By Jonathan Pleasant
A large and eclectic group of state and community leaders were present at Red Tail Mountain Golf Course last week to hear an exciting announcement from new owner, Lyle Habermehl. Standing alongside Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Tennessee Commissioner of Tourism Susan Whittaker, and State Representative Timothy Hill, Habermehl revealed that Mountain City will become the official US training base for the world famous TBB Iron Man Team.
Steadily growing in popularity, Iron Man is now possibly the most famous triathlon competition in the world, with numerous events on six continents spread across dozens of nations. The course is made up of three separate events, beginning with a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bicycle ride and a 26.2 mile marathon, raced in that order without a break. The competition takes hours to complete and because of its intensity and infamous reputation typically draws only the best and most dedicated athletes.
The competition began in Hawaii in the late 1970s after a long running debate between several Navy Officers stationed on the island of Oahu. In a bet to determine whether cycling, swimming, or running was the most intense sport, the original organizers decided to combine all three, with the first to finish the entire race being declared an Iron Man. That was in 1978 and since then there have been numerous champions named on both mens and womens teams from similar events held around the world. Creating an international circuit, each year a final World Championship is held where the Iron Man began in Hawaii.
Competitors have to dedicate themselves to intense training to be able to pull off these wins, often joining professional teams with renowned coaches. Possibly the most famous of these programs is Team TBB, which stands for The Best You Can Be. TBB was the idea of Coach Alex Bok, one of the most famous managers anywhere on Earth. In the years since its formation, the training organization has gone on to form associations with some of the most renowned international athletes including the Australian Olympic National Swim Team.
With camps headquartered in cities around the world, it was quite a shock when Habermehl indicated that Mountain City would be the teams United States home. A very successful international businessman who fell in love with Tennessee, Habermehl was key in making the decision to locate the team here. Pointing out that even though premier locations in Colorado and Lake Tahoe, Nevada had sought the sponsorship, Habermehl stated that he always pulled for the underdog and felt that Johnson County and Mountain City needed to be promoted as a beautiful location, much as their neighbors have in Western North Carolina.
Members of the team were present at the ceremony along with Coach Robbie Haywood, the second in command under Bok. Haywood gave an introduction to the team, which includes numerous champions of past Iron Man events from locations like Columbia, Australia, and more locally, the University of Tennessee. Haywood explained that the program will likely train May through August and while facilities are being established at Red Tail, the athletes have already been utilizing the Mountain City pool.
Aside from seasoned professional athletes, Haywood also noted that the program takes in numerous development athletes who have a dream to compete and want to try to build their individual abilities as much as possible. The team has strong connections to the island of Cozumel off the coast of Mexico, where the actual races occur. TBB has already established several community programs there to help local kids learn more about the sport and encourage them to live healthy and become more active.
Noting the success of that endeavor, Haywood was hopeful that similar work could eventually be done at their camp in Mountain City as well, explaining that as the name implies the teams overall goal is to help people become the best they can be, both in the sport and in the community.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.
By Jonathan Pleasant