Issue 17 • September 2013

Jax, the Boulder of the South

For a while, I have been saying that I think Jacksonville is the new Boulder and most of my friends just laugh and dismiss it but I really believe there are real similarities. I was reminded of this when I read last month’s profile of Badwater 135 Ultrarunner Lane Vogel’s comment:

“Jax is like the Boulder of the south! For some reason there is a wealth of stellar athletes congregating here! From cyclists, to runners, to triathletes, the place is loaded with knowledge and expertise.”
On the surface it might not be obvious. Comparing the hippy like Colorado mountain town with a population of nearly 100K, a base elevation of 5430’ and multiple 12,000’ peaks around with a sea level southern coastal community could be a great story of contrast rather than similarities.

While the differences are true for terrain and weather, the similarity exists when you look at the concentration of world class endurance athletes.

Boulder has developed a reputation over the years as THE city for professional triathletes. Most top level pros seem to migrate there for the 6 months of good weather and to train in and around the Rockies. But more than that, they migrate to Boulder to train with good training partners.

Boulder really only became THE hot bed for the sport when training groups based their camps there. Sure, before that, there were a LOT of fit athletes and the sport was always popular, but it only became a nexus for serious improvement when the individuals formed training groups and that really made Boulder THE place to train.

So, how is that like Jacksonville?

Around the same time as Boulder began hosting pro triathletes “camps” on a regular basis, Jacksonville started to create its own core group of World Class Age Grouper Endurance athletes. Looking at specifically the Ironman Distance and the Ironman World Championship in Kona, in 2008, there were 3 triathletes from Jacksonville. In 2009, there were 4. In 2010, there were 5. In 2011, there were 8 athletes from Jacksonville and it was actually more like 10 athletes if you include extended local training partners.

When you look at the population of Jacksonville and the surrounding area being about 1.4M and the area around the beaches as just under 100K, this type of density (10 out of 100,000) is almost unheard of.

What created this type of density and exceptional performance? My answer; it was the formation of training groups.

I don’t think it really matters if you are looking at Ironman Distance triathlon or other sports, the same basic properties exist. Once there is an underlying structure for success and there is cohesion amongst individuals to improve their overall performance by sharing information and training together, this creates a constant steady up-regulation of what is expected and those successes build on each other. The adage, a rising tide lifts all boats fits here as with each additional training partner, the ability to reach out to individuals for specific help broadens. The paces got faster, the rides got longer and the support structure broadened and was more stable.

While all this was great for the Kona 10 of 2011, what does that have to with today and how does this apply to you? (I know…come on dude, what’s your point?)

It was only by training together that the collective performance level increased.

If you are new to the sport, find a group and go train with them. These sessions do not have to be and should not be race efforts but trying to train with someone better than you are currently will definitely make you faster. If you want to run faster, train with faster runners. If you want to ride faster, ride with faster riders. Simple, right? And, if it is a technique sport, like swimming, it can also give you key technique tips that can make you work less and go faster.

Whether it’s a swim, bike, run, Dance Trance, MMA or Yoga… did I really just put Dance Trance in with MMA…man I hope the crew at The Training Yard don’t read this!

Seriously, once started, these groups are self-fueling and self-sustaining. They continuously seem to create better and better performances from all their athletes.

Sure, Triathlon is an individual sport, but making it a community effort can create a shorter path to better results and it’s a LOT less boring.

For more information about training groups of all abilities, check out www.hammerheadtriathlonclub.com.

Shawn Burke

Shawn Burke

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