By Rue Morgan with assistance from Kathy Morgan and Ralph and Katie Perry
During the 1993 triathlon season, we would periodically hear statements such as, “There are Bike Clubs, Masters swimming and several running clubs. Why is there no Triathlon Club?” We would notice the same faces at most triathlons and hear their names called and where they were from. We were always amazed at how many were from the St. Pete area that we didn’t know. Most of these triathletes would stay around until the awards were over, scattered about, just observing each other. The wheels were turning. How could we get to know each other? We had such a common interest—we love doing Triathlons! The first weekend in November 1993, Kathy and Rue Morgan walked over to Katie and Ralph Perry’s for a relaxing evening. We had been dropping hints to each other about starting a Triathlon Club. While having dinner by the pool that night, Rue posed the question. “If we were to have a Triathlon Club, what would we name it?” That night, what almost was the “St. Pete Lunatics”, became the “St. Pete Mad Dogs” followed by our slogan “Fun loving Triathletes who train, race, and howl together,” and also our saying, “If you can’t race with the Mad Dogs, stay on the porch and don’t bark.”
From there the club took a life of it’s own. The club evolved like a meandering stream, without any controlled direction. It flowed, creating its own boundaries. What we thought would be 20 to 40, has grown to over 170 members in the first year. Thirteen of our members have qualified for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon this year. One of the most impressive things about our group is the support we give each other. Even within the same age group, when the race is over we cheer for each other and give encouragement to improve.
The age-group triathlete is the backbone of our club. The club is a mix of elite triathletes, age group winners, middle of the pack, new and renewed triathletes. To witness the “St. Pete Mad Dogs” at an awards ceremony is a real treat. Although we have pushed ourselves to our personal athletic ability during the race, we howl for each other at the awards and have a great time. Race directors like us because we promote triathloning.
The last weekend of each month is kick back time. We have our monthly rally (editor’s note: this has been replaced by the Wednesday Night training group and monthly member meetings). We usually meet at the beach, everyone brings a dish to share to share and what they want to drink. If you want to come early you can get in some training, with an open water swim, beach run and/or bike ride. We raffle off complimentary race entries we have received from race directors. We share training tips, schedules, what has happened since we met last, and what is coming up. It’s a great time to buddy up for rides and hotel rooms for upcoming races. We also have a monthly newsletter to keep everyone informed.
In April, two days before the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, we had a Mad Dog Pasta/Dessert Party. This Mad Dog rally was co-sponsored with Mad Dog member Bob Bitterli.
Another member, Brian Harrington, was the professional triathlete coordinator for the race. Through Brian’s contact with St. Anthony’s, the professional triathletes were invited to this rally. We had over twenty of the participating professionals attend. After St. Anthony’s Triathlon, which is always a highly organized race, the feedback was that the professionals really enjoyed the Mad Dog Rally and the opportunity to mix with the local age group triathletes was a great experience.
Even though the St. Pete Mad Dogs offers a unique tshirt (designed by Katie Knight-Perry), along with a monthly newsletter and a rally, membership directory and team support at triathlons, the Dogs are building so many relationships and having so much fun. People are doing triathlons for the first time just so they can become a Mad Dog. The Mad Dogs are also stimulating a renewed interest in those who have not competed in a triathlon in years. Many of our friends who are pure swimmers, cyclists, or runners are now taking an interest in triathloning. Once they “tri it,” they love it and continue doing triathlons along with the sport they were doing.
October 1, 1994, the Mad Dog Rally theme was “Welcome to Kona Luau.” Over 100 were in attendance to send off thirteen of our members to Kona to participate in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon October 15th.
The St. Pete Mad Dogs are living up to their slogan of “fun-loving triathletes who train, race and howl together.