USA Triathlon Sprint Distance National Championships

Mom and I at the Awards Ceremony

Mom and I at the Awards Ceremony

On August 10th I raced the USA Triathlon Sprint Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. I have only raced Sprint Nationals on one other occasion. That was in 1997 at Catalina Island, CA. On that day I beat 26 other guys to win the men’s 35-39 age group and become a National Champion. Back in those days very few guys would get on an airplane to race Sprint Nationals so it was not nearly as competitive as today. This year there were 26 states represented just in my age group. I was going to have my hands full.

I had raced the Olympic Distance Nationals the day before. The Olympic Distance race would serve as the lone qualifier for the 2015 Olympic Distance World Championships in Chicago. The Sprint Nationals would serve as the lone qualifier for the 2015 Sprint Distance World Championships in Chicago. I chose to double up and do both Nationals to improve my odds of qualifying for one of the teams racing in Chicago. I grew up in the Chicago area so I was very motivated.

25 Team USA slots per age group were going to be awarded based on our ages in 2015. In the Olympic Distance race I placed 22nd, but dropped down to 27th based on my 2015 age. I was pretty confident that 2 guys would pass on their slot and I’d get one, but there was no guarantee. That meant I was going to have to be just as aggressive in the Sprint race…if there was anything left in the tank.

I felt good on race morning. I swam more than usual for my pre-race warmup to make certain I was ready to get out of the gate fast. The 750 meter swim was in Lake Michigan. I hammered the swim in 11:05 which put me in 16th place. My pace of 1:21 per 100 yards was actually a bit faster than the day before.

The 20K (12.4 miles) bike course was the same as the day before. We climbed about the same amount, but did not have as far to go on the flat portion. I tried really hard on the bike, but could not summon the same power as the day before. No surprise there. I had the 53rd best bike split with a time of 34:13. I averaged 21.8 mph, whereas the day before I averaged 22.7 mph. This effort put me in 39th place.

During the Olympic Distance race I actually passed 39 guys on the run. I knew I’d pass guys during the Sprint, but would I have enough real estate to pass enough guys? I took off like what little hair I have left was on fire. Only 13 guys ran under 20 minutes and only 3 of them ran under 19 minutes. I posted the 3rd best run split of 18:37 to finish in 1:07:46. I was only 4 seconds away from the fastest run split. I passed 25 guys to finish 14th out of 118 men in the 50-54 age group. Based on my 2015 age I placed 16th so I knew that day that I had qualified to represent Team USA in the 2015 Sprint Worlds. That was a huge relief!

For my age group I actually had the fastest “double”. That means I had the fastest combined times for the two races. There were actually a handful of guys that did both races. There was no award for that, but at least I have bragging rights.

It took over a month, but I did finally learn that 2 guys passed on the Olympic Distance slot so I accomplished my goal. I will get to race for Team USA in both 2015 races in Chicago.

To see my race photos, click on this link:

http://www.marathon-photos.com/scripts/photo.py?template=MPX2&event=Sports/CPUK/2014/Age%20Group%20National%20Championships&photo=AAAW0998&bib=4650

The #1 highlight from the trip was sharing the experience with my Mom. Mom is 93 and she still lives in the Chicago area. She joined me in Milwaukee. We had a great time together, as always. My life is very, very good. I have much to be thankful for.

Living the life…

Posted in 2014, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships

Recovering post race

Recovering post race

On August 9th I raced the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. Nationals was the lone qualifier for the 2015 World Championships in Chicago – this would be the big prize. 25 slots per age group were going to be awarded. Typically Nationals has about 125 guys in my age group. On August 9th there were 229 on the start list and they were all qualified to be there. Every age group had numbers like this. 2014 was going to be the most competitive Nationals ever!

I was born and raised in Glen Ellyn, IL which is 25 miles west of Chicago. I’ve had my eye on qualifying for the Worlds in Chicago ever since it was rumored 2 years ago and officially announced 1 year ago. Every single day for 2 years I have thought about this race. It’s impossible to put into words what it would mean to me to race a World Championship in Chicago. No pressure!

My wife Laurie and I flew into Chicago on August 7th. Laurie was going to race the Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, MI. Meanwhile my 93 year old Mom, who still lives in the Chicago suburbs, joined me in Milwaukee. Both Laurie and my Mom have been my best supporters forever. Having my Mom with me calmed me and put my head in the right place. She’s 93. As much as I wanted that qualifying slot to Chicago, I wanted this time with my Mom even more.

Race morning got off to the right start. I got body marked by Miss Wisconsin!

The 1.5K (0.93 miles) swim was in a protected Lake Michigan harbor so there were no waves or chop. The water was clear and very comfortable. My strategy was to be extremely aggressive all day long. I was very pleased with how my swim felt and my swim time of 22:37. This was a great swim for me. Only 8 guys broke 20 minutes so I was not very far off the pace. Thankfully I was not aware that my time put me in 42nd place. I should not be surprised, though, because I knew this race was not going to be a picnic. The margins were going to be very tight between success and failure.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike was mostly flat, but it did have a few moderate hills on a single loop course. Flat courses are a big problem for me because I just don’t have the power to pedal with the bigger guys. My bike split was 1:05:58 which gave me a 22.7 mph average. I was thrilled with this. I biked great! Thankfully I was not aware that it was only the 95th best bike split on the day. And I’m especially thankful that I did not know I had dropped down to 61st place after the bike. 6 guys went under 1 hour on the bike. Like I said, the competition was brutal.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run was pancake flat along Lake Michigan. Obviously I had a lot of work to do on the run, but I was going to give it everything I had. The good news was that there were a lot of guys only a little bit ahead of me. The question was – how many could I pass on the run? In triathlon the body markers put your age on your calf so it can be easily identified if another competitor is in your age group. It takes a lot of energy to read the back of someone’s calf. I mostly just focus on myself and the task at hand – trying to run fast. I figured I passed about 20+ guys on the run. I had the 5th best run on the day as my split was 37:50. Only 16 guys managed to run under 40 minutes. Low and behold, I had passed 39 guys and finished 22nd out of 192 men in the 50-54 age group to finish in 2:10:31.

Once it was over I knew I’d had a great race. Everything went as well as possible. I could not think of any mistakes or bobbles. I gave it everything I had right through the finish line. Now the waiting would begin. The 25 slots for Chicago will be based on our ages in 2015. I always knew those were the rules. I would find out at the Awards Ceremony that night how many guys had aged out of my age group and how many guys had aged in based on our ages in 2015. That night I learned I was 27th based on my 2015 age. I was still pretty happy with that as it meant that only 2 guys needed to pass on the slot and I would get to race in Chicago.

To see my race photos, click on this link.

http://www.marathon-photos.com/scripts/photo.py?template=MPX2&event=Sports/CPUK/2014/Age%20Group%20National%20Championships&photo=AAAF1185&bib=1237

On September 16th I was notified by USA Triathlon that a spot had rolled to me. It was a bit anticlimactic to be awarded the spot more than a month later, but I’ll take it any way I can get it. The two most high profile races every year in triathlon are Ironman Hawaii and the Olympic Distance World Championships. I’m so excited and proud that I will get to race the Olympic Distance Worlds back home in Chicago! This will be the 21st time I have raced for Team USA in a World Championship, but it will, by far, mean the most to me.

God has blessed me in so many ways!

Living the life…

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

TCSD Conversation: Andrew Shore – August 2014

Andrew Shore and Dena Garcia wine tasting after the Temecula Half Marathon

Andrew Shore and Dena Garcia wine tasting after the Temecula Half Marathon

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of chatting triathlon with TCSD Ambassador Andrew Shore. Andrew actually started a triathlon club when he lived on the east coast so he brings a wealth of knowledge to our club. And this dude can swim like a fish!

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Andrew: I was thrown into my first swim lesson at two weeks old. This was normal for kids growing up in Scottsdale, AZ with all the backyard pools. I tried basically every sport you could imagine growing up and I soon realized that I had zero coordination with any sport that included a ball. By the time I got to high school I had given up on everything but swimming. During high school I fell in love with swimming, joined a year round club team and dropped enough time in my distance freestyle events that I was fortunate enough to gain a swim scholarship to Rider University a small division one school out in New Jersey. By the end of my swimming career I was happy to hit 16:35 for my mile and a 4:48 for my 500 time.

Craig: How did you first get introduced to triathlon?

Andrew: After I graduated college the doctors told me I could have surgery on my shoulders or do nothing for a year. I chose nothing and gained nearly 40 pounds! Realizing drinking and eating wasn’t the life I wanted to lead, I started biking a bit and eventually my ma got me a drag suit saying I should start swimming again. This began my slow progression into triathlon life. A year after graduation, I began my triathlon career in earnest, signing up for a sprint, Olympic and half Iron distance race to see how I’d fare at the different distances. I had grown up around the sport so I kind of knew what I was getting into (or at least I thought I did). I watched my father and uncles compete in triathlon, biathlon and long distance biking my entire childhood. One of my uncles had raced Kona at least a dozen times, doing it his first time back in 1981. So after taking a year off for athletics I dove right into triathlon and even had some success in the sprint distance, finishing on the podium in my age group. This boosted my confidence until I hit the half Iron distance race…Soma Half Ironman in Tempe, AZ. I had no idea how to pace or handle the distance, struggling through the heat, I was just happy to finish. This was the moment I decided this sport is a challenge for me and I love it…

Craig: What are your perspectives on introducing people to a healthy lifestyle?

Andrew: I’ll never forget going to the doctor when I wasn’t working out and getting the results back. My cholesterol was super high for a 21 year old. Discussing my results with some co-workers, one guy said to me “You’re just going to be a Lipitor guy like the rest of us.” This is when I told him there is no way I’d be taking pills to fix something that can be resolved by just living an active healthy lifestyle. I grew up around a father who trained for all sorts of events for the joy of training and I knew after that talk with my co-worker, this would be the lifestyle I’d be leading. Now I make sure everyone knows how happy and healthy I am because of my lifestyle. I also strongly encourage everyone around me to do the same.

Craig: What stands out in your memory about your first triathlon?

Andrew: My very first tri was during the summer of my freshman year of college in 2001. It was an Olympic distance race at Lake Pleasant, AZ. I came out of the water in first place overall and was feeling awesome. That confidence was short lived because before I even hit the turnaround for the bike, my 67 year old uncle was flying by me like I was standing still. I recovered a bit on the run, but never caught him! Fortunately he never beat me again…

Craig: You’ve done 4 different Ironman races over the past 4 years. What have been the highlights of each Ironman venue you’ve raced at?

Andrew: My first Ironman was in 2011 at Lake Placid. Living outside of NYC, this was our local race. I volunteered in 2010 and caught the bug! The atmosphere in Lake Placid is amazing and is by far the best finish line (outside of Kona) in the sport. You finish on the 1984 Olympic skating ring oval and the crowds are unbelievable! In 2012, I decided to try a flat course heading to IM Florida in Panama City. When you think of pancake flat, no exaggeration, Florida is it. The biggest hill is on the bike and it is a canal overpass! I was first out of the water in the race, but I learned that my body does not like biking in the same position for 5 hours as I got some nasty cramping that lead to my worst marathon in an Ironman. Last year I knew I’d be on the west coast so I signed up for Couer d’Alene. Couer d’Alene is almost a mirror image to Lake Placid when it comes to courses and it suited me perfectly. The water is pristine and cool, the bike has some hills so you’re not in aero the whole way and the run has some hills to make it a good challenge. The best part is similar to Lake Placid the whole race is centered around the small town so you get to see your family and friends at least 10 times during the race. This past July I completed Ironman Whistler. This race was by far the prettiest race I’ve ever been to. You are nestled in the mountains and it’s hard not to be distracted by the views during the entire day. Next year I’m hoping to sign up for Cozumel or AZ, and then at least one Ironman a year till my body says it can’t handle it anymore!

Craig: What inspired you to found a triathlon club when you lived in Hoboken?

Andrew: In 2006, I had been training with a few guys I met at the local masters swim practices. After training together a ton and looking to invite others to our workouts, we decided that we should start a triathlon club. Living in the NYC area, all clubs were coaching based, so they required a huge investment of hundreds of dollars. We decided we wanted to create a club for the common person, more social than competitive that would be beginner friendly. So that’s what we did, Gold Coast Triathlon was born and we charged $20 a year with several group workouts planned each week. We started with 4 guys and one girl and by the time I left nearly 2 years ago, we had over 150 paying members. I’ll be the first to admit, moving west was the best thing for Gold Coast Triathlon. Being President since its inception, the club was limited to what I had time to do. Moving forced the club to create a board and committees. The club has grown to over 200 members and even has their own VO2 testing for use by its members.

Craig: What brought on your move to San Diego?

Andrew: Why would any guy move 3,000 miles away from the place he called home for over ten years, a girl of course! In 2011, a small storm called Hurricane Irene shut down the city of Hoboken, NJ where I lived and forced evacuations. Since I was evacuated from my apartment, I decided to hit the local bar of course! A good friend of mine said she was doing the same thing and had a friend she’d like me to meet. The next part is a bit of a blur, but I can say that I knew I had met the girl I was going to be with. This past Christmas, she even said YES and now in February I’ll be marrying fellow TCSD member Dena Garcia!

Craig: What volunteer activities have you done since joining the TCSD?

Andrew: Because of my strong swimming background, I always liked coaching. Since joining TCSD, I’ve been coaching the masters program at the JCC a couple times a month. If you’re ever looking for a good workout and a coach who’s going to yell at you (I mean encourage you) to do your best, look for when I’m coaching, typically on Monday nights.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of membership in the TCSD?

Andrew: I really love all of the group workout options during the week. There are so many different workouts to choose from every day that it’s hard to pick which ones I want to go to. I love the fact that TCSD is so social and friendly, being new it was nice to go to a workout or meeting and have people come up to me and introduce me to others like I had been a member for years.

Craig: You are on the TCSD Ambassador Team. What has that opportunity been like?

Andrew: Being an ambassador has been an awesome privilege. TCSD is the original tri club and I was honored to represent what that means at all of my races and training this year. Being an ambassador has allowed me to get more involved in helping where ever I can with the club and get a better understanding on how a club this size works.

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

Andrew: I believe the largest thing missing in the sport of triathlon is a better emphasis on the professional athletes. Outside of ITU, there is no circuit or race series that allows the pros to survive off of just racing. Currently pros have to survive by doing other endeavors rather than being able to just focus on racing. The pros in our sport are #1 marketer of the different races and make a considerable effort in trying to expand the sport. Nobody would have even heard of Kona if it wasn’t for the professional athletes fighting on Wide World of Sports back in the 80s. I think the professionals should be allowed to be professional and not have to constantly worry about finances because race series won’t pay them their dues.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Andrew: The ultimate goal for anyone racing long distance is to qualify for Kona. Being in the 30-34 age group currently makes this goal very difficult, but I won’t quit trying! I’d also like to win a race overall at some point in my career. I’ve been fortunate enough to finish 2nd or 3rd on multiple occasions, but it would be great to finish on the top spot.

Craig: Andrew, thank you so much for sharing your story. The Gold Coast Triathlon Club’s loss is our gain! The TCSD is thrilled to have you and Dena among our members. Good luck in achieving all of your dreams!

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, Half Marathon, Running Race, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: Kat Gunsur – July 2014

Kat "working" at TriRock San Diego 2013 which benefits Team Challenge.

Kat “working” at TriRock San Diego 2013 which benefits Team Challenge.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the very rewarding opportunity recently to talk triathlon with Kat Gunsur. Kat wears a lot of triathlon hats including that as the TCSD’s Social Media Director. She is a huge part of the process that puts us on the map and gives our club world-wide visibility. Kat is also very focused on helping others as you will see by her work with Team Challenge.

Craig: What sports did you do before triathlon?

Kat: Ice Skating, Horseback Riding, Ballet, Jazz, and surfing; my little heart was broken many times in those sports. Unfortunately, my brother was good at EVERYTHING he did, and me, well, not so much. We grew up playing club soccer just like my dad did when he grew up Istanbul, Turkey (Fun fact: I have dual citizenship in the US and Turkey) I remember watching him and my brother play, and they were SO GOOD and FAST. My brother is one of those people who is naturally gifted, so much so that he won the 8000 Meter Challenge 2 years in a row – and I didn’t even know about it for a while! The 8000 Meter Challenge is a race where participants climb the 3 tallest peaks in Southern California in 24 hours for a total elevation gain of 8000 meters (Mt. San Antonio, Mt. San Gorgonio, San Jacinto Peak).

Gymnastics was my first love and I of course dreamed of being like Dominique Moceanu and cursed my parents for not signing my life away to gymnastics at 3 years old. Instead I started at 13…..so I was already too old. Nonetheless, I was OBSESSED with gymnastics and was also on my high school’s Varsity dance team and dance company, lettering in Dance and Theatre (yes you can actually do that). Gymnastics was my world, but I just didn’t have the talent and so those who can’t do, coach, just like the famous Bela Karolyi. I coached for 8 years in LA, San Diego and San Francisco.

Craig: After college you worked as an intern at the Olympic Training Center. How did you land that job and what did it entail?

Kat: Gymnastics was such a passion of mine that I used to mock design how my gym would look inside on Microsoft paint…..super high tech. I received my BS Management degree at San Diego State and during my time there was part of the Business Honors Program, while also coaching, joining a sorority, choreographing for the SDSU theatre department and of course massive amounts of partying.

I was pretty serious about owning my own gym one day and was stoked on the opportunity to live with Olympic athletes. Living at the Olympic training center meant that I had the opportunity to live like an Olympic athlete in the dorms, eat like an athlete, have my room cleaned daily and also train like an athlete……except in Operations management mastery and high intensity intervals of Microsoft Excel.

But in all seriousness, the Olympic Training center was a playground for my old athletic self, and the previous mentioned massive amounts of SDSU partying, led to an overweight, sloppy looking Kat. The training center in Chula Vista hosts Track and Field athletes, softball players, archers, field hockey players, Olympic weightlifters, rowers etc. We also received a free membership to a popular fitness chain and my love for fitness EXPLODED during this time. I kind of caught that fitness craze bug taking kickboxing, strength training, and cardio classes.

Stupidly, I did not continue working at the USOTC after my internship ended in 2006, and instead moved to San Francisco to be the lead program director of a girl’s gymnastics team in the Presidio right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was there that my gymnastics career ended, I had lost my drive for pounding perfection into 6 year olds (the significance of what a pointed toe and high releve should look like lost its appeal) and I starting managing facilities at this popular fitness chain throughout San Francisco.

Craig: How did you get started with triathlon?

Kat: My relationship with triathlon began during what I would call a quarter life crisis. Uncertainty in relationships, where I was living, what I was doing and also lack of friendships as all my friends were still finishing college at SDSU all came to a head when I starting working at the corporate office for this fitness chain.

They really encouraged us to live the fitness lifestyle so all of a sudden and it was not uncommon for everyone to be working out on their lunch hours so suddenly….I found myself running. Running is strange for an ex gymnast and soccer player. You pretty much prance sprint run 50 yards to a spring boardy horse launcher thingy in gymnastics.

I remember when my goal was to run 8 minutes straight, then 20, then 30. I signed up for a 5k and didn’t realize till recently (thanks to Athlinks) that I had won my age group. I called my mom almost in tears of joy telling her it was one of the hardest things I had ever done; funny now 6 years later after finishing Ironman, a few half’s and countless sprint/Olympic distances.

Unfortunately, things only got worse in my personal life while I started training for the Nike Women’s half marathon; a race I said I was only doing because I wanted a Tiffany’s necklace (so shallow I know, now I have 6 of them from running Nike every year). Something changed in me that day and that race changed my entire core being.

After seeing the sea of purple surround me at Nike I found myself on the Team in Training website signing up for a triathlon to raise $5,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s mission and for the Lavaman Triathlon 6 months later. I didn’t even know what a triathlon was!

Fate was sealed. I raised over the $5,000 minimum, made friends for life (I was just asked to be the Godmother for my best friend from TNT), and crossed the finish line at Lavaman in 2008.

Craig: You became a coach for Team in Training pretty quickly. What was that experience like?

Kat: After my first triathlon with TNT I did every race I could, became a captain my second season and then moved to North Carolina to become the Fitness Director of O2 Fitness and started doing what I really loved, group exercise and personal training, teaching such classes as TRX, spin, bootcamps, ab sculpt, sports performance etc.

After 1 year in triathlon, Team in Training needed a coach in Raleigh so it’s only completely logical that I would coach right? My fitness certifications and past coaching experience only gave me a sliver of what I needed to do, but I coached for them for two seasons sending athletes to the Nation’s Triathlon and Wilmington Sprint in 2009 and 2010.

Craig: What is Team Challenge and what was your involvement early on?

Kat: I started to realize that I loved what triathlon gave to me but also I LOVED helping others, volunteering and helping important causes such as the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.

I did NOT love North Carolina. My family was in LA, my friends in SD, I had to get back to San Diego.

Team Challenge which is a half marathon and triathlon training program that benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, had an opening for their triathlon manager. This job was made for me!

I moved back to San Diego in 2012 and have been working with the Team Challenge San Diego TriRock team since. Team Challenge is an amazing and inspiring organization. The people I have met are my family and they have humbled me in my training and my race endeavors. I’m never sick and I don’t have an incurable disease and I started growing tired of my “ME ME ME, look at me, look what I did!” attitude. To see the strength of my teammates when they may not be feeling well or have been released 5 days from the hospital before TriRock and still racing truly makes me realize that there are people who are bigger than me and that are fighting DAILY with IBD. They do not let it bring them down, and instead find comfort and support with our group. You cannot find a better job than this.

Team Challenge has brought over $169 million to research and have funded huge initiatives, especially in this past year. We have received a 4 Star Rating from Charity Navigator the past 3 years in a row, an honor ONLY 12% of other nonprofits receive.

A lot of people don’t understand why this is important, or what Crohn’s and Colitis and why is it so debilitating? Well……Just because you can’t see the effects of someone who has Crohn’s and Colitis doesn’t mean that it is not an important cause. Crohn’s and Colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases that affect your colon, large intestine and/or entire gastrointestinal tract. A lot of people call it the “invisible disease” for that reason and also because it is not something typically someone would want to share! Oh it’s that bathroom disease? No it’s unfortunately more than that, in and out hospital stays, mental illness, anxiety, multiple medications, sometimes multiple surgeries and even death. I think now more than ever I am rallying support and funding for these two diseases because a top researcher was asked this past year what kind of research we see being done in the next 10 years and he said NONE….because we will have a cure by then!

Craig: Congratulations on your recent promotion to National Triathlon Team Manager for Team Challenge. What will you do in that role?

Kat: I’m EXTREMELY excited and honored to be given this role as it means that I will continue in Team Challenge’s efforts while working more closely with Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events. This past September we were given over 200 spots at IM Chattanooga for Team Challenge and each participant must raise $5,000 to gain entry into the race. Yes, you are calculating that right…..that is $1 million dollars that goes back to CCFA and is huge for our organization as at TriRock we will usually raise about $490,000. In reality people will over fundraise as this is near and dear to their heart.

This event sold out in less than 3 minutes. Naturally, triathletes wanted to be a part of an Inaugural IM event in Tennessee and the 200 spots sold within 24 hours. Truly amazing!

With this promotion I will have the chance to support people in their road to Ironman through their fundraising and training with Team Challenge. I wish I could tell you what races we have slated for our 2015 year, seriously…..I am the luckiest girl in the world and will go places I’ve never been to and meet people I would have never met without this organization.

If you’ve ever wanted to train for a higher purpose or maybe honor someone you know or yourself, I would highly recommend training with any charity training program. Can you say life changer? http://www.ccteamchallenge.org

Craig: What do you do as the TCSD Social Media Director and how does the club benefit from social media?

Kat: I have to thank Cory Gasaway for interviewing me for this opportunity. Cory and I met at the Rush Indoor cycling studio where I teach a few times a week. I also proudly coach at Orange Theory Fitness in Point Loma and La Jolla as well as the Wavehouse in PB. We did not have a social media position before I started in April 2013 so I implemented the transition from TCSD group page to a fan page.

This is critical in that you can analyze the reach you are attaining from each post, and also reach out to not only our members, but potential members, pro athletes and our amazing sponsors. With the fan page we can communicate with members with what is on the schedule for the week, inform them about future events, post photos, create videos of our club races and connect with new, present and past members. What I love about using this platform is that we are almost keeping an online yearbook of TriClub San Diego while also celebrating other exciting events in the triathlon world.

I am able to schedule posts way out in advance so that I can still continue on with my full time job with TC as well as my teaching schedule (about 12 hours/week at Orange Theory and The Rush, I LOVE teaching since I love seeing people reach their goals and it doesn’t hurt to get paid for training every once in a while!).

We’ve also added a Twitter and Instagram account (@triclubofsd) into the mix and just released our club YouTube channel!

Craig: What are some of your favorite triathlon race experiences?

Kat: Lavaman 2008 – my first triathlon ever, in Hawaii #nobigdeal.

Wildflower long course 2012 – basically the day I started dating Scott Smith and accomplished a long time goal of finishing something I used to think was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Vineman 2012 – my first and not last Ironman

Alcatraz 2013 – the challenges I faced that day (not being an amazing swimmer) and finding myself COMPLETELY ALONE out in the water at one point, left me feeling like I could do anything I put my mind to.

North Face Endurance Challenge – 50 mile race I paced Scott with for 20 miles. His first and LAST 50, it was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. The views, the challenges, the competitors and the journey really brought us so close together.

Bass Lake 2014 – I didn’t race, but I sent 15 athletes from Team Challenge with my coaches. One of our participants was one of the last to cross the finish line and the entire team waited for her till the bitter end and ran her into the finish line….truly an exemplary example of the meaning of TEAM

Craig: Your relationship with Scott Smith is an interesting one. How has your relationship with Scott evolved over the years?

Kat: Scott and I actually shared a bathroom together back at SDSU in 2005-2006 when we were roommates. For a few weeks he walked around campus with sparkles on him because he didn’t realize the lotion of mine he was using had a little in it, HA!

We were complete slobs back then, partying all the time Wednesday through Saturday nights, could not care less about school or doing much of anything athletic. After I graduated from college, he and my friends continued playing beer pong regularly and I was on my way to becoming more obsessed with fitness.

Scott and I have always had a strong relationship as friends and I think what I love most about him is that we just get each other and always finish each other’s…..sandwiches.

However, I had other dumb boys in the picture so he sat in the background for about 7 years. When I was in North Carolina he told me that he was training for Wildflower. I was literally blown away, as Wildflower was always a dream of mine and I had no idea that he was into triathlons as much as I was. The last thing I remember him really dreaming about was building a beer couch out of Coors light and for him, he probably remembers how much I loved cheese enchiladas and cheap champagne…….this is really embarrassing, geez.

Anyway, let’s just say this was a huge draw to move back to San Diego, be near my family, have the job of my dreams, and train with my best friend. Wildflower was a success and we’ve been together ever since, completed our first Ironman together, did the whole tattoo thing, and recently moved in together combining our 3 cats Richard, Bumblebee and Megatron.

I actually wrote a fun article about it for Active.com, you can read about it and hear about my other failed relationships where they pretended they were into triathlon, only to throw up on a training run where I was only at 70% of my max. Relationship ender for sure.

Craig: You and Scott are on the TCSD Ambassador Team. What has the Ambassador experience meant to you?

Kat: I’m really honored to be a part of this team. To move back here only 2 years ago, not know a soul, what bike shop to go to or even where to ride or run, it just feels good to be a part of this.

I was on a “club” team back in North Carolina. We got a lame kit and were sent on our way. No one said hi at races or “GO TRI CLUB” as you passed by. There weren’t any awesome meetings with Andy Potts or Scott Jurek and there certainly weren’t any free races. We are extremely lucky.

I’ve had some insane opportunities thanks to the TriClub such as winning cool stuff at meetings, writing articles for Active.com or modeling for Jim Vance’s latest book (my Mom wants to own every copy unless she already does). And more importantly I’ve met some amazing people who have really helped me; Brian Long did my first century ride with me while I was training for Ironman and Ken and Anita Flagg were always there every freezing Wednesday morning in February when I was training for Alcatraz and I seriously could not have done it without them. I think the people who inspire me the most are not always the pros, I’m more inspired by people in this club (too many names to list, but seriously you all are bad a#$@)

I get a little territorial if I see someone speaks ill of the club on our Yahoo forum or on Facebook. I mean…….what are you really complaining about here? We live in San Diego! We have the best training spots and we have the best club with amazing incentives for only $75 a year!

Our board works so incredibly hard and I am so thankful for their efforts to make us the “classiest” tri club around : )

Craig: What athletic accomplishment are you the most proud of?

Kat: My first place overall finish at Warrior Dash in North Carolina out of 2,100 females. No but seriously, I’m most proud of the receiving the “Most Improved athlete” award in 1995 when I played AYSO soccer.

Yep, I’ve had many podium finishes in triathlon, completed an Ironman and a few 70.3’s but I still remember the feeling I felt after working so hard toward improving myself and being recognized by my coaches in front of my team and parents. It may sound ridiculous, but maybe you can relate. That moment has propelled me forward with all my athletic, personal and career goals for the rest of my lifetime.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Kat: Longevity in triathlon. My overall goal is avoid burnout from the sport. I really want to enjoy it for my lifetime so instead of racing every single weekend, or a multitude of large races every year. I’ve decided that I want to always do Wildflower every year with Scott and then one “A” race. This year it will be the New York City Marathon (I actually got in!) and we’ve both never been to New York. Next year it will be Ironman Arizona so my Mom can see me race an Ironman. Yes, I would always love to be faster, stand on more podiums and swim with total ease. At the end of the day though, I want to continue to enjoy this life that triathlon has given me.

Craig: Kat, thank you so much for sharing your story. You epitomize what it means to give back to your community. I’m very glad to have had this chance to get to know you better. I know one thing for certain – I won’t be borrowing your lotion any time soon! Good luck in 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, Half Marathon, Marathon, Running Race, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glen Ellyn Freedom Four Mile Run

Tim Schertz and Craig

Tim Schertz and Craig

Craig with Yohe family - Megan, Karin and Kent

Craig with Yohe family – Megan, Karin and Kent

Craig and Kent - 1st day of school in 1967

Craig and Kent – 1st day of school in 1967

On July 4th I ran the Glen Ellyn Freedom Four Mile Run. I grew up in Glen Ellyn, IL so this race was a trip down memory lane. The highlights of the day were running into some old friends.

The big surprise was running into my buddy Kent Yohe and his family. Kent and I have been friends since before our first day of school as 5 year olds. Kent and his wife Karin live in the Kansas City area where Kent is a pilot for Southwest Airlines. They were at the race to cheer on their daughter Megan who ran for 4 years at Vanderbilt University. Megan just graduated from Vandy and as I write this has just started her job as a 2nd grade teacher in Bogota, Columbia. Megan is an outstanding runner. I knew I would have my hands full to beat her.

My other reunion was with long time triathlon friends Tim Schertz and Johnny Ratkovich. We planned to meet up at the race, but I was just as excited to see them. I’ve known these guys since the early ‘90’s. Johnny did the race with his kids and Tim spectated.

I got “chicked” twice – by a 17 year old and 14 year old who were the 1st and 2nd place women overall. Despite that, I had a great race as I finished in 23:23. I won the men’s 50-59 age group as I placed 1st out of 88. I finished 17th out of 837 overall finishers. Megan won the women’s 20-29 age group and was the 3rd woman overall with a time of 25:38.

Living the life…

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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.

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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

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