Picking someone to talk to in the Pfister Lobby who is decked out in spandex shorts and isn’t afraid to sweat a little is like shooting fish in a barrel for the next few days.
Milwaukee seems to be the fitness center of the world this week, medical and the Pfister is a sort of hub for tons of athletes who have traveled from near and far to test their mettle in feats of daring do, strength, and distance. I’m a suit a tie guy myself, but these sporting Joes and Janes give performance gear a good name as they wander the hotels halls stretching hamstrings and the like with their gazelle like strides.
This Olympic sized effort to make Milwaukee the epicenter of athletic achievement for a span of several huffing-and-puffing-to-the-finish-line August days started early this week with the 2015 JCC Maccabi Games. The Maccabi Games is the largest Jewish youth event in the world with young athletes coming to Milwaukee from around the globe to compete in a myriad of sporting events and build strong global community connections. We’ve had a fair share of folks with JCC Maccabi Games t-shirts relaxing in the Lobby Lounge while they aren’t cheering for some match or trying to kick the winning goal reminding everyone that a healthy body and soul go hand in hand. The JCC Maccabi Games produced this clever video for their Kickoff at the BMO Harris Center this past Sunday. Local bigwigs like Mayor Tom Barrett, no rx County Executive Chris Abele, and a cowboy hat sporting Sherriff David Clarke make nice cameos welcoming visitors to Milwaukee. Give it a gander…I think you’ll smile.
But right now we are on the cusp of what I believe is one of the most grueling sporting events that any group of overachievers could ever think up.
It’s triathlon time.
Triathlon time means a lot to me because my very own wife is one of those mad women…er, overachievers…who love the sport of triathlon and think that going out for a swim isn’t enough so it makes perfect sense to tack on a bike ride and a run to round out a day of exercise.
My wife won’t be participating in the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals this weekend in Milwaukee (don’t worry, she’s not being lazy, she’s actually flying to Seattle to run a half marathon), but there are plenty of fit and fiery competitors prepping for Saturday and Sunday’s tri activities who have checked in early at the Pfister.
I came upon two such athletes tucked into plush sofas in the lobby reading the newspaper on a quiet morning. I spotted their USA Triathlon sweatshirts, but I could have picked them out as triathletes even in civilian clothes. They looked like ladies who did not wilt from challenges, and their lean and strong physiques were like a warning to avoid challenging either of them to an arm wrestling match.
Pat and Nancy are from Massachusetts and this is their second time to Milwaukee and the Pfister for this race. It is not, however, the duo’s second time in the triathlon ring. When I ask them how many tris they’ve completed they casually say, “Oh, maybe a hundred or so.”
This is the thing about triathletes. They have this sort of laid-back attitude about pushing their bodies to the limit.
Case in point. I asked how each of the ladies got into triathlon. Nancy told me, “Well I ran marathons, but the running was too much for me after many years, so I switched to tri.” Now, for those of you who are still a little shaky on the actual order of events in a triathlon, first you swim, and then you bike, and then YOU RUN. Nice try, Nancy, but I chalk that one up as a well played humble brag.
Pat did her own stint with marathons by qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon three times. She did her first triathlon after watching one in Massachusetts. She looked at the competitors and thought, “Gee, that looks kind of fun, I think I’ll give it a shot.” From that meditation on competition, Pat soon found herself crossing the finish line after 140.6 miles at the granddaddy of all triathlons, Iron Man Hawaii. Pat and Nancy have been to this rodeo a few times before, and by now the horses are eating out of their hands, it seems.
This year, they’ll take part in the sprint distance triathlon at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. They’ll dip into Lake Michigan for a nice morning swim and will the stride across the finish line about 16 miles later. It’s not Iron Man, but it’s no walk in the park, either (that is unless your park has water stops and a place to change your swimming suit).
I’m always curious about what a triathlete wants to do immediately following a race (I would eat four whole pizzas, I believe), so I ask Pat and Nancy what their plans are post event. Pat tells me, “Well this year we splurged and had our bikes shipped fully in tact so we won’t have to rush back to our hotel rooms and take them apart.” Sounds like a fair and reasonable concession to make in a long triathlon career, and don’t worry ladies, I’m pretty sure no one is saying, “Pat and Nancy are shipping their bikes? What slackers!”
Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.