Lou Mucardo will celebrate his 60th birthday Saturday, but before he blows out the candles on his birthday cake, he’ll have swam a mile in Barnegat Bay, biked 26 miles and ran six more.
Mucardo, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team, will use the barrier island to play host for his journey to the record books. He plans on completing 51 triathlons in 51 days, starting off each day from the Channel Marker Cafe at Ocean Beach Marina, which he took over this year as manager.
“I always loved triathlons,” Mucardo told Shorebeat, over a freshly-cooked crab cake sandwich lunch at his restaurant. “I’ve always been involved in athletics, and I transitioned into the [triathlon] sport at the age of 57.”
Mucardo’s mission is more than breaking the record – currently held by James Lawrence, known publicly as “The Iron Cowboy” – of 50 triathlons in 50 days. He has garnered numerous local businesses and residents as sponsors and will use the 51-day event as an opportunity to promote youth health awareness and raise funds for sick and underprivileged children.
Mucardo, a Point Pleasant resident, is a local entrepreneur who has owned restaurants and other businesses, but has also championed athletics as a way of life and a way to stay healthy.
“I’ve been around world class athletes for most of my life, and I always loved triathlons,” he said. “It was always fascinating how a person’s body endurance and mind have to work so close together.”
A year into becoming a triathlete, Mucardo began to become interested in how to use the sport to raise both awareness and money for causes close to his heart. It was a two year-long process to certify his plan with the Guinness Book of World Records, all while training and building up endurance for the event.
“I thought, ‘if I’m going to go through this rigorous event, let me try to raise money for children,'” he said.
With the help of longtime friend Louis Mercantanti, owner of Ocean Beach Marina, the record-breaking effort was named Tri4Kids. The goal was to partner with numerous charities, and use the triathlons as a basis to reach out to their own donors to raise money for each organization. The organizations that will benefit include The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, The Community YMCA and Breathe: The Morgan Lucas Schuldt Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis. Mucardo also plans on adding a charity that focuses on children’s cancer to the list.
The dual goal is promote fitness awareness to kids.
“I tell everybody the same thing: I’m looking for the kid who’s not the football quarterback or star player, but the kid who didn’t make the team,” said Mucardo. “I want to work with them, and I get so excited to work with them and show them ways to exercise that’s fun. When you’re not naturally good at something, you back away from it, but you can’t back away from exercise.”
Mucardo has already started working with the Boy Scouts to promote physical fitness and after he breaks the triathlon record, hopes to publish a book on his physical fitness methods that, likewise, will have its proceeds donated to charity.
The triathlon itself will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ocean Beach Marina, where Mucardo will jump off the dock and swim a half-mile out and half-mile back in Barnegat Bay. He’ll then hop on a bike, riding a 26-mile course up and down the island, followed by his run. Everything will be recorded using GPS devices and GoPro cameras so it can be verified by Guinness, and a witness will follow him each day. The triathlon itself will take two and-a-half to three hours each, all while Mucardo manages the restaurant all season.
“I’ve done 60 [triathlons] over a longer period of time,” he said, “but this time it’ll be all at once.”
The Community YMCA will provide facilities in case weather keeps Mucardo out of the bay for his swim.
Along the way, Mucardo has invited kids from numerous organizations, such as Scouting, to bike or run a portion of the course with him each day.
Years of training, time and earning sponsorships will all lead to Saturday’s starting event at 9 a.m. at the Channel Marker Cafe following a light breakfast. But for Mucardo, the physical triathlon itself has become secondary to the larger mission of raising funds for charities and spurring youngsters to become involved with fitness and exercise.
“There’s a big picture here, and that’s what is most important,” Mucardo said. “It’s about having the kids reap from my success.”
If You Go
Channel Marker Cafe at Ocean Beach Marina
3245 Route 35 South, Ocean Beach (Toms River), NJ
Time: 9 a.m.