About HFP Racing | The Voice of HFP Racing
Welcome from the Voice of HFP Racing
by Rich Fowler
I consider it a high honor to be asked to include my story here with the rest of the HFP Family. I am not “technically” an HFP family member, but over the past decade, the Kureks have kindly “adopted” me and my family into their own circle. I think I have unofficially made the transition from “red-headed stepchild” to that “Weird Uncle” you see at the holidays. Only difference: Our holidays are race weekends all over the Midwest! For those that don't already know me (you should consider yourself lucky — ask those that do!) I am that loud, sometimes amusing, often irritating voice you hear at the start and finish line at HFP Races. “The Big Guy in the Red Polo” or “the Guy with the Mic” is my general description, and usually how you'll be instructed to find me if you need me on race morning. Officially I am the “announcer guy” and can answer any questions you may have on race day. It may not be the right answer, or even the answer to the question you asked, but I DO have an answer! Yes, I am a bit of a smart alec too.
My story is a wild one, with all the twists and turns of a roller coaster without the fun of standing in line! In terms of a resume, I am a formerly nationally ranked duathlete, a triathlete who learned to swim at age 35, a race director, a Clydesdale, a father, a speaker, an instructor, a former broadcast personality, and a complete mess! I have an absolute ball being with you at HFP Races, and you have been credited with saving my life on at least one occasion, and credited with helping make me one of the proudest fathers on the planet. The experiences my kids and I have had with HFP Races are in no small part responsible for the depth and breadth of their character, and they are better people for them. For that I am eternally grateful to Shannon, Jen, and the whole HFP family (you included).
I didn't start out as a nationally ranked triathlete. I started out about 2 cheeseburgers shy of 300 pounds 13 years ago, when a work associate of mine announced that she was starting her own triathlon company in Florida. She did, and Motion Sports Management was born with my mentor Wendy Johnson at the helm. She offered personalized coaching for both tri newbies and veterans, and she suggested (in her not so subtle Alabama style) that my lazy butt would benefit from it. That was a very dark time in my life, and I needed some sort of motivation, so I said sure, coach me. Realize that I had never run a step before this, and I didn't know how to swim. Wendy took me under her wing, got me on a program of weights and running and biking, and I did my first 5K at 300 pounds in 44 minutes. Most importantly, I was hooked on both the sport and the lifestyle.
Fast forward a few years and me a few pounds lighter (ok — 75 pounds lighter) and I did my first full marathon with Wendy in the crowd. She was proud of me, but still pushed me to learn to swim and be a “real triathlete”. She helped me buy my first tri bike, and I went to the Dannon duathlon nationals with Wendy and husband Al the next year. What a transformation! This was the first time my triathlon family can be credited for saving my life — but it won't be the last. My doctors had already told me that my weight and lack of exercise would be a contributing factor in my demise. Sorry — not yet!
I found HFP Racing pretty much the same way you did — through the internet and racing publications and blogs. A standard fixture at the back of the pack in many HFP races, I also wrote about them for local and regional triathlon magazines, so Shannon gave me access to the “inner workings” of the HFP machine. I am a two time winner of my Clydesdale AG in the HFP Tri/Du series, and have a box of medals and plaques from placing at various HFP events from sprints to the Great Buckeye Challenge. Yes, I am a racer too — even when it doesn't always look like it. The turning point was a triathlon in 2002, when I was at the Transition Area before sunrise getting info from Shannon and Jen about the course, the field, the “whole deal” of the day for my article. The usual HFP announcer guy hadn't yet arrived, and Shannon was in a pickle to get everything done if he had to announce too. So he threw me the mic and said “just keep them updated, and have some fun”. I haven't let go of the mic since! The highlight of my summers is always Sunday morning as we get together and share our love of the sport and each other. I didn't apply to be the HFP Announcer, and Shannon didn't come looking for me. It just happened — and I am so thankful!
You'll also see my kids at HFP Events occasionally too. I often describe them as “a heartbreaker and a lifetaker” — I just really don't know which is which! My kids started coming with me to races as soon as I could get them to understand the concepts of responsibility and good behaviour, and racing has been a big part of their lives too. They started as volunteers at water stops and finish lines, and have since graduated to registration and course management at many HFP Events. The lessons they have learned in the process — from being a good sport, to being responsible, to being helpful, to patience and perseverance are all things that will make them better persons, and being able to see them grow and mature like that has been a huge positive in my life too. Add to that the fact that they both have become accomplished triathletes in the process too — with Casey doing his first international race at age 10, to Molly conquering some demons and blossoming with the “Women's Only Tri” series, and triathlon is still a big deal at our house. My kids also learned the value and invaluable intangibles of being a part of charity races. We volunteer at many charity events throughout the year, and they use the skills they learned at HFP Racing events to help manage and operate races for a variety of charities across Ohio. They have hugged survivors at The Race for the Cure, consoled injured and distraught runners, taught new volunteers how to make a race work, calmed beginners at water's edge, and realized how much value a volunteer adds to an event. And for the most part, they do it with a smile and no complaints — even when 5am comes really early on race mornings. I am really lucky to have such great kids, and racing played a big part in their growth (and mine!). At The Great Buckeye Challenge several years ago, my kids and I laughed ourselves silly on the way to the race (just being silly together), and later as I neared the finish line I was welcomed with a chorus of “Go Daddy” and flanked by a little blonde kid on either side for the last 100 yards. Funny — as I sit here I can't recall how I did in that race, or what my times were; but I can close my eyes and still relive that finish line and smile.
I have dozens of stories of amazing people that we have had the joy of racing with at an HFP Event, and with any luck we'll manage to get them into a form that we can share with everyone here. From the inspiring story of a Dad who took up triathlons to be able to walk his new daughter down the aisle (see Doctors warning above) to the recovering Soldier who was told he'd never race again (and who DID and does regularly), to the cancer survivors that make me tear up every time they cross the line in their pink shirts, to the high school kid who used the taunts of his school mates as motivation to whittle away at his 400 pound frame and complete his first triathlon with us while being filmed by MTV, to the lady who should have died in the car accident, but fought to do 5 races last year with her crutches all sweaty and hot from the sun, to the little unknown girl who blasted out of the water at Maumee Bay beside the Pros and now boasts a Pro card herself; we see it all. We've seen marriage proposals, family reunions, demons conquered, and surprises of all kinds at the finish line, and we rejoice with each one. We also try to make sure you're aware of each one too, and we share your joy with the rest of the folks at the finish. You are important, and we recognize that. Shannon has specifically told his staff — EVERY finisher gets the same treatment as the first person to hit the line — just FINISH! I often hear competitors say “I just don't want to be last”, and I don't ever want to hear it again! For me personally, as one who has finished LAST at an event, I know how powerful it can be to hear your name ring out across the venue, and no one knows what your journey has been to get to that finish line, so I really don't care what the clock says, or where you show up in the standings. I just want to see you again at the finish line — triumphant in your day on the course.
Shannon also has a picture of me from my racing days, coming across the finish line carrying two orange safety cones — because he yelled encouragement to me as I started Lap 2 by saying “hey — if you're gonna be last, at least pick up the cones on your way in!” So just to be the smart alec that I really am, I picked up two on the way in, just for the picture. It didn't hurt my times, and I remember that bit of camaraderie much more than I do any other part of that race. Just have some fun!
Please come up and say hi when you see me at the venue, as I really do value you and all that you bring to us on race day; and please take the time to share your stories with us too. Inspiration comes in all sizes, shapes, and forms, you may be the difference in someone's life!
I am happy and humbled to be considered part of the HFP family — even if I am that “Weird Uncle” you only see on holidays. Being able to hang with you, laugh with you, and share in your race day is way too much fun to give up. On a very personal note, I just want to say “Thank You” to the entire HFP Crew and to every racer who I have had the privilege of welcoming to the finish line over the past decade. You have given me pleasure and pride in knowing and working with you, and I am better for it. I keep telling Shannon he could get a trained monkey to do my job, but he keeps asking me back.
The official voice of HFP Racing