Twenty-five years ago, I entered a race on Clearwater Beach that combined swimming, biking and running. I was a senior at the University of South Florida and was working on a project for one of my classes.
Each student was supposed to come up with a proposal for a new publication. I wanted to build one around this new sport called the triathlon. My teacher laughed. She said nobody would buy a magazine about a fringe sport for lunatics.
Times have changed.
Today, more people are swimming, running and biking than ever before. There are pool swimmers, open-water swimmers, road racers, marathoners, ultra-marathoners, street riders, off-road riders, adventure racers, and the list goes on and on.
Excuse me if I have left out your particular niche, but I am just getting reacquainted with the world of endurance sports. As outdoors editor for the past 18 years, I have written about everything from cave diving to outrigger canoeing.
One thing that I have noticed is that athletes are athletes — it doesn't matter if you are paddling a kayak or pounding the pavement, athletes have an innate need to get outside and get their hearts pumping.
Whether you are a weekend warrior, running every 5K within a hundred miles, or the casual participant, just training for one specific event in the not-so-distant future, we hope to hear from you.
We will publish your triumphs and, at times, failures, and we will tell real stories about real people. For example, Seminole-based triathlon coach Lewis Bennett has been training a crew to run in the cross-the-state Sunrise to Sunset relay.
Lewis will have three teams in this 170-mile event scheduled for March 28-29. Last weekend, 16 of his protégés spent the night at his house so they could get used to the idea of running, sleeping for a few hours, then running again.
Two of the six-person teams will run 28 to 31 miles each, while members of the nine-person team will run 17 to 19 miles each. Here are the hardy souls who will run from Fort Pierce to Fort Myers:
The TriLewis UnCrustables: Lewis Bennett, Chuck Wasson, Leslie Stallings, Mary Pulaski, Mac Grier, Leslie Gerlach; The TriLewis Six Pack: Bill Conway, Jason Everett, Chris Panarelli, Laurie Laurino, Tina Gannon, Jeff Chapman; The TriLewis Red Eye Runners: Diane Kovacsec, Robin Moen, Krista Eyler, Barbara Bradley, Chrisy Blondin, Christine Tekautz, Carole Torreno, Karen Branch and Elaine Anthony. Alternate: George McCreary.
Lewis also is training athletes to compete in the upcoming Florida Ironman 70.3 at Walt Disney World on May 18. If you have completed the St. Anthony's Triathlon and are looking for a new challenge, this half-ironman distance triathlon (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, run 13.1 miles) is the event for you.
Mark your calendar for another half-ironman event, this one in North Florida. The Panama City Gulf Beach Half Ironman on May 10 will feature local athletes Barbara Winer, Chrisy Blondin and Danielle Sullivan. To have Bennett help you train for your next event, go to www.trilewis.com.
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Speaking of triathlons, the 25th St. Anthony's Triathlon is less than two months away, and the pro field is already shaping up.
Here are the athletes who have committed: Chris McCormack (Australia), 2007 Ford Ironman world champion; Craig Alexander (Australia), 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship runnerup, 2006 Ironman 70.3 world champion; Greg Bennett (Australia), 2007 Lifetime Series champion, 2005 St. Anthony's champion; Matt Reed (U.S.), 2007 St. Anthony's champion; Laura Bennett (U.S.), 2007 Hyvee Triathlon Champion., 2008 U.S. Olympic team; Samantha McGlone (Canada), 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship runnerup, 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion; Mirinda Carfrae (Australia), 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion; Andy Potts, 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion; and Torbjorn Sindballe (Denmark), third place, Ford Ironman World Championship.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at Tomalin@sptimes.com, or by calling (727) 893-8808. Send your swimming, biking, running, triathlon and adventure racing information to community.tampabay.com and click on the "Submit info" link.