Early Sunday morning, before the sun rises and before mos of us even think of rising from bed, the Levickas family will begin preparing for its once-a-year test of physical and mental determination.
Since 1987, the Baltimore leg of the Bud Light Triathlon competition has been an annual event for Sue and Tom Levickas and their son Steve, who will again participate in the triple-threat consisting of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 25-mile bike trek and a final 10-K run, which will conclude downtown at Rash Field sometime around 9:25 a.m.
But the Levickas clan from Catonsville begins its day around 5 a.m.
"Usually it starts with a cup of coffee," said Sue, 43, who admits that swimming is her favorite portion. "We have to go downtown to drop off our running gear and then we head out to Gunpowder [Falls State Park], where the swimming starts. That's the best part because I usually get off to a good start."
Husband Tom, 48, waits for the end to show his strong point -- the run -- but says it doesn't bother him that he's usually quite tired by the time he gets there.
"I'm a runner so it doesn't help my time, but I like it this way because I'm used to it now," he said.
Both admit that their son Steve, 25, when properly trained, "could run circles around us." But Steve, who got the family interested in the sport, has been busy with his job and preparing for his CPA accreditation. So busy, in fact, that the folks are worried about his finish time.
"He'll finish -- we'll all finish -- but his time would be really good if he could have spent some more time training," Tom said.
Tom and Sue run at almost the same pace, both expecting to finish the race in about two hours and 40 minutes. They said they expect Steve to be in 10 minutes earlier.
In addition to competitors like the Levickases, who hold normal day jobs -- Sue is an account representative at a local company and Tom is a dentist -- there are many other professionals who will be in Baltimore to participate for the grand prize of $5,000.
In the men's competition, favorites include Harold Robinson, Louis Murphy and Jimmy Riccitello, while the women are led by Jan Ripple, Laurie Samelson and Joy Hansen, who won the series' Grand Prix last year.
The top stars of the sport are fun to watch for amateurs and onlookers alike, but the Levickases are just content to participate once a year and leave the tough part of 40 hours-per-week training and constant traveling to the pros.
"We practice anywhere from 15 to 20 hours per week, switching events every day," Sue said. "We don't even get on a bike until May, so that's usually our weakest link. But it gives us something to look forward to, a goal."
"A couple weeks before the race the training starts to become pretty intense," Tom said. "But we don't put any pressure on ourselves on race day. It's all in good fun."