Number 250 emerged from the water first. The crowd cheered as he stormed up the beach, then jumped onto his bike and pedaled off behind a police escort. The spectators then turned their attention back to the water’s edge to await the next triathlete. They waited and waited. Finally after nearly two minutes—an eternity in swim time—the next competitor hustled up Jetties Beach in hopes of catching the front runner that had just dominated the first leg of the Nantucket “Hero” Triathlon. He would try, along with many others, but in the end, no one could beat the leader Beau Garufi.
At twenty-two years old and standing at a sturdy 6’1”, Nantucket native Beau Garufi has the look of an athlete who was born with bulging biceps and a six-pack—and now he has the résumé to match. In Nantucket’s first Olympic-distance triathlon, Garufi not only bested a handful of top ranked triathletes, he even beat out the lead relay team. In other words, he swam and ran and cycled faster than a three-man team, where each member of that team only had one event to complete. So after swimming .75 miles and then cycling twenty-eight, Garufi still ran faster than someone running on a fresh pair of legs. This feat becomes even more baffling when you consider that Beau Garufi had never competed in a triathlon before.
What he had competed in was swimming. His record times still line the walls around Nantucket High School’s swimming pool like permanent fixtures. While he entered the water at an early age, it wasn’t until he was seventeen that he started honing his stroke. He put down his baseball glove and hung up his soccer cleats to focus entirely on swimming. “I knew that I couldn’t do all three sports at the level I wanted to, so I picked swimming, dropped everything else and then started training by myself all year round,” he says. “I’d go to Whalers practice, and afterwards I would stay until the pool closed…I knew what it took to be one of the better swimmers, but I had to do it by myself.”
All the extra laps paid off when he earned a spot on the UMass Amherst swim team, a D1 program of which he eventually became, appropriately enough, tri-captain. Last season, Garufi missed nationals in the hundred-meter breaststroke by .14 seconds, a minuscule margin that clearly scathes him to this day. After his victory this past July, recruiters for the US Triathlon team reached out to him, and he was invited to compete in the Age Group National Championship in Milwaukee. Out of 2,650 racers, Garufi came in 57th overall, and 19th in his age group. The performance qualified him for the 2014 International Triathlon Union’s World Championships in Edmonton Canada, where plans to compete as a member of team USA.
“Even for an individual with an extremely athletic pedigree like Beau’s, a first time win in an Olympic distance triathlon is a phenomenal achievement,” says Nantucket Triathlon founder Jamie Ranney. “I’d say that Beau has a very bright future in triathlon should he choose to pursue it. Whether he can rise into the ranks of the paid professionals that compete in long course races…remains to be seen.”
Beyond raw talent, Garufi seems to possess the soft-spoken demeanor that is exceedingly rare amongst today’s athletes. He strikes me in the same way that reporters used to describe NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders: humble to the point of shy. “I guess I just love competing,” he says of his motivation. “I don’t have to be here [in this interview] right now. No one has to know about me. No one knows me when I’m out running or biking by myself. I just want to do it.” But Beau definitely knows Beau, and he is keenly aware of his abilities and where they could take him. “As far as I’m concerned you put the limitations on yourself,” he says, “so I try not to think too much about where I will end up. I just want to take it as far as I can.” In the meantime, Nantucket will just have to wait and see how far and how fast Beau will go.