Ed Rollins is a glutton for punishment. Whether he is on his bike, in the pool or pounding the pavement, Rollins, the associate pastor at First Baptist Church, has a high tolerance for pain. His love of triathlons has cost him more than tired muscles and achy joints, though.
Rollins’ commitment to his daily workout and an ill-fitting running shoe conspired to bruise one of his big toes so badly he had to have the nail removed.
Rollins, his bandaged toe and about 140 other members of the Columbia Multisport Club will travel to Las Vegas today to compete in Sunday’s Pumpkinman Triathlon, the USA Triathlon Association’s club national championship event.
The group, likely Columbia’s biggest sports team, will travel to Las Vegas in search of its third national championship in four years. Believe it or not, Columbia Multisport Club competes in the event’s largest division against the nation’s biggest cities.
“Essentially, you’re battling the big boys,” Rollins said.
Columbia Multisport Club’s main competition this year will come from the country’s second-largest city and home to the largest multisport club, Los Angeles.
Although the West’s most bustling metropolis is home to 40 times the population of Columbia, the teams are a surprisingly even match.
The LA triathlon club will be bringing around 150 of its 1,400 members, and the Pumpkinman’s scoring system gives a slight edge to the larger group.
Clubs receive half a point for every member who finishes one of the two lengths, sprint or Olympic, and the winners of each age group receive bonus points.
Rollins said the system encourages participation regardless of speed or experience.
“The average Joe who goes out knowing he won’t place, like me, at least knows he will be contributing half a point,” he said.
When it comes to running triathlons, Columbia Multisport Club president Mark Livesay is anything but average.
A 10-time Ironman finisher, Livesay, 40, is one of the club’s founding members. Livesay said he, too, is impressed by the large number of participants from such a relatively small town.
“We have some extremely talented triathletes in Columbia,” he said. “And at around 550 members, we’re the fifth-largest club in the country.”
As excited as Livesay is about what he called “going mano a mano” with the LA triathlon club, he said the club is focused on much more than bringing home a championship.
“A lot of what we do in the community is focused on introducing the sport and getting fit,” he said. “It’s not just about scoring and winning.
“This network of support is great for people that need help with training, or who need partners to train with. It’s not intimidating for people to come out.”
Although running, biking and swimming are primarily individual sports, Rollins said the club is intent on creating a team atmosphere.
“If you’re a middle-of-the-pack type, they really encourage you,” he said.
The club, with members from 15 to 72 years of age, hosts various training sessions every week. Surprisingly, a running group that meets twice a week at 5 a.m. is one of the most popular.
In a sport defined by the pain it inflicts on its participants, Rollins said he won’t let one measly toenail, or the lack thereof, prevent him from scoring that vital half-point. He sums up his, and the club’s rationale with one simple question.
“The things we do for love, right?”