Kip Koelsch once ran, paddled and biked 210 miles across Florida in 32 hours and 42 minutes just for fun.
But the 47-year-old St. Petersburg man, a former member of the U.S. canoe/kayak marathon team, acknowledges that the average recreational athlete isn't necessarily up for such an extreme challenge.
"Something like the Coast to Coast race takes a lot of time and commitment," he said. "Even your typical Olympic-distance triathlon can be intimidating to a lot of people."
That's why Koelsch, a recovering adventure junkie, developed a fitness event that he says will get even a dedicated coach potato out of the house and into the sun.
"That is what the Life's a Beach Triathlon Series is all about," he said. "You don't have to have a $5,000 bike and 6-pack abs to compete."
Koelsch held the first Life's a Beach Triathlon last year in Sarasota and had people begging for more. "The response was overwhelming," he said. "People are looking for healthy ways to have fun."
Koelsch expects more than 700 participants to line up at the starting line on Lido Beach on Sept. 14.
"The high turnout shows that we've been successful in our goal of bringing down the intimidation factor most people feel when they look at doing a triathlon," he said. "We've broken down that barrier with short distances, a user-friendly swim, no need for fancy bikes, fun obstacles and a chillaxed beach attitude. This is truly a triathlon for the masses."
The Life's a Beach swim is 200 yards, and as he said, "almost anything goes." Contestants can use a boogie board, swim fins, mask and snorkel, water wings, whatever it takes to help them feel comfortable and enjoy the water.
The bicycle route is just 5 miles long and ideal for fat-tire beach cruisers. If you're really concerned about your time, hop on a mountain bike. But most racers are more worried about their appearance than performance — for many, fun costumes are a key part of the event.
The 2-mile beach run is also pretty laid back and includes some Life's a Beach Challenges, or obstacles, to break up the run in a fun way. Racers should save a little juice for the end — they've got to limbo underneath the finish line tape.
The top competitors will get suitable recognition. But Koelsch says, "Anyone who stumbles, fumbles, bobbles, hulas or crawls across the finish will get one of our cool Flip Flop Finisher's Medals to remember their accomplishment."
This race also pays tribute to those who don't try at all.
"We also have Top Slacker awards in each age group and overall," he said. "That's the person who enjoyed the race the longest, or that is, the person with the slowest time."
In addition to next week's event in Sarasota, there will be a Life's a Beach Triathlon in Daytona Beach on Oct. 5.
"We're also in discussions to bring Life's a Beach Triathlon to several more locations in 2014," Koelsch said. "Our plan is to have a true national event series by 2015."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected]