Thursday, December 17, 2009


By Tom Segar

When I first started doing triathlons in 2002, I wondered what kept athletes motivated to train throughout the season. I worked with a guy who lived in Shakopee and did triathlons, so I asked him what motivated him to train and ra

ce all summer. His answer was that his goal at each race was to be the fastest triathlete from Shakopee.

Being new to triathlon and naive to the strong multisport culture in the Twin Cities, I thought his reasoning was brilliant. At the time I lived in Hopkins, which seemed the size of a postage stamp. I assumed I’d be the only triathlete in Hopkins, and being the fastest would be a piece of cake. I signed up for my first race, completed it, and later went online to check the results. Searching by the home city of the athletes and looking for Hopkins, the results scrolled down just a fraction of a page. I looked over hoping to see my name, but instead it said Brett Lovaas. I thought to myself, “Who’s Brett Lovaas and why does he have to live in Hopkins?”

Shrugging it off as a fluke, and focused on my next race. I trained hard, had a better race and looked at the results again. And again the results scrolled down a quarter inch, not good news since my name should have been about half-way down the page. Brett Lovaas. Who was this guy?

In my mind I created his image. He was tall, lean but muscular. Chestnut-brown skin from hours of training in the sun. Dark brown eyes my wife could get lost in, and a mane of long brown hair that billowed behind him when he ran, glistening in the sunlight. I had visions of my daughters growing up with the last name Lovaas, since my wife was sure to leave me for him. How could I blame her? I’d have dumped me for him too.

Knowing nothing about the Midwest triathlon scene back then, I decided for my third and final race of the season that if I couldn’t beat him, I’d sign up for a race somewhere far away- like in Duluth. It was the Brewhouse Triathlon and it had two great reasons for me to participate. First, I firmly believed (and still believe) any race that has anything to do with beer has got to be outstanding. And second, there was no way Brett Lovaas would drive all the way to Duluth for a triathlon. Finally my chance to go back to work and tell everyone I was the fastest triathlete in Hopkins. But just to be safe, I told my wife to stay home.

Same story- I finished the race, checked the results, Brett Lovaas.

I don’t use the word ‘Hate’ lightly. The list of people I hate is very short and basically consists of Voldimort and Osama Bin Ladin. Even Darth Vader had his charms- Vader loved his kid, and he simply wanted to spend time with Luke. But yes, I was starting to hate Brett Lovaas. He probably had a cool nickname too, like Brett “Da Bomb” Lovaas. You know what my nickname was in high school? Nothing. I didn’t have one. Along with Drama Club and Cross Country Skiing, I played the tuba in high school. Trust me, that trio is not the recipe for high school coolness. I’ve been a dork for a long time.

So with my first Tri season finally over, although I failed at my goal, at least I could stop thinking about it. That fall my daughter was old enough for swimming lessons and we signed her up at a facility in St. Louis Park. On the first night I brought her to lessons, while I was waiting for her to finish, I looked at the bulletin board with all the swim teachers’ names and pictures. And right in the middle, there he was. Brett Lovaas. I was shocked. One look at his picture, and it was clear that he was not the tri-stud I had been expecting. The guy in the picture was not gorgeous. He did not have chestnut brown skin, did not look tall and lean. And he did not have an amazing head of brown hair. In fact he looked short, he had very little hair, and he had a quirky, if not nerdy smile. And the nickname on the picture was “Wet” Brett Lovaas. “Wet” is not a nickname, it’s an adjective. Which I bet he knew, because Brett Lovaas looked like me, looked like my friends, like my teammates- Brett looked like a beautiful, wonderful dork.

A few years later I signed up for the 2005 Lake Minnetonka triathlon, and Brett won it, I believe this was his first outright win. In his acceptance speech, he thanked everybody he could think of. His wife, his kids, his parents, the racers, the volunteers, and he specifically thanked the guy on the motorcycle leading him while Brett was winning on the bike. It was a wonderful acceptance speech with the kind of appreciation only a nerd could have. Instead of sticking that win down the throats of all the bullies who surely shoved him around when we has a kid, he was kind, generous and appreciative. Brett got a huge trophy and I was sincerely happy for him.

Lastly, in 2007 Brett won a very special People’s Choice award at the Midwest Multisport Award Banquet. It was at that point that I knew Brett and I were at the same level of the Nerd food chain. Because anyone who wins an award for peeing in his wetsuit has got to be as big a sissy as I am.