CLEARWATER -- When they met in middle school, their common interest was skateboarding. In high school, one played football, another basketball and the third pursued a dream of skateboarding with the pros.
Time flew by. Decades later, the three amigos from Clearwater kept in touch, but found it hard to stay in shape, given the demands of work and family.
"I knew I had to do something," said William "Spike" Fry, who persuaded his two buddies to form a team for the upcoming TriRock Clearwater triathlon. "I wanted to do something that was fun and a good workout. Triathlon was the perfect fit."
Fry, a lieutenant with the Clearwater Fire Department, said his newfound, multisport fitness regimen saved him from an impending midlife crisis.
"I felt really weird about turning 40," he explained, "so I figured that if I had to get older, I might as well be in the best shape as possible."
Fry entered his first triathlon on a lark. The former Clearwater Beach lifeguard had always been an excellent swimmer and accomplished runner, but he never spent much time on a bike.
"I had nothing to ride so I borrowed a bike from a friend," said Fry.
Fry said he felt a little self-conscious riding a $180 bicycle while his fellow competitors whizzed by on machines that cost 10 to 20 times as much.
"But when it was over, I had finished fifth in my age group," he said. "That's when I started thinking about what I could do if I actually trained."
So Fry started running, biking and swimming whenever he wasn't working or taking care of his little boy and girl. He started doing well in local triathlons and called his old skateboarding buddy Bret Applefield, a natural runner, and persuaded him to join in the fun.
"It's a great way to relieve stress," said Applefield, 42, an auto broker. "I'm pretty competitive, so I started setting little goals for myself, and each time I raced, I just tried to do a little better."
Fry and Applefield soon found themselves competitive as individuals on the triathlon circuit. But many triathlon participants don't do all three legs of the triathlon. They only do one discipline — swim, bike or run — as part of a team.
"I love racing by myself," Fry said. "But I started thinking that we could put together a killer triathlon team and maybe even win some races."
Being part of a triathlon team is a great way to get a taste for the sport without investing a lot of time in training for all three disciplines.
So Fry and Applefield called up their old middle school buddy, former professional skateboarder Mike Frazier.
"After my ninth knee surgery I figured that I had to do something that wasn't quite so hard on my body," said Frazier, 40. "So I started riding. And I guess you can say I am sort of obsessed with it at this point.
"On the days I ride hard," he continued, "I'll log 75 miles in the dark and be back at home before the family is even out of bed." Frazier even works in a bike shop.
Fry, Applefield and Frazier hope to place at the top of the pack Nov. 11 when the Tri Rock Series comes to Clearwater Beach with sprint, intermediate and relay triathlons.
"We have had a lot of fun with this," said Fry. "And if anybody has ever wondered what it would be like to do a triathlon, being part of a team is the way to do it."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.