Athlete Stories

Fireman Rob: Tackles the MiTi on His Way to Breaking a World Record

By August 13, 2015No Comments

With a lot of hard work and some serious dedication, Rob “Fireman Rob” Verhelst is on his way to making the 2015 ISI MI Titanium part of his Guinness World Record-breaking journey. Fireman Rob’s goal is to break the record for the most Half Iron Distance triathlons completed in one year. The only difference is, Rob is doing all his events in full fire gear. The journey began back on January 10 of this year, when Fireman Rob did his first event at HITS Naples (Florida). Since then he has traveled all over North America and Germany competing in multiple Half Iron Distance triathlons in the hopes of breaking the current world record of 22 triathlons.

Fireman Rob has a long history of doing some pretty incredible things in his 37 years of life. He has been an active duty firefighter in Madison, Wisconsin for the past 15 years. Prior to that he received his master’s degree in emergency management and is a veteran of United States Air Force. After 9/11, Fireman Rob worked for eight days in search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. He has the drive to make the world a better place through his duty and service to others. “We all have the power to change lives and make a difference. It takes a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and be active in the changes you want to see.” This is his philosophy.

He takes stepping outside of your comfort zone to a whole other level, though. Your average person would find swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, then running a half-marathon all back to back to back to be a very uncomfortable proposition. But Fireman Rob competes with the addition of an 8-pound helmet, 10 pounds worth of bunker gear (jacket and pants), and a 30-pound air tank that he wears during the run.

In an attempt to beat the record by completing 23 Half Iron triathlons in the full 50 pounds of firefighter gear, Fireman Rob has scheduled 26 races between January and mid-November of this year. The ISI MI Titanium is scheduled to be his 20th event, leaving him just three more races shy of clinching the Guinness World Record.

As a full-time firefighter, husband, and father, there are a lot of challenges that go along with competing in these events aside from just, well, competing in these events. In looking for events, Fireman Rob needed to keep in mind the logistics of traveling from Madison, WI for the weekend to get to all of his events. Thanks to the MiTi’s proximity to his hometown, the cost, and comments and reviews from prior participants, his team says that it just made sense for Rob to add the MiTi to his list of events. The MI Titanium is honored to have been chosen.

When asked what the biggest challenge is, his support team tells us, “Logistics and time away from family. This isn’t something he is doing as a stand-alone event for the year. He is still a full-time firefighter for the city of Madison with a full list of honey-do items at home and three kids who need chauffeuring to and from their events.” So why is Fireman Rob doing all of this? Through his efforts in races over the years, has not only been able to raise more than $50,000 for numerous charities, but he says, “I participate in each event to help raise awareness and show people that they are ABLE to do more than they think if they are willing to take the first step.” ABLE is the principle he lives by and speaks to as a motivational speaker. It means Action Based Living Engaged. It’s all about how passion impacts purpose, which in turn creates the best you!

We hope you’ll get a chance to see Fireman Rob on the course at the 2015 ISI MI Titanium and that his journey of 70.3 miles and his world record–breaking attempt will help inspire you to see how ABLE you are.