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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 or download form at DRCSports site.

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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


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