ITU Chicago Triathlon

Pre race with San Diego friends from left to right: DeeAnn Smith, Deborah and Brian Jones

Pre race with San Diego friends from left to right: DeeAnn Smith, Deborah and Brian Jones

Post race at Buckingham Fountain: 4th place out of 114 men age 50-54

Post race at Buckingham Fountain: 4th place out of 114 men age 50-54

Family reunion in Lake Geneva, WI

Family reunion in Lake Geneva, WI

On June 29th I raced the ITU Chicago Triathlon. For me this was a return to my roots as I grew up 25 miles west of the city in Glen Ellyn. It was also a chance to preview the 2015 ITU World Championship race course.

The night before the race Chicago got slammed with heavy winds and a deluge of rain. On race morning as I walked from my hotel to the transition area in Grant Park it was still sprinkling, but God shined His light on us as we had dry roads and sunny skies for the actual race. The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in Lake Michigan in Monroe Harbor. The water was mostly calm and the water temperature was 68 degrees – perfect! Words can’t express how awesome it is to race in beautiful, clean water and every time you take a breath see 100+ story buildings on the horizon. I had a very solid swim as I came out of the water in 7th place with a split of 24:42. My time was 1:47 behind the first place guy. I think the swim was a tad longer than advertised, but I loved every second in the water.

The bike was supposed to be 40K (24.8 miles), but it was actually 23 miles. The pancake flat bike course was 4 laps of just over 9K each. We always had at least 2 lanes so it was very wide. Despite having to do so many laps, drafting was not much of a problem. I think that’s because they did a good job with timing the wave starts to begin the race. My only complaint for the entire race was that over half the bike course was on Lower Wacker Drive which is underground. Chicago is a gorgeous city and this race attracted athletes from around the world. It was a shame that the organizers failed to produce a more attractive bike course. Hopefully they will correct this when Chicago hosts Worlds next year. At any rate, I biked very well for me. My split was 1:01:29, which was 8:09 behind the fastest bike split on the day. I had the 39th best bike split in my age group and after all the jockeying I was still in 7th place after the bike. You could argue that a lot of the guys that out biked me were never going to be a factor in the race, but I sure wish I could bike better.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run was 3.5 pancake flat laps. The multi-lap format for both the bike and run courses was a lot of fun and very spectator friendly. To highlight the run, we circled around Buckingham Fountain at the end of each run lap. My wife Laurie was spectating and cheering for me. She is very knowledgeable and she always feeds me great information during these races. She fired me up to have the fastest run split on the day – 36:54. The next fastest was 1:18 slower so I really did crush the run course moving me up to finish 4th out of 114 men in the 50-54 age group and 81st out of 1,719 overall finishers. My time was 2:09:31. I only missed the podium by 22 seconds and was 5:40 from 1st place. My strength is not flat courses so I was very pleased as this was a good result for me.

To see some of my race pictures, click on this link:

http://www.marathon-photos.com/scripts/event.py?event=Sports/CPUK/2014/ITU%20World%20Series%20-%20Chicago&match=815&name=Craig

There were a lot of fringe benefits to this trip. Immediately after the race Laurie and I headed up to Lake Geneva, WI for 4 days of family reunion time. This has become an annual reunion and usually we have about 18 adults including my Mom, my 2 sisters and their families which include a handful of kids. This year we also invited cousins to add about 16 more adults and a couple kids to the mix. People came from as far away as Texas, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and California. It was awesome to see so many beloved people again! Another major highlight of the trip was 2 separate dinners at Giordano’s Pizza with my Chicago area buddies, Paul Winans and Chuck Carey.

Living the life…

Posted in 2014, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Boston Strong – June 2014

Showing off their new Boston scarves: Les Shibata, Dean Sprague, Daniel Powell, Lianne Chu, Tracy Cohen-Peranteau

Showing off their new Boston scarves: Les Shibata, Dean Sprague, Daniel Powell, Lianne Chu, Tracy Cohen-Peranteau

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

This month will be a unique TCSD Conversation as I posed 3 different questions to our members who ran the 2014 Boston Marathon. I have conducted well over 100 of these interviews since 2002 and this is one of my favorites. I hope you will enjoy their answers.

Question #1: If you were in Boston for the 2013 race, what was your experience?

Laurie Kearney: We were on our way to meet my parents at California Pizza Kitchen when we noticed an unusual number of ambulances screaming by. When we got to the Prudential Center, there was a cop in SWAT gear preventing anyone from entering the building. We ducked into the first open door, which happened to be 5 Napkin Burger, where we learned of the bombings. We were able to meet up with my parents, and had lunch, while our cell phones were exploding with texts from friends & family asking if we were ok.

Steve Tally: Although I had finished about an hour before the bombs went off, we were heading back over to just south of the finish line to watch people finish. We were close enough to the second bomb to be pretty shook up in 2013. Got to see the smoke, panic, and uncertainty. Then while in lockdown in the general area for the next few hours got to see a lot of the emotional aftermath.

Kim Weibel: Boston 2013 was my first Boston. After falling short twice, my third try was the charm and I was thrilled to have finally qualified.

A little too eager, over training resulted in a serious injury just two months before race day. Fortunately, the injury that kept me at a slower pace also kept me safely behind the finish line when tragedy struck that afternoon. It was almost surreal to be stopped so close to the Boylston Street finish line, but what impressed me most were the many spectators and fellow runners who offered their support while we stood waiting to find out what had happened. One person offered his phone so that I could call my family to tell them I was safe. People brought pitchers of water from their homes along streets where we were stopped, while others offered trash liners, and even jackets for warmth.

Despite the tragedy, the Boston I experienced that day was kind, courageous and strong. My friends and I flew home saddened by the horrors of terrorism, but grateful for the good, the heart, and the courage we saw in the people of Boston.

Craig Zelent: The bombs went off at 2:50pm local time. We were in our hotel room 500 meters from the finish line at the time and had no idea anything had happened. We started our walk to meet up with Laurie’s parents at 3:15pm. For 15 minutes we were really confused by all the sirens and ambulances outside. Finally at 3:30pm we ducked inside a restaurant and saw the “Breaking News – Boston Marathon Bombing” on the television ticker. I’ll never forget that moment.

Question #2: Why did you enter the 2014 Boston Marathon?

Bob Babbitt: I didn’t run the 2013 Boston Marathon, but it was important to me to break out the Elvis outfit and be at the starting line for the 2014 edition. Folks in the Tri Club might not realize it, but Dave McGillivray, the long time Boston Marathon Race Director, did the third ever Ironman Triathlon back in 1980 when there were only 108 of us on the starting line at Ala Moana Beach in Oahu. Besides being an amazing athlete who was shooting for his 42nd consecutive finish at Boston, he had the weight of the world on him as he and his team set out to put on what some in the media called ‘The most Important Marathon in history,’ since it was coming on the heels of the 2013 event.

Tracy Cohen-Peranteau: When Deb Hoffman contacted Lianne Chu and me, about joining her to run the Boston Marathon in 2014, I knew that was exactly what I needed to do, to share in Boston’s healing, after the bombings. We needed to stand strong, to give Boston back to the runners, to be united as a running community. Deb created, “I Run For You” shirts for us to wear. My non-runner friends share “Girls’ Weekends” in Vegas, in Palm Springs, at the spa. My girlfriends go to Boston and run a marathon.

Kye Gilder – After turning 40, 2014 Boston Marathon was on my bucket list. I told myself that 2 marathons (quality for Boston and then Boston) and I’d never run a marathon again. The marathon that I qualified at in 2013 was just 4 weeks after the bombing. I had been registered for this qualifier for 6 months, prior to the 2013 Boston Marathon tragedy. The incentive and motivation to run a solid qualifying time was significantly increased knowing how special and memorable the 2014 marathon would be.

Brannen Henn – After the bombing in 2013 I decided I needed to go back. I love to run and I needed to go back to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, to those who were injured and to those who were affected by the events. I entered because I wanted to show that people cannot take away the experience The Boston Marathon gives us. I wanted to show how strong the running community is and with tragic events we just get stronger.

Laurie Kearney: That’s a no brainer. It is one of my main life goals to run Boston & RnR San Diego every year for the rest of my life. A little bombing isn’t going to deter me! I was impressed with how many friends suddenly wanted to run to show support for the race & the city.

Bessy Leszczynski – I wanted to achieve a challenging physical goal before I turned 30. When my husband qualified for the Boston Marathon 2014 in early 2013, he asked me if I would try to qualify for the same year and we could run it together. That motivated me to train/run my first marathon in 6/2013 and qualified with 6 minutes to spare on a very tough course of Rock n Roll San Diego (new course). We got to share the experience together, and that was incredible.

Roger Leszczynski – The difficulty to get in, but the bonus that me and Bessy have an opportunity to visit family and friends. By chance them cheering in the crowd they participated with us.

Bruce Meister – I never had a desire to run Boston, nor do I think I ever could qualify, maybe the two are linked. Up until 2011 I had run 5 marathons with my best time 3:54 and my avg finish time 4:35 so I really had little chance to qualify. In 2011 I tried to qualify and missed by 5+ minutes the first time and 15+ minutes the second time. I felt Boston was out of my reach, but with Ironman training I was getting faster and learning how to train. I was becoming more engaged in the running community. After the bombing I was glued to the TV and Facebook as I had more than a dozen friends who were there. Most had finished well before the bombs went off, a couple had been re-routed, but all were OK. After that bombing something clicked, it was still a distant event, but it was somewhat more personal. If this could happen at Boston it could happen at New York, Chicago or any public event. At that point I decided to train and try for Boston. I was working with Mike Plumb training for IM Lake Placid and asked if we could fit in a marathon to qualify for Boston. We targeted three races; Mtn2Beach, Newport Marathon, and Vancouver Marathon. In 5 weeks we ramped up the mileage and luckily on the first try at Mtn2Beach I qualified with room to spare.

Laura Sasaki – It was important to me to honor the racers and spectators that were at the race in 2013. There were countless heroes that helped the spectators that suffered horrific injuries. I had the opportunity to see a few of the injured spectators at the CAF Triathlon in October. They, along with the others that were injured, are also heroes for the steps they have taken and continue to take to recover, both physically and mentally.

I also felt it was important to honor the sport of running. The racing field and crowds were overwhelming! The event truly showed the running community and the world that nothing can or will change our love for the sport!

Les Shibata – After what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon I knew I wanted to go back in 2014 and support the residents in Boston get back to their new normal and run the Marathon as one.

Mike Stange – The easy answer to why I decided to race is because I had earned a qualifier. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and the race is an opportunity for me to visit family and run in my favorite road race. The reason I had earned a qualifier was because of how I felt after the attack on the finish line last year. I felt that I needed to be there.

Within a week I had targeted a qualifying race (Foot Traffic Flat in Portland, OR) and started building mileage – first to 60 miles-per-week for Foot Traffic, then 85+ for California International in December. I ran every day for the better part of 18 weeks (needless to say my swimming and biking were a little neglected).

After showing up unfit and flaming out in the inferno of 2012, walking most of the way from Wellesley to the Back Bay, I wasn’t about to let that happen again this year. I was going to do whatever I could to prepare myself to honor the victims and the City and run Boston Strong this year. I raced local half marathons and 15K’s. I practiced Bikram yoga. I started a 30-day core challenge in March. I tapered. On the morning of April 21st, I showed up at the starting line in Hopkinton, ready to race.

Steve Tally: Kris and I had already decided by the time we got on the plane to go home that we needed to go next year just to experience what we knew was going to be a huge symbolic event. It would also serve as some nice closure for us, but mostly we wanted to be a part of what we knew was going to be a momentous occasion.

Kim Weibel: Several months after the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the BAA ( Boston Athletic Administration) announced that runners not allowed to cross the finish line in 2013 were invited back to race in 2014. Having been stopped just before crossing the finish line in 2013, I was thrilled to be able to go back to race again. And what a year it would be!

Craig Zelent: I was injured and missed participating in the 2013 race. I had done the race 11 times and sort of felt like that might be enough. But the night of the bombing I decided I had to go back for 2014. If the Boston Marathon had grown to be old hat for me prior to 2013, it is not anymore. The bombings have rejuvenated my resolve to do the race for many years to come. 2013 reminded me never to take these things for granted.

Question #3: What were some of your lasting memories from the 2014 race?

Kosuke Amano: It’s hard to even begin to choose. Describing this experience is like having to describe a color in words. I don’t think it can be done. It’s been close to a month and I still catch myself looking back and thinking, “did that really happen?” What I can say is that it is something I will close my eyes and look back on 50-60 years from now and be taken back by the atmosphere, the energy, passion and emotions that surrounded this event.

It was something I will tell my kids and grand kids (if I end up having any) about. And I’ll tell them how special the whole experience was, from the events leading up to the race, the plane ride, the expo, the day of the race to the post race celebration. I will tell them about running past the cheering motorcyclists at the motorcycle bar, the Wellesley College girls, the people who lived along the course handing out water cups and nutrition and the rows and rows of people cheering for us runners throughout the 26.2 miles. From the cheering (probably drunk) college guys to the little kids holding out their hands for a high five, I will tell them how my arms got tired from all the love I got from the crowd. For that one moment in time, runners, motorcyclists, college guys and gals, families and everyone else involved, we were all together. We were all there for the same reason.

I will tell them that when I was walking back to the hotel after the race, on three separate occasions, random people stopped me to say great job and “Thank you for running”. “Thank you for running”…We should be thanking YOU. You are the reason why we as runners were able to run and do what we do. It was the organizers, the volunteers, the police and security and everyone else involved that made it possible for us runners to go out there and do what we love to do. This was one race where the non-racers – the organizers, the supporters, the city of Boston, and the small towns along the way gave as much and more for the race than the runners did.

I will tell them about Meb. And how he became the first American male winner of the Boston marathon since 1983. I’ll tell them about Rick and Dick Hoyt, coming back to finish their last Boston marathon.

I will tell them about the friends I got to experience this memory with and new friends I met along the way. I’ll tell them about Brannen and her family taking me in as one of their own for the whole weekend and about the ride up to the start with the Tri Club people. And as if this experience couldn’t be any more special, about running the last few miles with my friend Fern and finishing the race together. I will tell them about the good wishes, the emails and congratulations notes I received from so many people. Even from friends I have not seen or talked to in years. This was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Yep, years and years from now, while sitting on my anti-gravity rocking chair, I will tell them a story about April 21, 2014, the day we took back that finish line.

Bob Babbitt: What I noticed on race day was that the crowds along the way were bigger than ever before and the bond between the runners, the spectators and the entire city of Boston was stronger than ever before. Terrorists had tried to scare us away from living our lives to the fullest and, as Dave McGillivray said so eloquently at a Saturday night party two nights before the race, “they messed with the wrong group of people.”

Our Challenged Athletes Foundation, which is based in San Diego, had a huge impact as well. After the bombings, CAF immediately reached out to the families of those affected and offered to help. Seven of those people injured joined us in October at our CAF Running Clinic at Harvard, five were flown to San Diego for last year’s San Diego Triathlon Challenge weekend and Celeste Corcoran, who lost both legs in the explosion, was at the finish line this year with two CAF supplied prosthetic legs so that she could run the last few yards with her sister.

Heather Abbott, who also lost a leg in the explosion and was at the CAF running clinics, as well, and jogged to the finish.

For me, there is nothing better than running as Elvis, eating donuts and ribs, drinking beer, high fiving until your palms are sore and stopping for photos along the way. When you add in the impact CAF had on the survivors and the awesome job Dave McGillivray and his team did with the whole world watching, it was the most incredible 26.2 mile journey of my life.

Tracy Cohen-Peranteau: Every moment of being in Boston this year, was magical. I ran Boston in 2006. My experience that year doesn’t even begin to compare to my 2014 experience in Boston.

Monday morning. April 21st. Race Day. Patriot’s Day. I have never felt anything else like it. Ever. From the moment I crossed the start line, this race was not about me. It was about Boston. Thousands and thousands of spectators, for the entire 26.2 miles, were thanking us for “giving them their city back.” Thanking me? I’m “just a runner.” Thank YOU for supporting us – through thick and thin. Through tragedy and adversity. For taking a risk to be here – for us! It’s the support of the screaming and the cheering that keeps us running. It was a sea of blue and yellow Boston Strong shirts, and banners, and flags. Every moment of the marathon I felt like I was running down the red carpet in Hollywood. Not once did I fear for my safety. People wanted to spectate as much as we wanted to run – to give Boston their city back. And to give the marathon runners their race back.

As I neared the finish line, I stopped to acknowledge the two memorials which were set up at each of the two bombing spots on Boylston Street. Through my tears, I said a prayer for the four lives lost (please do not forget the police officer who was shot), the 280+ victims who were physically injured, and the thousands of victims who endured emotional and mental injury, due to this tragedy.

Boston Marathon 2014 wasn’t a race for me. It was a historical event in our running community, which I feel blessed and honored to have experienced. Meb winning was the icing on the cake. I couldn’t be more proud.

Kye Gilder – The spectators and the runners — they were incredible! It was 26.2 miles of non-stop energy, encouragement, and sportsmanship. A truly memorable day for runners, Boston, and United States! Despite not feeling well during the race and having the single worse run of my life I’m tempted to run again.

Brannen Henn: I was there for 5 days with friends and family and the entire time was filled with smiles and a “buzz” that ran through me. I enjoyed everything about the weekend and being able to be a part of it. I don’t think you could ask for a better experience…surrounded by people who love me, racing one of the most historical, elite marathons, paying tribute to those who were affected by the tragic events of 2013, being cheered on by over a million spectators, having an American win the race and crossing the finish with a huge smile on my face. I don’t think there is one specific lasting memory since the entire 5 days was filled with memories I will never forget.

Laurie Kearney: Boston is always an amazing experience, from the flight from LAX (always filled with runners, usually a mention from the pilot) to the people on the T who always comment about our Boston jackets with all the years we’ve run, to most of all the thousands of spectators who line the course giving out everything from kisses (Craig!) to hi-fives, to Twizzlers & Popsicles. Although my cousin who lives in a Boston suburb said she is afraid to bring her kids into the city on Marathon weekend, thousands of other parents were obviously more courageous, as I saw hundreds of strollers and little kids along the route. The high point was Meb winning the race. Being a San Diegan, and “old” for an elite runner, his winning felt like one of our friends had won the race.

Bessy Leszczynski – Meeting with TCSD pre-race to exchange stories and motivate each other for the event. The EXPO was disgustingly crowded and the aisles weren’t ready for it, so I wasn’t motivated to buy anything. The Athlete Village, since it was just for runners participating, was such a friendly place. On the buses, in the porta-potty line, and walking to the corrals it was easy to start conversations and that helped relax me. Unfortunately, one of my memories is not having a memory photo at the finish line. I’m incredibly disappointed that even at a tiny Women’s Running event there’s huge photo banners and photographers afterwards, and there were NONE at the Boston Marathon. Ridiculous to me. So Roger & I don’t have a finisher photo together for our 2nd year married goal; I guess the swag will have to do.

Roger Leszczynski – The people, who come out for such a long and uneventful race, the support they give you is like no other. I am not sure I have even seen a soccer stadium so full of people. And of course thank to your organized social meet ups, I don’t think this experience could be any more perfect.

Bruce Meister: I felt the race was incredibly well organized; best organized race I have been involved in. I got to watch the 1 mile memorial event, that was pretty touching as some folks who were injured in 2013 ran the last mile of the race. I passed the Hoyt’s at mile 11 and stopped to take their picture. The crowds were great. Shouting in their Boston accidents “you got this”, “keep going”. It was just a really great and well organized event.

Daniel Powell: Over the top fantastic!! My body tingled like listening to the National Anthem, but it tingled for 3 &1/2 straight hours. I watched the race from Brookline until a CAF athlete named Jeff stopped in front of me, bent over in obvious pain. I jumped in to help him and ran the last 2.2 miles with him, keeping him company, getting him water, leading the crowd in cheers for him. It was fantastic! So much love from the crowd, one big lovefest!!

Laura Sasaki – The entire event will be forever embedded in my mind. The energy from the beginning to the end of the race was over the top. The spectators and volunteers were unbelievable! The event was extremely emotional. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the race.

I also had a wonderful time exploring Boston with Darrell. We loved the sightseeing! It truly was a memorable trip!

Les Shibata – Lasting memories from the 2014 race include waiting in those extra long lines at the packet pick up and pre race pasta dinner. Getting a hand made scarf in Boston color’s from a church in Boston. Watching the survivor one mile run. Going to the new Nike store and watching people run on a treadmill to raise money for CAF. The 2013 Boston Marathon exhibit in the Boston library and reading all the stories of the 2013 bombing. Getting together with other members of TCSD for lunch and taking a shuttle to the start with them on race day. Seeing all the residents of Boston out there on race day supporting us as we ran the Marathon and being able to share my passion with my wife.

Mike Stange – My takeaways from this year will be running the first 15 miles with a friend and enjoying the energy of the crowd. So much of the race itself is a blur, but I’ll remember making it to the top of Heartbreak Hill feeling surprisingly fresh (then feeling surprisingly unfresh less than one mile later, running down the backside of Heartbreak into Brookline). I’ll remember the underpass at Mass. Ave with 1K to go. The right on Hereford. And, of course, the left on Boylston. I’ll remember seeing my aunt and uncle on the right-hand side, in that last stretch, with their “Go Mike!” sign that they drag around to races, year after year. Although there was still about a quarter of a mile left to run, that really felt like my finish line.

I was expecting this year to feel different – an emotional journey, perhaps. But for me it wasn’t. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t there last year, but for me it really just felt like a return to normalcy. Closure. It felt like running the Boston Marathon again – just bigger, better. Sure there was added security, but there’s always a police presence in Boston. This year, there just seemed to be more of everything – runners, spectators, security. It all felt natural. We were all there for a purpose. I know that there are many still dealing with scars from the events of 2013, but I swear it was almost like we saw a city heal before our own eyes. People were happy, celebrating.

This race was for the victims and their families, our support crews and the City of Boston. It was for those who weren’t able to finish what they started last year. I was just honored to be invited back to do my small part and run the race. It is an experience that I will remember for a very long time.

Steve Tally: We had so many memories from this year that it is hard to even choose just a few. The spirit and feel of the entire city of Boston made the largest impact. They managed to make over 30,000 marathoners all feel like celebrities. Having so many friends from TCSD to share it with also made it very special. One of the finest and most memorable parts about the entire day was the ride out to the start line on the special TCSD shuttle that you and Laurie arranged. What a great way to share the start of a great day with friends. The race itself held so many memorable moments. I have run Boston a couple times previously, and although the cheering along the route is always special, this was a 26.2 mile parade and party. The support and energy from the spectators was incredible. When I crossed the finish, for the first time in my entire athletic career I was actually choked up. And right about then I found out from the announcer that Meb won the men’s race. Could it get any better?

Tu Tran – Lasting memories from the race were the people of Boston. They thanked us for coming out this year to run. Their spirit, attitude, and hospitality I’ll never forget.

I remember making the observation that the extra security personnel wasn’t needed because the people of Boston displayed the attitude that nothing was going to happen this year and that everyone was being vigilant. Truly inspiring.

Lastly, the amazing turnout of people and their cheering was truly epic. Nearly every single mile that could be spectated from was filled with people cheering the entire time. “Marathon Monday” is an event every runner should experience.

Kim Weibel: An injury kept me from crossing the finish line in 2013, and I was excited to be able to return injury free, and ready to race. My experience there was so much more than I expected. The streets of Boston were overflowing with people, They were full of positive energy and ready to celebrate victory at the Boston Marathon 2014. Spectators lined the race course chanting “Boston Strong” and “U-S-A!”. They slapped my hands with such enthusiasm as I ran past them, that by mile 14, my arms and shoulders were sore from all their encouragement! When I reached the spot on the road where I was forced to stop last year when the bomb went off, I couldn’t help but pick up my pace, just wanting to get past it and closer to that finish line.

Crossing the finish line was incredible that day, But the thing that I will treasure most, even more than my finishers medal, is a scarf that was given to me at The Old South Church during the “Blessing of the Athletes” the day before. The scarf was one of thousands hand made by people across the country. They were knit out of blue and yellow yarn,(the colors of Boston), and made to be given to marathon runners affected by the bombing of 2013, Each scarf had a tag attached to it displaying the name and home town of the person who made it, The tag read, “This scarf is interwoven with love and courage.” Mine was made by Dawn Marshfield, of Massachusetts, USA. I thought of who she might be, and why she was inspired to knit that scarf, Walking the streets of Boston, I saw scarves adorning the necks of hundreds of runners, and every scarf still bore its tag. Each one, a symbol of community and strength and courage.

Boston 2013 and 2014. Both, I will never forget.

Craig Zelent: The 2014 race was one of the best days of my life. I had a good race, but my experience was never going to be about racing fast. We took back the finish line! Everyone from the spectators to the volunteers to the runners seemed to have a vested interest in making this race successful.

The race went by wicked fast. It seemed to end in the blink of an eye. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. God definitely shined His light on Boston on this day. Some of my favorite memories include passing the Hoyt’s at mile 8 – it’s always so good to see them. I also had some favorite signs being held up by the Wellesley College women: “Kiss me! I am Sweet Caroline!” and “Kiss me, I’m performance enhancing!”

It was great that Meb won the race. That seemed to be the icing on the cake. Meb was so eloquent in all his post race interviews. He said all the right things. He understood the moment. But the best part for me was walking back to my hotel after the race. I just listened. It sounded like Boston should sound. There were no sirens. It was the best sound I’ve ever heard. We were back to normal.

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

Posted in 2014, Marathon, Running Race, TCSD Conversation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships

Racing at USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships and a place on the podium!

Racing at USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships and a place on the podium!

On June 8th I raced the USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships in Grand Rapids, MI. My purpose and goal for doing this race was to place in the top 20 of my age group to qualify for the 2015 Triathlon Long Course World Championships in Sweden.

The highlights of this trip revolve around the people I was able to visit. I flew into Chicago so I was able to spend my first and last evenings with my Mom in Lombard. I also had breakfast on Saturday with my sisters Cindy and Debbie.

Another highlight was traveling and racing with Dan Redfern. I’ve been coaching Dan for the past 10 months and he has been a pleasure to work with. I also got to see my old friend Matt Goble. Matt has been a good friend since our MBA days at Loyola University of Chicago in the late ‘80’s. Dan, Matt and I had dinner the night before the race and Matt gave us a huge advantage with his local knowledge of the course.

There was a chance of rain for race day and that was the last thing I wanted. I just wanted a dry, safe course to race on. The night before the race the weather looked like it might not rain. But upon waking on race day it was wet and still drizzling.

The 1.2 mile swim was held in Thornapple River which was really more like a lake as there seemed to be no current. I was amazed at how warm the water was for this early in the season in Michigan. The water temperature was 76 so we were only 2 degrees away from the 78 degree cutoff disallowing wetsuits. I had a great swim as I was 2nd out of the water with a time of 31:48 – a pace of 1:38/100 meters. It has now become apparent to me how much I have benefited by scheduling 2 of my swim workouts per week in a 50 meter pool – long course rocks!

The 56 mile bike course was a simple out and back on very flat roads. A light rain fell for about the first hour of the bike, but thankfully it was not much of a problem as there were not too many turns on the course. I cycled very conservatively for the first hour just to keep it safe and save something for the run. I think we must have had a mild tail wind on the way out because I was pleased with my pace. Things got a little tougher on the return trip, but I held it together. I thought the field had thinned out a lot until I got passed by a group of 30 at the 52 mile mark. I let them go and vowed to make those drafters pay on the run course. My bike split was 2:36:24 (21.5 mph). That was a good performance by me, but only the 21st best time on the day so it dropped me to 11th place. I had some work to do on the run!

2 flat laps comprised the 13.1 mile run course. I took a quick leak at mile 2 and from there on I flew. Matt was spectating while riding his bike around the run course. He saw me for the first time at mile 10. I was starting to fade, but there was no way I was going to slow down in front of Matt. Just having him out there really helped me to rally. At mile 12 I found myself just ahead of some guy named Norman Kim. I did not know him, but I suspected he was in my age group. I asked him how old he was. He gave me nothing! That told me everything. He was in my age group and I needed to drop him. I beat him by 33 seconds and, in fact, he was in my age group. We got a good laugh about the whole episode at the finish line. I had a great race and I knew it. My run split was 1:30:32 (6:54/mile) which was the best on the day by 4:19. My finish time was 4:43:48. I placed 3rd out of 53 men in the 50-54 age group, 85th out of 713 overall finishers. Not only had I qualified to race in Sweden in 2015, but I had earned a spot on the podium at Nationals!

My race day nutrition plan worked like a charm. On the bike I used a cocktail of PowerBar Endurance and CarboPro for my hydration, electrolyte and caloric needs. On the run I used PowerGels and Saltstick for additional calories and sodium to keep from cramping.

Dan also had a great race. He placed 10th in the men’s 55-59 age group. He improved on his previous best time for the Half Ironman distance by 26 minutes! I guess my coaching techniques have worked well for him. We had a great time together on this trip and Laurie and I are really looking forward to enjoying the Swedish experience with Dan and his family.

Click on this link to see my pictures: http://www2.backprint.com/fastphoto/123600/5393

Living the life…

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Orange County Triathlon

Troy Cundari (5th place) and Craig (7th place) after Orange County Triathlon

Troy Cundari (5th place) and Craig (7th place) after Orange County Triathlon

On June 1st I raced the Orange County Triathlon in Mission Viejo. I had a good race in a field with a bunch of fast guys.

In recent years I had raced the Orange County Duathlon on this course, but the last time I raced this triathlon was 1996 when it was the National Championships. 1996 was the first time I ever raced Nationals and was humbled as I placed 51st out of 109 in the 30-34 age group. Thankfully I’ve improved a lot over the past 18 years.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was held in Lake Mission Viejo. The small fresh water lake was very warm (mid 70’s), but we were allowed to wear wetsuits. It was extremely foggy so thankfully the course was very straight forward – an out and back rectangle. I was part of the 1st wave so we had the most fog to deal with. By the time I finished the swim the fog had burned off. My swim time was 21:47 which was really good, but it put me in 9th against these studs.

The 40K (24.8 mile) bike course had a lot of challenging hills. The road surface was immaculate in most places and very smooth. I felt like I biked well. My bike split was 1:12:14 (20.5 mph) and it was 15th best in the age group and dropped me down to 12th place.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run course was very challenging, but that plays to my strengths. It had some trail running and 1 stretch in the middle with a 1 mile really tough climb. I had the best run in the age group, but it was too little too late. My run split was 39:15, but that was only good enough to move me up to finish 7th out of 45 men in the 50-54 age group and 35th out of 465 overall finishers. My finish time was 2:16:18. My Triathlon Club of San Diego friend and fellow 50-54 age grouper Troy Cundari also did the race. Troy finished 5th with a time of 2:14:32.

Living the life…

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Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

Craig Zelent heading towards the finish line at Wildflower.

Craig Zelent heading towards the finish line at Wildflower.

On May 3rd I raced the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. This was the 13th time I’ve done this iconic race in our sport. Wildflower is looked upon as a “bucket list” type of race if you are a triathlete.

Because of the drought, this was going to be a unique year at Wildflower. The traditional course is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – in that order. This year the drought and some bad decisions with the nearby dam meant that there was virtually no water in Lake San Antonio. The race organizers relocated the swim to the Harris Creek part of the lake. Thus, this year’s course was a 1.2 mile swim, 2.2 mile run through the dried out lake bed, 56 mile bike, 10.9 mile run – in that order.

Swimming in Harris Creek was serviceable. The nasty part was the 1st and last 0.1 mile near the shore where the water was jet black – you could not see a thing and you absolutely did not want to drink that water. Beyond that, the middle mile was ok. I’ve been swimming a lot this year so I had a very good swim. My time was 29:24 which put me in 7th place. The transition from swim to the 1st run was on a 300+ meter very steep boat ramp. It was brutal climbing that hill. The next 2+ miles on the run were very surreal as we ran through what has always been a gorgeous lake.

The 56 mile bike course was exactly the same as in year’s past. We had 1 steep hill to climb from mile 1-2, and then a lot of easy, rolling hills. Around mile 15 I found myself near some good friends. Sef Cuesico and Andy Seitz caught up to me. Andy is in my age group and he beat me twice in 2013. I figured he’d be ahead of me from the swim, but not so. Both Andy and Sef passed me, but I was able to keep them close for the next 5 miles. Unfortunately Andy made a mistake for just a second and got tangled up with another rider. They both went down about 80 meters ahead of me. Sef was able to steer clear of the mayhem and so was I. I felt so bad riding past Andy. He was holding his side when I past him, but at least he was standing.

I stayed near Sef and we biked up Nasty Grade together at mile 43. That climb pretty much knocked the stuffing out of me for the rest of the ride. From that point on I was just trying to survive. I knew my bike fitness was suspect and the proof was in the pudding. My bike split was 3:09:10 (a paltry 17.7 mph) which was the 25th best in the age group. It dropped me down to 19th place. Something I love about triathlon is that your success is directly related to the amount of work you put into the sport. I obviously need to work on my bike fitness.

I ran the final 10.9 miles pretty well, relative to the other guys in my age group, but it was really a death march. About 4 miles in we came to the steep hills and I made the decision to walk at times. Most everyone else was walking. I was still one of the fastest moving carcasses out there, but it did not feel good. I chose to walk the hills just to keep my heart rate from spiking too high. My total run time (includes the initial 2.2 miles) was 1:45:52 (8:04/mile) which was 4th best.

Somehow I managed to claw my way back to finish 7th out of 111 in the men’s 50-54 age group and 180th out of 1,498 overall. My finish time was 5:32:12. Only 1 guy in my age group broke 5 hours. Former professional Tim Sheeper finished in 4:46:50 to beat 2nd place by a whopping 23+ minutes! Andy did finish in 6:38:22 and placed 41st in the age group. That’s amazing because he had 2 broken ribs from his bike crash! Sef not only finished the Long Course race (58th place), but he also finished the Olympic distance race (49th place) the following day. He actually placed better in his age group the 2nd day! And my wife Laurie placed 31st in her age group in the Long Course race.

Click on this link to view my race photos:

http://www.finisherpix.com/photos/my-photos/currency/USD/pctrl/Photos/paction/search/pevent/the-wildflower-triathlons-festival-2014/pbib/1573.html

Living the life…

Craig Zelent

Posted in 2014, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

118th Boston Marathon

Craig enjoying one of the best days of his life in his 12th Boston Marathon

Craig enjoying one of the best days of his life in his 12th Boston Marathon

On April 21st I raced in the 118th Boston Marathon. This was my 12th time and Laurie’s 18th time running this great race. Simply put – it was one of the best days of my life!

The 2014 Boston Marathon had nothing to do with running a good or bad race. It had everything to do with taking back the finish line and getting back to normal.

It has been said that the Boston Marathon is 1 of Boston’s Big 5 Sports. Boston has the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and it has the Boston Marathon. Other big cities can make a similar claim, but nobody does the marathon like Boston. Nobody!

The spectator support is always great in Boston. 2014 was the best I’ve ever experienced. Every spectator seemed to have a vested interest in getting the runners to the finish line. It must be pretty cool to play in the Super Bowl in front of 90,000 spectators. It must be even better to race in the Kentucky Derby before 165,000 fans. Nearly 400,000 watch the Indy 500 in person. The Tour de France gets 12-15 million fans, but that’s spread over 3 weeks. The experts say the 2014 Boston Marathon had over 1 million spectators lining the course. It does not get any bigger than that. It was thrilling to race in front of that many people!

The day before the race I organized a group of 25 Triathlon Club of San Diego friends to gather for lunch at the Prudential Center food court. When I picked that location I had no idea what a challenge that might present for 2 of my friends. My good friend Steve Tally did the 2013 race and afterwards was having lunch with his wife Kris in the food court when the bombs exploded. The food court is indoors and overlooks Boylston Street where the race finishes. When the bombs went off hundreds if not thousands rushed into and through the food court seeking safety. Tables and chairs were turned over in the mayhem. Both Steve and Kris will never forget those moments. Kris was particularly shaken. But she overcame some significant memories and fears to show up for the Tri Club food court lunch. I’m so proud that Kris was able to take back the food court just like we were going to take back the finish line the following day.

The anticipation for this race was building for an entire year. I thought about it every day. But when the day came – it went by wicked fast as they would say in Boston.

The usual routine for Boston is to board school buses at the Boston Commons at 7am. These buses take the athletes 26 miles away to Hopkinton for the start of the race. This year the athletes were not allowed to take any bags on the buses. You could only take what you were wearing. Over the years, we’d been getting tired of the bus program so we figured this would be the year to hire our own shuttle. For $20/person we hired a shuttle to pick us up at our hotel and take 10 of our friends to Hopkinton. We had a lot of fun together and our legs were glad to avoid the 1+ mile walk to the Commons.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. God definitely shined His light on Boston on this day. The beautiful weather encouraged even more spectators to line the course. I started at 10am with the Elite men and about 8,000+ of my closest friends. Laurie started with the 2nd group at 10:25am and 2 more waves followed at 11am and 11:25am. The fastest runners started first so unfortunately the slower runners really cooked as the day did warm up into the high 70’s.

Some of my highlights from the race include passing Team Hoyt at the 8 mile mark. 2014 was the 32nd and final time that 73 year old Dick (father) would push 52 year old Rick (his son who is a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy) to the finish line. Team Hoyt will always be a significant part of Boston history.

The screaming college girls at Wellesley College (mile 13) were off the hook! My favorite signs were “Kiss me, I’m performance enhancing!” and “Kiss me, I am Sweet Caroline!” Heartbreak Hill (mile 20) was tough as always, but the crowd was fully engaged in their goal of helping the runners. Boston College (mile 21) and Boston University (mile 23) were louder than ever before.

My stomach was perfect throughout the race. My cocktail of PowerGels, CarboPro, Vantage, Motivators and Saltstick led to my success. I ran 3:14:23 (7:25/mile) which ranked me 317th out of 2,475 men age 50-54. I was the 4,579th out of 17,575 men to finish. And I was the 5,138th person out of 31,931 overall finishers. I was actually 2:12 faster than in 2012 which was the last time I did the race. Laurie had a great race, too, as she finished in 3:36:57 to place 291st in her age group. We have much to be thankful for!

Click on this link to view my race photos:

http://www.marathonfoto.com/Marathon/Boston-Marathon-2014/LastName/ZELENT/BibNumber/5694/offering/myMarathonfotos/RaceOID/12902014S1/Language/en?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13%20Deadline%20Approaching%20ENG-SPA%20(10)

The icing on the cake for the day came when American Meb Keflezighi won the men’s race. It had been 31 long years since Greg Meyer brought home the last American victory. Meb is a San Diego resident and has been a guest speaker for the Tri Club. We actually made Meb a lifetime TCSD member. The victory could not have happened to a better guy. Meb has said all the right things in all of his post race interviews. He is a very deserving champion.

Living the life…

Posted in 2014, Marathon, Running Race, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Rachel (Gordon) Wills – April 2014

Rachel finishing the swim at Ironman Tahoe 2013

Rachel finishing the swim at Ironman Tahoe 2013

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

Rachel (Gordon) Wills is one of the fastest swimming triathletes on the planet. Rachel has been a huge help to many of our members through her swim coaching and her work at Moment Bicycles. We are lucky to have this Fighting Sioux as one of our club members and friends.

Craig: What sports did you do before triathlon?

Rachel: Like most kids from small Midwestern towns, I had the opportunity to try many sports. I soon found I was neither tall enough for basketball, nor graceful enough to continue my figure skating dream, nor coordinated enough to make the softball team. Swimming was something that came naturally to me, and for that I have my parents to thank. They signed me up for water babies at 6 months old and I’ve gravitated towards the anti-gravity of water ever since. As I progressed through Red Cross swim lessons and the local YMCA team, I made the varsity high school section team as a 7th grader. I did everything to stay in the pool year round and, since we didn’t have a club team, my swimming pursuits widened to synchronized swimming, which I did until I graduated. The high school swim season started in the fall, YMCA over the winter, synchro in the spring, and summertime was about having fun on the lake. During the summer of 2001, I moved to Minneapolis to live with my uncle and train at the Uof M to get a head start into my senior season. That year I became the MN state champion and record holder in the 100 backstroke. Some of my school records are still standing, 12 years later. My open water endeavors started as a relay member in our local Olympic distance Timberman Triathlon. 2014 is the 30th year! That 1500m swim was long for me, and I remember thinking there is no way I’ll be able to run or bike following such a long distance!

Craig: How far did your swimming career progress?

Rachel: The University of North Dakota granted me a swimming scholarship, so I gave up on my dream to swim Division I in MN and became a Fighting Sioux. Looking back, I can’t believe I survived the frozen tundra, but I don’t think I would’ve graduated nor stuck with swimming had I gone to college in San Diego, where the ocean is always calling. As a freshman, I was lucky enough to be on a NCAA Division II runner up 800 yard free relay. Over the course of my four years at UND I was a 5-time All-American, multiple conference champion including the 200 yard backstroke, and school record holder in the 200 yard medley relay. After college, I got a job with Wells Fargo, moved to Minneapolis, took up rock climbing, and didn’t touch a pool for 2 years.

Craig: What prompted you to move to San Diego?

Rachel: I always say it was a random change in life. I was sick of the cold and didn’t have any financial burdens holding me back, so I asked Wells Fargo for a transfer to a San Diego branch, and in March of 2008 I made the drive across the country. It was hard to leave my family, friends, and the Midwestern “nice,” but I think my transition to life in California has gone pretty well.

Craig: You got involved in the Tri Club pretty quickly. How did that come to be?

Rachel: I bought a bike in Minnesota just before moving out to San Diego. I knew I wanted to shift gears from rock climbing to triathlon and what a perfect place to do that, here in San Diego. I found the TCSD website, joined, got my first discount to the Spring Sprint, bought my first TCSD tri shorts at the expo, and finished my first race with a smile on my face. Less than a week later I did my first TCSD race in Coronado and met Diana Black and Bethany Allen, who introduced me to Nikee Pomper. Nikee and I began swimming together and I somehow got roped into substitute coaching for the Tri Club swim program, which immediately turned into a full time gig. I’ve been volunteer coaching for the JCC TCSD swim program since the summer of 2008 and, after almost 6 years, I’m stepping down to a substitute roll again. I can actually say, I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve stepped on that pool deck. Making a difference and helping triathletes get more comfortable in the water is a very rewarding experience. I walk away from the pool each time with a smile on my face, and it’s been a hard decision to step back.

Craig: What are some of the common swim mistakes you see triathletes make?

Rachel: Most triathletes approach the freestyle technique with the arm rotation as the focal point, and drag the rest of their body along for the ride. I talk about stroke technique with a bottom up approach, to get the body working properly. The arms need all the help they can get, doing their job of gaining forward motion. When the body is in the proper position, it can help, instead of hurt, forward progress.

So ditch the arms {and all those silly toys} and work on the rest of the body, to build the stroke up properly.

Kick: Triathletes are mostly taught not to kick, however I believe otherwise. Kicking in triathlon swimming is NOT for propulsion, but to aid in body position and body rotation. That means the kick is light, and airy; not heavy and strong. It is not done with a drastic knee bend, but more of a flick from the hip flexor and a pull up with the glutes. I understand that we need our legs to ride and run, and agree, we are supposed to save them in the swim. But if your feet and legs are dragging behind, you are wasting much more precious energy and will swim much slower. More time in the water, is more energy wasted. Practice kicking on your side with the bottom arm forward and the top arm at your side. Always practice both sides to help balance out your stroke.

Core/Body Position: Great posture is important while swimming and something that is often forgotten while floating {or thrashing}. I see a lot of computer nerds with poor posture swimming/slouching like they are the saddest person alive. Stand tall, swim proud. Press your shoulders back and pull your neck long. Have tension on your core and rotate your pelvis forward. I like the core drill {often my students call it the drowning drill because it is very difficult}. Both arms at your side. Rotate from side to side, with your head facing down the entire time. Shoulders and hips are attached – no worm movements. Try to get 4 rotations before attaching your head and breathing to the side. If you do this drill every time you get in the water, even just for one length, you will become a better swimmer.

Physics: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Once we finally get to working on the arms, the focal point becomes where you are aiming that pressure and power. If the palm is facing down, your body will raise out of the water, wasting precious energy swimming up and down, rather than forward. Position the hand, forearm and upper arm in progression to be pushing backwards for the longest line possible. Make adjustments to the wrist to maximize the time spent pushing backwards {thus swimming forward}. However, don’t get too caught up in what the arms are doing. Make sure the core, rotation and kick are helping the arm.

Shoulder Injuries: These are most often due to the lack of hip rotation and interaction with the stroke. If you swim with just your arms, the shoulder will tire quickly. If you swim with your entire body, the core and lateral muscles will aid the arm, creating a much larger distance per stroke and a happy shoulder.

Phew – there are so many more, but I’ll end with saying come out to the JCC swims and join the technique lane – it’s not just for beginners. If you are experiencing a swim plateau {1:45/100 yard swim} it’s a technique flaw, not swim fitness that’s holding you back.

Craig: One of the unique career paths out there is to go from being a Wells Fargo banker to work in a bike shop. What led you to work at Moment Bicycles?

Rachel: When I moved to SD with my new bike, I was looking for local rides on the TCSD website. I saw that Moment Bicycles (then Moment Cycle Sport) was a Tri Club sponsor and had (still has) a Tues/Thurs Cabrillo hill repeat ride. I joined JT Lyons, Cory Osth, and the gang… and got dropped. Yet, I kept coming back. The encouraging nature of the ride, motivation from others, and the constant “come on, one more!” quickly made me stronger. After riding a bike much too big for me for too long, I ended up getting a custom made Guru tri bike (which I still have and LOVE) from Moment. JT knew my position was holding me back, got me dialed in on the old fit bike. It was during this process I realized I wanted to work at a bike shop. I wasn’t a fan of the corporate America scene (although the benefits and 20 days PTO were a great bonus!) and the “same thing, different day” aspect of my job didn’t fit my outgoing personality. Moment was looking to grow and after a couple interviews on the bike, I was hired in July of 2009.

Craig: What do you do at Moment?

Rachel: I’m a Bike Fit Kingpin, but really, I don’t know where to start with that. Everything? We’re a small business and all wear many hats. Bike fitting, sales, ordering, receiving, inventory, basic maintenance, service writing, answering phones, events, marketing, race directing… That’s what I love about this job. It is a different thing on every different day.

Craig: What does Moment do different and better than other bike shops?

Rachel: We are a fit first bike shop. I think triathletes and cyclists struggle to differentiate between what a shop defines as bike fit. We’ve been doing our best to set ourselves apart from the trainer fit, saddle height adjusters of the world. Our sales process differs from the moment you walk into our shop. “So you’re 5’9”, let’s see what size 54 bikes we have in stock for you” is something you won’t hear at Moment Bicycles. We aren’t a used car lot, and don’t expect you to ride out on a new bike the same day. We want to build a relationship with you, from the initial fit appointment through the new bike process, to customize your experience, even if you aren’t getting a custom bike. A bike is a big investment and we want you to love riding your bike. The key element to loving your bike is the fit. The paint will fade and those new bike legs will tire, but if you don’t fit on your bike, you won’t ride it.

Our fit is done on the Guru Dynamic Fit Unit (DFU). Any fit that isn’t done on a fit machine is automatically disadvantaged, because the fitter is then working within the confines of the bike. What if that bike isn’t right for you in the first place? There are only so many adjustments you can make on a bike and it’s time consuming to move each piece. During our process, we take the bike out of the equation and work towards finding the position that best suits your body, your riding style, and what kind of events you plan to complete. We can change every part of the bike, quickly. The saddle, bars, pedals, crank arm length and resistance can all be changed. We can move the fit machine a millimeter at a time, instantly, so you can feel a difference in a new position while pedaling. The contact points (bars, saddle, and shoes/pedals) all matter and are all related. If your saddle bothers you, I can almost guarantee your hands/arms/shoulders will as well. One of the differences you’ll find at Moment is we’ll find the root of the problem, fix it, and build the fit from there. I can’t believe how many people ride in pain and think it’s normal. Every time I ride up the coast, I cringe at how many horrible positions I see aboard shiny new bikes, and realize we have a lot of work to do in helping spread our message and our fit knowledge. We are not only problem solvers, but performance enhancers.

The bottom line? You are able to try an almost infinite number of positions aboard our fit machine that go far beyond just one or two bikes on a trainer. We guarantee our fit for life. That is what’s different.

Craig: The bike fit is critical. Why would someone trust you to do their bike fit over someone else who has worked longer in the industry?

Rachel: Years in the industry doesn’t always equate to experience with bike fitting. I just want to stress that all of the fitters at Moment Bicycles have been BikeFit and Fit Institute Slowtwitch (F.I.S.T) certified. But, a certification doesn’t always equate to usable knowledge. You can have all the best tools and schooling, but if not used every day, knowledge is not gained. JT Lyons (my boss and the owner of Moment Bicycles) is one of the three F.I.S.T instructors in the world and has taught every fitter in Southern California. We employ a multitude of tools and methodologies to make sure you are in the optimal position – a balance of power, comfort, and aerodynamics. This is how we sell every bike at Moment, from the entry level to the super bikes of the industry. This is how we fit bikes at Moment, from the newbie cyclist to the professional triathlete. I have been fitting since 2009 and have seen almost every type of rider. That’s not to say I don’t learn something new every day, but in doing fitting every day, I’ve gained the techniques and experiences to tackle any fit issue. And if I can’t, I have JT’s expertise and knowledge to tap into.

Craig: Moment puts on the San Diego Triathlon Classic. I’m already registered for the September 6th race this year. It is a lot of work to put on a race. What do you enjoy most about that race?

Rachel: Ah, our baby, the Tri Classic. I remember JT talking about this race on a road trip to Baker, CA before I worked at Moment. Big dreams is what I remember thinking. But, about 2 weeks after I started working here, we set the date, announced the inaugural race, and (with less than 3 months to plan!) pulled it off. The second year, we moved the shop to our new Liberty Station location two weeks before the race. Then JT got married two weeks after the race and one of our mechanics officiated at my wedding two weeks after JT and Lynne’s wedding. Talk about a busy fall! Every year, the Tri Classic feels like a wedding day – a blur where no one knows how it all gets pulled together. But, walking down that aisle {or watching athletes swimming up the channel} tends to make me teary eyed. We owe a huge thanks to the TCSD volunteers who make our jobs that much easier come race week! As triathletes ourselves, we put on this race with the athlete experience at the forefront of our minds. With location, transition and course layout, and FUN in mind, we strive to present the best race in SoCal. I really enjoy watching the racers after they’ve crossed the finish line and knowing whatever journey they followed to get to that line, we were a part of it! We all have a unique story about getting to our first race finish and seeing that from the other side is pretty awesome. The Stone beer garden doesn’t hurt!

Craig: You have had a diverse racing career from hundreds of swim races to a couple of Ironman finishes. What are some of your race performances you are most proud of?

Rachel: I think your first Ironman tends to stand out the most. I did the inaugural St. George with exactly two years of triathlon experience under my race belt. I signed up without a course announcement and with a lot of peer pressure. The finish line came with a smile thanks to a lot of sacrifices, hard work, and a great coach, Brian Maiorano. I found out I had the fastest female amateur swim when I saw Brian during the run, which definitely helped keep the spirits high, as did finishing before the sun set. However, I don’t recommend this triathlon progression to anyone, and I swore I’d never do another. But, when the inaugural Lake Tahoe IM was announced, I knew I had to rescind on that promise because a) I like inaugural races and b) it’s a CA Ironman! Most have heard about the frozen conditions and epic dropout rate. I stayed within myself and got through my own struggles to manage a finish. But, I’m most proud of out-swimming the entire female pro field and the winner of the male pro race.

Becoming a high school state champion was a proud moment, because I had worked towards that moment for almost 10 years. Achieving the goal you’ve put your entire effort toward is very rewarding. 6 months of Ironman training is hard, but over a decade of jumping into the pool wishing for one thing is crazy.

My California state championship in criterium racing in 2011 was pretty rad. I love the technical aspects of bike racing and turning the internal, selfish nature of the pain of triathlon, to a very externally driven, not in your control, pain of cycling.

Craig: What do you like to do when you are not working, training or racing?

Rachel: Who has time for anything else? I’ve been blessed with the best sherpa in the business, my husband, Kyle. So I’d say I’m always trying to out-sherpa his skills by being the loudest and proudest supporter of his athletic endeavors. Mostly that means working at a bike shop to replace his crashed equipment, but I do my best to keep him spoiled. He does a better job with me. You can find us on our tandem around Ocean Beach where we live, probably enjoying Pizza Port. Can we get a TCSD sponsorship? I’m a proud Navy wife and wish I could talk more about his job.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Rachel: Once Kyle retires (in 14 years, not like we are counting or anything), we plan to live in an RV full time, and travel the country, visiting friends and family, hitting a bucket list of races. The pro triathletes Heather and Trevor Wurtele live a lifestyle that we hope to emulate (minus the whole Pro part). As for the near future, I’m not someone who can pull off multiple Ironman’s year after year. My body needs a rest from the gravity. Racing local is always fun, and when we are lucky enough to call San Diego local, we’ve got it made! Go Tri Club! Feel free to follow my blog http://www.swimmerint1.blogspot.com for updates from the swimmer still stuck in transition.

Craig: Rachel, I’ve wanted to do this interview for a long time. It was well worth the wait. Thank you for sharing your story. Good luck to you and Kyle. I hope you never stray too far from San Diego.

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

Posted in 2014, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superseal Triathlon

Craig with friend Julie Dunkle, 1st place in women's age group 45-49.

Craig with friend Julie Dunkle, 1st place in women’s age group 45-49.

Craig with friend Diana Noble, 2nd place in women's 50-54 age group.

Craig with friend Diana Noble, 2nd place in women’s 50-54 age group.

On March 16th I raced the Superseal Olympic Distance Triathlon at Coronado, CA. I was very pleased with my start to the 2014 triathlon season as I placed 2nd out of 15 men in the 50-54 age group and 31st out of 344 overall finishers.

It was a really hot day in San Diego as temperatures climbed into the mid 80’s. Even the water temperature was warm – they said 64 degrees. The Sprint race started at 7am and the Olympic race started at 8am. My age group did not start until 9am so it was going to be warm all day for me. I much prefer the heat over the cold. The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in the San Diego Bay. The water was totally flat and very comfortable. The biggest challenge was going to be sighting as there was not a cloud in the sky and lots of glare. I swam a very straight route and came out of the water in 2nd with a time of 23:03.

The 40K (24.8 mile) bike course was 2 laps up and down The Strand – flat and fast! I started the bike with 1 big 24 oz water bottle with PowerBar Perform mixed with CarboPro for some extra calories because of the late starting race. Thankfully they had an aid station where I was able to grab additional water both times I went by because it was hot and dry out there. My bike split was 1:07:23 (21.8 mph) which was 4th best on the day, but I dropped down to 3rd place.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run course was partly on some sand and trails and partly on asphalt. Any kind of soft sand is still not good for my foot’s plantar fasciitis. It was only about 1.5 miles of sand, but my arch still felt a bit tender after the race. Thankfully my foot did not suffer a set back to the progress I’ve made over the past 6 months. I took in all the water I could on the hot run course as well as a PowerGel for more calories. By the 5K mark I moved into 2nd place where I finished. My Team USA and Tri Club of San Diego friend Dean Avery won the race in wire to wire fashion. Dean had the best swim by 54 seconds and then he put nearly 3 more minutes into me during the bike. I had the best run (40:57) in the age group by only 3 seconds, but it was not enough as Dean beat me by 4:53.

Click on this link to view my race photos:

http://www.opix.net/main/?p=2549&key_word_type=zkn_key_name&key_word=Zelent

Posted in 2014, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Cory Gasaway – March 2014

Cory Gasaway finishing the 2013 Ironman Arizona

Cory Gasaway finishing the 2013 Ironman Arizona

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with the TCSD’s Director of Sponsorships, Cory Gasaway. I was thoroughly impressed with how professionally Cory handles his volunteer role for the club which is critical for us to continue and thrive. I’m sure you will enjoy getting to know this husband, father, product manager, volunteer and Ironman Finisher.

Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?

Cory: I really didn’t have an extensive background in sports. I grew up swimming in New Mexico State University’s youth program and went to the New Mexico state equivalent of championships as well as some International Dual meets with teams from Juarez, Mexico, but was never very “decorated” as an athlete award wise. I often joked that I DQ’d more races than I won. I stopped swimming at about 10 years old and switched over to tennis. I played tennis and lettered in high school but I viewed tennis as something to do after school with my friends and not really a serious pursuit. In reality, my every waking minute of junior high and high school was spent drumming. I would spend several hours a day playing, listening to Rush, working on that craft, etc. In college, I did a bit of intramural tennis (sometimes sober!), but again it was mainly drumming in bands, marching band and drum and bugle corps.

Craig: How did you get start racing triathlons and what was your first triathlon like?

Cory: My wife, Carol, also a TCSD member whom I refer to as “my faster half”, met in college at James Madison University and moved out to San Diego together in 1997. We lived here for about 13 years, had our two daughters here and then a job opportunity took us from San Diego to Austin, TX. That was 2009. We got to Texas, I took a look at my “new life” there and was very happy and excited with all aspects of my life… except my health. A cross country move, a 4 year old and 2 month old baby, Information Technology job, and several helpings of Austin Bar-B-Q and I found myself weighing about 217 pounds and no real plan to do anything about it. So we just happened to move into a neighborhood where within a few blocks from our house lived quite a few endurance athletes and several multi-time Ironman finishers and I thought, well this seems pretty obvious. I know I can swim, I think I can bike, and I know I can run… or walk. So I literally drove down to Barnes and Noble and did what every IT professional does when they need to research something… I bought a Triathlon for Dummies book and registered for the 2010 Austin Sprint Triathlon. I then drove down the street to a sports store, bought a $110 Schwinn bike and thought all the hard work was done.

I approached the “training” as such a novice. I remember running one day and hitting 3.1 miles and thinking “Ok, the running part of the training is done.” Luckily, our neighbors helped with tips and I managed not to kill myself along the way. Austin is a great city in general, but it really has an amazing triathlon community and base. Those two facts, combined with friends we had made in our neighborhood that raced and I was hooked. About a month later I signed up for my second triathlon, a 70.3… Obviously. Carol soon started doing them with me as well and we both were bit by the bug. It was about this time that I realized we had just moved away from the triathlon “Mecca” and had never even attempted or cared to do one when we lived here. We planned on maybe coming back to San Diego one year for a vacation and doing a local race. Little did we know we would be moving back here in 2012 as I was hired by my former boss to return. The excitement of being able to participate in the great triathlon scene we have here was definitely a big factor in our move.

Craig: You moved up to the Ironman distance pretty fast. Which Ironman races have you done and how did they go for you?

Cory: Ha! I don’t know that my plan was the most recommended but it worked for me. After having done a couple of 70.3’s and Olympic distance races, myself, along with a good friend and training partner just looked at each other one day and said “Let’s do Ironman Texas”. I remember registering and hovering my mouse on the “Submit” button while on the phone with her saying “Are you sure? Did you click it yet? Do we really want to do this?”…because I was afraid I would register and then she would not get registered in time and I would be stuck by myself.

IMTX itself was and is a great race. The venue is wonderful, the crowds are exciting, and it was awesome. The race was rather uneventful, mainly because I had a great coach who had really done a great job in preparing me for everything. The only story that was interesting had to do with the swim. I am a pretty good swimmer so I usually get towards the front and do well. While I was treading water before the swim, a guy kicked my ankle and I didn’t think anything about it but as soon as the cannon went off and I start swimming I felt something hitting my calf. I realized it was my timing chip. I had safety pinned it on but realized something was wrong so in the midst of the lovely mass of humanity that is an Ironman swim start, I quickly reached down and found that the strap holding the chip had ripped through and the timing chip basically just slid off into my hand. I think I muttered a few colorful metaphors and remember thinking “dude, you are getting ready to get mauled if you don’t move it.” It was a no wetsuit swim, so I couldn’t shove it in my suit, so I simply held the chip in my left hand and did a closed fist drill for the 2.4 miles in my left hand. I still managed a 1:15 so I was pleased. I came out of the water yelling “Timing, Timing”; they got me a new strap and I was on my way. I finished in 13:39, was able to hear Mike Reilly call out my name, had Chrissie Wellington put my finisher medal on and I thought “This does not suck!” Next morning, we all had breakfast together and as most first time Ironman finishers say afterwards “I am never doing that again…” and then as most first time Ironman finishers do 6 months later…. I signed up for Ironman Arizona.

Craig: Why was Ironman Arizona a better experience for you?

Cory: Mainly for 3 reasons, the biggest of which was simply changing my mindset. My goal at IMTX was simply to finish, but I set out on IMAZ with a mindset that I need to push myself and improve. I made a goal early on to shave an hour off of my time from IMTX and started planning accordingly. I stopped focusing so much on solely letting data, running rates, HR zones, etc., dictate my training/racing and instead started just trying to compete and push myself. With so many races here during the summer, the more I raced, the more I felt good about how I was doing and how I was feeling and I changed my mind from saying “You are going too fast, slow down and save it” to “You are going fast, you are doing well, your training is working, keep it up.” Now I am not saying it is a good idea to stop monitoring all that data, but it is a balance and the technical guy in me had swung way too far to one side of the pendulum and balancing back helped me.

The second reason was the course layout in Arizona. It is an awesome venue and course sets up well for me. For example, the IMTX bike course is a one loop…one 112 mile boring loop. No other way to say it. You leave the main race area, race on chip sealed roads through farms and cow pastures and little to no crowds for 99% of the ride. Your mind starts to wander. I had a great nutrition plan worked out for the bike, hit the ride, was doing great, got caught up in the moment of realizing I was actually doing an Ironman, hit mile 80 and looked down and had forgot to consume most of my nutrition. When you forget that part, suddenly get back to T2 in 90+ degrees, 80% humidity at 2:30PM in Houston to start a marathon you are in for some suffering. IMAZ on the other hand is 3 loops for the bike, all out and back so six equal segments. It was so much easier for me to execute my nutrition plan. I would ride out, hit the end of the leg, turn around, sit up, take my nutrition, then hammer down to the next turn around, sit up, take nutrition in, hammer down etc. It also let me break up the ride in my mind more easily. I could be struggling and say “4 miles until the turn around, then you got the wind at your back”, which was a huge motivator. This allowed me to break 6 hours on the bike which was a goal and literally finish 100% of my planned nutrition on schedule.

The last, in all honesty, was TCSD. The scheduled workouts and rides each week that members get are incredible. I utilized several but the main was Bill Gleason’s Tuesday Night Ventura Cove swim. He is a great coach and this session offered a great level of intensity and real open water race condition training. As narrow as the race lane is for IMAZ with that many people, I found it to be one of the more intense swims starts I have ever done and Bill’s class helped me handle it well which gave me a great start to the day. And although it goes without saying, the members and friends I made and trained with helped along the way.

All of these factors made IMAZ a great day for me. Allowed me to break my IMTX by just over an hour and more importantly had a great day with a lot of TCSD members both racing alongside as well as cheering and volunteering along the way. For those that don’t know, TCSD was the TriClub Division Champion for IMAZ, and I was happy to have helped contribute to the team’s win.

Craig: Did I hear something about you and a sub sandwich at IMAZ?

Cory: Ha, yes well, as I was coming into the end of the bike I could not have been happier. I knew I was going to break 6 hours on the bike, knew the nutrition had gone well and my stomach started growling and I was hungry for real food. I had done a lot of training blocks in the past right after lunches at work or with solid food during long rides off and on and I could tell I was really hungry for real food. I came into T2 and the volunteer said, “What can I get you?” I said, “I need some water without ice and any solid food you might have.” He said, “I have pretzels, cookies or sub sandwiches.” I literally remember the moment freezing, like a movie scene where car breaks skid in the background. “You have sandwiches?” He said, “Yep, here” and handed me a Turkey sandwich. I ripped off everything except the meet and bread, headed out of T2 and ran the first mile gnawing on this sandwich. I remember hearing people cheering as I ran by say “Does that dude have a sub sandwich???”. It became this funny story after the race and a race photographer even caught me eating it in a photo. Again, not recommending it for anyone else but it helped me that day for sure.

Craig: Your wife Carol has been very successful with her brief triathlon career. As a family, how do you balance 2 adults training, racing, raising children, careers and relationships with family and friends?

Cory: Well anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with me face to face knows that I am very proud of my wife, Carol, and I have no problem whatsoever talking about her to anyone who will listen. I feel like Bob Babbitt sometimes talking about a pro he interviewed or something… But I am proud and she is quiet and humble so I brag. In the last 2 years she has done 13 races (1 overall female win, 7 age group wins, and last year she got on the podium in every race she did except one where she got 4th, a week after a stingray sting from the La Jolla Shores….sorry, I am bragging about her again aren’t I….). Also in the family is Reagan (8) and Madison (4). If you have seen 2 girls running around race finish areas wearing tutus and trying to steal more expo samples, that is most likely them.

We do get asked this question by our friends often and while we don’t have a failsafe plan, we have been able to work out something that seems to work for both of us. Mainly, we have the understanding and acceptance that we don’t get to train or race together much at the same time/race. As a result, we have to pick and choose our races carefully and allow each of us time to prepare for our own “A” races. For example, last fall was “Cory time” so every weekend leading up to IMAZ, Carol simply knew that she was on kid duty and that I was going to be gone a lot. I would come home from a long ride/run, walk in, kiss her, and she would tag off and head out for a run/bike/swim while I napped with the girls. After IMAZ, that switched over to “Carol time” for this year. She is doing Oceanside and has USAT Nationals in Milwaukee later this year. The weekend mornings are hers and I do what I can during the week and after she gets home to get my workouts in. I will do another Ironman diatance most likely next year and we will switch back and forth as needed. But in general we have a good balance of being completely selfish and unselfish with each other’s time when needed.

But we also do our own kind of dates to spend quality time together. While many people will get sitters on a Friday night for dinner and a movie, we have our babysitter show up to the house at 7am on a Saturday so we can go to Great Western Loop with our friends. If she is lucky, I might even throw in Chipotle for lunch afterwards. Spare no expense. It is also not uncommon for us to put the kids to bed, dim the lights… and get out the trainers and ride together through a True Detective or Walking Dead episode.

Also, we both agree that our kid’s come first and that they will be our main focus always. So our Mission Bay runs usually include Reagan and Madison leading us along the way on their scooters or time at the pool will be Carol lap swimming while I swim with the girls and then tag off to get my swim in. This is the healthy lifestyle we are trying to live and promote to our kids. Carol and I feel strongly about being positive role models to the girls and Carol’s increased involvement with the TCSD Youth program is another way to help out as Reagan prepares for her first triathlon this year. By the way, Reagan did the Rock and Roll Kids 1 mile run last year in 7:30… am I bragging again about my girls? Sorry.

Craig: How did the Director of Sponsorships position fall in your lap?

Cory: When we moved back to San Diego in 2012, we had a lot of old friends that we were looking forward to see again, but since we had never raced here, we knew nobody in the triathlon community here in town. We knew of the club and had seen logos and kits at races before in Texas, so we had a feeling we were going to be involved once we got here. Carol attended an Intro night with Paula Munoz and Jay Lewis and the next morning she signed us both up. About a week later the email asking for applicants for the Sponsorship Director came through the Yahoo group and I decided right away it would be a great way to quickly meet a lot of people and become involved at a high level. I applied, and started in the position about a week later. Carol and I have met so many awesome people, both in club, as well as local business owners, etc. It was a great decision, and one I don’t regret at all.

Craig: Everyone “in the know” recognizes you are the ideal person to be Sponsorship Director. Why have you been such a good fit in this position?

Cory: I appreciate the compliment and have been happy with the job I have been able to do so far but I there is no way I would be able to keep this going without the help of Dave McMahon, the previous Sponsorship Director, the Board of Directors and especially Steve Banister. I certainly don’t operate in a vacuum and am sure Steve is happy when a day or two goes by without a text from me.

As far as my fit in the role, in short it is because this is very similar to my “day job” that I do for a living. I manage a team of product managers for Sony Network Entertainment, or as most people probably know it by, the Sony PlayStation Network. My team is responsible for building out many of the features anyone who uses a PlayStation or other Sony connected device to access, buy, play etc. over the Internet. My definition of what product management does is basically the “CEO” of a given product. We are responsible for identifying what the customers want or need, how important it is to them, what they are willing to pay for it and how we translate that into a product we can sell to the end consumer. I view that as no different than my role here for TCSD. While the club is a “club”, it is also most definitely a business with many of our own business partners, customers and “employees”. I use the term customer but only because that is how I view it in my role for TCSD. The sponsors ARE my customers, and if I and TCSD provide them a good product, with strong customer service, then they will come back again and again and will turn into a partner for years to come.

Like in any business, my job is to work with the Board in supporting their initiatives for the year, understand the budget constraints we are up against and put together a “product” that not only our sponsors are willing to “buy” but will deliver either the cash or product that will make our members happy. The membership TCSD has, and more importantly, getting access to the membership for marketing purposes is something that sponsors have valued significantly in the past. So, we have to productize that in a way we can maximize the benefit the club can receive from a given sponsor while balancing that with maximizing the return on investment a sponsor will get for their advertising dollars with us. That is why we have recently tried to max out our advertising channels to help get our sponsors message out. We recently appointed Kat Gunsur to Director of Social Media. I can’t stress enough how phenomenal of a job she does keeping Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ updated with our sponsor’s message, promotional ads, etc. Sponsors see the activity we have for TCSD and find real value in it. We have also offered up focus groups to sponsors who want to try out new products and get direct feedback from their ideal customer demographic, and have even helped introduce partners from outside the area to local retailers in hope of helping them establish direct retailers in San Diego County to get their product out. Just trying to squeeze out all of the possible value the club can provide to the sponsors to make us the most attractive marketing option they have to the triathlon community here in town. So far, so good.

Craig: What are the criteria we look for as a club when we decide to partner with a sponsor?

Cory: I try to focus on 3 main things:

Are they to be a good fit for TCSD?

Going back to my previous answer, we are trying to establish ourselves as a good investment for our customers but there is a saying in business that the only thing worse than not having a customer is having a bad customer. For TCSD this mainly means that we need to make sure who we partner with, is a customer that not only is excited to work with us, but one to whom we know we can bring value to them. The last thing I want to do is sign up a large sponsor who I know is not going to get a return on their investment because of whatever factors. If I know we can’t help them and bring them value then I tell them so up front that it is not a good fit and explain why. Otherwise it only causes a strained business relationship, no parties are happy and most of the time leads to them simply not re-signing on as a sponsor which in the end is not worth it for either party.

How do they balance to our current sponsors?

We have a huge, great list of long time loyal sponsors. But obviously not all of those sponsors are the only ones in their field. There is competition for every single one of our sponsors out there and in a LOT of cases, those competitors would love to advertise with us, give us discounts, anything to try and take a customer or two away from the competition. It is imperative that I look at the sponsors who are, and have been here when looking at new sponsors who are interested in signing on. Are they going to upset a long time sponsor who might walk away from TCSD? Are they selling something direct that takes away sales from the bike shops? These are just a few questions that I have to ask when talking with potential customers. The same thing goes when a shop who is not a sponsor says “Hey, you don’t have to do anything, I just want to give all your members 15% off. Can I communicate that to your members?” And 99% of the time my answer is “No!” The reason goes right back to creating a product that is valuable. I think access to our members is valuable and our sponsors do to. We have to maintain a level of exclusivity for our sponsors, otherwise it becomes worthless and the sponsor paying to advertise stops paying. So while I appreciate the fact that many local shops want to give discounts to our members, in most cases we already have a sponsor who is willing to give the same discount and has already done more for the club like giving us the money to buy the food for meetings, give aways for the raffle table, or paying for the youth program.

Is the return on investment for TCSD worth the time and effort for the club?

I have talked a lot about the return on the investment for our customers, but equally important is the return for TCSD. Is the amount of time or demands from the customer worth the value or benefits they provide TCSD and its members. This not only means how much cash or product they are paying as part of their sponsorship, but also what time or special requests do we need to work with. Again, this is a 100% volunteer run organization and most if not all of us have full time jobs on the side. So all of our time is important and in some cases more important than the benefit TCSD is getting form a sponsor. We have declined to sign or renew sponsors in the past based solely on this point.

So when I look at those 3 points, I can usually have a good feel on whether or not we should pursue them and I do my best to get to an arrangement where all parties sign up and feel that they got a great deal for their respective parties.

Craig: What can our members do to help you as Sponsorship Director?

Cory: This is a great question and there are a LOT of things that every single member can do easily from their computer in the time it takes to read this interview.

Follow TCSD on twitter or Facebook! As I have stressed above our sponsors see those numbers and see the reach their message could have with our group. The higher the number, the greater the reach, the more value we can sell them on when negotiating.

Brag to me about your purchases! Email me at cgasaway@triclubsandiego.org , facebook message me or tweet me @gasaway and tell me when you make purchases from our sponsors! Get a new bike from a bike store? Tell me. Get a new wetsuit? Tell me. Take some swim lessons? Tell me. I am serious. That is data that I need and can use when talking to sponsors. If I know that someone made a purchase for a certain amount and am negotiating with that sponsor, that is direct data that helps me in showing direct sales value TCSD members are bringing them. I can’t stress it enough how much it helps.

Brag about our sponsors! Write a Yelp review, post on Facebook, tell a friend… and mention you are with TCSD. This gets back to sponsors and just like when you make a big purchase and want reassurance it was the right thing to do… so do our sponsors.

And as obvious as it sounds… Brag to your friends who are not in TCSD and renew your TCSD membership every year.

Craig: Where do you see the future for sponsorship with the TCSD?

Cory: The main goal this year for the club, in my opinion, is to move fully to a 5013c. We are currently a different type of non-profit which allows to be exempt from taxes, but prohibits us from accessing a lot of the larger corporation’s charitable funds as well as government grant programs. In our current state, companies can write off their donations/sponsorships to us as marketing expenses, however in larger corporations, there are separate budgets for corporate giving than there are for marketing and the corporate giving process is much more documented. Once we switch to a 5013c, we will be able to apply for grants aimed at educating and promoting healthy lifestyles as well as target some of the larger corporations in town for larger scale donations to help our programs such as Youth or Beginner education programs grow and flourish. This in turn allows us to be less cash focused with our smaller sponsors who are trying to grow their business and can rely on those partners for product only donations to get their brand/message out to the club.

We have a great balance of sponsors themselves that will probably remain about the same, but our focus to really take the club to the next level financially is to move to 5013c. It won’t be fast, but I think it is the direction the club needs to go.

Craig: What is your favorite benefit of TCSD membership?

Cory: The free burritos at meetings! Ok, well maybe just the meetings in general. It is just an incredible opportunity for triathlon geeks like myself. When you think about it, tell me where else in the entire world you could show up, get fed, maybe win a helmet or $100 gift certificate and THEN see Bob Babbitt in person interview the athletes we have had. When you just look at the people we have had in past 14 months???? Pete Jacobs, Andy Potts, Luke McKenzie (oh by the way, let’s just rent out La Paloma Theatre and show the Kona broadcast a week early), Javier Gomez, Rinny and T.O, Michellie Jones, Alistair Brownlee, Taylor Phinney, Lynn Cox… and for under $100 a year? It is just crazy to me, but I’ll take it.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Cory: This year is focusing on running and allowing Carol to take a couple big swings at her races. I will do the Challenged Athletes Foundation Triathlon again and probably HITS Lake Havasu Half Ironman and a few sprints here and there during the summer. I will do another full next year. Hopefully Challenge Roth if I can get in, otherwise IMAZ where I will shoot to break 12 hours. And if I am crazy enough I might try to race Carol and beat her at some point.

Craig: Cory, thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Your family is blessed to have you as their #1 cheerleader and the TCSD is blessed to have you working so hard to benefit us all. Good luck with all that you do!

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

Posted in 2014, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: Mark Kenny – February 2014

Mark Kenny and Matt Sparks (on left) climb Mount Whitney

Mark Kenny and Matt Sparks (on left) climb Mount Whitney

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

This interview was with a real life saver. Seriously! I sat down and talked triathlon and search and rescue with the Tri Club’s own Mark Kenny. Mark is a genuinely great guy who has risked his own life to help many people over the years. I know you’ll thoroughly enjoy getting to know this Good Samaritan.

Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?

Mark: I was a competitive tennis player in high school and for a few years into college. I wasn’t great; I broke more rackets than won tournaments. I ran cross country one season as cross training and really liked it. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley and our home course was the Mount Sac course where they have some outstanding races; it was a great introduction to running.

I joined the Sierra Club in college. They had a Basic Mountaineering Course that taught us navigation, rock climbing, snow and ice climbing; it was a great way to learn more about the mountains I loved since visiting Yosemite as a kid. I climbed in the Sierra Nevada, Tahquitz, Joshua Tree and all over California in the 80’s. I had a few “Epics” — climbs that go awry due to bad judgment, simple mistakes, illness or weather. I suffered through some long nights and grueling hikes so maybe endurance events were in my future.

I continued to run as training until I started to develop some knee pain around my late 20’s. I took up road cycling in the 90’s when I moved to the Inland Empire and competed at the Redlands Classic public races. I took up swimming later when I started to travel for work. So I had done all three sports recreationally prior to starting triathlon.

Craig: How did you happen to get started racing triathlons?

Mark: I followed Ironman in the 80’s and 90’s and always thought that would be a great challenge. I moved to San Diego in 2001 and started ocean swimming. I joined a firm in 2004 where many of my colleagues were endurance athletes. They said “you ran in high school, swam and biked after college, so you just need to put them together.” It sounded like fun so I signed up for Spring Sprint in 2006. At the same time, I learned San Diego had a mountain rescue team. I had always wanted to get back into climbing and felt a rescue team would be a worthwhile way to do it. I thought the triathlon training would be good preparation for the physical demands of the team.

Craig: What is the Search and Rescue team you are a part of and what do they do?

Mark: Mountain rescue as a discipline emerged post-WWII when former troops from 10th Mountain Division and other units who had fought in the mountains returned home and wanted to apply their skills. Mountain rescue teams are specialized teams that train and operate in high altitude, alpine environments on rock, snow and ice and have medical first response as well as technical rescue skills. We have a certification body, the Mountain Rescue Association, and each team re-certifies annually in one technical area (Snow and Ice, Technical Rope Rescue, etc.) We also have federal, state and local requirements that we have to meet, including training, technical knowledge and background checks.

San Diego Mountain Rescue Team was founded in 1967 as a result of two hikers that got lost in the Sierra Madre Occidental in Baja. The team is one of only two independent teams in California (most teams are organized and operated by their local county Sheriff, which has the legal responsibility for lost person searches. We have about 60 active members, ranging from 21 to 60+ years old – some of our best searchers are in the 50+ group so age is not a factor, there is a role for everyone to apply their strengths – physical, mental and experience – to the team.

You might ask why we have a mountain rescue team when San Diego County has no mountains above 6,400 feet in elevation. Our skills translate to some of the well-known areas in the San Diego backcountry where people can get in trouble. We also support teams in San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles where the mountains are higher. Since San Diego and Southern California has such a wide variety of terrain, we train monthly in the mountains, deserts and everywhere in between. Our desert training is in August (think Kona training with a pack) and our best trainings usually involve some rain, snow, darkness and vertical exposure.

We operate in conjunction with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team. We respond to both urban and back country callouts and average about 30 operations per year. Urban searches involve “at risk” individuals (Alzheimer/Dementia, mental or emotional challenges) who have walked away, gotten lost or threatened in some way. Callouts go to all active searchers and we average 10-50 searchers per operation based on need. The Sheriff has additional resources such as helicopters, ATVs, canine search teams that we work closely with.

Craig: What is the process to join the team and what was the qualification experience like for you?

Mark: We recruit each fall and the only paper requirements are that you be 18, have extensive backpacking experience and be in good physical shape. Of course you must be a team player, calm in stressful situations, have a desire to help others and other “soft” skills. We interview applicants and invite a small group to join us on a weekend training in the local mountains. We average about 15-20 recruits each year with about a 50% attrition rate in the first year.

I joined in 2007 and my biggest concern was whether the group would be a type-A, military-oriented, risk seeking bunch of yahoos. After a lot of triathlon training and hiking up Iron Mountain with a heavy pack I knew I was ready for the endurance aspect of the training. However, I wasn’t prepared for physical demands of carrying the litter, extra packs and all the gear the team brings.

We had a small recruiting class that year so the group consisted of about 20 people carrying the litter with the gear in it up Devils Slide trail (2.5 miles, 2,000 feet gain) on Mount San Jacinto in heavy winds. Later that night we were met with rain, then freezing rain/sleet and finally snow. We woke to a cold mist and had two full days of navigation, rappelling, litter packaging and mock searches. We ended the weekend carry a team member down the mountain in hot, dusty conditions. It destroyed me! I got home around 6 p.m. Sunday and fell asleep by 7 p.m. It took the better part of a week to recover!

I found the team to be very much like the skilled, cautious, supportive, teams I climbed with in the Sierra Club in the 80’s. I was accepted onto the team as a Trainee. All team members must attend 50% of trainings and 20% of operations each year to maintain their active status. The next two years were spent training, taking a medical first responder course and gaining experience on operations. Eventually I started leading groups, trainings and was elected as a full Rescue Member in 2010. Rescue Members are signed off on all skills, have led trainings and demonstrated leadership on the team. I also was elected President of the team in 2011 and served two years in that role.

Craig: What have been some of the more notable searches you have been part of?
Mark: I searched for Chelsea King the night she disappeared. That was a tough search because we had a lot of concerned friends, family and public involved and we had to balance their concern with our need to manage the search. That night, we were looking for someone who had gone missing and was presumed injured.

As the search continued over the five days, our goals changed, we had heavy rain and many more resources including the FBI. After Chelsea’s body was found, we were then called out multiple times to search for Amber Dubois. While neither outcome was hoped for, finding the girls and bringing closure to their families was satisfying.

That was a tough time for many of our team members; we have support resources and critical incident debriefings that help members process their feelings and achieve some level of closure as individuals.

I also searched for Guillermo Pino in 2012, who had gone missing in the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves of Anza Borrego State Park. That was frustrating as we did not find him over 7 days of searching, involving up to 250 searchers from as far away as Santa Barbara, including a cave rescue team. Eventually his body was found by a private party and he was recovered by a mine rescue team due to the dangers of the cave he was in. He had fallen in one of the caves near his last known location and had expired prior to our arrival the following morning.

Those tough searches are contrasted by the many successful searches the team has participated in over the years. In almost all cases, the lost person is found or returns safely within 24 hours. We found a nice elderly gentleman recently eating by himself in a taco shop. His family said he loved tacos so we sent teams to all the taco shops in the area and found him there!

Craig: What is the most rewarding aspect of being part of the Search and Rescue team?

Mark: I think most of us do this because we have been lost or stuck somewhere in the back country and would like to think there is someone who will get out of their warm bed and go into bad conditions to try to find us. The camaraderie of the team is also a very important part of staying motivated to attend trainings and meet the membership requirements. The gratitude of the individuals or their families is especially poignant and somewhat unexpected. I am amazed at how grateful they are even when presented with difficult news.

Craig: What have been some of your most favorite triathlon experiences?

Mark: Well, mostly the people in the sport and the support among the athletes. Little things like a “good job” or high five can go a long way in the event. As most people know, I really enjoy Wildflower and that whole weekend. However, I’ve curtailed my camping since I do a lot of it every month now with the team! It must be like working in an ice cream shop; you lose the desire you once had for it! One of my most pleasant surprises is falling back in love with trail running, competing in Xterra trail runs and running in the Grand Canyon.

Since I train more than I race, I’d have to say some of those long days where you transcend the physical aspect of the sport, the endorphins kick in, a sunrise or sunset or a freak snow shower on a ride or run in the mountains have been some of my best experiences.

Craig: What was the dumbest thing you have ever done as a triathlete?

Mark: Wow, there are so many! First, not joining the club prior to doing my first triathlon! I was doing my own swims in the ocean (not recommended) and didn’t really know what sighting was all about. I strained my neck and pinched a nerve at Spring Sprint 2006 and could not race the rest of the season. Ouch! Arranging all my gear in T1 only to have it rained on during the swim was another “duh” moment.

I’m pretty famous for showing up with the wrong gear or missing something. I’ve run in bike jerseys, biked with swim goggles and shown up without my shoe insoles for my first ultra. I had to drive back 11 miles to the nearest town and buy a generic Dr. Scholl’s. I missed the start by 30 seconds. That was fun.

Craig: What is your favorite benefit of TCSD membership?

Mark: Definitely the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve developed that transcend the sport. I met my lovely wife Elizabeth at a swim and “chased” her for a couple of years before she said yes to a date in 2009. I think we were both smitten from there. We dated long distance, married in 2012, suffered through her nursing school and my job changes and are just now looking forward to having more time together and racing more. She has changed me in so many positive ways, keeps me grounded, doesn’t suffer my whining (much) and is very supportive of my search and rescue work. I’ve also met so many good friends who indulged my crazy schemes for workouts or “events” over the years.

My favorite “tangible” benefits are the club pot lucks, work outs, and sponsor swag and discounts. This can be an intimidating sport to get into and the club has done a great job building a support system around the sport.

Craig: What athletic performance are you most proud of?

Mark: Definitely the 2009 Montana De Oro 50K since it was the event where I put together a training schedule, did the work outs, fully prepared (except for the insoles) and completed without injury. I had committed to running the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim with a couple of friends in October 2009. I had some great training runs including your Rancho Santa Fe 11-miler (many times), several Xterra races, repeats on Devil’s Slide trail on San Jacinto and several late night runs (“yes honey, I’m fine, go to bed, you have a race in the morning, I’ll be home soon”).

I signed up for the race which is held in one of my favorite State Parks in California and took my daughter and my niece with me as support. How I got two teenagers to hang around a race tent for 6 hours I don’t know. The race is two loops equally 25K that you repeat for the 50K.

I go out conservatively and feel great on the downhill’s, just bombing away like at the Xterra’s earlier in the year. I’m running in front of a woman and she’s complimenting me then I realize she and her friends are doing the 25K. Uh, maybe I should hold back a little? I get passed by numerous 50K racers then who I ended up passing in the second 25K.

I was really proud to keep it together and I’m just flying past people who are walking the final couple of miles. I enter the final switchback and I see my daughter and my niece hurrying from the parking lot down to the finish on the beach. My niece has had a tough time with rheumatoid arthritis so she can’t run and I’m watching her kind of shuffle run down this hill and I just lost it. It was my most satisfying finish.

Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you like to change?

Mark: That is tough, the sport has grown so much in just the last few years. Anything that makes the sport more accessible and fun, like a triathlon “park” that has permanent transition stations, showers, and course markings would be great. I think the junior programs and school programs that are emerging are great. Triathlon is the gateway drug to so many other fun pursuits, let’s keep it growing!

From the club perspective, I’d like to see races during the week (other than the aquathlons). Some of us have weekend commitments (kids, jobs, search and rescue) that prevent us from attending weekend events. How about a Friday evening race?

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Mark: Wow, I feel I am just starting to progress within the sport itself and I look at guys like Gerry Forman and others as inspiration to go farther into the sport. I’ve had some back issues that go back to pre-triathlon years that I feel are just starting to be resolved, so I’m optimistic.

I believe you and I had a conversation once about how not running in my 30’s (due to vague knee issues that my conservative doctors never diagnosed as IT band) might have allowed me to run well into my “adult” years! I do feel like trail and beach running has allowed me to build strength and flexibility and stay relatively injury free over the years.

I still want to complete my first half ironman and then we’ll take it from there. I’d still like to go to Kona but I have a lot to learn, especially about nutrition.

Craig: How can people contact you for more information about the Search and Rescue Team?

Mark: Thanks Craig, they can contact me at markrkenny@gmail.com or visit our team’s website at http://www.sdmrt.org/. They should just be prepared to train and race a little less!

Craig: Mark, thank you so much for sharing your story. You have made a huge contribution to our community with your search and rescue efforts. Stay safe, my friend!

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

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