Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why Do You Race?

By Pete Williams

Many reasons to race

Recently I wrote a story for CorePerformance.com where I asked a bunch of my endurance athlete friends a simple question: Why do you race?

I thought I’d get a bunch of similar responses along the lines of fueling the competitive fire, staying in shape, etc. Instead, I got some varied inspirational advice.

CorePerformance.com is a terrific Web site that grew out of the Core Performance books I’ve had the honor of writing with Mark Verstegen.

I’m guessing we’ll revisit this topic in the future. Why do you race?

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ESF’s Pete Williams on ABC 28 Talking Movement Preparation

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Live Laser Hair Removal Radio

By Pete Williams

Laser hair removal is increasingly popular, especially among athletes.

CLEARWATER – The popularity of laser hair removal has soared in the last decade and people have turned to an easy, effective, and increasingly affordable method of hair removal.

Endurance athletes are especially fond of laser hair removal since it gives them a competitive edge on the bike, in the water and in pretty much any other endurance activity.

Terri LaBrecque, owner of The LaBrecque Center for Aesthetics, is one of the foremost practitioners of laser hair removal. Operating out of a spa-like setting with two of the most modern lasers on the market, LaBrecque has provided laser hair removal to hundreds of Tampa Bay area residents.

We’re in the process of a series of treatments with Terri and this week we broadcast The Fitness Buff Show live from her office as I underwent laser hair removal. Looking for the perfect gift for this holiday season for yourself or a loved one? Why not laser hair removal?

Listen to show HERE.

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Matt Fitzgerald’s “Iron War”

By Pete Williams

Matt Fitzgerald is perhaps the most prolific endurance sports writer in the business. Usually he’s providing terrific instructional advice on training and nutrition, but in his new book IRON WAR he tackles the narrative form, providing a richly-detailed account of the 1989 Ironman championship.

That year, Mark Allen finally overcame longtime rival Dave Scott to win triathlon’s coveted title in an epic showdown in Kona. Fitzgerald examines what drove the two most decorated triathletes in the sport to greatness. The result is a gripping page-turner, even though the reader knows who will win.

Fitzgerald recently joined us to talk about IRON WAR on The Fitness Buff Show. You can listen to that broadcast HERE.

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Great American Paddle-In

By Pete Williams

Talking paddling and writing

I love the Great American Teach-In, where parents come to school and talk with their kids’ classes about what they do for a living.

As a writer, though, it’s a challenge to compete with brave people in uniform: cops, firefighters, military. They have cool stories and even better props.

I did my first Teach-In in 2008 and back then I thought kids might find my sportswriter perspective interesting. After all, my kids go to a school adjacent to the Toronto Blue Jays spring training site. Tampa Bay is a sports crazed market. Surely, they’d find it cool that I go to sports events, interview athletes, and write about it.

What I found, however, is kids weren’t that interested, which should trouble those who run professional sports teams. When I was 8 years old, I could rattle off every player on the Blue Jays – at the time a two-year-old expansion franchise – and I lived in Virginia.

These days, I wonder what would happen if Jose Bautista walked behind the outfield wall during spring training, strolled through the school courtyard and into the lunchroom in uniform. How many kids would know who he was?

I gave my same sportswriter spiel in 2009 and 2010. I brought a DVD of my television appearances talking sports and kids found that slightly more interesting.

Today I took a different approach, bringing in a stand-up paddleboard and an iPad, which I used to show off Paddle Fit, the “vook” (video book) on stand-up paddleboarding I had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte, who recently moved from the Tampa Bay area to San Diego.

Even though I only brought an 8-foot kids paddleboard, as opposed to my 12-foot-6 board, that was enough to draw oohs and ahs the moment I walked in the door. I demonstrated how to size a paddle and proper paddling technique. The vook helped a lot.

The third graders and first graders asked a lot of great questions about writing and paddleboarding, though the first graders seemed much more concerned about encountering sharks.

Why didn’t I take this approach earlier for the Great American Teach-In? After all, the media world I’ve worked in over the last 20 years is unrecognizable today. Who knows what it will look like in five years?

Last week, I spoke to a feature writing class at the University of South Florida, a group composed of communications majors. I couldn’t help but wonder what these kids planned to do with their degrees.

Go into journalism? Really?

The first graders and third graders are passionate about writing. They asked what I like to write about and I stressed how it’s a lot easier to write about things that interest you. For me, that’s been sports, business, fitness, and now endurance sports. Adapt to new technologies – like the iPad and vook – and you can keep writing forever, at least I hope.

After speaking to my second class, I packed up the paddles and board and headed out. I’m not doing noble work like the folks in uniform, but at least I could hold my own at The Great American Teach-In.

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Race of the Week: Muddy Buddy Miami

By Pete Williams

Navigating the mud pit at Muddy Buddy

Just two years ago, Muddy Buddy had a near monopoly on the obstacle mud run category, at least among national tours.

These days, it seems a new mud series launches every week, which has stolen some of the thunder from Muddy Buddy’s all-inclusive, entry-level, bike-and-run, obstacle barnstorming tour, which finishes the 2012 campaign Sunday at Zoo Miami.

Bob Babbitt, who created the series 12 years ago, says there’s a place for all of the races.

“It’s like running where you have races from 5K to marathon and even further,” he says. “Now you have Muddy Buddy, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder. There’s plenty of variety and athletes have no shortage of options.”

There’s a lot to like about Muddy Buddy that other events haven’t duplicated. The two-person, leapfrog format is unique. One competitor starts out on the bike, rides to the first obstacle, completes the first challenge and takes off running. Meanwhile the second athlete runs to the bike. After about six miles of changing off, the athletes meet up at the mudpit for a 50-yard crawl.

Athletes compete in male/male, female/female, or mixed divisions and numerous marriage proposals have been made in the mud pit. A frequent refrain is that a Muddy Buddy race might be the perfect third date.

For all the talk about entering other mud runs as teams, that’s usually irrelevant once the race starts. At Muddy Buddy, you must compete as a team since you’re sharing a bike.

Plus, only at Muddy Buddy can you roll back your age. That’s because most scoring divisions are by combined age. In April, I teamed with a 58-year-old triathlete training partner for Muddy Buddy Orlando  and we finished 12th out of 70 teams in the new “competitive” age category, which Muddy Buddy added this year for those who take their mud runs seriously. (The competitive division goes first, thus avoiding the inevitable backup of traffic on the course.)

On Sunday, I’ll team with a 20-year-old pal, also from my tri group, who goes to college in South Florida. Not surprisingly, there’s been plenty of trash talk between my two buddies over which team will post the better 2011 time. (That’s assuming I haven’t gotten any faster or slower in seven months.)

Old shoes and black socks recommended

We recently spoke with Babbitt, the unofficial historian of the endurance sports world who dresses in a frog suit for each Muddy Buddy event, on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Columbia Muddy Buddy

When: Sunday, November 20, 2011, Zoo Miami, 8 a.m.

History: This is a second-annual event at Zoo Miami, though the Muddy Buddy series is 12 years old.

Format: Two-person teams with one bike between them leapfrog over a roughly six-mile course, dealing with obstacles and a mud pit at the end of the course.

Amenities: T-shirts, post-race food

Noteworthy: This is the Muddy Buddy season finale. A proposed season championship for the Dec. 3-4 weekend in Punta Gorda was scrapped once Tough Mudder scheduled a race in Pasco County the same weekend.

Projected Turnout: 900 two-person teams

Registration: Online through Nov. 16 at $150/team. Day-of-race registration available space permitting.

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Turning Pro at Pacifico

By Pete Williams

"Pro" SUP rider? (photo by Chad Jarae - Encounter Creative)

ST. PETE BEACH – So maybe it was a lightly-contested field or a win by default.

It doesn’t matter. I won $75 in a competitive race.

Today I am a professional athlete.

The Pacifico Paddle Challenge took place Saturday afternoon on a postcard-perfect day in front of, appropriately enough, The Postcard Inn. Shane “Waterboy” Webb, a co-owner of SUPPaddleboard.com, promised $3,000 in cash awards, $3,000 worth of raffle prizes, and a free pig roast – all for a $45 pre-registration fee (or $50 raceday).

Webb delivered on everything. At a time when your average obstacle mud run charges $75 (providing no food) and triathlon entry fees continue to escalate, SUP races are the best value in endurance sports.

Admittedly, they have to be because they’re not drawing huge numbers – yet. That’s how I knew I had a shot at prize money.

In July, I entered one of Webb’s SUP Splash Series races at the same venue and was stunned to hear my name called at the awards ceremony since I finished last in the elite 6-mile race.

But I was the only entrant in the “stock board” category. Unlike the rest of the athletes, who competed on sleeker, faster “race boards,” I used a slower board, although my Yoloboard Eco Trainer is a terrific stock board.

Best postrace spread ever

Some compare racing a stock board in an elite race to riding a mountain bike in a triathlon. The difference probably isn’t that pronounced, but there’s no question you’re significantly slower on a stock board.

Since July, I’ve acquired a race board and considered riding it Saturday – until I realized there was prize money for the stock division: $150 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third. (Top three men and women won money in the race board division, starting with $700 apiece for the first-place finishers).

The 3-mile race featured athletes mostly with stock boards. Upon checking in, I learned that the most I could hope to win in the 5-mile race was $75 unless at least four athletes competed in stock boards. That seemed only fair.

When we lined up on the beach for the mass start – paddleboard race starts make triathlon swim starts look tame since everyone is swinging carbon fiber and trading epoxy – I noticed just one other stock board.

I had a competitor for $75.

That guy fell behind quickly and bowed out before the race ended. I stayed in front of eight or 10 race boards for most of the race, but could not keep up on the third lap, finishing ahead of just four.

Transitioning at Pacifico

I love the race format of the Pacifico race, which borrowed from California’s Battle of the Paddle. After each of the first two 1.7-mile laps, athletes exited the water, ran 40-yards with their paddles as “board caddies” turned their boards around, and reentered the water. It’s SUP’s answer to the NASCAR pit stop or the triathlon transition.

I picked up my cash winnings after enjoying the best-ever post-race food – a pig roast – and watching a raffle that included a beach cruiser bicycle and a killer surfboard. The various winners of the 3-mile race did not win cash, just cool hardware, but each received a raffle ticket. (The money for the women’s stock board 5-mile division went unclaimed as there were no entries.)

After the 5-mile race, Webb staged one last event: the “Dash for the Cash.” Competitors sprinted about 200 yards to a buoy and back. Hundred bucks for the male and female winners.

Best part of the day was seeing a 12-year-old racer go absolutely nuts when his raffle ticket was called for the surfboard – about 15 minutes after a wedding ended on the beach in front of us.

It’s tough to say how long SUP races can keep offering cash prizes. Love the idea, and there seems to be enough sponsor interest from the likes of Pacifico beer to make it work for now, but it’s always a challenge to make the numbers work for any race director in any endurance event.

For now, cash is a great thing. It makes the race more interesting and attracts the professionals.

Like myself.

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ESF’s Pete Williams on ABC 28 Talking Barefoot Running

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Mud Wars: What Races Will Survive in 2012?

By Pete Williams

Getting crowded in the mud pit

Back in July, we tried to count the number of obstacle mud runs that have emerged this year in Florida alone. We figured there were at least 22 representing at least 17 different race series.

More have emerged this year and a good over/under guess for 2012 would be 35. That’s just in the Sunshine State, of course, but it figures Florida would lead the nation since we can stage them all year long.

We still have a few more races this year – including Tough Mudder on Dec. 3-4 near Tampa and the season-finale of Muddy Buddy at Zoo Miami on Nov. 20 – but we thought now would be a good time to handicap the field for 2012.

Already several of the national races have announced events for 2012, including Warrior Dash, which returns to Triple Canopy Ranch in Lake Wales Jan. 21-22; and Spartan Race, which on Feb. 25 again will use Oleta River State Park in Miami, increasing the distance of the event to a “Super Spartan” of eight-plus miles.

Among state-wide events, Savage Race, which debuted in Clermont in August, will return to the same venue on March 10 and has tentative plans to expand to Atlanta and Austin in 2012. Iron Crusader, which made its Florida debut last month, has announced an event, though not a venue, for Oct. 22.

Are obstacle mud runs a fad or will they have a lasting impact? If they do survive, which ones will stand out among a crowded field?

Unconventional training required.

“It’s like anything else,” says Bob Babbitt, the creator of Muddy Buddy, which has two events in 2011 and would have staged three had its proposed year-end event not conflicted with Tough Mudder. “The races that provide the most value will have staying power.”

Defining value in an apples-to-oranges category can be difficult, but here’s what we think will determine which races succeed in 2012 and beyond:

PRICE POINT: Registering for an obstacle mud run can be a lot like purchasing an airline ticket. Prices vary wildly, even by endurance sports standards, depending on when you register.

On average, the races run about $65 to $75 a pop – sprint triathlon pricing. That’s a lot considering many can be completed in 45 minutes, though admittedly a lot of recreational athletes and non-athletes enter mud runs and remain on the course for twice that time. Most races charge $10 for parking and parking fees are unusual in the endurance sports world.

Triathletes would revolt if they finished a race and there was no free food available, but that’s the norm at obstacle mud runs. At the very least, races should enlist a sponsor like Mix 1, the post-workout recovery drink that’s handed out free at many running events and triathlons in Florida.

Earlier this year, I pointed out that one obstacle mud run had a high price point for a 5K course. The race director strongly objected, saying I didn’t know what I was talking about. He later canceled his second race of the year due to low registrations.

Perhaps a cautionary tale for 2012 events who plan on similar fees and/or no free grub.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: This is a fine line to walk. Race directors want huge numbers, so they make the races fairly easy. But this alienates competitive athletes, especially when the marketing for most of these events emphasizes how tough and challenging the course will be.

We’re curious to see how many no-shows Tough Mudder has. Unlike preparing for a running event or triathlon, where there are plenty of train-by-numbers programs to follow, getting ready for a 12-mile obstacle run is new territory for most. As a result, we’re hearing of a number of people dropping out. Few people blend endurance and strength training, a combination that’s a prerequisite for Tough Mudder.

An obstacle run staple

ORIGINALITY: With so many races, it’s growing increasingly difficult to stand out. There are only so many ways to position ropes, ladders, walls, and tires. We’re hearing that races are finding it increasingly difficult to get certain things covered by liability insurance, such as fire-related obstacles.

We’re all for water challenges, but given that 30 or 40 percent of an average mud run field can’t swim, we’re guessing they’re going to go away too because of liability purposes. That’s a shame. After all, swim challenges are a staple on “Survivor,” which is what these races are supposed to emulate, at least in part.

LOCATION: The nature of obstacle mud runs means race directors must seek out ranches, motocross venues, and other out-of-the-way locales, all of which we have in abundance in Florida. But we’re surprised how few races there were this year in the greater Tampa Bay area, perhaps the biggest concentration of endurance athletes in Florida. Nobody wants to get up and drive 90 minutes for a race. We’re guessing more events will join Tough Mudder and visit Tampa Bay in 2012.

BEER: Many obstacle runs trumpet the one free beer you get afterward but, really, what’s the point? Do you really need a beer before noon? Save the beer money and provide some free food, at least some fruit and cookies.

Spartan Race returns to Miami in 2012

INTANGIBLES: We gave a lot of props to The Highlander Run, which featured a live band, a free kids race, and a 150-foot water slide, which falls under the originality category. We liked how Savage Race had a lake for athletes to wash off in afterward, as opposed to trickling shower hoses at most races. (That said, that lake will be much colder to wash off in during March than it was in August.)

Muddy Buddy always seems to provide a free low-resolution digital image via email – or even a hard copy provided by a sponsor.

Props to for Highlander and Savage Race for providing Tultex T-shirts, a welcome change from tech shirts and standard cotton shirts. Again, if you’re going to charge $75 plus parking, this is one area you should get right. Leave the sponsor logos off the back, too.

VERDICT: In 2011, races attracted athletes because of the novelty. In 2012, the market will determine which survive.

Now more than ever, athletes have a choice.

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Race of the Week: Pacifico Paddle Challenge

By Pete Williams

Pacifico Paddle Challenge coming Saturday

For all the talk about saturation in the number of triathlon, running, and obstacle mud run events, one part of the endurance sports industry still is on the upswing: stand-up paddleboarding.

That’s why it’s perhaps no surprise that there’s a lot of buzz surround the Pacifico Paddle Challenge, which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 12 on St. Pete Beach just in front of The Postcard Inn.

It helps that race organizer Shane Webb and his colleagues at SUPPaddleboard.com put on a successful series of races throughout the Southeast this summer. It helps that Tampa Bay weather right now is gorgeous. And it definitely helps that there’s both $3,000 in prize money and $3,000 in raffle prizes, part of an all-day SUP extravaganza.

The race borrows its format from the popular Battle of the Paddle, the Super Bowl of SUP, with a technical, multi-buoy, multi-lap course. Racers must exit the water after every lap, run a brief 40-yard lap with their paddles and reenter the water. Like a NASCAR pitstop or triathlon transition, it’s a challenge not to lose time in the process.

We spoke to Webb about the race earlier this week on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Pacifico Paddle Challenge

When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 12 at The Postcard Inn – 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach

History: This is an inaugural event, though the organizers put on the successful SUP Splash Race Series, which included an event at the same venue on July 16.

Format: Races include a 3-mile short course race at 11 a.m., a 5-mile elite race (12:30), and a “Dash for the Cash” at 2 p.m. Prize money awarded equally to men and women in the 5-mile and Dash for the Cash. Mandatory racers meeting at 10:30.

Expected Turnout: 100-plus

Amenities: Long-sleeve T-shirts to first 70 registered. Pacifico After Party at 3 p.m. Awards at 4:30, raffle at 5:30 and playing of the “Ultimate Wave Tahiti” movie at 6:00.

Cost: $45 preregistration, $50 raceday

Register: Online HERE

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