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South Beach Triathlon 2008 Race Report


When I was a kid, it was a chore to get me to walk a mile and a half.  My mom was big into the outdoors and would try to get me to hike and go on nature walks and whatnot, but I really just couldn’t wait to get back to the car. Then I got older and my sedentary lifestyle caught up to me and I became the fat kid. Then I hated being the fat kid and joined a gym and became the big guy. And since 1994 the exercises and the routines may have changed, but for the most part I’d been working out the same way for 14 years. So when my good buddy Trevor did the Florida Ironman last November, I decided it was time for a change.

I got a bike for Christmas and decided instead of going in and pumping iron every day I was going to do endurance sports. Which is all well and good if you are a skinny guy, but when you’re tipping in at 215 it’s not so easy to just go out and run for a couple of hours. So while all this training seemed like a good idea, the fact was I had no goal to reach for and therefore no motivation than do anything other than my usual routine.


Then one day I was getting my hair cut and my stylist Tony, one of about six straight male stylists on earth and also an avid triathlete, told me about a short little race he was doing in South Beach that sounded right up my alley. Swim five blocks, bike the causeways, and finish with a run that I’d done in my sleep a hundred times. It was called the Nautica South Beach Triathlon, and it seemed like I finally had my first goal in my newfound fitness program.

A Tour Of Florida Restrooms


My friend who had done the Ironman does races like this just to burn calories, so he opted not to participate. But he did give me several helpful hints like taping a power bar to my bike, but the most important thing he told me was to drink lots of water the day before. So as I loaded my bike into my car for the 5-hour trip to Miami, I stopped at Publix and picked up three giant Zephyrhills bottles (these one NOT filled with vodka) to make sure I was getting adequate fluids.


What I managed to forget was that I don’t hold water very well. I remember when I did desert training in the Marines they made us hydrate like crazy and there were more than a few times I wasn’t able to hold it and ended up going out the side of a moving Humvee during a convoy. Such was the case as I headed down the Turnpike. I ended up getting a fantastic tour of the various rest stops this highway has to offer, and can now give anyone who cares to know a pretty good rundown of every men’s room and Sbarro from Okahumpka to Pompano Beach. And those 40 miles between rest stops never seem longer than when you have a gallon of spring water sitting in your stomach and there’s nowhere to go.

“Hey Look At The Fat Guy!”

I arrived in South Beach mid-afternoon to register early.  So I walked up to a table on the sand and gave the volunteer my name, and she handed me a white envelope with my silver swim cap, my ankle chip that records my time, and about 7 different versions of my race number. One to put around your waist, one to put on your bike, one to put on your helmet, one for your car, one for the signs that people wave at you, one for your mom so she can show it off to her friends, one for your Gatorade bottle, it was quite ridiculous. Lest anybody on the course confuse me for anyone else. In addition to having your number displayed on every piece of personal property you brought to the race, the volunteers wrote my number in large black marker on my left shoulder, so the rest of the afternoon I got to walk around looking like branded cattle.


Speaking of cattle, whoever organizes triathlons really likes people who weigh more than your average distance runner know that they are freakishly large. Because not only do they give those of us over 180 pounds separate divisions (essentially giving us a handicap against the “normal” runners) but they name them in such a way that if you have any shame about your weight there is no way in Hell you are going to sign up. Men between 180-199 pounds are referred to as the “Thunderthighs,” division, as far as I know the only division in all of sports named after an insult.

Those of us between 200-224 (that’s me) are called “Clydesdales,” which I never thought was so funny until I started telling people, all of whom responded with a reaction somewhere between a polite silence and a full-on guffaw (thanks, mom). I guess being in a division that is best known for hauling around large amounts of beer pretty much lets you know where you stand. The over 225 pound division is also called “Clydesdale,” and the larger-women’s division is called “Athena.” I guess that’s not a bad name, but I know a lot less women willing to admit to being in a special division for heavier people, so I see where some ladies might be a bit hesitant.

Most of us just call it the Fat Boy division. And I’m happy with that.

So in addition to my number, I had “CLY” scrawled in black ink on my right calf, so the entire beach could go “Hey, there goes a fat boy!” A fat boy competing in a triathlon, but a fat boy nonetheless.

If He Can Do It That Fast, And She Can Do It With One Leg…


Because this was my first race, and because I love carbs more than sex, I opted to pay to go to the athletes’ welcome dinner. This is a giant pasta buffet where they charge you $25 for penne and Ragu you could have gotten at Publix for about 2 bucks, but you can eat as much as you want. Usually I would have skipped something like this,  but not only was this event being held in a tent on the sand right by the finish line (a lovely setting), but the guest speaker was Chris McCormick. For those unfamiliar, McCormick has won an Ironman World Championship (that’s the famous race in Kona that you see on Wide World of Sports) and something like 10-15 other Ironman races.


McCormick was a great speaker, especially when he talked about doing things like running 5:30 miles during the Ironman. I, and most people I know actually, can’t even do that for one mile. After his speech, a lady named Sarah Reinertson who has one leg came and talked about being a one-legged triathlete, prompting my date for the evening to say “Wow, I really feel like a lazy piece of shit now.” Reinerston was quite inspirational, so much so that the girl who accompanied me has been on a steady workout program ever since.

After politely asking McCormick to move so I could get to the pasta line (he had finished his speech and was working the crowd) I downed four plates of penne marinara, got some bagels and Gatorade at Publix, and headed back to a friend’s house to go to sleep. This was the first Saturday night I could remember being in bed at 10 p.m. in about 10 years.

I’ve Never Been On The Beach This Early Sober


I woke up at 4:30 to a text from Tony telling me he was heading to the beach already. The transition area (the spot where you put your bike and running gear so you can switch over between events) opened at 5:30, but apparently he was hell bent on getting a good spot. I gathered my stuff, put on my cool new triathlon shorts (designed so you can bike, run and swim in them) and headed out to South Beach.


I got there about 5 a.m., or as I usually call it, closing time. It was certainly an interesting mix out there at that hour, with super-fit triathletes stepping over passed-out drunks as they carried their bikes to the transition area. As I brought my bike into Lummus Park on 5th Street, a drunk girl staggered by the sign on the fence and said,

I took my bike over to my assigned rack, which was made up of all the guys in my Clydesdale division and some men over 50. The sign should have just said “Fat and Old set up here.” Nobody really talks much in the transition area, except maybe to ask for a tire pump or to clarify some logistical issues. The guys around me all looked about like me, big guys who obviously spent a good amount of time in the weight room but likes the endurance too. You can joke around and call it the fat boy division all you want, but the guys in my row were all in good shape. I figured I was finishing somewhere near the back.

Transition Area Turf Wars


As I finished setting up my bike, I heard a commotion coming from a few rows ahead of me.

“Hey, Bro. You gotta move, bro. No, no, get outta here,” I heard one voice insisting.

“What, you can’t move over? C’mon!” argued the other

“Hey bro, we got here early bro, no way,” said another voice, backing up the first. Now, pre-dawn fights in South Beach are nothing new, but I had expected those to be going on on the other side of the transition area fence. As I walked up, I recognized one of the guys telling the third guy he had to move. It was Tony the hairstylist, who apparently had arrived an hour earlier to secure the good spot and was not giving it up to some Johnny-come lately.


“Get the heck outta here, bro!” one of his friends told the newcomer. This guy was also apparently not from Miami, as he backed down pretty quick. I guess he preferred a sub-par spot in the transition area to a full-scale beat down from a bunch of locals. I walked up to Tony and asked him what happened.

“This guy thinks he can just walk in here at 6:45 and get an inside spot. We ain’t having that. This is OUR spot. Nobody’s coming in here.” Tony was emphatic, perhaps just pumping himself up for the race. One of his friends who was also set up in the good spot looked up at me and said,

“Hey, Matt, you wanna bring your stuff over so you can get the inside?” I love Miami.  No matter how much you fight to keep people from breaking the rules, there’s always room to hook up one of your boys. Of course, I was relegated to the land of the fat and the old, so I politely declined. But it was nice to know I had people willing to go to blows to save a good position for the group.


Half an hour before the race started we walked over to the finish line to get our instructions. It was at this point I discovered that Anna Kournikova would be in the race along with a handful of other celebrities I hadn’t heard of. Kournikova, I thought. What a joke. She’s been out of sports for years, this should be fun. She ended up beating me by half an hour.

What I Learned On The Swim: Expect To Be Kicked In The Face


The swim started in waves 5 minutes apart so that 1000 people would not all be jumping in the water at the same time. Fortunately, I was in the relatively-small 5th wave so I had only about a hundred or so people flailing into the water with me when the cannon went off a 7:35 to start my part of the race. I had been warned that the open water mass swimming would be a little different than the pool back at Gainesville Health and Fitness. But as I entered the water and began the brief, half mile swim, I thought to myself “Gee, this isn’t so bad, a little salty but..ungh!” And with that I received a swift kick to the jaw from someone in front of me. So now I had to navigate around people as well as try and swim.


I got some more kicks, I kicked a few people, but aside from swimming 30 yards east of the halfway buoy and having the Miami Beach Lifeguard Team whistle at me to get back to the course, it went pretty well. My time was actually slightly better than I had expected. As I got out of the water I felt my knee start to give out again, but like Hell I wasn’t finishing my first race.

What I Learned On The Bike: I’m Good At Hills


I was so new to the world of cycling I still had scabs on my arms and knees form where I had fallen as I learned how to ride with clipped-in shoes. For those unfamiliar, this is where you put cleats on the bottom of your bike shoes that clip on to the pedals. So if you decide to stop, you can’t just pick up your foot and put it on the ground, you have to unclip the shoe from the pedal. Once you get used to it, it isn’t that hard, but the first time you try, you’re going to draw some blood. And when I started learning this, well, lets just say everybody likes to watch a big guy fall over.


But no matter, this was an easy ride over the causeways and back, and I hadn’t fallen in a couple of weeks so I figured I wasn’t going to embarrass myself too badly. And I did not. And while I certainly did not tear up the causeways on my bike, I did notice that on the “hills” (we think of them as bridges in our cars, but on a bike they are definitely hills) I passed a lot of people. I usually lost that ground once we got to the flat parts, as I haven’t quite figured out how to generate great speed yet, but going up hills I did very well. Except that one time my chain fell off on 195, but let’s not worry about that.

What I Learned On The Run: I Don’t Run Well


Because of the temporary morning overcast and the scenic ride, the bike went very well, culminating in a sprint around SoFi, my old neighborhood from when I lived in the beach. As I hammered down Ocean Drive from 1st to 5th, I prepared to transition into the run. I ran my bike into the transition area, threw on my running shoes and hit the course.


About 100 yards in, the Power Bar, Gatorade, and carbohydrate goo I had been gorging myself on during the bike ride all started to move around in my stomach. This, I realized, is why they drink Coke in longer races. To settle that down. But for 4 miles, well, I just had to suck it up and run. Run, of course, a term I will use very loosely here. While I had trained at pretty long distances, I never trained at high speeds. So once I hit the run course, people started passing me. A lot of people. People with “55” written on their calves, meaning there were guys born in the fifties smoking me on this run course. Yeah, I may be good at hills, but I do not run well.


But I just kept my pace and jogged along, passing Sarah Reinerston at one point, and climbing over the dunes to the finish line in just over 2 hours. Not a blazing time by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but far from the back of my division as well. It was about what I had expected for a first effort. I then waited around the finish line and got my “Participant” medal. I guess these things are sort of like summer camp in that anyone who does it gets some sort of recognition. Gus, the guy who runs this site, was there at the finish line to take pictures and, more importantly, hand me a check. There’s always extra motivation when you have cash waiting for you at the finish line.


Gus told me he was impressed at how fast I did the run, which surprised me but, hey, if you were impressed than thank you. Maybe I run better than I think. Tony was doing haircuts on the beach for Paul Mitchell, so I got my haircut out of the way, packed up my bike, and decided to move on with the day. It was about 11 a.m. Most Sundays I’m not even out of bed yet, but today I had already done something I’d never before done in my life. But as fun as it was, I know that it is merely the first checkpoint on a long road of training. Good to know I can finish, but I got a lot of work left to do.

Related Categories: SoBe Triathlon Miami: Sports News,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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