Monthly Archives: July 2011

Entrepreneur Magazine Features YOLO

By Pete Williams

Happy YOLO Board Riders

Entrepreneur magazine featured YOLO Board founders Jeff Archer and Tom Losee in the August issue. Since establishing YOLO Board five years ago, the Santa Rosa Beach entrepreneurs have built one of the most recognizable brands in stand-up paddling.

YOLO – it’s an acronym for “You Only Live Once” – is the dominant brand in Florida, which is significant since Florida has more warm weather and calm water than anywhere in the United States. The company has earned a reputation for quality products and customer service, always a good success strategy.

The company is thriving this year; Archer told Entrepreneur that sales during the first quarter of 2011 were double the same period in 2010. We’re a little bummed that YOLO canceled its wonderful Seaside Celebration paddle board race weekend in September to focus on its core business. But given the demand for YOLO boards, that’s more than understandable.

YOLO will be prominently featured in the video of an upcoming “vook” I’ve written with SUP guru Brody Welte that will be out later this summer.

1 Comment

Filed under SUP

Save a Horse, Ride a Triathlete

By Pete Williams

No Horsing Around

Perhaps one day we’ll reach the saturation point when it comes to endurance sports events in Florida. But apparently we’re not there yet.

We wrote about the multiplication of obstacle mud runs recently and there seems to be no end to the number of running events of all distances.

The number of triathlon series also continues to grow. There’s Rev3 and TriRock, neither of which has come to Florida, though it’s just a matter of time.

Now an outfit best known for putting on equine show jumping events has decided to apply its event infrastructure to multisport with an ambitious plan to stage the HITS Triathlon Series featuring races ranging from sprint to Ironman-distance events over the course of a single weekend.

That’s right. In one weekend, there will be a sprint, an Olympic, a half-Iron, and an Ironman-distance. There also will be a shorter fifth race, an “open” newbie super-sprint of sorts.

Not sure this will have the appeal of the Goofy Challenge in Orlando, where a number of runners accept the challenge to do a half-marathon on one Saturday in January and a marathon the following day. The only time someone attempts a pair of tris in one weekend is when they race a pair of sprints.

The HITS series is bankrolled in part by Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., one of the nation’s preeminent private equity firms with approximately $9 billion in equity capital under management. Triathlon legend Dave Scott is serving as a consultant and the series has the full blessing of USA Triathlon.

Tom Struzzieri, who created the largest equine show jumping production company in the world, founded HITS. He took up triathlon a few years ago and decided to blend business and pleasure.

The HITS motto is “A Distance for Everyone” but I think they missed a terrific opportunity given their infrastructure and skill set.

This is a group accustomed to working with wealthy horse people in rich horse communities. Given the popularity of adventure racing, it seems they should have created a new obstacle/adventure/steeplechase/relay event with two-person teams and one horse. Heck, that kind of event is what inspired Bob Babbitt to create Muddy Buddy years ago.

Good luck dealing with the logistics of staging races of five different distances in one weekend. Then there’s the schedule. After debuting in Palm Springs on Dec. 3-4, HITS kicks off the 2012 campaign with a race in Naples…on Jan. 7-8.

Struzzieri’s base of operations is Saugerties, New York, so perhaps he can be forgiven for thinking weather is balmy in Florida – even Southwest Florida – the first week of January. It can be lovely or it can be downright chilly. Not sure I’d want to do a triathlon of any distance with temperatures possibly in the 40s or low 50s.

The HITS series comes to Ocala on March 24-25. Again, no guarantee of warm weather, but at least the HITS folks are operating out of familiar horse country for that race. That’s it for the Florida portion of the schedule, which also includes a stop in the storied baseball town of Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sept. 22-23.

It’s an ambitious calendar – a dozen weekend-long events totaling 60 races for a crew that will put on its first triathlon in December.

I wish the HITS folks luck.  Anything that provides a distance-race alternative to World Triathlon Corp. is much appreciated, though HITS seems to be borrowing from the Ironman playbook for its pricing — $600 for a full-distance race. Ouch.

We’ll see if they can stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, but I’d be more confident about the success of the HITS series if I were a horse – or at least racing one.

1 Comment

Filed under Races, Triathlon

Tour de Chipotle

By Pete Williams

Coming to Paris

Even if you’re not a Wall Street analyst, it’s tough not to be bullish on Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has been among the market’s hottest stocks over the last two years.

As someone who began eating at Chipotle frequently years before the 2006 IPO, I try not to think about why I kept my hands in my pockets all of these years.

There are two areas Chipotle only has begun to tap into: the European market and the endurance sports crowd. Those worlds collided this week at the Tour de France, as today’s Wall Street Journal reported. On Monday, the Garmin-Cervelo team – sponsored in part by Chipotle – held a lunch at Chateau de la Nerthe, a “sweeping vineyard north of Avignon.” The meal consisted of chicken burritos paired with pricey Domaine de Nalys white wine.

The WSJ characterized it as an “odd moment,” as if you’d never pair an expensive wine with a burrito. I say it’s a perfect match. Granted, it can be a challenge to pair a wine with a spicy Chipotle burrito. I’d recommend a dry white and though Domaine is out of my budget, I’m guessing it went over quite well.

Development Team Kit

Not only that, Chipotle stock is trading at $335 a share, having risen about 900 percent since it sold for $39 in November of 2008. At $335 a share, Chipotle’s products don’t have to apologize for accompanying any upscale French wine.

Not that Chipotle food is expensive. In fact, a Chipotle burrito is a phenomenal value at $8. The company’s “food with integrity” concept has driven its meteoric success. It’s the perfect fast-casual, high-performance fuel that many endurance athletes only now are discovering.

I was very envious three years ago when Chipotle signed on to sponsor the team then known as Garmin-Chipotle. Riders received a metal card good for one free Chipotle burrito a day – the ultimate perk.

At the time, Chipotle had no plans to expand beyond North America, so buying sponsorship for a team in the Tour de France seemed odd. But now Chipotle has a store in London and next year is planning to open one in Paris.

Chipotle has begun to sponsor an occasional triathlon, if only by providing 2-for-1 cards for race goody bags, which is a terrific thing to find when you pick up your packet. My triathlon training team meets at Chipotle for lunch on Tuesdays.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Damon Biggins, Chipotle’s lead restaurateur, as saying the company plans to host the Garmin lunch next year in Paris, presumably at the new Chipotle.

Better get the pricey wine ready.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cycling, Nutrition

Race of the Week: The Highlander

By Pete Williams

Lots of mud at the Highlander

It’s not easy standing out in the cluttered, competitive field of obstacle mud runs. As we chronicled last week, there now are 17 companies promoting 22 such events this year – and that’s just in Florida.

Jonny Simpkins didn’t even decide to stage a race until competing in the Warrior Dash in Lake Wales in January. But his Highlander race, which debuts on Saturday (July 23) in Bartow, might just be the dark-horse hit of 2011.

Simpkins, who has a long background in both endurance sports and motocross racing, has found a unique piece of property, a tract of several thousand acres that’s never been used for endurance events – just a few off-road motocross events. There’s plenty of water and, in an unusual Florida twist, terrain of varying elevations.

Simpkins says the race, put on by his Rock On Adventures company, will be challenging enough but not overly difficult. One difference between the Highlander and other races is that the obstacles aren’t temporary; Simpkins has permission to leave them up for a proposed second race in October. That means the obstacles can be more substantive than those presented by some of the national obstacle run tours that have rolled through the Sunshine State this year.

Where rubber meets the rock

Plus, the event is billed as more of a family event. Spectators can see more than 75 percent of the 3-mile and 6-mile courses from raised terrain and take free hayrides to witness the rest of it. Plus the event will coincide with the Highland Games, a celebration of Celtic culture featuring bagpipes, kilts, and the type of endeavors you might see in strongman competitions.

“I didn’t want to put on just another fire-jumping, beer-drinking mud race,” Simpkins says. “I want to be know as the Highlander – a fun Scottish-themed event that you’re not afraid to bring your family to. There’s nothing wrong with beer-drinking races – and we have beer – but that’s not the emphasis.”

Name of Race: The Highlander

History: Debuts on Saturday, July 23, 2011 in Bartow

Debut July 23

Format: Three-mile and six-mile obstacle runs consisting of man-made and natural obstacles of mud and stone, dirt and water.

Amenities: T-shirts (with registration), lots of food and beverages available for purchase.

Signature Feature: Steep 150-foot waterslide plunge into muddy water

Projected Turnout: 500-plus

Cost: Very affordable compared to others in the category for (now expired) early bird registration, which started at $45. Race still a good value at $70 for the three-miler or $75 for the six-miler. Online registration ends today (July 18). Race day registration available.

Sign-Up: Online HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Race of the Week, Races, Running

The Last Shall be First

By Pete Williams

SUP hardware

I entered my first six-mile “elite” stand-up paddleboard race on Saturday as part of the SUP Splash Race Series at St. Pete Beach.

As about 30 or us waded out into the surf for the start – race organizers opted to forgo the carnage of the always fun but chaotic beach start – I noticed that I was the only competitor that did not have a sleek race board.

Of course, my Yoloboard Eco Trainer is  narrower than many so-called “stock boards,” a phenomenal board made of quality materials and a terrific value.

But the Eco Trainer is not a race board, which is what everyone else in the field had. That didn’t bother me. After all, I routinely ride my entry-level road bike in triathlons past posers atop $5,000 rigs with wheels that cost more than my entire ride. Surely SUP wouldn’t be any different.

It was. When the horn went off, I quickly fell to the back of the pack. Oh well, I figured. I’m still a relative newcomer to this sport and I had never raced further than four miles.

But as I watched a pack of paddlers 15 yards ahead of me, I noticed that some of them didn’t possess forms any better than mine. And even though SUP attracts some pretty jacked people – I thought triathlon was an impressive collection of lean mass until I started hanging around SUP enthusiasts – I was pretty sure I was in better shape than at least a few of the competitors in the race.

One guy with a brand new race board fell behind me. He looked like he had not been paddling long. Either that or it was his first time on the less stable race board, which is not an adjustment to make race day. A woman in front of me fell several times and I’m pretty sure she bowed out of the race after just one 3-mile lap.

The SUP Splash was an incredible value for $40 with lunch, sharp T-shirts, cool awards, a well-organized race, and a tough endurance test. Paddling hard for an hour or more late morning is a challenge. I finished in one hour, 35 minutes, which I figured wasn’t bad given the choppy Gulf water. I hung around for the awards ceremony just out of curiosity.

I thought it was a mistake when my name was called, but it turns out they give awards for the first “stock board” to finish. There were many such boards in the three-mile race, but I was the only stockboarder to enter the 6-mile division. So I got a 15-inch, wooden mini-paddleboard trophy like the people who really know what they’re doing.

Afterward my SUP mentor Brody Welte explained that you’ll typically go 20 percent faster on a race board than a stock board. That’s sort of like when a triathlon has a “fat tire” division for those who enter in mountain bikes.

So perhaps I would have finished around 1:20 on a race board, 15 minutes faster than on the Eco Trainer. That wouldn’t have been very competitive in the race board division, but I would have been far from last.

So do I upgrade to a race board and hope to one day become a middle-of-the-packer in that category or stick with the Eco Trainer? I’ve been in triathlon for four years and never have felt compelled to upgrade my bike, even when some guy in my age group passes me on the bike in his $8,000 sled. (If you’re in my age group passing me on the bike, you’re one sorry swimmer.)

Bottom line: As stock boards go, the Eco Trainer is one of the best. I think I’ll stick with it and remain a contender as a stock racer.

1 Comment

Filed under Races, SUP

Race of the Week: Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon

By Pete Williams

Running Crystal River

It’s amazing how an unusual start time can change the entire feel of a triathlon. The Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Crystal River on Saturday, July 23, is one of the rare triathlons that does not get underway at the crack of dawn.

Most triathlons take place at dawn to facilitate road closures and avoid weekend crowds. But because the Twilight Triathlon takes place mostly away from traffic at Fort Island Gulf Beach Park, DRC Sports race organizers have the option of a PM race to go with their popular Crystal River Sprint Tri series.

We recently spoke with race director Chris Moling on the Fitness Buff Radio show and you can listen to that interview HERE.

Name of Race: Nature Coast Twilight Triathlon

History: Debuted in 2007, fifth annual

Format: One-quarter mile swim, 10-mile bike, 3-mile run

Amenities: Saturday night party on the beach with post-race music, refreshments, and awards.

Signature Features: Night-time triathlon. Bike lights are required for safety reasons. Reflective apparel or tape is necessary for the run as well.

Projected Turnout: Race is capped at 300 because of limited parking at Fort Island Gulf Beach Park

Cost: One of the more affordable triathlons at just $55 (for USAT members) through July 20 and $70 after (if available).

Sign-Up: Via IMAthlete.com or download form at DRCSports site.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race of the Week, Races, Triathlon

SUP Lessons from Kalama Kamp

By Pete Williams

Dave Kalama demonstrating SUP form

I was fortunate in May to participate in “Kalama Kamp,” a week-long session of stand-up paddleboard instruction, discussion and all-around fun with SUP gurus Dave Kalama, Brody Welte and John Denney.

This particular Kalama Kamp was in Clearwater but the guys are staging Kalama Kamps all over the world. Check out Brody’s site for more details.

In the meantime, here are some lessons from Dave on how to improve your paddle stroke that I wrote for CorePerformance.com.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under SUP

Muddled Future: How Many Obstacle Mud Runs Can Florida Sustain?

By Pete Williams

Not yet saturated?

The formula by now is a familiar one. Take a 3-to-12 mile off-road course, position a dozen obstacles, add water, and mix.

Voila! Instant mud run.

It seems like a new event emerges every month in the loosely defined category of “obstacle mud runs.” At least 22 such events representing 17 different race series will take place in Florida this year and it’s getting tougher to tell them apart.

Maybe it’s because they feature similar obstacles, themes, marketing, and a Web design that seems borrowed from the same template. Most races offer one free post-race beer, charge $10 for parking, and about $75 per entry.

It was only two years ago that Muddy Buddy had a near monopoly on the concept. But the unbridled growth of endurance sports during the recession combined with the emergence of CrossFit and adventure racing has created the perfect opportunity for events that are part running, part Survivor, and part Jackass.

Unlike triathlons, mud runs can be taken seriously or not so seriously. They can be done solo or in teams. There’s no need to worry about attire since it’s a good idea to wear black and old shoes that can go into the trash. Where else can you exert yourself and get covered in mud with friends and loved ones?

Then there’s this theory, as Original Mud Run founder Paul Courtaway told The San Antonio Express-News recently. “Eighty percent of the people who run (in the Original Mud Run) have never run a race in their life. You know who this appeals to, crazily? College sororities and groups of girls who love to get together and do things they normally wouldn’t be expected to do. Young moms and mom groups. Sixty percent of our runners are female.”

Given our Florida weather and demographics, it’s no wonder each of the nine national series  – including the recently-launched Primal Challenge by the Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp. – pays at least one visit to the Sunshine State.

Fire is always a crowd pleaser

From the Warrior Dash in January to the Tough Mudder in December, Florida is the one state that can host such events all year long. No wonder at least eight in-state promoters have launched a series.

The numbers are staggering – crowds of 2,000 are commonplace and the Warrior Dash draws up to 20,000. Muddy Buddy introduced a second Florida race late in 2010 and considered a third for 2011.

The category shows no signs of topping out. But can a state that already leads the nation in number of triathlons, running events, and now stand-up paddleboard races also absorb what presumably will be at least 25 mud runs in 2012?

Since it’s getting tough to keep track of them all, we’ve provided a scorecard in alphabetical order beginning with the national events.

Which is your favorite and which do you think will be the most successful?

NATIONAL SERIES EVENTS

MERRELL DOWN & DIRTY

Will J-Lo and Anna show?

Debut – April 26, 2010 – Los Angeles

Origin: Created by Michael Epstein Sports Productions (MESP), best known as the outfit that produces popular triathlons in Malibu and South Beach that attract paparazzi and feature special transition areas for celebrities.

Number of Races in 2011: 9

Next Florida Race: TBA (Last was in Miami on May 1)

Distance: 5K and 10K

Degree of Difficulty: 5

Signature Features: Inspired in part by the Merrell sponsorship, race organizers recently added a barefoot running division for those wearing minimalist shoes or no footwear. The final event of this season (Oct. 30 in Sacramento) features a Halloween theme and takes place at night.

Outlook: The race with the unwieldy name – Merrell Down & Dirty Presented by Subaru National Mud Run Series – hasn’t mushroomed like some of its competitors, but it’s consistently drawn 4,000 to 5,000 athletes to off-road courses featuring obstacles of above-average difficulty, steep terrain (where possible), and lots of mud. MESP tends to fly under the radar in the endurance world, even with triathlons that attract celebrities, so this could be a series to watch in 2012, especially with its major corporate backing. J-Lo and Anna Kournikova have competed in MESP triathlons, so perhaps Epstein will draw some A-listers into the mudpit.

MUDDY BUDDY

In the Muddy Buddy Pit

Debut: 1999 – San Diego

Origin: Created by Bob Babbitt, the Forrest Gump/Zelig of endurance sports, who was inspired by a similar leapfrog event involving horseback riding.

Number of Races in 2011: 16

Next Florida race: Nov. 20 – Zoo Miami

Distance: 6-7 miles

Degree of Difficulty: 2

Signature Features: Two-person, bike-and-run format. Athletes, many of which compete in costume, must navigate foot-deep mud pit together before crossing finish line.

Outlook: As recently as two years ago, Muddy Buddy shared a near monopoly on the adventure mud run category with The Original Mud Run, at least at the national series level, routinely selling out its annual Orlando spring event with 4,000 athletes. At just 6 to 7 miles, with easy obstacles and much of the course completed on bike, Muddy Buddy is not much of a challenge for hardcore endurance types. It’s still the event of choice for folks who don’t race much, but the series is losing those looking for greater challenges. (Muddy Buddy quietly postponed what was to have been its inaugural year-end world championship in Punta Gorda in December.) Still, Muddy Buddy is bankrolled by the well-heeled Competitor Group and this year has added a couple of more challenging obstacles and an elite division.

ORIGINAL MUD RUN

Debut/Origin – 2006, though Mud Runs LLC head Paul Courtaway, an ex-Marine, has been putting on family mud runs on military bases for 12-plus years. Hence, the “original” mud run.

Number of Races in 2011: 11

Next Florida Race: TBA (Last one was in Jacksonville on March 26)

Distance: 10K

Degree of Difficulty: 2-3. There are competitive and recreational divisions.

Signature Features: Lots of obstacles and the Original folks are kind enough to let you in on some of them online beforehand. Knowing how to swim is recommended, but non-swimmers are given alternative challenges.

Outlook: This race or Muddy Buddy can lay claim to the longest-running national series of mud runs. Both court the masses, though the ‘Original’ brings far more mud and obstacles to the table.

PRIMAL CHALLENGE: A MUDVENTURE QUEST

Debut – September 16-18, 2011 – Charlotte

Origin: This is a new partnership between the Tampa-based World Triathlon Corporation (aka Ironman) and the United States Marines Corps.

Number of Races in 2011: 2

Next Florida Race: Nov. 4-6, Lake Wales

Distance: Billed as 12 to 20 obstacles over 3 to 5 miles

Degree of Difficulty: Unknown

Signature Features: This being an Ironman-affiliated event, you can count on a bit of organizational arrogance and a T-shirt with at least three dozen sponsor logos on the back. Hopefully the Marines can organize Ironman’s race-day staff, which thankfully includes Kip Koelsch, a veteran Central Florida adventure race director recently hired by WTC.

Outlook: You know a category has jumped the shark when the WTC is getting involved. The Ironman folks have been chasing everything from women’s half-marathons to Olympic-distance triathlons to youth events. No word on whether there will be an announcer to say, “You…are…a…Primal Man!”

SPARTAN RACE

Waves of 300 or so

Debut: May 16, 2010 – Burlington, Vermont

Origin: Created by a team led by Joe DeSena, who also launched the event now known as “The Spartan Death Race” in 2005 after deciding Ironman triathlons and other ultra events weren’t challenging enough.

Number of Races in 2011: 27

Next Florida race: Feb. 25, 2012 – Oleta River State Park, Miami

Distance/Degree of Difficulty: 6 (for the 3-mile Spartan Sprint); 7 (for the 8-plus mile Super Spartan); 8 (for the 10-to-12 mile Spartan Beast); 10+ (for The Death Race)

Signature Features: Guys dressed as movie extras from 300 guard the finish line and pummel athletes with giant mallets, sort of a cross between American Gladiators and Wipeout. Organizers adapt the course to the venue. The June race at a paintball course in Northern Virginia, for instance, featured a sniper using athletes for target practice.

Outlook: This race has evolved in just one year. One writer ripped one of the first races last summer in New York for being too easy and some reported the February event in Miami was easier than expected. It’s a bad idea to call a Joe DeSena race easy as the Death Race creator has ramped up the challenges in recent months, introducing longer versions and making the Spartan Race essentially a shorter version of The Death Race, by far the most demanding event in this category – or perhaps any other. Only 80 percent of the field finishes a Spartan Race. That’s not bad considering 80 percent don’t finish the Death Race.

TOUGH MUDDER

Walking the plank at the Tough Mudder

Debut: Allentown, Pa. – March 2, 2010

Origin: Will Dean, who worked in counter-terrorism for the British government, thought it up as a Harvard Business School project while working on his MBA.

Number of Races in 2011: 14

Next Florida race: Dec. 4-5 Tampa (Dade City)

Distance: 10-12 miles

Degree of Difficulty: 8

Signature Features: Billed as “Iron Man meets Burning Man,” Tough Mudder draws from an arsenal of obstacles, including the charged “Electroshock Therapy” challenge. Orange headband to finishers, Tough Mudder tattoos at finish line (optional).

Outlook: This 10-to-12 mile obstacle course was designed with input from the British Special Forces and encourages athletes to participate as teams to help each other through challenges. The ‘Mudder’ and has taken the lead in national publicity, including a recent spread in ESPN the Magazine. Organizers say only 78 percent of the field finishes.

WARRIOR DASH

Costumes optional

Debut – July 18, 2009 – Chicago

Origin: Joe Reynolds, now 31, launched Red Frog Events in 2007 after watching an episode of “The Amazing Race.” The Great Urban Race came first, followed by Warrior Dash.

Number of Races in 2011: 35

Next Florida race: March 31, 2012 – Live Oak, Florida

Distance: Roughly a 5K.

Degree of Difficulty: 3 – Tougher than a Muddy Buddy, but not nearly as challenging as a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder.

Signature Features: Huge numbers. A typical Warrior Dash draws an average of 20,000 participants in many waves over two days. You get a Viking helmet and free beer.

Outlook: Warrior Dash is a grittier version of Muddy Buddy without the bike. It’s slightly more difficult with more mud and obstacles, bigger crowds, and venues that tend to be in the middle of nowhere. That adds to the post-race atmosphere but does make for a longer day between travel, dealing with crowds, and clean-up. Warrior Dash offers neither the challenge of Tough Mudder/Spartan Race nor the easy access/low barrier to entry of Muddy Buddy. Some view it as the best of all the races – others the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. Either way, Reynolds is arguably the most successful endurance sports entrepreneur of the last three years, which is saying something.

Other national series events:

Gladiator Rock and Run – Coming to Florida in December, 2011 – TBA

Rugged Maniac – Feb. 25, 2012 – Jacksonville

FLORIDA-BASED EVENTS

FLORIDA DIRTY DUO

Holed up at the Dirty Duo

Debut/Origin: 2006 – Sarasota

Number of Races in 2011: 3

Next Florida Race: Nov. 13 – Tampa

Distance: 6 miles

Degree of Difficulty: 3

Signature Features: A different twist on the mud run, The Dirty Duo consists of two-person teams on one bike covering two three-mile loops. You can race solo but must run the entire course. Unlike the Muddy Buddy, which has designated bike drop points, Dirty Duo participants can choose when they switch.

Outlook: The one existing Florida-based series got a bit overshadowed by the mudslide of national newcomers that invaded the Sunshine State in 2011. A proposed South Florida date has been postponed until 2012.

HIGHLANDER

High land in Florida? You bet.

Debut – July 23, 2011 – Bartow

Origin: Jonny Simpkins, a veteran endurance athlete and motocross enthusiast, created The Highlander after doing the Warrior Dash in January.

Number of Races in 2011: 2

Next Florida Race (after debut on July 23): October 15

Distance: 3 and 6-mile courses

Degree of Difficulty: 5 (estimated)

Signature Features: This might be the most unique piece of real estate for a run in this category, with thousands of acres available. The property is used for an occasional hare scramble off-road bike event and its multiple elevations will make athletes feel like they’re in Georgia. Among the final obstacles is a steep 150-foot waterslide. Spectators will be able to view 75 percent of the course from an elevated area and can take free hayrides to see the rest. The event also features The Highland Games, a celebration of Celtic culture featuring bagpipes, colorful quilts and many challenges such as the hammer toss.

Outlook: Perhaps the darkhorse of the series and not just because Simpkins and his staff have distributed flyers at virtually every Central Florida event since February. With a family-friendly festival atmosphere, unusual obstacles, and unusually elevated terrain for Florida, the Highlander could stand out in a crowded field.

IRON MUDDER

Debut: Oct. 22-23, 2011 – Fort Meade

Origin: Recent arrival onto the mud scene, Iron Mudder makes its debut in Florida in October and expands to five additional states for 2012.

Number of Races in 2011: 1

Next Florida Race (after debut Oct. 22-23): Oct. 20-21, 2012

Distance: 3.5 miles

Degree of Difficulty: 6 (estimate)

Signature Features: Held at the Dirty Foot Adventure Ranch, the Iron Mudder obstacles include the Fire Gauntlet, Doom Slide, Lunatic Logs, and Quicksand Pit.

Outlook: Though not affiliated with Ironman or Tough Mudder, the Iron Mudder is billed as “a challenging mud/obstacle course to challenge your strength, endurance, stamina and determination.”

SAVAGE RACE

CrossFit training helpful

Debut – August 27, 2011 – Clermont

Origin: Created by Sam Abbitt, a Central Florida CrossFit enthusiast, and billed as the “most badass mud and obstacle race yet” with “extreme obstacles, fire, mud, and bruises,” this race debuts in Clermont, home to many endurance events.

Number of Races in 2011: 1

Next Florida Race: Debut

Distance: 5K

Degree of Difficulty: Unknown

Signature Features: The course features a 70-acre lake, so there figures to be some true water obstacles, though non-swimmers presumably will have alternatives.

Outlook: Nearly 900 athletes are registered for this event on IMAthlete.com. There’s a CrossFit connection to several events in this category, so expect this one to be higher on the degree-of-difficulty scale.

Others:

Champions Mud Bash – Debuted June 18, 2011 – St. Cloud

Florida Running Obstacle Challenge – Debuted May 7, 2011 – Daytona Beach

Mud Run MS – March 24, 2012 – Jacksonville

Redneck Mud Run – Debuted June 4, 2011 – Punta Gorda

RELATED STORIES

Mudslide: Mud Runs Overwhelm Florida – Feb. 24, 2011

Tough Mudder Coming to Pasco County – March 19, 2011

Muddy Buddy 2.0 a Success – April 11, 2011

22 Comments

Filed under Races, Running

Race of the Week: SUP Splash St. Pete Beach

By Pete Williams

SUP Splash Comes to St. Pete

With the possible exception of adventure mud runs, no segment of the endurance sports race scene has boomed more in 2011 than stand-up paddleboard races. Here in Florida, it’s possible to find one virtually every weekend and there’s now even a regional SUP series to keep up with demand.

The SUP Splash Race Series, which debuted last month at Lake Lanier in Georgia, comes to The Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach on Saturday, July 16 at 9 a.m. The race is organized in part by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler who recently joined us to put us to talk about the race on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: SUP Splash St. Pete Beach

Location: The Postcard Inn, 6300 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

History: This inaugural race is the second in the five-race SUP Splash Race Series, which includes two races in Georgia and a season-ending event Oct. 1 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The St. Pete race benefits Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit grassroots organization whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of the worlds oceans, beaches and waves with conservation, activism, research and education.

Format: Six-mile elite race and three-mile open races open to SUP, outrigger, and kayak.

Schwag: T-shirts plus weekend-long goodies. There’s “Welcome Night” packet pickup on Friday, July 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Postcard Inn sponsored by Barefoot Wine. Free appetizers and beverages for racers ($10 for guests). Race entry includes lunch, beer, and awards on Saturday. There’s also a concert later in the afternoon.

Signature Feature: St. Pete Beach is quickly becoming a popular destination for SUP racing with its calm flat water. Course also goes into Treasure Island.

Projected Turnout: 75-100

Cost: $40

Registration: At SUP Splash Series site

1 Comment

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

Spartan Women

ESF’s ENDURING ATHLETES OF THE MONTH – JUNE and JULY

By Pete Williams

YouMayDie.com

There are endurance athletes and then there are people like Rebecca Hansen, 49, and Megan Mays, 28, who were among the four women (and just 35 overall) who finished the 45-hour Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont, last month.

Competitors in The Death Race have no idea how long the event will be – it gets longer every year – and only a vague idea of what obstacles and challenges they must face. This year’s group was forced to do six-hours of squats, wade through 45-degree waters, and spend two nights climbing mountains in the dark.

Oh, and they had to do most of it with heavy logs tied to their backs. No wonder most of the 155-person field dropped out.

Mays, who lives in Tallahassee, and the Naples-based Hansen underwent a staggering amount of training for The Death Race, but even they were amazed at what Death Race creators Joe DeSena and Andy Weinberg threw at them.

We spoke to them in March on The Fitness Buff Show about their preparations for the event and again this morning, 10 days after the race. You can listen to that interview HERE or read an edited transcript below. Here’s our report on the race from a two-hour visit to the site.

Q: How do you feel?

Megan: I feel pretty tired still, definitely recovering. My muscles not happy with me, but mentally I’m ecstatic for going through the race and finishing.

Rebecca: I’m pretty good, feeling back to normal.

Q: How did you step up your training leading up to the Death Race?

Megan on the mountain

Megan: I had the help of a wonderful local gym here in Tallahassee. The owner Laurel Blackburn got very creative coming up with some death race simulations for 12 hours and that was very helpful. We don’t have a lot of mountains in Florida so there was no helping training for that, but putting us through those exhausting, menial tasks that went on forever really helped.

Q:  The event began with a ring of stones ranging from 10 to 30 pounds that you had to squat for five hours. What was that like?

Megan: I was shocked when I heard what we were supposed to do and doubtful I could make it through the first day. One guy dropped one on his foot and broke it.

Q: So now you’re at 1 a.m. in the woods in the freezing water looking for fish.

Rebecca: That was my favorite part of the race. I grew up trout fishing with my dad and the glow of the lights was beautiful. It was freezing but we caught trout in a baggie with our hat and I really enjoyed that part of the race.

Q: I didn’t realize there were volunteers and support crew. Did you meet up with people or bring them along?

Megan: I had an awesome support crew. Three came from Florida and two lived in New York and drove over for the weekend and I definitely could not have finished without them. It was all about team effort.

Q: What were they allowed to help with?

Megan:  They were allowed to clothe, feed you and tell you where you were but they weren’t allowed to touch your gear. They couldn’t put your backpack on you or help you with any of your tasks.

Climbing the mountain

Q: How much of these people did you see?

Megan: In the beginning it was touch and go. They would check on me and bring me food, but toward the end I had one of them with me at all times.

Q: Rebecca, you are involved in ultramarathons, what kind of preparation did you undergo?

Rebecca: The most valuable thing I did was a 60-hour race simulation. I had gone 48 hours without sleep but I wanted to see if I went to 60 what would happen. I slept two hours a night and did race stuff when I was awake and the second night I’m lying on my lawn and fireants crawled on me and bit me. I was groggy and moved to my neighbor’s lawn and the sprinkler goes off. By the third day I was in a stupor and I was really exhausted but I knew if I could get to 60 with that much exhaustion I could get through anything. I did this 10 days before the race.

Q: Megan, when I saw you at the Death Race you were wearing long pants. How did you choose wardrobe for this?

Megan: I wasn’t very well prepared. I brought all of the workout clothes I owned and I knew that I didn’t want poison ivy or bug bites, but I was not prepared for the cold. I had two racers give me shirts off their backs because I was in water and shaking so bad they were worried I would go hypothermic. Just the way everyone helped each other was awesome.

Q: Are there limits to what you can bring?

Rebecca: I had some good people coaching me that had done it before but if I had to do it again – and I will next year – I would take the bare minimum.

Rebecca - running it back in 2012

Q: Just 10 days removed from the race and you’re commited to doing it again?

Rebecca: Andy (race co-founder Andy Weinberg) asked me before the race if I would so I signed up before the race.

Q: Megan?

Q: I have no plans to do this next year but I do have a friend going back so I promised to be on his support team so I’m looking forward to helping him.

Q: You spent long hours climbing those mountains, often in the dark. Did you have much to go by?

Rebecca: We really didn’t. Megan and I met on the second mountain and I was nervous because it was thundering and lightning and there was a nice man that helped us out there. His instruction on how to climb a mountain in torrential downpour was invaluable. The mountain was hell and it just didn’t let up.

Q: It seems like you had to carry a log forever.

Megan: At least a full day and probably more than that – at least 25 or 26 hours.

Rebecca: At least three-quarters of the race. Love the log.

Q: It seems like this race gets longer every year. Does it seem like this harder than what you’ve seen from the last couple of years?

Rebecca: When Andy told me to sign up, it was a 24-hour race. Then it became 36 and then longer. I think because 35 of us finished they’ll bend over backward to make it more difficult and longer and tougher next year.

Q: What was the toughest part of it?

Megan: The biggest challenge was being out there the second night and it was dark and I was tired and going up a mountain and not knowing where I was going. I almost sat down and didn’t get up. Once the sun came up, I felt better and was going down the mountain and I just pushed through those times.

Q: What was your biggest injury in the race?

Megan: I didn’t have too many injuries but I was going into the race with knee problems and they got really achy, especially since half of the race was downhill. I didn’t get any major injuries, but I did see people with gashes and broken fingers.

Q: Could you sense when people were dropping out of race?

Rebecca: It was the second night when a lot of people dropped on that second mountain. I was climbing with some guys and they ditched me. I didn’t realize they had quit the race. As people tired and started to hurt, they dropped out. They weren’t necessarily physically tired but mentally tired. Going through that water and pushing toward hypothermia, people were pushed to their limits.

Q: Was there a lot of swimming?

Rebecca: We were chest-deep swimming across that pond with your backpack. I thought I was going to go under. It wasn’t swimming, more like dog paddling with a backpack and a log.

Q: How tough was handling nutrition during this?

Rebecca:  I thought I had it down from ultramarathoning events. I had ziplock bags of four hours worth of food and the second climb my food floated down the river and I ran out of water and there was a period of eight hours when I didn’t have anything. That was more psychological than anything.

Q: Did it seem like the racers helped each other out?

Megan: Absolutely. I didn’t feel any competition at all but that was because I was in the rear, coming in the back end of the group, I got help from so many other racers so I offered whatever I can. I can’t say I had fun at the Death Race, but it was the most awesome weekend I ever had.

Death Race finishers give thanks

Q: Anything you trained for that you were disappointed wasn’t included?

Rebecca: I thought there would be more barbwire. I set up an obstacle course on my lawn simulating that. I shouldn’t say that otherwise there will be tons of it next year.

Q: What do your neighbors think of this?

Rebecca: They look at me like I’m a lunatic and my kids come out and shake their heads and go back inside.

Q: After finishing the Death Race, it must be a letdown to jump into a local 10K or sprint triathlon. What do you possibly do for an encore?

Megan: I’m setting my sights on mountain climbing. I don’t have Everest in future but I want to summit Denali in the next couple years. I have no mountain climbing experience.

Rebecca: I’m training for my first double Ironman in February and some of the guys I met in the race were talking about Primal Quest next year, so I’m talking about that too.

Read Megan Mays’ blog chronicling her training and race experience HERE.

1 Comment

Filed under Enduring Athlete of the Month, Fitness Buff Show Radio, Races