Tag Archives: Fred Rzymek

The Day-Night Triathlon Doubleheader

By Pete Williams

SunriseSunsetTriathlon2Perhaps it’s not as grueling as an Ironman Triathlon, but racing two triathlons in one day presents its own set of challenges.

Just finding two relatively close events on the same day, one in the morning and one in the evening, is difficult. Heck, Saturday’s scheduling of the Top Gun Triathlon at Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg and the Twilight Triathlon in Crystal River might be (for the second straight year) the only opportunity in North America.

Evening triathlons are unusual. It’s much easier to shut down roads in the early morning hours. Race directors do not have to provide much additional lightning or require racers to have their own. Triathletes tend to be morning people anyway and prefer to race as the sun rises.

But the novelty of completing two triathlons in one day – even modest sprint distance events – was too much for about 60 of us to pass up last year. By all accounts, there will be more of us on hand on Saturday.

It’s not so much the distance of the races – quarter-mile swims, 10-mile bikes, and 5K runs – that are as short as it gets for sprint events. It’s the two-hour drive between race venues. Even if you live midway between them it’s a challenge to grab a few hours sleep. Assuming you get up at 4 a.m. for the 7 a.m. Top Gun start, you’ve already been up for 15.5 hours (and completed a triathlon) when you get in the water for the Twilight event.

Racing at Fort De Soto Park

Racing at Fort De Soto Park

Since both events have terrific post-race parties, it tends to be close to a 24-hour day. It also helps that race directors Fred Rzymek (Top Gun) and Chris Mohling (Twilight) are among the best in the business, having staged dozens of races at their respective venues. They bill the doubleheader as the “Sunrise Sunset Triathlon.”

If you’ve never raced a triathlon in the evening, you’re in for a treat. I started doing the Twilight Triathlon in 2010 when it came a week before Top Gun. Then last year with leap year the calendar shifted and the events ended up on the same day and have remained there.

It’s possible to do two obstacle races in one day since start times go on well into the afternoon. With so many OCR events, just do one at 8 a.m. and a nearby race at noon or later. I’ve done two OCR events in one day, an OCR event at night (last Saturday’s Mud Endeavor at the Pasco County Fairgrounds) and even a triathlon (Escape from Ft. DeSoto) and obstacle event (Savage Race) on the same day. But this is the only shot we get at two triathlons in one day.

The most impressive performance likely will come from Whit Lasseter, a thirtysomething fitness guru from South Tampa who will do her first triathlon and then her second in one day. That’s got to be a first.

Racing at night is a blast with the breathtaking sunset and the sight of hundreds of blinking bikes in post-race transition. With two events, it’s not a day for PRs, but perhaps the most memorable triathlon race experience of the year.

Listen to Twilight Triathlon race director Chris Mohling discuss the Sunrise/Sunset Triathlon Challenge on The Fitness Buff Show HERE.

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The Triathlon Doubleheader

By Pete Williams

There is no shortage of triathlons in Central Florida, sometimes three or four within driving distance in the same weekend.

But rarely is it possible to attempt two triathlons in one day. This year, through a quirk of Leap Year scheduling, the early morning Top Gun Triathlon and Twilight Triathlon (7:30 p.m.) both take place on July 28.

The promoters are encouraging triathletes to complete the “Sunrise Sunset Triathlon.” Athletes who manage to attend both events, which are roughly 100 miles apart, will receive a Sunrise Sunset T-shirt, along with T-shirts for each of the events.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from people who want to do both,” says Chris Mohling, whose DRC Sports company puts on the Twilight Triathlon. “It’s an unusual opportunity for triathletes to test themselves.”

We’re big fans of both well-organized events, staged by promoters who each put on multiple events apiece at the July 28 venue. The 12th annual Top Gun Triathlon, with its quarter-mile swim in usually calm waters, along with a 10-mile bike and 5K run, at beautiful Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg, is a favorite among first-timers, drawing about 1,100 athletes. It’s the second of three Fort De Soto triathlons staged each year by longtime race director Fred Rzymek.

The sixth-annual Twilight Triathlon (quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike, 3-mile run) is one of four events DRC Sports puts on from the end of W. Fort Island Trail in Crystal River. It’s the only one that starts in the evening, and most athletes finish as the sun sets. That’s not an unusual experience for Ironman athletes, who can take 12 hours or more to complete a race, but it’s not something sprint triathletes experience often. At the Twilight Triathlon, athletes must have lights on their bike and wear reflective clothing on the run.

Racing at Fort De Soto Park

The Twilight Triathlon is held at a smaller venue that accommodates about 400 athletes, but it’s a popular beach site. Athletes typically hang out for an hour or two after the race for the post-event party.

The toughest part of racing in two triathlons on July 28 might not be the distance of the events or between events but rather managing sleep and recovery. Most athletes typically get up around 4 a.m. for a morning triathlon.

“There’s probably going to be a nap involved for most,”  says Rzymek, who will work his own Top Gun event and then race the Twilight Triathlon. “There aren’t many people who can say they’ve done two triathlons in one day.”

(Listen to our interview with Twilight Triathlon race director Chris Mohling on The Fitness Buff Show HERE.)

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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.”


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