Monthly Archives: May 2011

Nation’s Largest Beer Run?

By Pete Williams

Postrace at The Oldsmar Tap House

When Fred Rzymek and Tony Falso staged the inaugural “Oldsmar Tap House 5K” in 2009, they figured they’d draw 300 runners to the bar just west of Tampa for a Friday night run.

Instead, more than 700 athletes pre-registered. Another 500 showed up an hour before the race. By the time the first kegs were tapped, a crowd of 2,000 athletes and spectators had gathered.

Last year, the race grew to 1,400 runners. This year, more than 1,500 are expected.

Apparently the way to deal with a recession in the endurance world is to offer free beer – but not just any beer.

“Everyone has Michelob Ultra after an event,” says Rzymek, a longtime race director in the Tampa Bay area who is staging the third-annual Oldsmar Tap House 5K on June 10 at 7 p.m. “Being able to enjoy a number of craft beers no doubt helps.”

This year, Sierra Nevada is the official beer sponsor, providing 25 kegs. That will get things started, with the Oldsmar Tap House providing other craft beers as the night goes on.

As usual, the street in front of The Tap House will be shut down to traffic, creating a block party. There will be a live band and runners receive towels in addition to T-shirts. The first 50 male and first 50 female finishers will receive a lanyard and one-liter plastic “das boot” to fill with beer (up from the 18-ounce versions distributed the last two years). The boot allows access to an express beer line all evening.

Rzymek also will distribute 100 pairs of Boston Bill sunglasses, probably through a random drawing of sorts.

Falso opened the Oldsmar Tap House in an upscale but largely vacant office-and-condo district in February 2008, not long before the economy crashed. The brew pub features dozens of microbrews and an old-time pub atmosphere. Some patrons take on the challenge of drinking a 60-ounce beer from one of the Tap House’s signature glass boots.

When the pub opened, a running group was leaving for Wednesday twilight runs along the Oldsmar waterfront from a nearby bike store, meeting at the Tap House afterward for beer. When the bike shop closed the group, now known as the Oldsmar Run Club, began departing from the brew pub parking lot. The Wednesday night Tap House run continues to be one of the best-attended in the Tampa Bay area.

As for the race, Rzymek says he already has more than 1,000 runners pre-registered. There is early packet pick-up and sign-up at the Oldsmar Tap House on Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9 from 4 to 8 p.m. Online registration is open until the evening of June 8.

“You get the shirt and towel, and maybe win a boot,” says Falso, the Tap House owner. “Heck, some people drink enough free beer to cover their race entry fee.”


Filed under Race of the Week, Races, Running

Race of the Week: Spring into Summer 5K

By Pete Williams

Running at Al Lopez Park

Lynn Gray is a one-woman running conglomerate in the Tampa Bay area. An accomplished age-group runner of all distances, she’s mentored countless runners through her Take the First Step Club. She’s also an author, triathlete, featured trainer in The St. Petersburg Times, and part of the team behind the upcoming Spring into Summer 5K.

The race, which takes place at Tampa’s Al Lopez Park on Saturday, June 4 at 8 a.m., is known for it’s many raffle prizes and large turnout, especially among women. It’s a popular first-time 5K, though many return year after year to do a fast course with a great post-race party.

We spoke with Gray about running and the race this week on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Spring into Summer 5K

History: Eighth-annual event

Format: One loop course through shady Al Lopez Park, located near Raymond James Stadium and Jesuit High School in Tampa. Also a one-mile Kids Fun Run.

Amenities: T-shirts, post-race food, raffles, 3-deep age-group awards

Signature Features: Numerous raffle prizes, including donations from multiple Tampa Bay area running stores. “A lot of people are going to go home with something,” Gray says.

Projected Turnout: 350-plus

Cost: $25 for 5K; $10 for Kids Fun Run

Sign-Up: Via or download a printable copy HERE

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Filed under Fitness Buff Show Radio, Race of the Week, Races, Running

The Madeira Beach Tri-Paddle

By Pete Williams

Crossing the finish line at the GCSUPC

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. – With apologies – sort of – to Hawaii, SoCal, and Boulder, Florida is now the capital of the endurance sports world.

Just consider this past weekend. A 1.25-mile stretch of Madeira Beach in Pinellas County was home to the 26th annual Madeira Beach triathlon and the second-annual Gulf Coast Stand-Up Paddle Board Championship.

The St. Pete Mad Dogs did their usual terrific job hosting a two-day party. A little more than a mile to the south, Brody Welte put on what already is being called the biggest stand-up paddle board event outside of the Battle of the Paddle on the West Coast.

More than 200 paddlers, including some of the nation’s best, competed in a variety of events during the two-day Gulf Coast Stand-Up Paddle Board Championship. The event definitely had a big-time, West Coast feel to it between the SUP sponsors set up on the beach, hula girls, and band.

In what has to be a first, it was possible to do a triathlon early in the morning on Saturday or Sunday and hustle down to the GCSUPC to do one of Welte’s events, which got underway after 10 a.m. My son Luke and I did a tagteam, with Luke competing in the Madeira Beach Mini Triathlon on Saturday morning. We hustled down to the Barefoot Beach Resort, where my board was waiting, and I jumped in the four-mile open race with 10 minutes to spare.

Where else in the country can you do that?

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Filed under Races, SUP, Triathlon

Race of the Week: Streak the Cove 5K

By Pete Williams

Going Streaking

We’ve been promoting this event for some time, of course, but this production of Enterprise Media, LLC, is finally here.

The Streak the Cove 5K, a clothing-optional run held at the Cypress Cove nudist resort in Kissimmee, will take place on Sunday, May 22 at 8:30 a.m. Inspired by the success of last October’s Caliente Bare Dare 5K, the Streak the Cove will be a two-lap course through the shady neighborhoods of Cypress Cove, which opened its doors for nudists in 1964.

Back then, “The Cove” was nestled on a two-lane road among cow pastures and orange groves. These days, there’s a Lowe’s home improvement store across the street, part of a bustling Orlando suburb. The Cove, meanwhile, has upgraded its facilities over the years and now has a sprawling pool complex and 80-plus hotel rooms to go with its beautiful lakeside setting.

Name of Race: Streak the Cove 5K

History: The Cypress Cove Resort staged a 5K race last year with little advance preparation and fanfare. This year, Enterprise Media LLC, organizer of the successful Caliente Bare Dare 5K has taken over race management.

Format: Two-loop course through the shady neighborhoods of Cypress Cove. Race ends at the resort’s sprawling pool complex.

Amenities: Fitted T-shirts for female runners, sharp ash gray shirts for the guys. Commemorative mini-bottles of wine to the top 20 male and top 20 female finishers. The FitNiche running store will be on hand with its mobile shoe store trailer. Mix1 all-natural recovery drinks available at the finish line. Goody bags before the race and post-race refreshment poolside, along with deejay and raffle drawings.

Signature Features: Um, it’s a clothing-optional race.

Projected Turnout: 150

Cost: $30 via online registration which closes at 11:59 p.m ET on Thursday, May 19. Raceday registration available for $32.

Sign-Up: Via IMAthlete



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Martin Dugard’s ‘To be a Runner’

By Pete Williams

Martin Dugard's latest

Martin Dugard is best known for immersing himself into cultures to produce best-selling books such as Into Africa and The Last Voyage of Columbus, collaborating with Mark Burnett on Survivor-related books, and chronicling his own adventures in top magazines.

But he’s also one of the most prolific endurance sports journalists in the industry, having written the book Chasing Lance and countless magazine articles that have appeared in Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated, and Esquire.

Somehow he finds the time to coach high school cross country in Southern California. In his terrific new book To Be a Runner, Dugard, who turns 50 in June, weaves a lifetime of running experiences into interesting life lessons

We spoke with Dugard on The Fitness Buff Show. You can listen to that interview here or read an edited transcript below.

Q: You write about running “in the tempo zone” as a broader metaphor for life. What do you mean by that?

A: We’re going to have struggles; it goes with the territory. The trick is how you deal with it. Put yourself in the moment and no matter what you do keep everything smooth and level and not let your fears and anxiety overcome you and not burning the candles at both ends. It’s finding that place, that smooth place where you find that balance and that piece of mind and, yeah, that tempo. When you run, when you’re in a really good run where you find that rhythm and groove it just carries you and if you can find that same thing in daily life it’s just an amazing feeling.

Q: You live by the motto of “keep pushing always” and never accepting mediocrity. What’s your philosophy behind that?

A: We live in this world of people getting trophies just for showing up, just for breathing essentially, so we’ve become a culture of that accepts mediocrity, that accepts the status quo. At some point we kind of hold people at arm’s length who dare to push their limits every day but I think that’s what running is all about. When you run, just putting your shoes on and getting out the door, you’re making a choice to be a better version of yourself. And that decision is not just with running but with writing or parenting or coaching. If we push ourselves day by day to be better we change not only ourselves but the world around us.

Q: How does running help you overcome writer’s block?

A: This morning when I was writing I was in a funk. I couldn’t find the right words and everything I wrote seemed boring. I don’t know what happens but when I put my shoes on and head for the trailhead a half mile from my house, within five minutes the words started forming in my head. Something takes place when you step outside yourself where you don’t think so much but let things talk back to you. I just finished a screenplay. It wasn’t just narrative, it was actual characters and I’d go run and these characters talked to me to the point where they became real people. So when I began to write their dialogue I got back to the office and knew what to write. Running helps us organize our thoughts, our decision making process and frees us up to think and to write with a lot more clarity.

Q: You live around some beautiful trails with some dangerous wildlife. Any close calls?

A: I’ve had more close calls than I realize. I know mountain lions are out there. I never run on trails at dusk or dawn, which is prime feeding time. I’ll hear the snakes moving in the dry grass or I’ll see the paw prints and wonder if that’s a dog, coyote or mountain lion. I’ve seen them in the distance, seen bobcats. But I wouldn’t run as much if I couldn’t run on trails and that’s one of the tradeoffs. You have to suspend fears and keep your eyes and ears open, but there’s nothing like trail running. It changes your world view and just your entire day when you’re out there.

Q: What do you attribute the latest running boom to?

A: Whenever there are hard times economically running spikes and I don’t know why that is but I know running has changed. When I became a runner it was more competition driven, more people running sub 3-hour marathons that today. You see a lot of people who just like the feeling of doing a half marathon at their pace. They may walk some but they’ll see their friends and have a great day. It’s not about competition, but attempting something that’s beyond your ability and that’s where running is going.

Q: Is running an easier sell to kids today?

A: Cross-country runners are still kind of geeky but with the success of my girls team and the boys to a lesser extent, we’ve had more kids come out and just try it. They learn all of these great things that come from running, the idea of perseverance and putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll finish the goal. When I competed in high school, the girls were treated like girls, definitely considered the weaker sex. Now I coach the girls team the same way as boys, just as hard and demanding. The girls step up and I think mentally they’re tougher and they allow themselves to compete and be a little bit of a badass and change their definition of what it means to be a runner.

Q: How do get people past the notion of running as “long, slow distance?”

A: It’s really a misnomer. When Arthur Lydiard coined LSD he meant long, steady distance and that’s a difference. Even now I have runners say that since they worked hard yesterday today they’re going to just jog four miles. No, let’s go a little deeper, 85 percent instead of down to 75 percent. A couple friends of mine, women, have asked me to draw up marathon programs. They’re non-runners or at least first-time marathon runners and I asked them to do speed work. Not four 100s in 60 seconds but simple vvo2 stuff – 200 on, 100 off – and the great thing is it informs your form and that translates into your next run even if it’s a longer run. At first they don’t think they can do it and feel uncomfortable on the track. But once you introduce them to speed as opposed to volume they push themselves and get more competitive.

Q: Do you find that’s the ‘aha’ moment for many runners?

A: I totally find that. There are days I don’t get that run in the morning and I only have 25 minutes later and I need to do something. If I do something as simple as a 200 at 2-mile pace followed by a 100 jog with the same work to rest ratio within six or seven laps I’m drenched with sweat. Within 20 minutes, I’ve had a great workout, my endorphin levels are off the chart, I feel great and in that short period of time I have gotten a little more efficient.

Q: How is running a metaphor for overcoming obstacles?

A: It’s funny. When I wrote this book I didn’t set out to write it this way. I had some thoughts about running and as I wrote these essays these themes came through and I realized what a profound change running has made in my life. I road bike and mountain bike but you’re at the mercy of a machine if you get a flat. If you run, you’re in charge. It’s just you and there’s something fortifying about that. Those themes came forward and I wanted to spread the word.

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Filed under Fitness Buff Show Radio, Running

Orlando Sentinel Previews ‘Streak the Cove 5K’

By Pete Williams

Streaking the Cove

The Streak the Cove 5K, the clothing-optional run produced by Enterprise Media, LLC on Sunday, May 22 at the Cypress Cove nudist resort, continues to receive a slew of publicity.

In addition to last month’s coverage by Runner’s World online, Mike Bianchi of sports radio 740 AM “The Game” in Orlando interviewed us last week. Our YouTube promo video has received more than 12,000 hits. And now The Orlando Sentinel’s endurance sports blogger Wesley Alden has chimed in with a preview.

Ms. Alden is intrigued by the race.

“After more than a year of races, I’m so close to finding the perfect shirt, shorts, sports bra and underwear combination that won’t cause chafing during long runs,” she writes. “Now I realize that the minimalist approach may have been the answer all along: no clothes = no chafing.”

You can register for the event HERE.

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Race of the Week: Florida International Triathlon

By Pete Williams

Heading into the water for the FIT

It’s tough to think of a more beautiful triathlon location than Siesta Key Beach, the barrier island off the coast of Sarasota. Between the Gulf swim, bike course that passes some stunning high-end real estate and a run on packed sand, it’s one of the state’s more popular tri destinations.

On Saturday, May 14, Siesta Key hosts the seventh-annual Florida International Triathlon. Hosted by the Sarasota Storm Tri Club, it features sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, along with a duathlon. We spoke with Jackie Miller, a USAT-certified coach and one of the race organizers, on The Fitness Buff Show last week. You can listen to that interview HERE.

Name of Race: Florida International Triathlon

History: The race began in 2005 as the Sharks Classic but was renamed in 2010. The Sarasota Storm Tri Club is not to be confused with the Sarasota YMCA Sharks, the powerhouse youth swim club that puts on a triathlon in Siesta Key in October.

Format: Sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons, as well as a duathlon. The sprint is a longer event as sprint tris go with a half-mile swim, 13-mile bike and 5K run. The duathlon consists of a 1-mile run, 13-mile bike, and 5K run.

Amenities: T-shirts, postrace awards and food, expo on Friday from noon to 7 p.m.

Signature Features: Beautiful half-mile swim in generally calm water, run on packed sand beach

Projected Turnout: 750 for the three events combined

Cost: $85 for sprint triathlon or duathlon through May 10; $125 for international triathlon through May 10

Sign-Up: Via

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St. Pete Mayor’s Rocky Marathon Deal

By Pete Williams

Another half marathon for St. Pete

For years Philip Porter has shaken his head as public officials around the country have cited dubious economic impact studies to justify massive public spending for sports events.

So when St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster touted an economic impact of as high as $12 million for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon that the City Council approved Thursday night, the University of South Florida economist got out his calculator once again.

“Let’s say you have 25,000 runners,” Porter said Friday morning. “That’s $480 per person, which might be possible if everyone came from out of town. But the vast majority of these people will be local. They’ll enter the event and go home. At most they’ll buy a meal somewhere.”

Local race organizers were out in force Thursday night to protest Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon organizer Competitor Group getting $30,000 in city support, including police and road closures – expenses race directors typically foot on their own – for the Feb. 12, 2012 event.

Given the money being made during this running boom, in the middle of a recession, the question is why any running organization is given a dime in public funding.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, featuring rock bands along the course, is the most popular national marathon and half-marathon series. Half marathon fees average $90. With a typical field of 25,000, that’s $2.25 million in gross revenue, not counting sponsorship dollars.

“For an investment of $30,000, we could have a $12 million return,” Foster, citing the economic impact study, was quoted by The St. Petersburg Times. “I don’t know why we’re still talking about it.”

Here’s why we’re still talking about it:

When a race is put on by a local promoter – such as Chris Lauber of the Halfathon series or Dawna Stone and Matt Dieter of Women’s Running, both of which were on hand last night – the money is supporting local businesses. Competitor Group, owned by New York private equity firm Falconhead Capital, is based in San Diego.

The approval for the Rock ‘n’ Roll event came on the same day Pinellas County announced plans to lay off 1,100 teachers as part of an ongoing budget crisis. Different budgets, to be sure, but still hard to justify.

But the $30,000 is not the most ridiculous or ironic expense approved for the race last night. Actually, it might not rank in the top two.

The St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, according to The Times, will spend $100,000 to promote the race by taking out ads in national running magazines.

Want to guess what Competitor Group’s core business is?

Yep, they produce national running magazines.

Oh, sure. One of those magazines is Triathlete. The other, Competitor magazine (for which I spent 2010 as a regional editor), does technically cover other endurance sports, though it focuses on running. (At the end of last year, editors were told to write only about running.)

Hopefully the Sports Commission won’t be spending money on Competitor Group magazines. But given Competitor’s strength in that area, why should the Commission be spending any money on magazine advertising at all?

Maybe the Sports Commission could buy some ads in Women’s Running, the magazine published by Dawna Stone!

Somewhere Wendy Johnson, who died last year, is shaking her head. For years, Johnson lobbied the City of St. Petersburg to let her Motion Sports Management company stage a half marathon in St. Pete. City officials resisted, not thinking there was a market.

By the time the city came around, other local organizers were in the bidding. Stone eventually got the contract and now has a three-race national women’s running series, anchored by the November half marathon in St. Pete.

Now St. Pete is all about staging half marathons, even though the Rock ‘n’ Roll event will come just three weeks after Lauber’s Clearwater Halfathon and three weeks before the wildly popular Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa.

The Rock ‘N’ Roll event also will compete with the popular Chilly Willy Duathlon, which has been around for nearly a decade and is held in St. Petersburg on the same Sunday in February at Fort DeSoto Park. The Chilly Willy does not receive a dollar from St. Pete or the county. It’s a safe bet the portly Mayor Foster has never heard of the Chilly Willy Duathlon.

You’d think Foster would have learned from the City of Clearwater, which got little beyond traffic complaints for all the money it paid to host the Ironman 70.3 for the last five years. By the time that deal ended last year, the Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp. didn’t even put “Clearwater” on one piece of official race merchandise.

Remarkably, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard couldn’t wait to sign up to host the year-end event for the new Ironman 5150 series.

Let’s hope Competitor at least gets the marketing right and doesn’t refer to St. Pete as “Tampa” the way ESPN does whenever Tropicana Field hosts an event.

Speaking of The Trop, perhaps the most incredible aspect of the Rock ‘n’ Roll deal is that Foster and the city asked the Tampa Bay Rays to allow the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon to hold a health and fitness expo at Tropicana Field for free. That, according to The Times, was valued at $60,000.

Imagine the response when that came across the desk of Rays’ president Matt Silverman, himself a marathon runner.

Silverman and his colleagues have spent the better part of the last 18 months trying to get Foster to let them speak with Hillsborough County about a possible stadium. Foster won’t even entertain the notion.

Granted, only in the warped world of stadium leases does a city have to ask permission from a team to hold an event in a building the city owns. The Rays have no choice but to go along, though it would make for wonderful theater if they refused.

Porter, the USF economist, won’t be the last person to raise an eyebrow over Foster’s generosity with Competitor Group.

“This is the same mayor who tells the Rays to take a hike on the stadium issue,” Porter says. “Now you’ve got an event where mostly local participants are paying entry fees that are being exported. If this is anything like Gasparilla, there’s no economic impact at all. People will wake up at home, go do the race and drive back home.”


Filed under Races, Running

Want to be a Celebrity Trainer?

By Pete Williams

The original celeb trainer

Business Week ran a fascinating story last week on the “rise of the celebrity trainer.”

Being a celebrity trainer is a tough gig. Sure, it can pay well. But it’s a challenge landing clients and tending to folks who can be more than a little high maintenance. This is true whether you train actors, music stars, or athletes.

Jake Steinfeld (“Body by Jake,” left) created the celebrity trainer category back in the 1980s and later parlayed that into an empire of infomercials and fitness equipment. I remember talking to Jake about 10 years ago at the NSGA SuperShow in Atlanta and asking him if he still trained celebrities. He literally shuddered at the question, presumably glad to have moved on to other things.

Unfortunately for trainers, the fastest and most effective way to get noticed and become wealthy, if not a celebrity yourself, is to train celebrities. That’s the route to publicity and exposure, and possibly book deals, videos, equipment, etc. Even Jillian Michaels trains celebrities, at least those with fleeting celeb status on The Biggest Loser.

Perhaps not surprisingly, according to Business Week, there’s even a guy (John Spencer Ellis) giving a seminar on how to become a celebrity trainer for $297 a pop.

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Why You’re Eating More Wood

By Pete Williams

Food shortage?

Those beavers are onto something. Food manufacturers increasingly are turning to cellulose, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, to “thicken or stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content, and cut the need for ingredients like oil or flour, which are getting more expensive.”

Powdered cellulose comes from tiny pieces of wood pulp, which already is in high demand as Europe and Asia increasingly turn to the U.S. timber market for pulpwood, which is turned into fuel pellets. This is fueling, no pun intended, the market for pulpwood at a time when the demand for wood for building materials has never been lower because of the real estate collapse.

According to the current issue of Forest Landowner Magazine, there’s a shortage of pulpwood coming out of the south. Given the popularity of it by food manufacturers, we could call it a “food” shortage.

According to The WSJ, Kraft Foods uses cellulose from wood pulp (and cotton) in salad dressing. Organic Valley uses it in its shredded-cheese products, preferring it over synthetic ingredients. Meat maker Tyson Foods uses cellulose on some products to maintain glazes or breading, but not as a filler, a spokesman adds. Kellogg Co. uses cellulose to raise the food content of its foods.

This is not another instance of food manufacturers putting more sketchy stuff in what we’re eating. In fact, extra “wood” consumption is a good thing. Cellulose is a rich source of fiber, key to any healthy diet. Nutritionists quoted in The WSJ story say the cellulose we get from wood products is no different than the cellulose we get from celery.

So the next time you’re passing pine plantations as you drive along Florida highways, take a glance and your next healthy meal.

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