Five minutes with The Donald

Editor's note: This is the seventh of a series of 13 weekly articles originally published on Slowtwitch in 2003/4. The articles chronicle newbie RD Jeff Henderson's journey toward the production of his first race: the Musselman Triathlon in Upstate New York. After these 13 weeks worth of diary entries, we'll flow directly into a new series Jeff is writing for us, where he talks about his challenges and goals now, as he prepares for Year-7 of Musselman.

I've stopped taking my pulse in the morning—I no longer have a resting heart rate. As soon as the alarm goes off, my adrenaline shoots straight for my heart and I race for the computer.

"How many do you think signed up last night!?!?!" I shout to my wife as I wait impatiently for boot-up.

If you want to complain about personal attention, I'm not the guy to complain to. I'm fairly confident I know the birth dates and medical conditions of everyone who has entered the Musselman, because I scan the entry list so frequently. The Howe's from Bainbridge are bringing the whole family—all four are in the mini-Mussel—and we have entrants from two Arlington's: Virginia and Massachusetts. Lou Battaglia was our first entry, and Samuel Clemence is our oldest (at a spry 65).

I wage battle with one of our committee members, Tom Reho, to see who can email the other fastest when we get a new entry. He's ahead, and we are both pathetic.

That's right, the late winter doldrums have arrived in Central New York and the action is slow at Musselman Headquarters. The whole world (at least in my living room) is waiting for the snows to melt and the lake to warm, so until then I pass the time looking for delinquent sponsors to harass.

"Hello, Gail, have you had a chance to review the Musselman proposal?" I start my latest phone call in an upbeat manner.

"No, you haven't? Should I give you another couple weeks?" is my standard next line. I have no idea why five pages of information should require seven weeks to get through. But we'll give Gail a chance because, hey, we're desperate.

In the midst of winter's icy grip the Musselman has inspired a fortuitous relationship. One of our first committee members, way back in December, was Jim Hogan, owner of the Geneva Bicycle Center. Jim's bike shop carries road, mountain, BMX, hybrid, and kid's bikes as well as walls of accessories and parts. But he hasn't done anything with triathlon.

Until now.

The Musselman has given him the impetus to introduce tri bikes, wetsuits, number belts, and all manner of other merchandise into his store. The better our race fares, the better business will be for him. Recognizing this marriage of interests, we have decided to thrust triathlon into the forefront of central New York early by holding clinics.

Escape From Alcatraz has a clinic, a three-day variety that will set you back something like 600 clams. Our clinics will be more spread out—every two weeks—and will cost you $5 at the door. We're not looking to make money directly; $5 will pay for pool time, keeping the shop open after hours, and some food. The immediate goal is to introduce beginners to the sport, spark interest in the Musselman, and kick off a tri club in Geneva that will draw attention to the sport locally.

The idea of a clinic is not new, and here's why we're pursuing it. Starting April 1st, the Musselman Clinics will be constant exposure for the July 11th race. We'll start with a general introduction to triathlon which is intended to flush first-time athletes out of the bushes. We'll ride the courses, run through the park, and swim in the lake so that each attendee will have intimate familiarity with all aspects of the Mussel come July. And in the process, Jim's shop will host dozens of potential customers needing wheels, jerseys, and heart rate monitors for their new hobby.

Jim and I will present most of the clinics, though others will be invited to lead and contribute where our knowledge and skills run lean (the world of running, for instance). Even if the clinics made no business sense for the bike shop or the Musselman, I would still hold them—I love teaching and sharing my interest in this sport.

In the meantime, I think the lack of action around here is getting to me, because I've started having a recurring set of dreams based loosely on The Apprentice. Our monthly committee meetings are held in an overly-elaborate oak-paneled boardroom and everyone shows up in business suits and power ties. No, I am not normally naked in these dreams.

In every single dream I've tasked my volunteers with running a triathlon (read in your best Donald Trump: "With my excessive and undeniably enviable fortune I have purchased— now get out there and run this thing! First team to reach capacity gets to run the show next year! And the year after that! Hahahahahaha!!!!!...") They get one day to organize everything, figure out the courses, drum up sponsorships, and hire entertainment. Oh yes, and there's a bonus prize for most leftover gel packets.

In my dream, I of course get to fire someone. That's the best part.

"John, you've done nothing I've asked. You think the three sports should include roller hockey and the only group you've approached for volunteers is the middle school cheerleader squad. You ask sponsors 'is that the best you can do?' and you get surly with city employees. You're fired."

Then I wake up and I realize I can't fire anyone, because everyone is a volunteer.

But that's ok, because every single one of them is doing the best job I could ask. We're not going to make millions, but we're going to have one hell of a show.