarders to take to the seas without a PFD or, at most, a life jacket strapped to the board where it’s of little use? After all, you’re more likely to fall off a SUP than tumble out of a canoe or kayak. A life jacket well beyond arm’s reach is of little use.

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

The PFD debate has raged since SUP exploded around 2010. It’s an issue nobody wants to discuss. For several years, race directors even joked about it at the start of races, saying something like, “Okay, you’re supposed to have a PFD on your board wear a leash. There, I said it.” Everyone chuckled and the race began.

These days, race directors require athletes to wear at least an inflatable PFD around their waists and many require leashes. Funny how a little liability and and nine pages of insurance premium boilerplate can inspire a change in mindset in a race director.

For the recreational paddleboarder, PFDs still are rare. It’s the water equivalent of the motorcycle helmet. “Hey, I’m a skilled rider, I don’t want to be burdened by a helmet/life jacket.”

But just as a skilled biker can be hit by an erratic car driver, an experienced paddleboarder faces constant danger from inconsiderate or drunk boaters and jet ski operators, to say nothing of sudden changes in weather and even marine life knocking you off the board.

Recently I was paddling in Madeira Beach. It was a windy day and the water was choppy. After a few minutes, I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and headed back to shore. On the way back, I encountered a boy of about 13 with his mother. The kid was on his knees, distressed, calling for mom. She was alongside him, also on her knees, trying unsuccessfully to calm him.

I paddled over. They had no PFDs or leashes. “Ma’am,” I asked. “Is this your first time on a board?”

She nodded. They had rented the boards from a city-approved vendor on the beach. They had received no instruction, no safety tips, no leashes or PFDs.

“Okay,” I said sternly. “You two need to head back to shore immediately. This is an awful day for paddleboarding, especially your first day.”

She nodded again and the two headed back. I shook my head. This is a common scene. Thankfully the worst thing to come out of the experience for them was that the son probably will never want to try SUP again. At least his experience ended safely.

Still, think how many people never try SUP again because of similar experiences. Or get hurt or injured.

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, do you want your life to depend on whether you can safely swim back to shore? An inflatable PFD worn around the waist, along with a leash attaching you to the board, is a small inconvenience. At the very least, you’ll save your expensive board investment.

You might also save your life.

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Florida Cup: Growing in SUP Stature

By Pete Williams

FLCupMADEIRA BEACHBruce Denson paused this morning during his busy day of race director duties at the Florida Cup to consider the growth of the third-annual stand-up paddleboarding event.

There were nearly 200 paddlers between the open, elite and kids races, a tent city of sponsor tents representing prominent SUP companies, and postcard-perfect weather. There was a massive inflatable finish arch and announcers from Stoke Radio handling emcee duties to give the race a big-event feel. Best of all, Denson seems to have found the ideal spot for a major SUP race in Tampa Bay: Archibald Park in Madeira Beach.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support from Madeira Beach, the sponsors, and of course the entire SUP community,” says Denson, a St. Petersburg attorney and avid paddler.

Archibald Park, the longtime home of the Madeira Beach Triathlon, seems tailor-made for SUP, with parking for about 80 cars in the beach lot and at least 100 more at a supermarket across the street that allows athletes to park there for no charge in a designated area.

Though Pinellas County’s Gulf of Mexico beaches are ideal for SUP racing, parking always has been the stumbling block. Numerous events have tried to build traction at sites between St. Petersburg and Clearwater only to struggle with offering adequate parking nearby. Denson debuted the Florida Cup in Treasure Island in 2013 and staged it at St. Pete Beach last year, encountering the same issue in both places.

The Archibald Park lot, usually shut down for triathlon parking to stage the transition area and post-race festivities, proved adequate for Florida Cup parking. For later arrivals, Denson had board “sherpas” on hand to unload boards and transport them to the shoreline while racers parked at the supermarket.

Denson also has streamlined what was a packed weekend-long series of activities. There’s still Friday night packet pickup and a post-race lunch, but the focus is on the race itself.

FLCup2That’s why we believe the Florida Cup will be among the major SUP races that will survive long-term. As with running, triathlon, and obstacle racing, the number of SUP races has exploded in recent years only to see a shakeout. Many SUP events self-destruct by offering prize money, multiple parties, and lavish awards presentations held well after the end of the race – all of which adds financial pressure and organization hassles to what is already a challenging production staged on public waterways.

Even The Battle of the Paddle, the sport’s premier event held in California, folded earlier this month after nearly a decade because race organizers grew tired of staging what had become an increasingly lavish and expensive weekend.

Which races will fill the void? The popular Carolina Cup, held in Wrightsville, North Carolina in April, is now the biggest event with more than 600 athletes. Denson’s Florida Cup also seems in good position to grow, especially with athletes and sponsors raving about this morning’s event.

Florida always seems like the overshadowed little brother in endurance sports, with Californians claiming ownership of triathlon and stand-up paddleboarding. But the Sunshine State leads the nation in number of marathons, obstacle races, triathlons and SUP events – and also the quality of events – with California promoters forever struggling to get their act together. The nation’s largest warm-weather state now has no major championship in triathlon or SUP.

Some might suggest that mirrors the overall management of the states in general. Either way, we’re bullish on SUP in Florida and the Florida Cup, the Sunshine State’s premier event, which seems poised to flourish in 2016 and beyond.




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Nude SUP Challenge Returns to Kissimmee

By Pete Williams

SUPCoveAd4The Nude SUP Challenge, which debuted last year as the world’s first clothing-optional stand-up paddleboard race, returns to the Cypress Cove nudist resort in Kissimmee, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 13.

The four-mile race, held on the 50-acre Brown Lake within the confines of Cypress Cove, takes place the day after Surf Expo, the largest industry trade show for surfing and SUP. Surf Expo is held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, just a 25-minute drive from Cypress Cove.

Registration for the Nude SUP Challenge is now open. Race entry also provides all-day admission into Cypress Cove, one of North America’s premier nudist resorts. Cypress Cove is hosting a weekend of clothing-optional endurance sports with the fifth-annual Streak the Cove 5K taking place on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Registered athletes will receive Cypress Cove member rates on hotel rooms and campsites for the weekend.

“We’re looking forward to a great weekend of racing,” said Cypress Cove owner Ted Hadley. “Between the Streak the Cove and the Nude SUP Challenge it promises to be one of most memorable weekends ever.”

Nineteen athletes – 11 men and eight women – made endurance sports history by competing in the inaugural Nude SUP Challenge in 2014 Athletes came from as far away as Southern California, Ohio, Maryland, and Georgia.With more than a hundred Cypress Cove residents and guests watching along Brown Lake on a balmy morning, paddlers completed four and a half laps around the 50-acre waterway for a total of four miles. The winner, a 25-year-old man from Sarasota, navigated the course in 40 minutes, 45 seconds. The female winner, a 33-year-old also from Sarasota, finished fourth overall at 44:15.

Logo-Final-SmallStand-up paddleboarding is one of America’s fastest-growing sports, combining fitness and water sports. As the sport has grown in recent years, a number of stand-up paddleboard races have emerged. The Nude SUP Challenge was the first clothing-optional stand-up paddleboarding race anywhere and more than 60 paddlers are expected for 2015.

“This is a great event,” said Hadley, who watched the 2014 race unfold from the middle of Brown Lake in his boat with one of several Osceola County EMS staffers hired for safety support. “We’re looking forward to growing the Nude SUP Challenge into an annual tradition.”

The Nude SUP Challenge was organized by Enterprise Media LLC, which has put on the clothing-optional Streak the Cove 5K run at Cypress Cove annually since 2011 and the Caliente Bare Dare 5K in Florida’s Pasco County since 2010.

As with all races put on by Enterprise Media, photography is strictly prohibited. Race results and names of participants are not published.


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The Bob Seger Top 70 at 70

By Pete Williams

NightMovesThis is a blog about endurance sports in Florida, so it might seem an odd place to celebrate today’s 70th birthday of Bob Seger.

But Seger knows a few things about endurance and Florida and not just because he ran a 5:05 mile in high school. He spent much of his twenties trying to build a following outside of his native Michigan, touring endlessly before building some traction in the Sunshine State. He continued his marathon travels in the 1980s and marked his 50th year in music with a tour earlier this year with three stops in Florida.

Seger’s music resonated with me as a 10-year-old living in Richmond, Virginia in 1980. This was a transitional period in American music, right after disco and before the dominance of Michael Jackson and Madonna. So my formative years of music fandom could have gone in many directions.

Thankfully Seger was there on my FM dial with his bluesy-rock-country sound delivered in a high-testosterone voice that was warmer and rangier than contemporaries like Neil Young and John Fogerty. He was Springsteen before Springsteen, a gifted songwriter and blue-collar commentator. You could understand and sing along with his ballads and hard-charging songs about picking yourself up, learning from experience, dealing with regret, and forging ahead. Seger was just 35 in 1980, his best-selling album sales behind him, but his songwriting showed the wisdom of a much older man.

Like my all-time favorite athlete, Dale Murphy, Seger enjoyed his best years from 1976-1983 and made another strong push from 1986-87. Seger didn’t always make the best career decisions. He turned down both Woodstock and a chance to play halftime at the Super Bowl. His longtime manager Punch Andrews has made some puzzling moves over the release of his music on iTunes and elsewhere.

UltimateHitsBut Seger has remained true to his core values. He let himself go gray and heavier and embraced the old guy look. He became a father later in life and basically took a decade (1996-2006) off when his kids were little. At a time when many of his contemporaries rake in millions with endless touring, he’s hit the road sparingly over the last two decades.

For 35 years, he’s provided the soundtrack to my life and those of many others, something I was reminded of in February when I saw him in Fort Myers on what might have been his last tour. If so, it’s been a helluva ride, with so many memorable songs.

In honor of his 70th birthday today, here are my 70 favorite Bob Seger tunes.

(70) – Shakedown (Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack, 1987) – A very un-Seger sounding song but, like all Seger movie music, it fit perfectly with the film and the era. Given the man’s incredible body of work and how many of his songs appeared in movies, it’s odd that Shakedown is both his only No.1 hit and his only song nominated for an Academy Award. Even diehard Seger fans struggle to come up with that trivia answer.

(69) – The Horizontal Bop (Against the Wind, 1980) – One of Seger’s few cheeky double entendre songs – “Grass is good as carpet. Anyplace is fine” – it probably belongs higher, but we’ll stick it at 69.

(68) – Sock it to Me Santa (A Rock and Roll Christmas, 1995) – Not as awkward as the Bon Jovi “Back Door Santa” tune, but definitely an unusual offering from Seger. Still, it has its moments and always good to hear Seger in Christmas rotation, especially where “Little Drummer Boy” has been deemed too slow.

(67) – Blue Monday (Road House soundtrack, 1989) – Written by Dave Bartholomew and popularized by Fats Domino, Seger covers this well for the movie “Road House” starring Patrick Swayze at the height of the late actor’s chiseled, mullet-headed fame. Seger has contributed to a lot of great films. This isn’t one of them, but his Blue Monday is memorable.

(66) Wreck This Heart (Face the Promise, 2006) – Leadoff song on Seger’s first new album in a decade, it’s a catchy tune about dealing with pressure and finding the time for what’s important.

(65) East Side Story (1966) – One of Seger’s first singles, recorded with his band The Last Heard, it sounds a little ‘60s psychedelic, but the 21-year-old’s powerful voice resonates. Seger made his first TV appearance to perform this song on the show “Swingin’ Time” hosted by Robin Seymour.

LikeARock(64) – Tightrope (Like a Rock, 1986) – Like Shakedown, a very un-Seger sound more reflective of the ‘80s than Seger’s career. But this song about drug culture is a powerful one. I was mesmerized as a 16-year-old watching Seger’s female backup singers on the American Storm tour gyrate on stage during this song. They sounded awesome, too.

(63) Downtown Train (Ultimate Hits, 2011) – Seger recorded this Tom Waits cover in 1989, but didn’t release it since Rod Stewart had just done his own version. Seger and Stewart have somewhat similar voices and Seger’s Downtown Train, included in his Ultimate Hits album in 2011, furthers that comparison.

(62) Lucifer (Mongrel, 1970) – You can hear the future Seger sound developing in this tune, released with his Bob Seger System band in the pre-Silver Bullet era. It peaked at No.80 on the charts, one of his first top 100 hits.

(61) Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey! (Going Back to Birmingham) (Ultimate Hits, 2011) – Seger covered this 1956 Little Richard song in 1989 in the same session that produced Blue Monday for the Road House soundtrack but didn’t release it until 2011. Seger gives it his own bluesy, rollicking twist.

(60) Heavy Music (1967) – Released as a single with The Last Heard, it later appeared on the popular Live Bullet album. Many thought it had sexual connotations – especially the many references to going deeper – but Seger maintained it was just a song about the power of music.

(59) – No Man’s Land (Against the Wind, 1980) – This was the B-side of the first 45 I ever purchased, the title track of the Against the Wind album. It’s a shame we no longer have 45s, which inspired us to examine under-the-radar songs we otherwise would have ignored. No Man’s Land, deep on the bench of a great album, is such a tune.

(58) Brave Strangers (Stranger in Town, 1978) – Overshadowed by megahits on perhaps Seger’s best-known album (though Against the Wind was his only No.1 disc), Brave Strangers is a signature Seger song of brief romance that starts slow before building to a crescendo.

TheDistance(57) Little Victories (The Distance, 1982) – Seger said this song is “about those first couple of days after something falls apart, when you’re close to a bad, almost suicidal depression… That’s when you’re just determined, and you think, ‘How am I gonna get through this?’ Okay, I got up today, that’s a little victory.” Familiar Seger themes of picking yourself up and being stronger from the experience.

(56) Take a Chance (The Fire Inside, 1991) – Seger never has whiffed in the Silver Bullet era with the first song on an album and this cautionary tale about not being honest and genuine is no exception.

(55) East L.A. (1984) – B-side of the single Understanding recorded for the “Teachers” movie soundtrack, this is about living a low-key but satisfying existence in Tinseltown. “We’re just cross town, a couple million miles away.”

(54) Lookin’ Back (1971) – A non-album single about political conservatism, it later appeared on Seger’s Live Bullet album.

(53) Let it Rock (Nine Tonight, 1980) – Seger is one of many to cover Chuck Berry’s 1960 classic and it’s a strong tribute. This is one of four songs on the Nine Tonight album recorded on my 11th birthday at the Boston Garden. I wish I could have been there.

FireInside(52) The Fire Inside (The Fire Inside, 1991) – Title track of a disappointing album by Seger standards, it seemed like a stretch to include it later in the Greatest Hits collection, especially since Seger mentioned that he rewrote the original lyric many times. “I’ve never done that before or since.” Seger always does a great job with his first lyrics and this song has grown on me.

(51) Fortunate Son (Like a Rock, 1986) – Seger’s live version of the CCR tune is one of the best of the off-covered, anti-war anthem. Though recorded 17 years after the original, it still struck a chord.

(50) Wildfire (Early Seger Volume 1, 2009) – Recorded in 1985 and once considered for the title track of what became the Like a Rock album, it ended up on the cutting room floor. Seger dusted off this moving Roll Me Away-sound-a-like for his first Early Seger album, released in 2009.

(49) Can’t Hit the Corners No More (Unreleased, late ‘70s) – Springsteen has “Glory Days.” John Fogerty has “Centerfield.” It’s too bad Seger, a big Detroit Tigers fan, left this one off the Against the Wind album. It’s a quintessential Seger tune about getting older through the eyes of a pitcher. It was supposed to appear in the Tom Cruise/Paul Newman movie “The Color of Money” but didn’t make it. Oh well. Maybe it will end up in a boxed set some day.

(48) American Storm (Like a Rock, 1986) – It sounds like “Even Now,” the leadoff song of his previous album (The Distance). But this song might best showcase Seger’s howling, breathless range. I’m guessing he can’t hit some of these notes anymore. Then again, most of us have never touched cigarettes and can’t begin to sing along with this one. American Storm was a great name for a concert tour, and the 106-show voyage from 1986-87 was Seger’s last extended road trip.

FaceThePromise(47) – Real Mean Bottle (Face the Promise, 2006) – Most memorable song from the only new album Seger released in an 18-year stretch (1996-2014), it pairs Seger with friend and fellow Michigan native Kid Rock.

(46) Miami (Like a Rock, 1986) Once used in an episode of “Miami Vice” at the height of that show’s popularity, it’s a vivid, haunting song where Seger voices concern about the treatment of Cuban refugees.

(45) – Detroit Made (Ride Out, 2014) – Faster cover of a track written by John Hiatt, another gifted songwriter, who opened for Seger on his 1996 “It’s a Mystery” tour.

(44) – The Fire Down Below (Night Moves, 1976) – Somewhat overlooked on Seger’s breakout studio album, this tale about prostitution – later covered by Bette Midler and Tina Turner – showcases Seger’s songwriting talents.

(43) Betty Lou’s Getting’ Out Tonight (Against the Wind, 1980) – Fast-paced, funky tune used during encores on several concert tours, its lyrics have always puzzled me. Is Betty Lou getting out of jail? Rehab? House arrest? Being grounded?

(42) Good for Me (Against the Wind, 1980) – Overshadowed on an album full of signature Seger ballads, this song is a typical Seger reflection showing respect, admiration and bewilderment over women. “She’s no good at being phony. She never tells a good lie.”

(41) Makin’ Thunderbirds (The Distance, 1982) – You’d think Ford would have contacted Seger to use this song about the heyday of its ’55 Thunderbird and the Detroit auto industry, inspired by Seger’s three-week stint working at Ford as a young man. Instead it was Chevy that came along after the 1986 Like a Rock album and built a memorable campaign.

(40) I Can’t Save You Angelene (It’s a Mystery, 1996) – One of Seger’s more unique sounding songs, with lots of piano and a slow but powerful beat.

NineTonight(39) Nine Tonight (Nine Tonight, 1980) – Another hard-charging song, it was supposed to be on the Against the Wind album but ended up the title track of a live album shortly thereafter. Interesting Seger trivia: It’s the first of many Seger songs to appear in movie soundtracks (John Travolta’s 1980 “Urban Cowboy,” which includes a who’s who of talent, including Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, and The Charlie Daniels Band.)

(38) Nutbush City Limits (Beautiful Loser, 1975) – Cover of Tina Turner hit about her rural Tennessee hometown, Seger kicked off many ‘70s concerts with this upbeat tune, most famously for the Live Bullet album. Interesting trivia: Nutbush does not have city limits.

 (37) Ain’t Got No Money (Stranger in Town, 1978) – I’ve always liked that Seger rarely uses improper grammar unless it makes an impact – i.e. “today’s music ain’t got the same soul.” This song was written by Scottish rocker Frankie Miller, who Seger cited as an influence in 1978. The opening lyrics of this song sound like something Seger might have written: “Well I’m looking for a woman about five foot six, who ain’t into glamour, she’s just into kicks.”

(36) Railroad Days (Brand New Morning, 1971) – Beautiful acoustic song, just Seger and his guitar. It’s about the glory days of youth and touches upon some of his interests (trains, baseball). The song, like the album, is only available in vinyl.

(35) The Ring (Like a Rock, 1986) – Another classic Seger ballad about lost hopes and dreams. “Now twenty years have gone. And her kids have moved on. And she’s still on the far end of town.”

GreatestHits2(34) Comin’ Home (The Distance, 1982) – One of Seger’s longest (6:08), slowest, and most downtrodden songs, it’s about returning home after struggling to make it in the big city. “Lots of dreams that all went wrong. You’ll just tell them what they want to hear. How you took the place by storm. You won’t tell them how you lost it all. You’ll just say you’re comin’ home.”

(33) Manhattan (It’s a Mystery, 1996) – Seger didn’t write this one, but he’s the right voice for this dark song about the New York drug culture.

(32) Satisfied (Greatest Hits 2, 2003) – What a versatile tune. It’s a beautiful love song with a rhythm that makes it sound like it belongs in a strip club. Usually when an artist tacks a couple of previously unreleased tunes to a Greatest Hits album, it seems like a reach. This one sounds like signature Seger. “All of the others, just stood around and lied. If I had you, babe, I’d be satisfied.”

(31) Come to Poppa (Night Moves, 1976) – Seger didn’t write this one – Earl Randle and Willie Mitchell did – but he puts his bluesy-rock stamp on it. Maybe Seger’s most high-testosterone song, it too sounds like it belongs in a strip club, though maybe as part of a male review.

(30) It’s You (Like a Rock, 1986) – Maybe Seger’s most underrated love song, another beautiful ballad of enduring love. “I don’t really claim to understand it. I just know the way you make me feel. No one has to tell me I’m a lucky man. No one has to tell me that it’s real.”

AgainstTheWind(29) Fire Lake (Against the Wind, 1980) – Another slow, powerful ballad on an album full of them, this song seems to go perfectly with Jim Warren’s album cover art of horses running through the surf. If it sounds a bit like an Eagles tune, that’s because Glen Frey, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmit provided backing harmony vocals.

(28) Sunspot Baby (Night Moves, 1976) – Seger had two brief early marriages and you get the impression he met some interesting women along the way before getting married for a third time and having kids later in life. This song, like many Seger tunes, starts off strong. Like a novelist or journalist, you can tell the guy works hard on his leads: “She packed up her bags and she took off down the road. Left me here stranded with the bills she owed.”

(27) Get Out of Denver (Seven, 1974) – Oft-covered, most successful track from the underrated Seven album, the first with the Silver Bullet Band, it helped bring Seger out of obscurity as he approached 30 and had a successful tour as the opening act for KISS. (I was only 4 when this tour took place. Can someone put a 2016 KISS/Bob Seger tour together? Tell me this wouldn’t be huge!) I saw Seger perform this song in Denver on Valentine’s Day on the 2007 Face the Promise tour. He hadn’t played it often but he introduced it with, “Well, you know I’ve gotta play this here!”

(26) Even Now (The Distance, 1982) – Another Seger song that captures the uneasiness of growing older. Perhaps appropriately, The Distance was the last album by a major American recording artist to be released on 8-track. Seger requested it knowing many of his fans still listened to the format. As someone who drove a 1977 Pontiac station wagon with an 8-track deck through high school graduation (1987), I appreciated the gesture, buying old Seger 8-tracks in thrift stores.

(25) Little Drummer Boy (A Very Special Christmas, 1987) – So many rock versions of Christmas classics seem tailor-made for holiday movie trailers. Seger’s beautiful rendition of this song, which features Springsteen guitarist Nils Lofgren helping out the Silver Bullet Band, is low-key but powerful.

BeautifulLoser(24) – We’ve Got Tonight (Stranger in Town, 1978) – Seger has marveled at how so many couples have told him they chose this as their wedding song. It’s about a one-night stand.

(23) – Her Strut (Against the Wind, 1980) – Nobody can underestimate the impact of the 1960s-70s Jane Fonda, no matter how polarizing her political views. This aggressive guitar number, released several years before ol’ Barbarella became a fitness icon, captures her perfectly. “In spite of all her talking. Once she starts in walking. The lady will be all they ever dreamed.”

(22) – Shame on the Moon (The Distance, 1982) – This slow Rodney Crowell cover, for which Seger earned a Grammy nomination, makes me feel like I should be riding horseback single file through a mountain pass. I’d hum this while traveling through Europe by train after high school graduation playing endless games of Spades with my buddies as I tried to “shoot the moon.”

(21) – Katmandu (Beautiful Loser, 1975) – Ca-ca-ca-ca-catchy tune with a great backstory. Seger would look at National Geographic as a young boy and was fascinated by far-off, exotic places. In the early 1990s he visited Nepal for the first time and then-King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah asked him what inspired him to write the song. Just another example of amazing songwriting. “ I got no kick against the west coast. Warner brothers are such good hosts. I raise my whiskey glass and give them a toast.” Great stuff.

(20) Rock & Roll Never Forgets (1976) – Another powerful retrospective, wisdom-of-age song, this has appeared in a couple of recent movie trailers and has served as Seger’s final concert encore for more than 20 years. “So now sweet sixteen’s turned thirty-one. You get to feelin’ weary when the work day’s done.” Seger was 31 when that song came out and already showed a lot of wisdom. A perfect Seger-in-microcosm song. No wonder it’s the title of his “Ultimate Hits” album released in 2011.

LiveBullet(19) Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (1968) – Everyone has a song from childhood that inspired them to lock the bedroom door and lip sync repeatedly, pretending to be a rock star. This was recorded before I was born, but it was that song for me. Set the tone for Seger’s muscular lyrics that appear in so many of his later tunes: “And I was just thirteen when I had to leave home. Knew I couldn’t stick around, had to roam. Ain’t good lookin’, but you know I ain’t shy. Ain’t afraid to look a girl in the eye.”

(18) – Mainstreet (Night Moves, 1976) – Another great single from the Night Moves album, Seger wrote it about a pool hall in his native Ann Arbor. Features some of the best sax work by Alto Reed, the longtime Silver Bullet showman with the most fitting stage name ever.

(17) Hollywood Nights (Stranger in Town, 1978) If you haven’t driven 90-plus on the freeways around Los Angeles late at night with this blaring, preferably after just getting into town and enduring one of those only-in-L.A. experiences, add this to your music device for the next visit.

(16) You’ll Accompany Me (Against the Wind, 1980) “A gypsy wind is blowing warm tonight. The sky is starlit and the time is right. And still you’re tellin’ me you have to go. Before you leave there’s something you should know.” That’s just the first 33 words of the song. Why can’t anyone write like this anymore?

(15) Night Moves (Night Moves, 1976) – In high school, I had a teacher give us a week to memorize a lengthy song or poem and present it to class. The only catch? We couldn’t miss a word. One guy didn’t wait a week, standing right up and delivering Night Moves, already a decade old at that point. The tune includes some of the more offbeat Seger phrases – tight pants points, trusty woods, etc. – and makes me regret never learning to play the guitar.

GreatestHits(14) Roll Me Away (The Distance, 1982) – This makes me want to go out and buy a Harley. My buddy Jonny Simpkins helped me appreciate it more by quoting it on Facebook for a week before heading out cross-county on his bike last year. It’s Seger at his best, changing speeds like a pitcher between ballad and up tempo until it reaches a crescendo, hitting all the Seger themes of life on the road, brief romance, and picking yourself up. “Stood alone on a mountain top starin’ out at the Great Divide, I could go east I could go west it was all up to me to decide.” This song seems to have risen in stature over the years as Seger has opened concerts with it for two decades – deservedly so.

(13) The Real Love (The Fire Inside, 1991) – One of Seger’s best straight-up love songs, this highlighted one of his least successful albums. “I long to see you in the morning son. Everyday – everyday.” Probably the highest ranking this song will get by any Seger fan, but I’m placing it here since it served as such perfect intro music for our wedding video, which did not include “We’ve Got Tonight.”

(11-12) Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser (Beautiful Loser, 1975; Live Bullet, 1976) – Technically two songs, but often performed live and recorded together, most memorably on Sept. 4-5, 1975 for the Live Bullet album released the following April. This pairing is a pretty good summary of Seger’s work between the haunting ballad of Beautiful Loser and the upbeat but retrospective Travelin’ Man.

(10) – Tryin’ to Live My Life without You (Nine Tonight, 1981) – This sounds like it should be a Seger song between its opening lyrics about smoking five packs of cigarettes a day and theme of enduring love. But it’s actually a Eugene Williams cover that pays tribute to the Memphis horn style. There’s a great story about how Seger recorded this (memorably live at the Boston Garden on Oct. 6, 1980) to poke fun at his friends Glenn Frey and Don Henley for ripping off Williams’ opening notes for The Eagles song “The Long Run.”

ItsAMystery(9) – Lock and Load (It’s a Mystery, 1996) – Underrated, hard-driving song about getting over regret and getting off your ass. “Mediocrity is easy, the good things take time, the great need commitment – right down the line.” Seger, who became a first-time father later in life, recorded this album around his 50th birthday and pretty much took the next decade off to spend time with his young kids. Pretty cool.

(8) Still the Same (Stranger in Town, 1978) – Seger wrote this about the Type A characters he met upon moving to Hollywood. There’s a great mid-80s interview between Seger and Bob Costas (available on YouTube) where Costas talks about how this song resonated with him because of his father’s gambling addiction.

(7) Chances Are (Hope Floats soundtrack, 1998) – Beautiful duet with Martina McBride that highlighted film starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. You could fill an album with Seger movie music, both original and adapted. Seger’s music has long benefitted from powerful voices of female backup singers, most notably Shaun Murphy, Marcy Levy, and Laura Creamer.

(6) Like a Rock (Like a Rock, 1986) – If you watched televised sports from 1991-2004, you listened to this song thousands of times in Chevy truck commercials. And you know what? It never got old. Name another tune that carried an ad campaign for more than a decade. Heck, name another ad campaign that lasted 10 years. Another of Seger’s great reflections-on-getting-old tunes; he wrote this around his 40th birthday. “Twenty years, where’d they go? Twenty years, I don’t know. I sit and I wonder sometimes, where they’ve gone.”

StrangerInTown(5) Feel Like a Number (Stranger in Town, 1978) – Though written long before robo calls and customer service numbers that take you to India, this high-adrenaline tune that showcases Seger’s songwriting chops still resonates today. “I took my card and I stand in line, to make a buck I work overtime, Dear Sir letters keep coming in the mail…To teachers, I’m just another child. The IRS, I’m another file.” As with “Hollywood Nights,” I always find myself driving really fast on the highway whenever I’m in the car and this song is on the air.

(4) Old Time Rock N Roll (Stranger in Town, 1978) – Perhaps the most played song of the jukebox era, made famous by Tom Cruise’s tighty whitey breakout role in “Risky Business” in 1983. Not even endless wedding reception play could ruin this anti-disco tune, released at the peak of the Bee Gees and The Village People.

(3) Understanding (Teachers soundtrack, 1984) – Somewhat unnoticed until it appeared on Seger’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 in 2003. Written for the underrated movie “Teachers” starring a deep ‘80s cast of Nick Nolte, Judd Hirsch, Laura Dern, Ralph Macchio, Morgan Freeman and others, it’s another great Seger retrospective tune that also hit the message of the movie perfectly. “It always seemed like no one cared. Then you took the time. And now everything seems clear.”

(2) Turn the Page (Back in ’72, 1973) – Haunting classic from 1972 about life on the road, highlighted by the signature sax of Alto Reed. Later covered by Metallica and also the inspiration for Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive. Among Seger’s oldest and most critically acclaimed hits, one of the great concert sing-a-long tunes of all time, Turn the Page has stood the test of time.

RideOut(1) Against the Wind (Against the Wind, 1980) – Title track of an album featuring cover art by Jim Warren. It’s the best of Seger’s wish-I-knew-now-looking-back ballads, though written when he was only 34. Used appropriately in “Forrest Gump” as Forrest ends his three-year running saga after Jenny breaks his heart. This was the first 45 record I bought and I’ve owned it in LP, cassette, 8-Track, CD and digital download. Not sure why it grabbed the attention of a 10-year-old with his first stereo in Richmond, Virginia, but it continues to resonate with me. About 10 years ago, I found an oversized 1980s-era record store poster of the album cover on eBay and later traded it to Warren – who had a studio near me – for one of his prints. Seger brought Against the Wind full circle by putting the Arizona desert scene from Forrest Gump on the cover of his latest album, Ride Out.


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Running and Life Lessons from Forrest Gump

By Pete Williams

Gump-posterSunday marks the 20th anniversary of the release of “Forrest Gump,” the iconic, Oscar-winning film that established Tom Hanks as perhaps America’s most beloved actor.

Sure, he won an Academy Award for his role in “Philadelphia” the year before and his performance in “A League of Their Own” in 1992 might rank as his most underrated. But Forrest Gump finally transitioned Hanks, at 37, from ‘80s comedies into a top-of-the-A-list leading man.

When we look at the growth of running in the last 20 years, nobody played a bigger role than Forrest Gump. He wasn’t responsible for the initial boom in running in the late 1970s. That was movie fiction, unlike his influence on Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Watergate, of course. But Gump did trigger the mid-1990s running explosion usually attributed to Oprah Winfrey.

It was Oprah, after all, who in 1994 ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 4 hours, 29 minutes, inspiring countless folks who figured if Oprah could do it, well, so could they. But Oprah ran past many of the Washington landmarks seen in “Forrest Gump” nearly five months after the movie’s release. By then, “Run, Forrest, Run,” had become the phrase of the year, with thousands taking up running, like Forrest, “for no particular reason.”

Oprah didn’t stick with running, though her 4:29, which seemed modest 20 years ago is a more impressive showing now that so many more people compete in marathons and median times have gone up by 25 or so minutes according to Running in the USA, which tracks such stats. (Median marathon time for women in 1995 was 4:15 as opposed to 4:42 in 2013).

Forrest, meanwhile, keeps running and running on screen, where he’ll be re-released later this year. He’s forever 37 – or 31, really, since Hanks’ younger brother, Jim, served as double for some of the coast-to-coast running scenes featuring a bearded Forrest in his Nike Cortez shoes.

According to Running in the USA, the number of marathon finishers has grown from 293,000 in 1995 to 541,000. That’s only a fraction of the running industry, which includes ultra runs, trail runs, obstacle races, themed runs, and countless 5K races, none of which even offered online registration in July of 1994.

Channeling Forrest Gump at a 5K in 2011

Channeling Forrest Gump at a 5K in 2011

I’ve always felt a kinship with Hanks. At 12, people told me I looked like him, which I wasn’t sure how to take considering Hanks was dressing in drag on “Bosom Buddies” at the time. In 1994, I went as Forrest Gump for Halloween, winning two costume contests, and the white suit, blue plaid shirt, and sneakers still is my go-to outfit when I can’t come up with other Halloween attire. I’ve even run a 5K dressed as Forrest Gump.

I’ve probably watched “Forrest Gump” thirty times and still cry when Lieutenant Dan shows up at Forrest and Jenny’s wedding with his titanium “magic” legs. (Hanks recently said he cries at that point, too.)

There are so many lessons from “Forrest Gump” and not just for running:

MIX IN SOME INTERVALS: Sure, Forrest slogged across the country for more than three years at presumably the same modest pace. Many runners use this template, aiming to run longer rather than faster.

But Forrest was a fast runner. He burst out of his childhood leg braces to outrun bullies and soon was running everywhere at a breakneck pace. In high school, he found another gear to outrun those same bullies, now driving a pick-up, and parlayed that into a University of Alabama football scholarship, where he was an All-American return man. (Most underrated actor in “Forrest Gump?” Sonny Schroyer, who played Bear Bryant after starring as Enos on “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Now there’s an actor with some range.)

Forrest running at typical brisk pace.

Forrest running at typical brisk pace.

Forrest learned how to run fast first, kicking it up a notch further in Vietnam, and then extended his distance, ultimately running coast-to-coast several times.

The lesson? Focus on running fast and the distance will naturally follow.

NO TECH NEEDED: “Forrest Gump” had an impressive soundtrack and as Forrest runs across the country dealing with Jenny’s most recent departure we hear Jackson Browne (“Running on Empty”), the Doobie Brothers (“It Keeps You Runnin’”) and Bob Seger (“Against the Wind”).

Not a bad runner’s playlist for 1980 or so, though Forrest ran without technology. That’s because there wasn’t any. The bulky Sony Walkman had just been introduced, though not really available, and few people tracked heart rate, up-to-the-second mileage or pace for the rest of the decade.

Instead, Forrest – like other runners of that era – focused on his mind, body, and the breathtaking scenery he was passing.

“Like that mountain lake,” he explained to Jenny later. “It was so clear. It looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It’s so beautiful.”

FOCUS: Forrest didn’t have technology and other digital distraction. Instead, he applied a laser focus to whatever he pursued, whether it was cleaning his rifle, rescuing fallen soldiers, keeping his eye on the pingpong ball, following Bubba’s shrimp business plan, running, or cutting grass.

Though the movie didn’t take place in 1994, it came out not long before the Internet arrived and changed our lives forever. We’re supposed to be smarter than Forrest Gump, though these days nobody can stay focused on anything. How much could we accomplish by applying a Gump-like focus to our lives?

Gump-running2As his fellow soldier taught him about pingpong: “No matter what happens, never, ever take your eye off the ball.”

MOW LAWNS (OR SOMETHING SIMILAR): Like a lot of Generation X guys, I learned a lot about life by mowing lawns. It taught time management, entrepreneurial skills, the value of physical labor, and even some basic engine maintenance. Pre-teen and teenage boys no longer mow lawns and that’s a shame since they miss out on this experience, which includes seeing the beautiful result of your work in a freshly groomed lawn. Forrest Gump understood this, which is why even after becoming a multimillionaire he spent his days mowing lawns, cutting the high school football field for free. When he was running across America and the newscaster referred to him as a “gardener from Greenbow, Alabama,” you got the impression he’d be proud of that title.

GumpShoesTALK TO YOUR NEIGHBOR: Forrest met the love of his life (Jenny) and his best good friend and would-be business partner (Bubba) by talking to people on the bus. I know several married couples that met on airplanes as well as folks who have landed jobs and built business relationships by striking up conversations on planes, trains, and subways. It’s easier to live in a digital cocoon, but there’s huge upside to being friendly. Maybe the bigger takeaway is to be more like Jenny and Bubba and offer a seat rather than hope you get more space to yourself.

EXECUTE THE PIVOT: Forrest went from All-American football star to war hero to pingpong celebrity to shrimp entrepreneur to running icon by building upon his past successes. Sure, his life was all about serendipity, but he leveraged relationships (Bubba, Lt. Dan), his success in one field (pingpong), and hard work to generate the $25,000 start-up capital and build the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. into a household name.

FIND YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE ON RELIGION: Forrest wasn’t a particularly religious guy. He prayed for shrimp, joining the choir at the Four Square Baptist Church, and made a sizable donation to the church after the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. took off. Forrest is a compassionate man who spends time thinking about destiny and Lt. Dan’s relationship with the man upstairs. For the most part, though, he just lives life by the golden rule.

Lt. Dan: “Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?”
Forrest: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”

I’ve used that line several times when people come to my door pitching religion.

GumpShrimpGET A GOOD INVESTMENT ADVISOR: After he made a fortune as a shrimpin’ boat captain, Forrest turned to Lt. Dan, who “got me invested in some kind of fruit company.” We see an image of Forrest pulling a letter out of the mailbox from Apple Computer. It was good for a laugh on July 6, 1994. If only we had known.

Actually, if you went home from the theater that day – or pretty much any day for the next decade – and invested $30,000 in what is now Apple Inc., it would be worth roughly $2 million today. If only we had known.

LOOK OUT FOR MINI-ME: Forrest learned what all parents come to understand about children. You will end up with at least one kid who is an exaggerated version of you, showing more talent for your skills (i.e. pingpong) and replicating your head tilt to the left and other quirks.

Those kids will bring great joy and laughter to your lives.

And they will be smarter than you.




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Seeing New Orleans by SUP

By Pete Williams

New Orleans via SUP

New Orleans via SUP

NEW ORLEANS – Though this site is EnduranceSportsFlorida, we love experiencing endurance sports outside of the Sunshine State.

There are many ways to tour New Orleans. There are vampire and voodoo tours, cemetery and architecture tours, riverboat and streetcar excursions. We’ve been to New Orleans a number of times, but today was our first tour via SUP.

Jeff Lakey established NOLA Paddleboards in 2011 and has built a SUP business that combines lessons, rentals and tours — both out of Lake Ponchartrain and Bayou St. John. I shot him an email a week ago and he set me up with a rental this morning, offering to pick me up at my French Quarter hotel for a (reasonable) additional fee.

I took the streetcar instead and it left me off just 50 yards from where Lakey launches boards into Bayou St. John. I figured since I told Lakey I was an experienced paddler, he was just going to rent me a board and send me on my way. Instead, he spent an hour with me and a first-time paddler. We went north and south on Bayou St. John, occasionally ducking under bridges while Lakey pointed out various historic homes and providing insight into post-Katrina New Orleans.

When we were done, we hopped out of the water and only had to walk 50 yards back to the streetcar for the ride back. Though NOLA Paddleboards also operates out of Lake Ponchartrain – and soon will open a store there – we highly recommend his Bayou St. John location if you’re visiting New Orleans and staying in the French Quarter. Total cost: $30 for the rental and $2.50 for roundtrip streetcar fare. What a great way to get in a paddle and experience some of New Orleans that visitors rarely get to see.

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The “Waterman Triathlon”

By Pete Williams

HelgaSUP2We’ve often thought it would be a great idea to stage a triathlon involving swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and beach running. It would crown the king and queen of the beach, the true waterman.

We don’t know of such an event yet. But this Saturday at St. Pete Beach, there might be an even better endurance sports combo. At 7 a.m., there’s the Dash N Splash Beach Aquathon at Pass-a-Grille Beach. This second-annual event consists of a 2-mile beach run, a 600-yard swim in the Gulf of Mexico, and a 1-mile run.

At 9 a.m, just 2.25 miles north in front of The Alden Suites Hotel, is the second-annual Florida Cup stand-up paddleboard race. This event already has become one of North America’s premier SUP races, with more than 200 paddlers expected for a weekend-long paddlefest.

A young competitor at the Dash N Splash in St. Pete in May

A young competitor at the Dash N Splash in St. Pete in 2013

Like most SUP events, especially those held at St. Pete Beach, parking is at a premium and getting your boards from the parking lot to the beach can be a challenge. (Though race director Bruce Denson and his staff have those details covered.)

Still, if you want to make the logistics easier and become a true waterman, park at Pass-a-Grille Beach for the Dash N Splash. You’ll have a short walk with your board to the beach. Compete in the Dash N Splash at 7, finish by 7:45 (or earlier) and then hop on your board and paddle north to the start of the Florida Cup race, beating the crowds and parking.

IMG_7923You’ll miss the awards ceremony for the Dash N Splash and you’ll need to have waterproof cases for your keys and presumably phone, along with some sort of backpack, but you can arrive in style and in time for the 10-mile Florida Cup elite race (9 a.m.) and plenty of time for the 3-mile open race (9:15 a.m.) In fact, you should be able to make it for the 8:30 captain’s meeting.

We love how only in Florida can you attempt crazy endurance sports doubleheaders like this. We’ve done two sprint triathlons in one day, two obstacle races in a day, and a triathlon and an obstacle race in the same day. But this would be a first.

Who is ready to become a true waterman?

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Race of the Week: Florida Challenge Half Marathon & 5K Trail Runs

By Pete Williams

When it comes to trail running, Florida is underrated. Sure, the Sunshine State might lack hilly terrain and high altitude, but there is no shortage of challenging trails through breathtaking scenery.

That’s what makes the 11th annual Florida Challenge Half Marathon & 5K Trail Run on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 a.m. one of our favorite races. Held at beautiful Alafia River State Park, just east of Tampa, it’s perfectly situated on the race calendar before triathlon season and amid a crowded road race calendar. It’s rated one of the top trail runs in the country, with hillier trails than you’d expect.

It’s also one of the better values in Florida endurance sports. Race-day registration is just $35 for the 5K and $45 for the half marathon (early sign-up rates were even lower). At a time when it costs $80 to pound the asphalt and pavement of a road half-marathon, that’s a bargain.

History: Race debuted in 2004 and is one of a number of popular off-road running events put on by Tampa Races, which also stages the Picnic Island summer adventure run series, along with the XTerra Florida Trail Run series.

Format: The Florida Challenge is a 13.1 mile and a 5K trail run on beginner and intermediate single track trails. The half marathon starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K a half hour later.

Amenities: Long-sleeve T-shirts, custom awards for top finishers, catered post-race food.

Cost: Online registration closing Jan. 23. Race-day registration available – $35 for 5K, $45 for half marathon.


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9 Biggest Trends/Stories in Endurance Sports in 2013

By Pete Williams

Obstacle racing gets more intense.

Obstacle racing gets more intense.

When we launched Endurance Sports Florida nearly three years ago, we could not have imagined that this booming field still had lots of room for growth. Back in January of 2011, obstacle racing still was flying under the radar. Stand-up paddleboarding was a regional phenomenon and nobody had coined the term “theme race.”

These days, the market for all things endurance sports is flooded. No matter where you live, there are numerous opportunities to compete every weekend. In Florida, it’s impossible to find fewer than six endurance sports events within a 45-minute drive any weekend of the year, especially in 2013 with Christmas falling on a Wednesday.

The Sunshine State remains the epicenter for all things endurance sports. The hub might be Benderson Park, a sprawling rowing/swimming/paddling/triathlon complex going up in stages in Sarasota.

With that in mind, here are the top 9 stories/trends in the industry from 2013.

A young competitor at the Dash N Splash in St. Pete in May

A young competitor at the Dash N Splash in St. Pete in May

No. 9 – OPEN WATER SWIMMING: These competitions have existed for years, but there’s suddenly increased interest. Maybe it’s because the roads have gotten crowded (and dangerous) with all of the runners and cyclists, to say nothing of motorists focused on their smart phones. Maybe it’s because swimmers are realizing it’s a lot more fun than training in the pool. Maybe it’s because competitive youth swimmers (above) discovered they can get out of the pool and beat 90 percent of adult recreational swimmers in open water. Maybe it’s because many triathletes didn’t learn to swim as adults and want to put their skills to use as often as possible.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: Diana Nyad brought attention to open-water swimming in September by becoming the first to complete the treacherous Cuba-to-Key West swim without a shark cage. In January, 15-year-old Becca Mann won the Frogman Swim, the 5K trip in chilly waters from St. Pete to Tampa. Mann, now 16, hopes to reach the Olympics in 2016 in both open-water swimming and pool events. Anyone who has seen her train and compete for the Clearwater Aquatic Team knows this is a distinct possibility.

ArmstrongIronmanNo. 8 – LANCE ARMSTRONG CONFESSES: It seemed like such a foregone conclusion to all but his most ardent supporters that Lance Armstrong cheated his way to seven Tour de France victories that it’s easy to forget that his confession to Oprah Winfrey actually happened in 2013, back in January. It seems much longer ago. Lawsuits have piled up, sponsors bolted, and Lance even had to part ways with Livestrong. Since Armstrong can’t compete in sanctioned events, he’s not even allowed to enter triathlons, though Chris McCormack has challenged him to a one-on-one tri smackdown.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: The Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp. trumpeted its partnership with Armstrong only to look foolish when he was charged with doping in 2012. So vast was Armstrong’s deception that we’re left to wonder if he even raced clean on the triathlon front and whether his Ironman 70.3 win in Haines City in 2012 was legitimate. Surely, he raced clean there, right? Oprah didn’t ask.

RockRollHalfNo. 7 – NATIONAL EVENTS STRUGGLE IN FLORIDA: So often we see a national race promoter come to Florida and assume the masses will show up. After all, we have great year-round weather and hordes of athletes. Unfortunately, race promoters underestimate the number of established, affordable local events we have. Florida athletes are savvy customers with no patience for overpromising, overpricing, and underdelivering. That’s why it was no surprise that Competitor Group pulled its Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Pete event after another disappointing turnout in January. Tough Mudder, which had a traffic-related debacle in Sarasota in December of 2012, saw attendance plunge for events in Homestead (March) and Palatka (May). Even Spartan Race officials, who never seem to back down from a challenge, quietly canceled a proposed Spartan Beast event at Little Everglades Ranch for 2014. Ironman continues to sell out its Ironman Florida race in Panama City in a matter of minutes a year in advance, though that’s essentially a home event for the Tampa-based WTC. Warning to out-of-state promoters: Past performance elsewhere does not guarantee future return here and promoters can and do lose money.

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

Paddlers compete at Benderson Park in Sarasota in August.

No. 6 – SUP — UP AND UP: You know a sport is thriving when it seems every interview with a 24-year-old actress/model/singer mentions how she recently discovered stand-up paddleboarding. SUP has become the new yoga or Pilates, which makes sense since it works the body in a similar fashion and there’s now a cottage industry of SUP/yoga and SUP/Pilates classes. Surf Expo, which comes to the Orange County Convention Center each January and September, might as well be called SUP Expo. SUP board manufacturers have taken over the OCCC floor and the Thursday board demo day at a nearby watersports facility has become a highlight of the event for many.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: Besides SUP, er, Surf Expo in Orlando, the Florida Cup has become one of the sport’s premier events after just two years. St. Pete lawyer and avid paddler Bruce Denson has built a late May weekend event in Pinellas County that belongs in the same discussion as the Carolina Cup and perhaps one day soon the Battle of the Paddle in California. The Miramar Beach-based YOLO Board has become a major player in the competitive board manufacturing industry. Then there’s Dunedin’s Karen Mirlenbrink, who is a YOLO Board athlete, a race promoter (Shark Bite Challenge), and a SUP Pilates instructor — basically the Queen of all SUP.

PumpRun2No.5 – THE SPORT OF FITNESS: CrossFit and endurance sports traditionally were polar opposites. CrossFit tended to attract the gym rat demographic while runners never touched the weights. But once Spartan Race and Tough Mudder began actively courting the CrossFit crowd in 2011, the two met in the middle. You’ll still see groups from CrossFit boxes tackle obstacle races, though these days you’re more likely to see them enter CrossFit-style competitions or hybrid events such as the Pump N Run, a Tampa event (above) where athletes bench-pressed all of most of their weight and based on their performance deducted time from a subsequent 5K run. We’re not sure where all this is evolving, but it’s an interesting trend to watch.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: In addition to the Tampa Pump N Run, hosted by Tampa trainer Whit Lasseter in November, CrossFit box owners Clint and Maci Lowery stage regular obstacle races from their Sweat Factory facility in Minneola (near Clermont), which is adjacent to a running trail.

TriGroupNo. 4 – MARKET SATURATION – Back in 2005-07, we hosted a Friday afternoon fitness radio show that featured a brief segment previewing the weekend’s endurance events in Central Florida. The segment took about five minutes. These days it no doubt could fill a half hour and not just because of SUP races, obstacle events, and theme runs that didn’t exist back then. The number of triathlons and road running events has perhaps quadrupled and while that’s generally a good thing, it has diluted many races and created others hosted by organizers who have no business doing so. Triathlon seems to have peeked in popularity in 2011 after a decade of unbridled growth. Our theory is that some would-be triathletes instead turn to obstacle racing or CrossFit, where there’s no need to buy an expensive bike or learn to swim. But while there seems to be the same number of triathletes, there are more triathlons. As for running, it’s impossible in many markets to drive on a Saturday morning without being slowed by race road closures. What’s next? We’re guessing more road runners and obstacle racers will find the happy medium with trail running, which is easier on the body, generally offers a more pleasant race experience, and is often the best value in endurance sports. Which means, of course, that we’ll see a ton of trail races.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: It seems like ages ago when the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg sold out in a few hours in December. These days, it’s possible to register the day before the late-April event. This year St. Anthony’s is hoping to stop the attendance decline by offering a sprint distance to go with the traditional international race.

FlavorRun3No.3 – THEMES, THEMES, and MORE THEMES: We’re not sure if color runs, beer runs, zombie runs, and all of the rest are endurance events or merely festivals with jogging and walking involved. But there’s no denying the impact. The Color Run, which debuted in January 2012 with 6,000 runners in Phoenix is now partnered with sports colossus IMG and stages more than 100 runs annually worldwide. The untimed Color Run, in which white-clad runners pass through stations where they’re doused with colored powder, has inspired numerous knockoffs, including the Florida-based Flavor Run. Most athletes walk or slowly run the events, which are great fun for kids.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: Like every other endurance sports category, Florida leads the nation in themed races. The Color Run alone has five Florida events scheduled in 2014 before Mother’s Day with more to come.

JenCalendarNo. 2OBSTACLE RACE SHAKEOUT – With a new obstacle race popping up seemingly ever week, it was only a matter of time before races started crashing in spectacular fashion. Mud runs have a bucket-list, post-the-Facebook-photo quality to them and events quickly have discovered it’s difficult to draw repeat customers. The zombie-themed Run for Your Lives endured the true death the day before Halloween. More surprising was the demise of Hero Rush, the Maryland-based, firefighter-themed obstacle race that we considered the best produced obstacle event of 2012. It flamed out in August, a victim of growing too big too fast. Who will survive? We’re betting on the races that position themselves as competitions rather than muddy office team-building exercises, which tend to attract the one-and-done crowd. That’s why we’re bullish on events such as the Mile of Pain/Battle Dash, sort of an outdoor version of American Ninja Warrior produced by Central Florida’s Rock On Adventures. Ditto for Spartan Race, which still trails the untimed, team-oriented Tough Mudder in popularity. With Spartan’s every-athlete-for-himself (or herself) format, new national sponsors such as Reebok, a recent one-hour special on NBC Sports Network, and races of three distances that include events in sports venues, we’re betting on King Leonidas and the gang.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: Hero Rush folded shortly before scheduled events in Ocala and South Florida. Through some poor scheduling (or perhaps intended) Tough Mudder and Spartan Race will go head to head in South Florida during the April 12-13, 2014 weekend. Spartan Race also brings its sports venue edition to Florida for the first time with a Spartan Sprint race at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in February.

BostonStrongNo.1 – BOSTON STRONG – The Boston Marathon was the biggest endurance sports story of the year for all the wrong reasons. Two pressure cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the storied race on April 15, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. The violence drew attention to the vulnerability of endurance events, which take place in wide-open settings, unlike sports competitions in enclosed venues. Runners and non-runners across the nation rallied to stage support runs and raise money for the victims. The Boston Red Sox surprising run to a World Series title further helped the healing process.

FLORIDA CONNECTION: An FBI agent shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, a friend of suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in Todashev’s Orlando apartment in the early hours of May 22 after a violent confrontation. A Florida prosecutor is expected to release a report of his investigation into the shooting early next year. On a positive note, numerous Florida runners have qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon, which promises to be the most watched, most secure marathon ever.

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