It’s been so incredibly emotional reading the Facebook comments from my post as I watched the HFP Racing trucks and trailers leave the property for the final time. I wanted so badly to respond to all the comments, as so many brought back even more memories. I’ve always felt writing was my best was to express myself and as I went through historical photos the memories came flooding back…I knew I had to share my thoughts on how truly blessed Jennifer and I are to have these memories.
THE START; It was 1989 and I was a freshman at Ball State University sitting in the Exercise 101 class (my favorite class). Next to me sat a beautiful red head that seemed to be checking me out (my version of the story). I tore a section of paper out of my notebook and wrote the words “Hi, I’m Shannon. I’m the president of Health and Fitness Promotions” and passed it over to her. She quickly returned the note with her response “I’m Jennifer Butler, my friends call me JB. How can I get involved”. Little did either of us know at the time but that brief encounter would change our lives forever. I only made it one semester at Ball State as I had other plans and it all revolved around multisport racing and race promotion.
But before JB, the entire Kurek family was already doing whatever it took to get Health and Fitness Promotions (before it became HFP Racing) up and running and preparing for the first annual Mid-Ohio Heart Clinic Challenge in September of 1989. My Aunt Sandi was a massive supporter and as the Wellness Director at the local hospital was pivotal in keeping things moving along while I spent too much time training. Sandi orchestrated the securing of the title sponsor, Mid-Ohio Heart Clinic, and we were off to the races. To get geared up for triathlon we put together the Mid-Ohio Bicycle Series and my Marion, Ohio training buddies Brian Shind and Shawn Williams joined me as we were baptized by fire as first time race promoters. Also, helping was my brother and a great group of locals that included Mike Marcum, Art Hoffman and my amazing Grandpa, Carl Kurek, who served as the official lead truck for all the bike races that summer.
Jennifer and I would not of ever communicated again would it not of been for Jennifer’s “friend update letters” that I continued to receive over the next couple of years. Finally, we connected again in summer of 1991 as I drove through Cincinnati on my way to race in Louisville, KY. That was an awesome summer of traveling to races and getting to know “JB” as my new best friend.
THE PEOPLE; The early years were made possible by many, many amazing people that simple showed up and helped with whatever was needed. Curt Haywood was an early training buddy that I could always count on and I can remember sharing with Curt my vision after a hard track session at the Worthington High School track. “Curt, I just want to put on races that my friends can come to, so we can all have a great time together”. It was never about a building a business but always about the experience I wanted to be able to provide to the participants. In the early years, training buddies like Adam Moyer, Don Chandler, Scott Anderson, Dave McMahon, and Tom Knopp traveled to the early series venues and trained with me all day while Jennifer, my Mom, my Aunt and Jennifer’s Mom worked packet pickup. Then around 9:00pm the night before the race we’d all get together and start to set the race venue up.
THE EARLY YEARS; I look back at these photos and almost can’t believe how things came together. We were pioneers. There was not a template out there on how to produce triathlons so each race was part of our education at the School of Hard Knocks. We made many mistakes but no one was going to outwork us or put more passion into a race than our motley crew of multisport misfits.
THE MARRIAGE OF MY BEST FRIEND; Surrounded by the same group of family and friends that helped us at every race JB became Jennifer Kurek on April 17, 1993.
THE RACING; Of course it’s always been about the racing and thanks to some great “sponsorship” from our parents we got to travel the world in the early 90’s to race.
THE BIG BREAK; In 1994 with the help of Joe Moyer of Moyer Financial Group, Larry Denny of Saturn of Columbus, the Saturn Duathlon was born. The event would feature an international field of professionals and featured a spectator friendly, never before done, multi-lap format which became the standard for the modern day ITU World Cup events. The following month the race would be featured on the cover of Triathlete Magazine.
THE STAFF; Simply put, the staff for HFP Racing has always been the best…regardless of the season, our team seemed to always come together in a very unique way. Most of our past staff remain our dear friends today. In the early years, HFP Racing continued to be supported by our family and friends but as our schedule grew so was our need for staff members that could handle the grind of long weekends, tent camping and eventually squeezing into a camper. Over the years our staff have provided us with some truly amazing adventures producing events.
THE VOICE OF HFP; No other person changed HFP Racing more than Rich Fowler, the official voice of HFP Racing. His infectious personality and amazing attention to get to know the participants took us to another level. It all started when Jennifer put him to work one weekend when he was asking too many questions at packet pickup on an early race morning. Seriously, Rich was just a nervous newbie duathlete hanging around the registration tents asking way too many questions. Finally, Jennifer put a mic in his hand and told him to make some pre-race announcements… the rest as they say is history.
THE ONES WE LOST; It’s never easy to say goodbye to anyone but some of our multisport family left us much too early. They will never be forgotten.
THE KUREK KIDS; no one in the Kurek family sacrificed more for HFP Racing over the last 15 years than the Kurek kids. Henry, Maddy and Ezra missed many a birthday party, ball game and neighborhood overnights during race season and they always took it in stride. Packing up their bikes, scooters and miscellaneous toys and heading to another HFP Racing event was commonplace for our kids and rarely a compliant was heard.
THE SURVIVOR; Along with being an amazing mother, business partner and wife, Jennifer is a cancer survivor. Under going radiation treatments in the morning and driving down to the American Triple-T to work 80+ hours without a complaint in 2010. Jennifer never missed a single event in 2010 due to her cancer treatment. In 2021 Jennifer celebrated 11 years being cancer FREE!!! WHAT A WOMAN!
THE TEAM; It was always so important that HFP Racing had a strong team and each year dozens of athletes claimed their spots on the team. So many special memories come from Team HFP and the amazing athletes that make up this team to this day.
THE THINGS WE WILL MISS THE MOST; HFP Racing will never fade from our memories and the last 32 years were an amazing journey. Of course there will be some things that we will miss more than others…here are the top 5.
THE FUTURE…WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE KUREKS; Our kids can finally count on mom and dad not missing any more birthdays or ball games and our relatives will finally see us at a wedding between May and September. Ezra turned 15 this year and is pursuing his dream of playing in the MLB putting in workouts 7 days a week and traveling with his travel baseball team across the country. Maddy is a 3 sport athlete and a straight A student. She recently got her drivers license and can drive herself to those many year-round practices. Henry graduated from C-Tech in 2019 and is already part of the work force for nearly 2 years. He still loves sessions at the Newark Skate Park on his scooter and spending most of his paycheck on his Mazda Speed 3. Jennifer is enjoying being able to manage all the many obligations that the kids activities require and keeping up with my constant entrepreneurial spirit. I will expanding my responsibilities as operations director at M3S Sports and will be staying involved in the sport of triathlon as a participant. I can’t wait to see many of you at a race in the near future.
Thanks to everyone for blessing our lives…it was a heck of a run!
Jennifer, Maddy, Shannon, Ezra and Henry