The St. Pete Mad Dogs are one of larger and better known triathlon clubs in the country. Their president Tim Hudson talked to us about the club with the distinctive bark.
ST: Why Mad Dogs?
Tim: It was during 1993 that local St. Petersburg triathletes Rue & Kathy Morgan and Ralph & Katie Perry (Oldest couple to finish Kona together) noted the vast number of triathletes in the area and the number of races, yet at the time there was no formal organization for triathletes like the running and bike clubs had. So during the first weekend of November 1993 Rue & Kathy were at Ralph & Katie’s for dinner when they decided to start a triathlon club. Rue posed the question “What do we name it?” Several names were kicked around including lunatics, etc. when the finally they decided on “Mad Dogs” and the slogan “ Fun Loving Triathletes Who Train, Race and Howl Together” and the now famous saying “ If You Can’t Race With The Mad Dogs, Stay On The Porch and Don’t Bark”. So that is where the name originated.
ST: How large is the St. Pete Mad Dogs club these days?
Tim: The club started in November 1993. We just gave out Mad Dog member number 2750 (members are assigned a MD # and have it for life even if the leave the club & come back) and have around 1000 active members.
ST: Would you consider the St. Pete Mad Dogs more so a team or more so a club? Or does the distinction not really matter?
Tim: I think the slogan of the club says it all “Fun Loving Triathletes Who Train, Race and Howl Together”. I would consider it more of a club in that it encompasses more than just training together. We have and encourage members of all levels and skills. Many of the long time members have developed lifetime friendships and relationships and for many the club is like family, so it is really more than a team or a club.
ST: Which races is the St. Pete Mad Dogs heavily involved with?
Tim: The club has been heavily involved and supportive of St. Anthony’s Triathlon for many years. We have done this by providing homestays for the visiting professional triathletes, volunteers for the race & activities along with pre and post race dinners and parties.
With the Ironman 70.3 World Championship now in Clearwater the club has also become involved with Ironman providing homestays for the visiting professional triathletes for that race along with many of the volunteers and a race viewing party.
The club has also always been one of the few clubs that is supportive and represented at the Ironman Championships in Hawaii. You will always see club members staked out in the median at "Hot Corner" on race day with banners, flags and signs with all the members' names who are doing the race along with being around town during race week.
Being at Kona for so many years along with St. Anthony's is probably how the club really became known to everyone world wide and developed it’s base.
In addition the club has its own sprint triathlon every year "The Mad Dog Madeira Beach Triathlon", which is one of the largest and longest running sprint triathlons in the Southeast.
ST: In addition to racing what are some of the activities offered to club members?
Tim: Every Wednesday night we have the Mad Dog Open Water Swim/Run/Cook Out at Pass-A-Grille Beach in St. Pete. This a famous tradition where everyone walks one mile down the beach to the Don Cesear Hotel (at exactly 6 PM) and swims back and then many go for a run of 3-6 miles and come back & shower. Then everyone gathers back at the shelter for food and drink and to socialize. There will at times be up to 130 people with many of the visiting triathletes and professionals coming when they are in town.
In the Winter with the time change and shorter days the club switches it to a Wednesday night run from The Tavern at Bayboro in downtown St. Petersburg ( USF St. Pete campus) where everyone runs from and then gathers afterwards to eat, drink and socialize.
Every September we always have a "Welcome to Kona" Luau event where we have an actual Luau with food, drink and Hawaiian dancers. We also recognize all our members who have completed an iron distance race in the past year and send off our members who are going to Kona.
ST: What do you do to encourage new members to join?
Tim: We do several things. We invite them to come to our Wednesday night swims and runs. If they are new to the area we try to connect them with people and groups of like skill levels to train with and also help them out to introduce them to others and local happenings if they are new to the area.
A lot of our members are also out at local races promoting the club and we also get great support from local race promoters such as Philip La Haye, Fred Rzymek, Suzanne Henslee and the Ironman group. Several of the local bike and triathlon shops are real supportive of our club and put out membership applications and offer discounts to our members.
ST: Who are some of speakers/guests you had at the St. Pete Mad Dogs?
Tim: During the past few years we’ve have had Samantha McGlone, Dave Scott, Dick Hoyt, Lance Watson, Kim Hager and Jim Vance among others.
ST: Is there anything that you would say makes the St. Pete Mad Dogs unique?
Tim: I think for many, the Mad Dogs are almost like family as many of the members truly do train, race and howl together. So between the training and social events they spend a lot of time together and develop a bond. So as I said it truly is more than a club.
As was mentioned earlier the Mad Dogs have developed and been providing homestays to visiting professional triathletes at St. Anthony’s for many years and now also for the Ironman 70.3 Championships. Many of these athletes develop friendships with their homestays and come back year after year to stay and visit, so it is nice for the athletes to see familiar faces and have a familiar place to stay when they come back to the area.
ST: How old is the oldest and how old is the youngest member?
Tim: The oldest would be Charles Futrell who is 87 years old, Robert McKeague 82 years old who set the record for the oldest person to finish the Ironman in Kona two years ago (previously held by Mad Dog member Jim Ward) is also member. We have a Mad Dogs kids group now, so we have members as young as five years of age who participate in the kids triathlon series here in Florida.
ST: How far away from St. Pete might we encounter St. Pete Mad Dogs members?
Tim: We have members from all over the world including many European countries and it includes both amateur and professionals. People everywhere seem to know the Mad Dogs, I remember several years ago doing a race in Europe with several other members and people all along the course were yelling “Mad Dogs” just about everyone I talked to had heard of The Mad Dogs.
ST: How long does it take a new member to learn the bark?
Tim: Ha Ha! We teach them how to bark and howl right away as their initiation.
ST: Anything else we should know about?
Tim: We encourage any and everyone to join us for training, racing, howling and having fun! We might be “Mad Dogs”, but we don’t bite!