Every December, Bob and Trish Evans sit down to evaluate their goals and look ahead to the upcoming year. The husband-and-wife duo from northern Wisconsin, who have become synonymous with the act of juggling while jogging (known as "joggling"), have a lot to review. Both Bob and Trish have held Guinness world-record times for running 5K races while joggling, and they’ve won races in 12 states in the past year.
But that wasn’t enough for Bob and Trish, who are part brilliant innovators and part phenomenal athletes. When Bob and Trish sat down to complete their customary year-in-review session in December 2011, they wanted a new challenge. And so the duo cooked up an idea that most people would call crazy, if not impossible.
They wanted to juggle their way through an entire triathlon. That’s right, a triathlon.
In truth, an acquaintance in Florida, Joe Salter, was also training for a juggling triathlon, and he showed Bob and Trish how to "swuggle," or juggle while swimming. As you might imagine, swuggling is extremely difficult, as it requires the athlete to lie on her back in the water, kick her feet and toss the balls in front of her head. Bob and Trish started doing two days of pool training a week in September. At first, they couldn’t get ten feet in the pool without dropping a ball.
But like with most other challenges the duo takes on, Bob and Trish slowly conquered swuggling. Despite their intense travel schedule—they put more than 37,000 miles on their car between August 2011 and September 2012 -- Bob and Trish slowly but surely learned to swoggle in pools across the country. Once they hit four lengths in the pool without dropping a ball in early July, they knew they had the swuggling down pat. That gave them about a month to work on transitions before putting everything together in the 2012 Panther Pride Triathalon in Iowa Falls, Iowa.
"With the swuggling, it’s a lot of drowning and then suddenly it kind of clicks," Trish says.
Bob played basketball through college at Michigan Tech while Trish was an accomplished skier and runner, so it’s not like they’re starting from scratch when they train for a triathlon. But even for them, the task of juggling while swimming, running and biking is a tremendous challenge and an incredible accomplishment. They knew their feat would attract a lot of attention, so they decided to use the publicity for a good cause. As special education teachers, both Bob and Trish have developed strong relationships with special needs children, so they decided that the Special Olympics would be a fitting charity.
Before the Panther Pride Triathalon, the race director introduced Bob and Trish and explained to the competitors that they weren’t showing off or looking to embarrass anyone, but that they were doing it for the challenge.
"The reactions were great," Bob says. "A lot of people were cheering out on the course and all the fellow competitions were really welcoming to us."
Bob and Trish started in the pool, and the swoggling portion took them about 10 minutes. After finishing the swimming leg they quickly dried off and hopped on their unicycles for what was the hardest part of the race.
Riding a unicycle for 15 feet would be a challenge for most people, much less 15 miles. Add in the fact that Bob and Trish were juggling on their unicycles for that distance and it becomes almost laughable that they could pull it off. Unicycles have no brakes, so they are much more difficult to steer. Furthermore, going uphill on a bike that big (36-inch wheels) is much, much more difficult.
But Bob and Trish had been doing long unicycle rides every Thursday in preparation for the race, and they were ready. The Evanses rode on the the side of the road, so as not to disturb the other bicyclists. They did have a few drops during the unicycle portion, but that didn’t stop them. Whenever a ball hit the ground, they would pick it up and start where they left off.
Bob and Trish were treated as "special guests" by the race organizers, and thus their times were unofficial, but Bob says he finished in about 1:48:00 while Trish was around 2:12:00. As far as the Evanses know, Trish was the first female to complete a juggling triathlon, and they were certainly the first couple to do so.
Indeed, they might not have been able to complete the triathlon if they didn’t have each other.
"It's awesome," says Trish of training with Bob. "It's like we've been able to develop our skills a lot faster than if we were doing it with a friend or another juggler we met. We’re married and we have common interests and we like to do things together and we have time together."
After 33 races in 22 different states over the past year, Bob and Trish have decided to take some time away from racing and are on to their next challenge: teaching in South Korea. For Bob and Trish, a year away will be a good opportunity to take some time off and refresh the show that they’ve been performing across the country.
The Evanses plan to spend one year in South Korea, but don’t worry, you’ll be hearing about them soon enough.
"Once we come back we might be ready to get back into some competition," Bob says, "Or look to go after some world records."
To donate to Bob and Trish Evans' Special Olympics fund, click here.