I have been a triathlete since 1986 and accomplished many things in the sport, but finally achieved a goal that I feared was impossible – I have learned who the Zippy Pig is. Please join me as we get to know Joe Esposito aka the Zippy Pig.
CZ: How did the Zippy Pig thing come about?
ZP: I received a small pig with a maniacal laugh as a gift, and promptly attached it to my handlebars as a mascot. I enjoyed pressing the laugh button as I passed other cyclists, and making people laugh (to be truthful, I was rubbing it in that I was passing them). Then, on a hundred-mile ride through the county, Mr. Ironman, Dan Powell, told an eight hour story about a farmer and a pig. (Actually, he just kept reiterating that same story different ways over the eight hour period.) I think that would explain the pig part. As every one that has ever gone on a ride with me would tell you, I have a severe affliction that counseling, meditation, psychoanalysis, and even a 12 step plan has not yet corrected. Some of your readers may be familiar with it (Competitive O.C.D.). And more specifically, I cannot seem to let anyone pass me with out trying to chase them down, so as I have gained speed, I also gained the name “Zippy Pig.”
CZ: What was your sports background prior to triathlon?
ZP: My God, I have tried everything prior to triathlons: ice climbing, rock climbing, polo (with horses, not water), ice hockey, speed skating, roller skating, roller hockey, football, baseball, softball, soccer, sailing, scuba diving, cycling, and marathoning. I have always enjoyed running, biking, and swimming as separate events – triathlon just became a natural evolution.
CZ: What was your first triathlon like?
ZP: My first triathlon experience was in July of 1987 in New York City (the entire race consisted of about 30 people, considered by many to be extremely mentally deranged at that time for combining multiple sports). I was intrigued by the challenge of the thought of a triathlon. I had no idea that you had to train for those kinds of distances, so I just went out and did it (which is sort of what I always do with sports.) It was absolutely the most disgusting race I have ever done – the swim took place in the Hudson River among plastic bags, diesel fuel, and the occasional dead fish. You had two choices on the swim start (which was located on an old boat pier at Ellis Island): you could either jump off the pier, or you had to climb down a rickety wooden ladder into the water and hang onto a piling. After an approximately two-mile swim, you had to climb back up the rickety ladder, one at a time (and wait in line). At that point, there were no mats or timing chips, so before you mounted your bike, you were stopped so the volunteer could write your time on your wrist. There were no closed courses at this point, so they waited for everyone to come out of the transition, and started the entire group on the bike portion at the same time. There were no aid stations, and the bike was a 100 miler, so you had to bring whatever you needed to drink or eat (Nutritional aids like gels were non-existent, so endurance was achieved through sheer will). The run was short (10k), and there was one aid station which consisted of water only. Mrs. T’s Perogies was the primary sponsor, and we were treated to coupons and perogies at the end of the race. My results? I finished, and lived to tell the tale.
CZ: Congrats on a tremendous time of 10:47:18 at Ironman Florida last November. I understand that was your first Ironman race. What were some of the highlights of that race?
ZP: I would have to say the entire experience was a highlight. First and foremost, the training was the most amazing experience I have ever had: the people I trained with were so incredible! Their dedication, hard work, positive attitudes, and continual support allowed and encouraged me to always give an extra 50%!
There is no way to go to an Ironman race with a negative attitude and expect to have positive results, and the support I received from the TCSD group was overwhelming. On the morning of my race, I woke up at about 2am drenched in a puddle of sweat, and I felt as if I had come down with the flu. All I could think about was 8 months of effort going to hell at that point, when my phone rang. It was Rick Laird. He asked how I was doing, and I let him know how I felt. He convinced me to get in the shower, get out to the race, and go through the motions, no matter what. It was a surreal feeling standing at the starting line in my wetsuit, with sweat pouring off my face, and the worst case of chills I can ever remember. Other athletes were stepping away from me, surely because I looked like death warmed over, but when the gun went off, all I could think of was do “my” race, and give it the best effort I could. By the time I hit mile 60 on the bike, I was feeling ok! I think feeling sick at the beginning of the race actually helped, because it forced me to start slowly, vs. going out too hard. By the run, I felt unbelievably good! By the finish I knew I had done well, but was really pleasantly surprised with my time.
CZ: Do you plan to do any future Ironman distance races?
ZP: Now that I have officially contracted Tri-OCD, I plan on doing many more races this year: Ralph’s, Auburn, Coeur d'Alene , various club races, and the Vineman relay.
CZ: What are the “must do’s” for a person to prepare for an Ironman?
ZP: In order to properly prepare for an Ironman, an entire book could be inserted here, but, the most important thing is to have fun. Don’t get so serious that you lose sight of that primary goal. Then, hook up with good training partners, learn proper nutrition, put a lot of time in on your bike, maintain perspective on training schedules (avoid doing a 50 mile bike ride directly after a half-marathon), and have more fun!
CZ: How would you suggest a new Tri Club member get started with the club?
ZP: I would suggest a new Tri Club member attend the scheduled workouts, starting with the Saturday morning ride, and a weekday run, then develop a training circle of friends to maintain motivation. All Tri Club members were newbies once, and they are all more than happy to help with suggestions, swim along, ride along, or run along to make others comfortable. That is the beauty of the club – the support is overwhelmingly helpful! I started with the Dead Man’s Camp to get my training in gear quickly, and had a great time!
CZ What would be your “dream job” in the sport of triathlon?
ZP: My dream job in the sport of triathlon would be race director – I would like to organize the coolest, back to grass roots triathlon there is – without wetsuits, technical gadgets, and commercial interference (sort of a “Survivor Triathlon”). Of course, I realize that there would be only a few die-hard participants.
CZ: Do you think the piglets will treat you any differently now that you are a celebrity?
ZP: Everyone loves to hang around a celebrity, so the piglets will gain their own notoriety as a result. The truth is, I would have never done as well as I did in Florida if I did not have the unwavering support from each and every one of the piglets – I am sincerely grateful to all of them, especially Rick Laird!
Craig, every one needs a piglet partner to workout with. So seek them out, they are the best friends a pig or a non-pig could have.
CZ: What do you plan for your triathlon goals for 2005 and beyond?
ZP: My primary triathlon goal for 2005 is to qualify as an age-grouper for Kona. Beyond that, I intend to keep at it until it’s no longer fun or I would be better with my ham hock at a BBQ.
CZ: Zippy, thanks for slowing down long enough to share your story. I think it will be a long time before you are ready for the spit.