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Waste No Time

24-year-old Wildwood native, James Grauel, Jr. Photo: Bryan Lathrop

James Grauel Jr. isn’t wasting any time. In the span of two years, this relative newcomer to endurance events has notched six triathlons—one Full, two Half, one Olympic, and two sprints (Triathlon distances). Grauel joined the Earn Your Break (EYB) crew in 2020 and completed his first endurance event—Legacy of Hope’s 24 hour stair climb, PHL24. His consistency and discipline since then have paved the way for the 24-year-old Wildwood, New Jersey native’s incredible trajectory. Next up for Grauel is the 2023 New Jersey State Triathlon, in which he’ll compete as a sponsored athlete for Legacy of Hope.

Grauel is all smiles as he nears completion of the 2020 PHL24. From right to left are Grauel, his father James Grauel Sr, his younger brother Jaxon, and EYB teammate Simba. Photo: Bryan Lathrop

Despite appearances, Grauel didn’t just wake up triathlon-ready one morning. His endurance fitness stems from a solid foundation that was laid, in part, by his father, James Grauel Sr.—a Captain with the City of Wildwood Fire Department (WFD), who also serves as WFD’s Health, Wellness, and Fitness Officer, has peer fitness certifications from ACE (American Council on Exercise) and IAFF (International Association of Firefighters), and is a level II crossfit trainer; he has also hosted a Memorial Day Murph Challenge for the past nine years.. It’s no wonder that crossfit and doing Murph figure prominently in Grauel’s exercise arsenal, making him well equipped to keep up with team EYB’s tendency toward the extreme. (See Does Not Compute for background on EYB and its founder, John Sullivan.)

With such a health and fitness oriented father, there was no chance of Grauel becoming a couch potato. He’d already been doing Murph every week before connecting with EYB—and is now into his fourth consecutive year of doing this challenging hero workout weekly.

Grauel is now into his fourth consecutive year of doing Murph every week. Photo: Bryan Lathrop

“Murph is basically all around strength. It works your legs. It works your shoulders; and it 100% works your core stability, because you're wearing the 20 pound vest the entire time. When people are like, ‘you look so strong during your runs, why?’ I honestly think it's because of Murph. I do Murph because he can’t.” Unlike most 24-year-olds, Grauel takes little for granted. “It’s a blessing to wake up everyday. I thank God that I get to do stuff like this. In today’s world, too many people take exercise and fitness for granted. Once they have to or are incapable physically, exercise becomes a chore.” In that sense, Grauel is staying ahead of the health game; and knows he’s onto something good.

Not surprisingly, Grauel connected with EYB through his father, who had seen an article about John Sullivan (Sully). He reached out; and Sully came down and did a Murph with them on the boardwalk. Not long after, Sully told Grauel about the PHL24 and Legacy of Hope, making his pitch “I think you’d benefit a lot by participating; Earn Your Break would benefit, as well as Legacy of Hope.” They’ve been teammates ever since.

Pausing for a quick photo with team EYB during the 2020 PHL24. Photo: Bryan Lathrop

Grauel’s journey toward becoming a triathlete started when he was in college, where he did CrossFit as an alternative to team sports. CrossFit’s varied workout lengths and intensities helped Grauel realize that endurance was where he excelled. “My muscles always responded better to endurance training.” Grauel had been using running “as cardio to burn some extra calories. Eventually I was going out for longer [and faster] distances than people would expect for a stockier guy. In May of 2021 my friend, Nick Holland, saw that that I'd gotten a new bike and convinced me to go for a ride with his crew. Our rides got longer, and longer, to the point where he convinced me that I should just register for the Iron Man half (September 2021).We kept each other accountable during training for that event."

Grauel only started [distance] swimming in March of 2021. “I never swam more than 50 yards; and started in March of 2021 because a girl at the CrossFit gym was like, ‘Getting in the pool is a great extra way of doing some cross-training after a CrossFit workout.’”

Grauel’s off-season training regimen includes two swimming sessions, two biking sessions, two runs, and two strength sessions, one of which is Murph. In peak season, Grauel swims three times a week, and does three to five bike rides, weekly. His focus is time-based training, rather than distance. “Last year I was averaging about 14 to 15 hours a week at peak training; this year I’m aiming for 16 to 20. I'm trying to improve a lot this year.”

Grauel in the zone. Photo: Bryan Lathrop

Grauel has some solid advice for folks looking to compete in their first triathlon. His first suggestion: “find a local triathlon training club!” Early in his training Grauel joined