TCSD Conversation: Eric Davidson – January 2016

Eric Davidson on the run at Ironman Hawaii.

Eric Davidson on the run at Ironman Hawaii.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I have wanted to interview Eric Davidson for 2 years now. Eric wanted to wait until he finished Ironman Hawaii. The time has come. On October 10th Eric joined the very select club of triathletes to have finished the most famous race in our sport. Eric’s story was worth the wait.

Craig: What was your athletic background prior to triathlon?

Eric: Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I never considered myself an athlete. As an elementary-school child, I participated in youth leagues for football, baseball and swimming but did not excel at any of them. When I was twelve, we moved to the country where I spent all of my free-time caring for and training our Arabian horses. My high-school activities included band, speech and student government; but no sports. I bought my first bike when I was 25 and enjoyed cycling on the country roads of Virginia where I was living. I maintained decent fitness over the next 15 years with frequent trips to the gym and some cycling but nothing very serious. When I turned 40, I became interested in climbing and spent 1-week in a mountaineering school on Mt. Rainier. That led to successfully climbing Mt. McKinley on a 3-week expedition to Alaska in 2005. After that, I wanted to stay active and turned to running to stay in shape. In 2006, I competed in my first race (San Dieguito Half Marathon) and became hooked on road-racing. Later that year, I ran my first marathon in 3:19 which qualified me to run the Boston Marathon in 2007. I raced two more marathons in 2007 with my best result being at San Diego Rock n Roll in a time of 3:15. While waiting in the gym in Hopkinton prior to Boston, I met two guys who were talking about Ironman racing. That inspired me and I set a new goal: complete an Ironman triathlon.

Craig: Most people chose a local sprint for their first triathlon. What was your first triathlon like?

Eric: I am somewhat unique in that my first triathlon was an Ironman. Prior to getting involved in the sport, triathlon meant only one thing to me: Ironman. Because I was now a “marathon runner”, it seemed logical to me to register for an Ironman – why would I start with a race that didn’t include that distance? As I was a complete novice in triathlon, I had much work to do to prepare for Ironman Arizona scheduled for April 2008. I joined TCSD, bought a tri-bike, read books and sought advice from as many people as I could. For my first race, I did not hire a coach but relied on advice I gleaned from others including you, Craig, and from my spin instructor Bernie Sidney.

I entered that first Ironman with much anxiety – and high hopes for a good result. I made some classic mistakes race week, notably swimming in Tempe Town Lake in the days prior to the race and ending up with gastroenteritis the day before the race. I was still throwing up on race morning but didn’t consider sitting it out. This was pre-Facebook but I had still let over 100 family, friends and colleagues know via email what I was doing and I didn’t want to let them (or me) down. This was the last time IM Arizona was held in April and the conditions that day with temps in the 90’s clearly supported the decision to move the race to November. Nonetheless, I finished that race in 13:16 and was happy to be an Ironman!

Craig: Your triathlon career consists of 20 races and 16 of those are full Ironman distance events. What races stand out as the most meaningful to you?

Eric: That’s correct, Craig. Other than a few Sprint and Olympic triathlons in 2008-2009, all of my racing has been at the full-distance Ironman-branded events. I decided to spend my race fees on Ironman races as I was intent on qualifying for Kona via the Legacy program.

My favorite race course is Arizona, a race I’ve completed 9 times. After that first race in April 2008, I trained with Breakaway Training for 6 months and diligently followed the customized training plans that Luke Walton and Felipe Loureiro put together for me. Although I have been self-coached since 2008, I still consult and follow the Periodization programs they designed for me. Their insights and coaching changed me as a triathlete and allowed me to shave 2 ½ hours off my time when I raced IM Arizona again in November of 2008; the 10:48 still stands as my best race to date. I competed again at IMAZ in November 2015 and still consider it the best place for me to race with the flat terrain and typically fast conditions, although we were surprised with the cold and rain conditions this November.

I also love Ironman Wisconsin – the fan support in Madison is tremendous and the course is spectacular. My parents were able to stay with me and watch the race in September 2008; the only time they were able to see me race an Ironman. Having family on the course to cheer you on is incredible and having my parents there was extremely special. I’ll never forget stopping to give my mom a kiss at the top of the helix coming into T2. My parents both passed away in 2013 – I remember them at the beginning of every race and think about how much their support meant to me. If you still have your parents and they haven’t seen you race, I strongly recommend you do whatever you can to make that happen. A mantra my mother loved to say as she attempted to keep active during her cancer therapy was “Someday I might not be able to do this. Today is not that day”. I think about that every time I have the opportunity to race an Ironman.

The inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe of 2013 will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my slowest time (14:54) and the most difficult by far with the cold, altitude and long grades on the bike course. I remember knocking the icicles off my bike in T1 and dealing with the cold temperatures on the run as the day turned into night. The only thing that saved me was relying on my mountaineering training to try to keep warm. I went back through Special Needs at Mile 10 to pick-up clothing that earlier racers had abandoned which allowed me to finish the race in the cold conditions.

Craig: What is the Ironman Legacy Program?

Eric: The Ironman Legacy Program was launched in 2010 to give loyal Ironman racers the opportunity to race at the World Championship in Kona. I was thrilled because I wasn’t fast enough to qualify for Kona by finishing in one of the top spots in my age-group; or lucky enough to gain a spot via the lottery. At that point I had completed 6 Ironman races with the goal of being a 10x-Ironman. With Legacy I had a new goal of 12 Ironman finishes as that was the number required to get to Kona.

The criteria to be selected as a Legacy athlete for 2016 are: 1) Athlete must have completed a minimum of 12 full-distance IRONMAN-branded races by December 31, 2015; 2) Athlete has never participated in the IRONMAN World Championship; 3) Athlete must have completed at least one full-distance IRONMAN event in 2014 and 2015 and 4) Athlete must be registered for a full-distance IRONMAN event in 2016. According to Ironman “Due to the overwhelming popularity of the program, we expect there to be significantly more qualified applicants than there are slots available (100). In the past, qualified Legacy applicants who were not selected in their application year were guaranteed selection in the next year’s program if they maintained eligibility. Due to the amount of qualified applicants we currently have, we can longer make that guarantee and athletes who are not selected will be placed on a wait-list. An athlete’s place on the wait list will be based solely on their Legacy application time-date stamp.” For me, I entered Legacy after completing my 12th race in 2013 but was not selected until my 2nd year. So after 14 Ironman races in 7 years, I finally “earned” my spot to race at the World Championships this past October.

Craig: What was your Ironman Hawaii experience like?

Eric: If you’re a fan of Ironman you need to try to get to Kona to experience the World Championship as an athlete. One piece of advice I received was to allow plenty of time and to get to events early. I was in the first group that completed registration on Wednesday morning and it was incredibly cool to have the volunteers greet us with applause as our group came through the doors – now I’m feeling like an athlete! I attended the Parade of Nations later that day and happened to be the first person to show up at the recommended time. I asked if I could help and the volunteer said, “Do you want to carry the American flag for the US delegation?” It was so much fun to march through Kona with some of the Americans and see the delegations from other countries. A highlight for me was attending the Legacy reception that Ironman holds for the 100 Legacy athletes. Ironman legends Paula Newby-Fraser, Craig Alexander, Dave Scott and Mark Allen were there to congratulate us at a beautiful event at the King K hotel.

I was very fit for this race but was humbled by the conditions on race day. Temperatures were in the 90’s and the winds picked-up later in the day on the bike course. The rain and wind in Hawi made the roads slick and I felt like I was hanging on for dear life at times. My time of 13:43 was one of my slower Ironman times – to give you an idea of how difficult it was for me I raced IMAZ 5 weeks later in 11:28 on a day that included cold and rainy weather and a flat tire. I have tremendous respect for the Kona course and am happy that I was able to complete it on that day.

Craig: What is your involvement with the USA Triathlon Southwest Region Council?

Eric: I was appointed to serve on the USAT – Southwest Region Council in 2012 and re-elected to a 4-year term in 2014. I serve as one of the Executive Officers on the Council and chair the Outreach Committee with the goal to retain and recruit new members to USAT. We hold 12 membership rallies per year at triathlons throughout our region (California, Arizona and Nevada) including special events at the Regional Championship races. The experience serving on the Council has been very worthwhile as I interact with a talented and committed group of council members, USAT National staff, and USAT Board members.

Craig: I’ve been really pleased over the recent years to see more USAT sanctioned races in the San Diego area. Why would someone want to become an annual member of USAT?

Eric: An annual membership allows an athlete to compete in USAT-sanctioned races while receiving benefits including: a subscription to the quarterly USA Triathlon magazine, inclusion in the USA Triathlon national ranking system, discounts from USA Triathlon sponsors, and eligibility to qualify for Team USA and compete in world championship events. Without this membership, a one-day $15 membership is required to compete in any USAT-sanctioned race. The $50 annual fee makes sense based on three races/year; plus purchasing the annual membership avoids the hassle of buying a 1-day license for every race. The discounts are valuable too- I travel extensively for work and pleasure and the 15% discount at Hilton properties pays for the annual membership in a few stays.

In addition, I like the idea of supporting the National Governing Body for our sport. The Membership fees are put to good use for the development and upkeep of USAT age-group programs such as championships, event sanctioning, officiating and rankings. While some funds are allotted to the training and development of elite athletes, most of that funding is through sponsorships and U.S. Olympic Committee support.

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

Eric: I joined TCSD in the fall of 2007 and vividly recall attending my first meeting at Road Runner Sports. Craig, you held a meeting for aspiring Ironman athletes and shared with us your Ironman training plans. The monthly meetings continue to be my favorite benefit of my membership in TCSD. I enjoy the people, the delicious food and the raffles. I’ve learned so much from Bob Babbitt’s interviews with professional triathletes – some of my favorites have been his chats with Chrissie Wellington, Samantha McGlone, Miranda Carfrae, Andy Potts, Ben Hoffman and Luke McKenzie. I am an avid fan of triathlon and attribute getting to know the athletes on a personal level as one of the reasons for that.

Craig: I’ve seen you serving as a race official at many events. What does it take to become a race official and what do you enjoy about this responsibility?

Eric: After a few years in the sport, I was looking for more ways to get involved and became aware of the USAT Officials programs. I attended a clinic in 2011 and became certified as a USAT official- working races mainly in Southern California. Interestingly, when I first started most of the races in San Diego were not USAT-sanctioned or the race director self-officiated. I know we all get frustrated when other triathletes don’t follow the rules (no drafting!) and I’m very happy to see that more local race directors are now using certified officials to create a fair field of play. In 2012 I became certified as an ITU Technical Official. The ITU organization oversees the rules and insures consistency at races around the world including Continental races, the World Triathlon Series and the Olympics. I recently achieved the second level of certification with ITU and would like to officiate at events outside the USA in the coming years. I also work at Ironman events – riding on the back of a motorcycle serving as a bike marshal.   Between the 3 organizations, I officiate at approximately 12 events per year. The organizations pay a stipend and travel expenses- you don’t make much money but I’ve found it to be extremely rewarding, an excellent way to get more involved in our sport and a wonderful way to meet new friends from across the USA and the world! If you’re interested in getting involved, you can find out more information on the USAT website.

Craig: What are some of the funniest things you have seen over the years in triathlon?

Eric: The funniest thing I’ve seen on the race course was at Ironman Lake Tahoe where a competitor was still wearing his wetsuit on the bike course in order to stay warm. He was carrying his Ironman backpack and intended to change into his biking kit once it warmed up. I never heard whether he made the cut-offs and finished the race. I also get great enjoyment and pleasure in seeing the first-time racers at Ironman events. Typically this is about a third of the racers so there are many opportunities to see the OCD behavior that many of us exhibited at our first events.

Craig: What are your favorite aspects of the triathlon lifestyle?

Eric: I enjoy the discipline that triathlon brings to all aspects of my life. I find myself to be more organized when I’m in the middle of Ironman training and I achieve more. I work in outside sales for a medical device company and find that I am more productive at work when I plan most of my waking hours. My children are both now in college so I have more free time to train but that wasn’t the case when they were younger. I remember getting in a 20-mile training run and still making it to the soccer field to coach my daughter’s team at a 10:00 AM game on a Saturday morning. Those were wonderful times but it’s much easier now to fit in the training when my wife and I are empty-nesters.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Eric: I’m not sure – I haven’t signed-up for any races for 2016. It was a big decision not to register for IMAZ 2016 as it would have been my 10th time on that course. I would love to race some of the iconic endurance events in Europe such as Norseman, Challenge Roth, or L’Alpe d’Huez. I entered the Norseman lottery for 2016 but was not selected. I will continue to officiate at USAT, ITU and Ironman events as well as serve on the USAT- Southwest Regional Council to advance the sport of triathlon in the USA. I also plan to get more involved in TCSD – attending workouts, checking out our club races and getting to know other members of the best TriClub in the country!

Craig: Eric, thank you for sharing your story. You are the ultimate Ironman. I bet there is no one else on the planet who can say that 80% of their triathlon race finishes have been the Ironman distance. It’s just a matter of time before you identify a triathlon goal. Good luck and enjoy the journey!

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

Posted in 2016, Half Marathon, Marathon, Running Race, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Caroling 2015

The TCSD Christmas Carolers.

The TCSD Christmas Carolers.

On Sunday, December 13th I organized a group of 20 members of the Triathlon Club of San Diego to sing Christmas Carols at 5 assisted living homes. This is the 14th consecutive year we have done this. Everyone wears Christmas colors and some wear antlers and red noses. Our performances are about 10 minutes long and the residents always sing along with us. It is very heart warming. It always gets my Christmas season off to a great start. It might sound like we are giving a lot, but the reality is we are getting a lot.

This year we sang at these locations:

1)Atria Encinitas – 2 performances
2)Sunrise Assisted Living at La Costa
3)Silverado Senior Living
4)Belmont Village Senior Living – 2 performances
5)LaVida Del Mar

It was unanimous – we all want to live at LaVida Del Mar.

Afterwards Darrell Steele and Laura Sasaki opened their home to us for delicious food and drink.

Living the life…

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Bonfield Express 5K

Pre race with Tera, Ben and Patrick O'Malley.

Pre race with Tera, Ben and Patrick O’Malley.

On Thanksgiving Day I ran the Bonfield Express 5K in Downers Grove, IL. Thanksgiving Day is such a great holiday. It brings families and friends together without all the hassle of gift giving. And community turkey trots like the Bonfield Express are a perfect example of that.

I was joined at the race by my nephew Ben O’Malley and his lovely wife Tera and their 2 year old son Patrick. They live only a half mile from the start line which is a major perk. Tera has really taken to the running lifestyle as she is a 3x finisher of the Chicago Marathon. To say I’m proud of her is a real understatement. And Ben is a hero for helping her make those dreams come true. They are a great team and are introducing their son to an active, healthy lifestyle. They get it.

It’s safe to say that I was well rested going into this race. During October I hardly ran at all as I was nursing an injury. And my November run total was just over 50 miles. Racing a 5K (3.1 mile) was going to be plenty for me. I did a half mile warm up run a few minutes before the race. My warm up continued in the 1st mile of the race. When the guy pushing the baby jogger passed me it rallied my competitive spirit. I could not let some dude pushing a baby jogger beat me! I finished with a time of 19:32 on the hilly course. I came in 1st out of 393 men in the 50-59 age group and 63rd out of 4,919 overall finishers. Thankfully, the guy with the baby jogger was somewhere in my rear view mirror.

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Ironman Hawaii – November 2015

Katherine Adler moments before her 1st Ironman.

Katherine Adler moments before her 1st Ironman.

Lisa Rehberg cycling past the giant Lisa Rehberg heads.

Lisa Rehberg cycling past the giant Lisa Rehberg heads.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure of chatting with some of the TCSD members who finished Ironman Hawaii on October 10th. I asked them 3 questions and I thought you’d enjoy the answers of our elite members.

Craig: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to finish Ironman Hawaii?

Katherine Adler (1st Kona finish): I thought the run would suck the most because I’m a swimmer and swimmers can’t run (which holds true in my case), but actually the bike was sooo long and annoying for me! I was actually looking forward to starting the marathon because I was so over the bike. Who does that?

Lynn Crossman (1st Kona finish): Memorial Day weekend I had a bike crash and broke my jaw in 3 places. I was wired shut to later learn I needed additional jaw surgery. I now have a titanium plate as I had actually shattered my jaw socket. I was then banded shut for about 7 weeks. I also was not wearing bike gloves during my crash and took the skin off my hand to the muscle so I had to have a skin graft.

Eric Davidson (1st Kona finish): The bike course was hard because of the conditions. I’ve raced hilly courses (Wisconsin, Lake Tahoe, Coeur d’Alene) but Hawaii was more difficult for me with the heat, humidity and wind. Five miles short of Hawi, the rain and wind picked up which made the road surface precarious. The cross-winds after the turn in Hawi were treacherous but the worst part was the headwind in the last 40K coming back into Kona. Success isn’t always measured by the result: 13:43 was one of my slowest times but one of my favorite days in triathlon.

Claudia Flynn (1st Kona finish): I had different obstacles. First, I was not sure I could even make it to the start line due to a knee and shoulder injury early in the year. I took an aggressive approach and did everything possible to get there (MRI, PT, ART, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, kinesiology) and modified training plan. On race day, my biggest concern was to deal with the harsh winds on the bike (mainly crosswinds) because of my size (4’11” 95 lbs). I prayed to my parents and St Anthony for almost 40 miles (going to and back from Hawi) not to be blown away. The heat (up to 95 degrees) and humidity (95%) took a toll on me. The last 30 miles of the bike with headwind was tough and a bit demoralizing. A volunteer hosed me down a bit too much at mile 1.5 into the marathon and I had to deal with bad blisters and toe nail issues from then on. My nutrition was far from perfect, and I paid for it with cramps during the run. Seeing the blind and other challenged athletes on the run made me realize that my “issues” were temporary and not important at all. I felt thankful to be there with them. Although the race didn’t unfold as I planned, I fought until the end and crossed the finish line proud of what I had done.

Brannen Henn (1st Kona finish): I was fortunate and got to the starting line healthy. I was unfortunate that around mile 25 on the bike I could not keep down my nutrition. Everything I took in, came back up. This took a big toll on me mentally, but as the race progressed it took a toll on me physically since I was not able to take in the nutrition I needed to stay strong on the bike.

Amy Rappaport (3rd Kona finish): My biggest challenge, or obstacle was wanting to come back and race on the Big Island. The race in 2001 was soooooo windy and scary that I cried on the bike. I had such a negative vibe regarding the race, it took me 12 years to “want” to be on the start line again.

So glad I did! I really enjoyed the race this year, I could look at the scenery on the bike ride and enjoy the ocean and the lava. I wasn’t holding on for dear life.

I’m so happy I love this race again.

Lisa Rehberg (1st Kona finish): The journey to get to Kona was my biggest obstacle. After qualifying at IMAZ I did what every “type A” triathlete does and didn’t take time to recover! Well, not so smart for us “older folks” and my body let me know! I spent the next eight months dealing with the injury from hell! (But aren’t they all!). I wasn’t able to run and cycling was sporadic. I watched my fitness decline and spirits dwindle as I tried every therapy known to man to fix my hamstring. If it weren’t for the faith and encouragement of those close to me, I seriously would have thrown in the towel. Then on July 1st I went on my first run. A memorable day to say the least. Slowly I worked back up to marathon distance, even though my hamstring reminded me it was not happy. I had decided that my goal had become one to simply enjoy, finish, and soak in the 140.6 Kona journey and hope my body would hold up.

Donn Ritchie (8th Kona finish): My biggest challenge in this race came about as my heart rate monitor strap broke while I was taking off my swim skin-suit. I’ve always done my hard training, and all of my racing, while monitoring my heart rate to better distribute my effort. Without the monitor I pushed the first half of the bike too hard, and during the final 30 miles, neglected my nutritional needs while pushing even harder as I fought the strong head winds. These mistakes really hit me during the run, where I normally only walk through the aid stations. My wife was waiting at the first half mile marker to give me an update on the competition, and I had to walk three times before I got to her, so I knew the run was going to be terribly slow. It took over 3 hours of run/walk to overcome my dehydration and get my calorie intake back to where I could run consistently for the final 9 miles. My run ended up being 38 minutes slower than the average of my seven previous runs in Hawaii.

Richard Sweet (3rd Kona finish): Getting to the starting line usually has certain stress levels with normal items specific to prerace jitters, but I was not able to experience even those types of emotions due to major bike issues that could have ended my race before it even started. The 2 weeks leading up to Kona were particularly stressful due to the discovery of a cracked fork on my bike by the bike shop as they were performing some usual prerace maintenance. After days of back and forth, we were told there were no replacement forks at the manufacturer ready to ship so the bike shop loaned me a new bike off the floor just 2 days before leaving for Kona. I was very grateful however I was not able to dial the bike fit in 100% before the race and had no idea how my position would feel on my back or legs after 112 miles. My stress level then went off the chart when I checked my loaner bike into transition the day before the race. Once in the transition area, before racking my bike I went to shift the chain to the small chain ring, the Di2 shifting was 100% dead. At that point I had to pull my bike out of the transition area only 2 hours before Bike check in was over. I took the bike to 3 different bike tents at the expo and none of them had the DI2 computer interface or SW. In the end I was able to drive my bike to one of the host bike shops outside of town who had to update the DI2 firmware to get the DI2 shifting again. Needless to say, I have never experienced such an emotional rollercoaster leading up to a race before.

Craig: The journey to this particular finish line may have taken years. Was it worth it?

Katherine: I was very lucky and was able to actually qualify for this race. I found out on the Tuesday before the Superfrog 70.3 that Ironman was opening up 20 military slots to qualify for Kona 2015 with that race. I was stationed in Coronado, so I figured that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and signed up that Thursday figuring that they’d have to at least save four slots for girls and that all I’d have to do was finish. (They actually split it down the middle and had ten slots for women, but I don’t think ten military females even signed up!) I “raced” on that Sunday, September 28th, 2014 on The Strand. I remember calling my dad the night before asking him what to do because I only had one water bottle holder on my bike. So basically I crawled across the finish line and that was how I got a qualifying slot for Kona.

I remember people were beeping their car horns and waving at me as they were driving away with their bikes on top of their cars because they were leaving and I was still running. A guy even passed me running with one leg and I had originally thought, “wow, that person behind me really runs very loudly” and then when he passed me, I was overwhelmed because he was crushing it with one leg and I had all my limbs and was sucking haha.

I got a coach, Carrie Lester, through USMES (United States Military Endurance Sports) and then started training on January 5th, after a snowboarding trip to Big Bear when they actually got snow. Working full time, training, planning for my transition into the reserves, and looking for a civilian job for after the Ironman were very good focuses for me. It was a lot to handle, but I did it. My command was very proud of me which helped during my training. I was lucky that they valued physical fitness and I was able to train before work, at lunch and after work. Carrie, my coach, gave me the workouts and modified my training plan through some injuries, but also was a terrific sounding board for many questions and difficult times I had throughout my training. I am very thankful to have her as my coach. Besides TCSD, I had joined the PeakFinders, a smaller club and did a lot of my Saturday rides with them. I learned so much and made great friends with them. My navy and civilian friends were very supportive and all participated in some workouts which was very fun for me to have training buddies.

I guess total, my road to Kona was a little over a year. I started training in Jan 2015 and became an Ironman in October 2015. It’s crazy to think that my longest triathlon before Superfrog was an Olympic distance that August at the Chula Vista Challenge, also with no training like Superfrog. I am proud that I trained so hard for Kona and feel that like many great things in life, the more you prepare, the better results you get.

Lynn: It was definitely worth it! This has been a dream of mine since 2009 when I competed in my first Ironman. It took me 4 Ironman attempts before I qualified. I was always top 10 but never top 1, 2, or 3. My husband and I moved from Nashville to San Diego a couple of years ago. It was the move to San Diego and being able to train year-round with this incredible talent that helped get me from top 10 to top 2 ironically in the inaugural IM Chattanooga to qualify.

Eric: I began my triathlon journey when I raced Arizona in April 2008 – and earned my entry to Kona via the Legacy program by racing 13 more Ironmans over the next 6 years. It was ironic that my 15th Ironman was in Kona in the year 2015. For anybody wondering if it’s worth it, put that question aside and go for it! Experiencing Kona as an athlete is absolutely incredible!

Claudia: Finishing Kona Ironman is a dream come true and absolutely worth all the hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Back in the 90’s, I watched it on TV. I just couldn’t believe people would put their bodies through something so hard, but I wanted to try it someday. I grew up in Colombia in a family with no sports background. When I came to US, I started running in 2001 and after a bad bike crash in 2005, I started swimming. I joined TCSD in 2006 and did my first triathlon (Olympic distance club race in Coronado). I don’t have speed, but have endurance & mental strength. I did Vineman IM (2008), St George IM (2010) and HITS Lake Havasu (2014). Last September 2014, while in the water and ready to start Lake Tahoe IM, the race got canceled due to the King Fire in Sacramento. Although I was devastated that day, the outcome couldn’t have been better and totally unexpected. I was one of the lucky Lake Tahoe entrants to get one of the 50 qualifying slots to Kona. Mom was right when she told me I was going to win the lottery. She didn’t know it was going to be for the Ironman World Championship.

Amy: Kona 2015 was my 20th Ironman and my 100th triathlon. I did my first Triathlon in 1991.
I can remember watching the NBC Ironman coverage in my childhood living room, never did I imagine that I would ever be on the start line. I wasn’t athletic as a kid. I didn’t start running until I was 30. I’m sure if I went to a high school reunion no one would believe that I’ve started and finished 20 Ironman races including 3 Ironman World championships. However, I would be the only one that still fits into the blue jeans I wore in high school.

Triathlon has been my lifestyle for 25 years. The best part of racing is the people that I have met. I have many friends that I have met at races and keep in touch with. It’s wonderful to have people to cheer you on during the race.

Someday I need to compile a list of all the super star triathletes that I have had the pleasure of meeting. To meet the athletes we idolize makes me feel like a kid again.

Yes, the getting up before the sun to swim, freezing on bike rides and struggling through runs you don’t feel like doing is all worth it when you feel great at 80 miles of the bike ride during an Ironman. The training paid off. The rewards and memories for a lifetime are a treasure well worth working hard for.

Lisa: I never imagined I would toe the line at the World Championships. This was for “fast” people and I never really thought of myself as fast. When I race I do it for the love of the sport, the training, comradery, and being outdoors with friends! And my husband appreciates me being out of the mall! I’m embarrassed to say I don’t train with cadence, power, or heart rate. My philosophy is to enjoy the journey and your body will do what you trained it to do. So I don’t ever think I could say that Kona was my destination. A dream perhaps, but don’t we all have dreams. I feel I just got pretty darn lucky at qualifying. To ask was it worth it???!!!! Well, I got to live a dream and that was pretty darn awesome. Before qualifying for Kona a friend gave me a keychain with the words “wish it, dream it, do it!” So ironic that she had given it to me, as it now has become my mantra in life.

Donn: I’ve kept a training log since 2001. Looking back to my first day, I was only able to run 5 minutes before stopping in exhaustion. Now I spend over 20 hours in training per week as I gear up for a race. Getting to Hawaii takes a lot of time that could otherwise be spent with family or at work—so it’s definitely a trade-off. Since I’m mostly retired and our daughter lives out of state, the time commitment doesn’t hit me as hard as a lot of athletes, and my wife is extremely supportive (and she loves going to Hawaii for the race). So in my case, the time and effort has been worth it, but I can understand how other athletes, even with great potential, have to choose a different path and prioritize their families or career over their training.

Richard: Since 2011 I have raced 8 Full Ironmans total, 3 have been in Kona. They were all worth it! I have been fortunate to have Jeff Fieldhack as my mentor in this sport and have been lucky to train here in San Diego with younger athletes and pros who have allowed me to see the focus and commitment level required to get results. This sport requires a commitment to a certain lifestyle (which I enjoy) and the journey has just really begun for me as I still have goals to achieve and much to learn.

Craig: What will be your fondest memories from racing Ironman Hawaii in 2015?

Katherine: I only had two fans physically at the race and they were my Dad and my friend Clare. I felt honored that they were there to cheer me on. We also had a lot of laughs. I will remember being in the beauty of Hawaii. It is my favorite place on Earth and I felt so happy and blessed to be back. I was previously stationed on Oahu. I will remember the difference between my two transitions very well. I had apparently come out of the water very fast and all these volunteers were catering to me very highly because there was only one other girl in the tent that had come in after me. I had never done an Ironman and they kept asking me what I wanted, regarding sunblock, towels, water, sneakers etc. I didn’t know really the routine of things so I was like, “Can I just sit here for a minute?” They looked at me crazy, so I let them put the sunblock on. Then I got myself together and was off on the bike. Now, when I came in from the bike is another story. I had an 8hr10min bike so I think the volunteers were also jaded and tired at that point. I had sliced my heel surfing two nights prior to race day on some lava rocks and needed to change my bloody bandage, but no one was helping me. I kind of had to speak up to get some attention even though really no other athletes were in the tent this time either. The volunteers were then very nice and helped me put a new bandage on and then I was able to get the rest of myself together and start the run.

Lynn: Just being there! I am so grateful and thankful. Shuffling on the run for the last 13 miles which gave me the opportunity to dedicate miles to people who are going through much more in their lives right now. If I’d been feeling good, then I would not have done such a thing. Memories of “firsts” in an Ironman: wearing the glow stick, watching the sun set as I went into the Energy Lab, drinking chicken broth. Smiling – Even though I felt so awful, I couldn’t help but smile because I was there. Learning the importance of love and support of others in life.

Eric: Best memory was having family and friends along to share the experience. I rented a house on Ali’i Drive (Miles 3 and 7 on the run-course) which made it convenient for my group to watch the race and see me twice. I’ve gone to many races alone so having a cheering section was special.

Susanne Davis (6th Kona finish): As I reflect on my experience at the Ironman World Championships the most memorable moment that comes to mind is my family. This year I wasn’t captured by the echoing of the bongo drums before the cannon went off to start our swim or the finishing chute of screaming fans, music blaring and Mike Reilly calling my name as I came across the finish line. This year I remember vividly the points along the course where I got to see my 2 kids and husband yell, “GO mom!”

This year’s race was about introducing Ironman to my children for the first time. They’ve never seen me race in more than a local sprint or Olympic distance triathlon. I didn’t want them to view Ironman as long or boring and I wanted them to understand the significance of Kona to me. With Matthew almost turning 12 years old and Brooke at 7, I thought they would remember this event and they started asking us if they could come to Hawaii and see me race. I started racing Ironman when my son turned 2 and Kona was my first one. So technically, Matthew saw me race in 2005, but neither he nor my husband saw much of my race; because at 2 years old he put fists full of lava rock in his mouth, cried from the heat, was restricted in a stroller and cared more for Thomas the Train zooming past him over any $11,000 Trek bicycle mommy rides on!

The first time I saw them was after the swim while on the bike. I just climbed up Palani Hill and turned left onto the Queen K Highway. My kids were screaming from the side of the road, “Mom you’re in 2nd place! Way to go!”

We brought their scooters from home. They fit perfectly in the Ironman backpack that I got in Canada which is where I won in my age group and qualifed for Kona only 8 weeks earlier. This enabled them to scoot along the course and see me more easily with my husband being the sherpa for all of us.

Claudia: So many memories. Having the courage to even attempt to cross the iconic Kona finish line and being fortunate enough to compete among the best endurance athletes in the world representing 62 different countries. I feel blessed and grateful for that opportunity and thankful to all the people (coaches, therapists, family, friends, and training buddies) who helped me get there and believe in me. Learning the background and amazing stories of some of the athletes, puts your life in perspective and makes you very appreciative of what you have. Sharing the goal with 2400 other athletes (Pros and age groupers 19 to 85 years old) that “anything is possible”. Seeing other TCSD members, my support team Steve Bean & Michael Satterlee out on the course, and finally getting to the finishing chute after tough weather conditions is something incredible – the bright lights, the support of the family, spectators and volunteers calling the athletes names and the energy one feels – it’s hard to describe. Running the last 150 meters carrying a Colombian flag that my fiance then, Michael handed to me (by surprise), was totally amazing; hearing Mike Reilly calling,”Claudia Flynn, you are an Ironman” and being greeted & hugged by my friends Gino Cinco and Tracy Cohen right after crossing the finish line; I will never forget Kona and will cherish the memory for the rest of my life. Being in Hawaii, gave Michael and I the best excuse to get married 3 days after the race in Kukio beach, with 25 green sea turtles as guests. Definitely an unforgettable experience and trip!

Brannen: Kona was my third Ironman and I would say although there was disappointments regarding my race, it was a priceless experience for me. I had 19 people come to Kona to cheer me on. My closest friends and family took the time out of their lives to come and support me during the World Championship event. I was really having a tough time the last 30 miles of the bike because of the nutrition issues I was having, but thinking of all of them back at transition and the smiling faces I was going to see on the run made me push through it and not give up. My memories of the race that bring the most smiles to my face is seeing and feeling the love from all of them leading up to, during and after the race. I am so blessed!

Amy: My best memory is riding down from Hawi and looking out at the ocean and thinking how lucky I am to be here. And that my bike is not sideways.

I do remember Mike Reilly calling my name and of course “you are an Ironman!”

The best part of the week for me is hanging out with friends that I only see “at the races”. I enjoy all the days leading up to the race, the swims, the underwear run, the coffee, sitting down and reading a book. I truly love the culture and Spirit of the Big Island.

Lisa: My fondest memory of racing Kona was by far having my friends and family out on the course and seeing them have the time of their life while the rest of us fought through a grueling hot day. I’ll never forget looking up at about mile three on the bike and seeing 5 giant “heads” of my face being held up and the shout outs from my “Big Sexy” crew! I am on The Big Sexy Race team. Those “heads” popped up all over the run course, chasing me, taunting me, and reminding me to keep smiling! My support crew was beyond amazing! So much, that other athletes, spectators, and photographers took notice of their antics!

Donn: I’ve always been a goal driven person, and years ago I set some ambitious ones for myself. This year I achieved one of these—to get on the podium at the Ironman World Championships. Although this was my eighth time competing in this race, it was my first time on the podium. Receiving the third place award at the banquet dinner is a memory I’ll carry with me for a very long time.

Richard: I have never had any family members come to any of my Ironman races, but this year my brother-In-law and nephew came to support me. My nephew was so inspired that I learned today he bought a new Cervelo P2 and I am excited to help him with his journey.

Craig: Congratulations to you all and thank you for sharing your experience with us. Good luck getting back to Kona!

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

Posted in 2015, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 Superfrog

Troy Cundari and Craig

Troy Cundari and Craig

On September 27th I raced the Ironman 70.3 Superfrog at Coronado, CA. This was the 5th time I’ve “done the frog”, but the 1st time on the new course. Superfrog is famous for much of the run course being in deep sand. Since I started battling plantar fasciitis issues in 2012, I have done everything to avoid running on sand. I decided to take the risk since this was my last race of the year.

The original purpose of Superfrog was two-fold. The first was to prepare the SEALs to race Ironman Hawaii. The second was to promote the sport of triathlon in the SEAL teams where competitive spirit is extremely high. Something every athlete and spectator must notice at Superfrog is how the race honors the SEALs who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The fencing that borders the transition area has signage that pays homage to each individual SEAL who died in the act of duty.

My goal at Superfrog was to win my age group and qualify for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Sunshine Coast, Australia. I was under the impression that there would probably only be 1 spot per age group so I felt like I had to win. The day before the race I ran into my friend Troy Cundari. Troy is in my age group and I have not beaten him for a couple of years. Troy was looking very fit so I feared he might present a problem for me. We exchanged text messages and he said he had no interest in Sunshine Coast so even if he beat me, it would be ok. But he said Alex Begg was racing. Alex is an ex pro. I’ve only beaten Alex 1x in my career and that was way back in 2008 at Wildflower. Uh oh! My only hope it seemed was the deep sand possibly slowing Alex down.

The 1.2 mile ocean swim was 2 loops with a surf entry and surf exit on each loop. The surf was fairly small so it presented only a minor challenge. I swam well. My split was 33:48 so I came out of the water in 3rd place.

The 56 mile bike course was 4 loops along The Strand which is pancake flat. I had raced Tri Worlds Sprint and Tri Worlds Olympic in Chicago 10 days and 8 days prior to Superfrog. I was well trained for short, fast racing, but not to race 56 miles. The fatigue started to show on the 4th loop at Superfrog. And the temperatures had risen to the mid 80’s. I muscled through it for a bike split of 2:38:24 (21.2 mph). This was the 15th best bike split and it dropped me to 10th place.

The 13.1 mile run course was 3 loops. There were a few out and back sections on each loop where you could assess the competition. I saw Troy less than 1 mile into my run and I calculated that he was 8 minutes ahead. At the same point in the 2nd loop he was only 4 minutes ahead. I was confident I would catch him, but would I catch Alex? I felt good and ran very aggressively. I was a bit disappointed that there was very little deep sand – maybe 200 meters per loop. The good news was that I knew my plantar fasciitis foot would be fine. But the bad news was I needed a really challenging course to catch Alex. This course was tough as it had a lot of loose gravel and some sand, but probably not challenging enough for my needs. Early in the 3rd loop I caught Troy. I had 4 miles to catch Alex. I asked Troy if he knew how far ahead Alex was. Troy looked gassed. He said nothing. I kept the accelerator down all the way to the end. My run split was 1:43:19 which was the best on the day.

As soon as I finished I started looking for Alex. He was nowhere in sight. Crap! He’s so good that he probably was already showered. Troy finished 4 minutes after me. I let him catch his breath for a minute and then I walked over to him. We were both dead. I told him I could not catch Alex. He laughed at me and replied, “Dude, Alex was not even in the race. I was just yanking your chain!” We both burst out laughing! You’d think I would want to kill Troy, but that was a heckuva practical joke. I gave Troy a big “man hug”. I had been chasing Alex all day and he was never there. I’d been chasing a ghost! Hmmm. Maybe I won?

As it turned out I was 2nd out of 55 men in the 50-54 age group. My finish time was 5:01:18. I was 57th out of 556 overall finishers. A guy named Alexander Pringle beat me by 11 minutes. Alex didn’t beat me, but some guy from Wisconsin named Alexander did beat me. Uh oh! Hopefully he would not want to go to Australia. Thankfully a couple of hours later at the Awards Ceremony I learned my age group was big enough that we would have 3 slots for Australia. I was in for sure! Wahoo!

To see my pictures from the race, click on this link:

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ITU Triathlon World Championships – Olympic Distance

Tera and Patrick O'Malley

Tera and Patrick O’Malley

Craig on the run course.

Craig on the run course.

Runners with Buckingham Fountain in background.

Runners with Buckingham Fountain in background.

Mom with her Finisher's Medal and Craig.

Mom with her Finisher’s Medal and Craig.

On September 19th I raced the ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. This was the 22nd time I have raced for Team USA and the 11th time I have raced the Olympic distance event. I give thanks every time I get to race, but especially so on the very special occasions when I get to represent my country. And racing a World Championship 25 miles from where I grew up (Glen Ellyn, IL) is beyond my wildest dreams.

My realistic goal for this race was top 60 and my pie in the sky goal was top 30. God blessed me with another great race as I placed 29th out of 117 men in the 50-54 age group. I happened to race well, but the real joy was sharing the event with my Mom. Mom is 94 years young and has probably seen me race in over 40 triathlons. Nowadays she uses a rolling walker and/or a cane to get around. Our hotel was 2 blocks from the bike and run course. That sounds short, but it is a long way for Mom. Despite her challenges, Mom was out there cheering me on. Years from now, not even I will remember how well I raced. But I will always remember sharing this race with my Mom.

I had a couple of other spectators. Mom was joined by my sister Debbie and my nephew’s wife Tera and her little boy Patrick. We had rain and high winds the night before the race, but race morning was beautiful. By the time my race started at 12:15pm the temperature was in the mid 70’s – good for me and perfect for the spectators. I raced the Sprint Worlds on September 17th, but I felt re-charged and ready to go 48 hours later. There would be no excuses.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in Lake Michigan. I swam well. I made certain to appreciate the beauty of racing in Chicago. There is nothing like swimming in the lake and looking up at the skyscrapers – epic! My time was 23:28 which put me in 31st place. The fastest swim time was 20:06 – so fast! I actually came out of the water with Michael Smith. Michael is the 2x USA defending National Champion and one of the favorites to win the Gold medal. I said goodbye to Michael when we jumped on the bikes because I knew I’d never see him again.

The 37K (22.9 mile) bike course was 2 laps. The Olympic distance bike length should be 40K so the shorter course was good for me. I would estimate that 25% of the course used Lower Wacker Drive which is underground. Conditions were very fast on Lower Wacker as there was no wind and the road was smooth. But the lighting was dim so visibility was a challenge. I much preferred being above ground because it was a gorgeous day. I biked well for me. My bike split was 1:03:01 (21.8 mph) which was only the 85th best bike split on the day. The best bike split was 55:04 – that’s smoking! These guys are so fast at this level. I dropped down to 60th place to start the run. At least I was still within the range of meeting my realistic goal.

The 10.5K (6.5 mile) run course was 3.5 laps. The Olympic distance run length should be 10K so the longer run was also in my favor. I ran great! It was so fun running by Mom, Debbie, Tera and Patrick. We ran around Buckingham Fountain on each of the laps. Sadly, at the end of my 2nd lap an American woman stumbled and face planted on the cobbles by the fountain. I was only a few feet behind her so I saw her tumble from start to finish. She was running so hard that she could not put her hands up in time to protect her face. There were enough officials in the area and I was not going to stop for anything or anyone. I imagine she did finish, but with a bloody chin and a headache. Worlds will do that to you; motivate you to race faster than your limit. My run split was 40:55, good for 3rd fastest. Only 1 guy broke 40 minutes. The best run split was 39:48. I passed 31 guys (same as the Sprint race on 9/17) and finished 29th to achieve my pie in the sky goal. My finish time was 2:13:55.

Team USA cleaned up. Across all the age groups we won 16 Gold medals, 20 Silver and 15 Bronze. We swept the medals in 6 of the age groups. Over 520 athletes raced for Team USA, making this the largest Team USA to date. Unfortunately Michael Smith was disqualified because he mistakenly only ran 2.5 laps. But an American named Adrian Mackay did win a Silver medal in my age group.

Click on this link to view my pictures and 2 videos:

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Bill Gleason – October 2015

Bill and wife Maggie and daughter Willa Rose enjoying an Encinitas sunset.

Bill and wife Maggie and daughter Willa Rose enjoying an Encinitas sunset.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I thoroughly enjoyed my recent conversation with TCSD member Bill Gleason. Bill is one of our valuable volunteers who has helped many members with their swimming, running and much more. I know you will enjoy getting to know Bill.

Craig: What sports did you do before you became a triathlete?

Bill: Growing up, I was always enamored with sports. I was a body surfer all through my youth, growing up in and around the ocean. I was also a bit of “gym rat” – I was a basketball player all my life and in high school, I ended up playing basketball. I also ran track for 3 years. As a basketball player, I was the #2 guard, or “off-guard,” mostly because I was a much better shooter and passer, than a point guard. I got my start with running doing sprints and hurdles my freshman year in high school, and loved it right away. I was a fairly talented intermediate hurdler, but unfortunately I decided to spend the last semester of my senior year in HS goofing off, rather running hurdles. It’s too bad, because I probably would have continued to develop and been decent. I had finished well the year before as a junior. Anyway, I continued to play basketball all the way through my twenties. It was always one my first activities of choice, along with body surfing, and kept me reasonably fit. I spent a lot of time body surfing and doing other water sports such as wake boarding, open ocean swimming, scuba diving, and competitive sailing as a kid. I spent a lot of time in the water, and on the court.

Craig: What sequence of events led you into triathlon?

Bill: Several factors; First and foremost, I had reached a point in my life where I was very unfit, terribly out of shape in view of how I had spent my youth and most of my twenties, as I described above, and downright unhealthy. I had been in law school and graduate school for 4+ years. Physically, I was basically a mess. Way too many bad habits and unhealthy practices, in combination with a simple lack of activity, had rendered me pretty much athletically useless. I got talked into an intramural basketball league while in my third year of law school at USD, and it was a slap in the face. At the same time, several friends including my cousin had been trying to persuade me to do a triathlon with them. My cousin was very fit at the time, an officer in the Marine Corps, and a hell of a runner. So, he finally got to me, and I started training with him by 2003. I didn’t do my first race until June, 2004 – San Diego International Triathlon. We did the sprint and he beat me. I did surprise myself in the water and on the bike that day, and I was all-in: hook, line and sinker. That day I didn’t really know it, but my life changed.

An even bigger impact was eight years prior, when I saw my father, with whom I was very close, struggle with – and ultimately lose – his battle with Type 2 diabetes. He was a great guy, but basically he did many things wrong with regard to food, nutrition, activity and lifestyle. He suffered a very uncomfortable and premature death, in his late sixties. I will not go into details here, but it was very bad. I have long since come to know that this is completely avoidable. This was a powerful revelation to me. At the time, I did not know how, but I knew that what happened in his last years would have a profound and permanent effect on me. He was a successful attorney for 35 years and was a big influence upon my decision to go to law school. Anyway, as I saw myself becoming become more and more sedentary and unhealthy, I knew deep down that I needed to do something different. I wanted to get back to my old ways. Since I was no longer any good at basketball and felt I had lost passion for the game, I turned to endurance sports. What a great decision that was.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Bill: Well, I won my age group at Los Angeles in 2011, and have podiumed and even won my AG in several local races. I improved 48 minutes over one year at Wildflower Long Course, and there are others. However, I don’t think those are a big deal. Personally, I see my own athletic accomplishments as a progression and set of small milestones over time. When I think of my accomplishments, I can point to a few good performances at National Championships, for example, though I have yet to make Team USA. I can also point to some really bad performances there too. I can point to the AG podiums and wins. However, I go back to the idea that true improvement is a hard endeavor, and significant progress for most triathletes takes real dedication. This is a point I constantly try to impress upon my athletes (and anyone who will listen). Anyway, I prefer to look back at where I was in 2003 when I started first training for endurance sports, and I see a tremendous amount of progress, which comes from deep motivation, hard work, and persistence, and a lot of learning. Above all, you must have a passion for the sport and a true desire to improve. I believe I have done that and that makes me very proud. It has also strongly shaped my Coaching philosophy.

Craig: The TCSD functions only through the efforts of take charge volunteers like yourself. What activities do you lead?

Bill: Agreed – the volunteers in TCSD are critical and a core component of what TCSD has to offer. I have been thrilled to be able to offer two workouts: Since 2011, I have been leading Open Water Workouts in the bay. I started my Workout in Glorietta Bay six years ago. Currently we have it on Thursday evenings in the spring and summer at Ventura Cove, Mission Bay (off of Gleason Road, no kidding – I still want to learn more about who that road is named after). This workout has a wide range of abilities and experience; however it is not a beginner workout. There is a beginner, Open Water workout in TCSD, but this is more of an intermediate to advanced session. It’s a great opportunity to get race-like conditions in a controlled and fairly fast interval workout, focused on racing skills. The athletes tell me repeatedly how much fun this workout is and how much they get from it, training wise, while having a good time. I love this workout.

I also am in my second season of coaching the TCSD Track Workout at UCSD. This track workout is Tuesday evening on the track at 6PM. This one is year round. It is a beginner friendly workout; we get the whole range of runners from beginners, to fast and talented runners blazing around the track, and everyone in between. We break it up into groups so most everyone is appropriately matched in their own group. I love coaching this workout too, in particular because of the progress I see so many athletes make over the course of a season, or even a few months. It also brings me back to my own track days way back in the day (the 80’s ..OMG…).

Craig: How did you make the leap from full time attorney to full time triathlon coach?

Bill: Well, I as I described above, I had already started racing competitively before I had even become an attorney. I did my first race in 2004 while I was still finishing my MBA, which I completed in conjunction with Law School at USD, as a joint-degree program. Fast forward several years, and by 2009 I realized that I would ultimately be changing jobs, most likely careers. At the least, I would be looking for new ways to apply my law and business background. It’s easy at this point in this discussion for someone in my position to bash the legal profession, and there is plenty not to like and to criticize (as with many professions). However, I will say that I had come to fully understand and to accept that it was not for me. It was not the best way for me to spend a career, so I decided to do the profession a favor, and produce one less lawyer. It was then in 2009 that I began coaching formally. Prior, I had been helping several friends and others with training because I felt I had a deep and intuitive understanding of what training was about, and what the sport demands. However I had just begun to learn. I went out that year, 2009 and got a USAT Level I Coaching Certification, and soon after an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), and CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Next, I took my USAT education to the next level, getting the USAT Level II Certification. I feel this background is very valuable, all of it is a legitimate, and a rigorous course of study (fortunately, I have spent enough time in graduate and JD level study to appreciate this).

So, I began to build my Coaching business in 2009 and, as with my own training, I stayed persistent, focused and motivated. I am still a licensed attorney, however I do not currently practice law, and have not in several years. I am thrilled with and proud of the success of Gleason Endurance Coaching.

Craig: What kind of triathletes hire you?

Bill: I love this question. The short answer is anyone who wants to get better. I want to coach anyone that is motivated (and able) to work hard at it, make some sacrifice, has the passion to improve, tempered with patience. I have coached beginners to intermediate to elite level athletes. Basically, if you want to improve, up your game, become – or get more – competitive, and you have the mind set and are willing to learn, I want to work with you. More specifically, a large bulk of my athletes have been at the point where they have been in the sport for a number of years, have perhaps hit a plateau and not seen continued improvement, and they want to get better. This is one of the best times to get a coach.

I’ve coached athletes in their 20’s just getting started, athletes going after their pro license and athletes in their sixties doing Ironman, shooting for Kona. One of my younger athletes just qualified for his elite license in duathlon. He is still trying for the elite triathlon license and has a very good chance. I also have an athlete heading to Kona this year.

Craig: What are your strengths as a coach?

Bill: I believe I have several. First, I look at each athlete as a unique individual and learn as much as I can about them as an athlete and an individual. This helps me avoid treating all athletes the same, and basically using a predetermined training plan. Each athlete responds to training stress differently and at different rates, can handle different levels of training stress over time, and each has their own sport specific strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how to develop, maintain and nurture those differences properly can result in real improvements in most all athletes. Basically, I do the opposite of applying the training plan approach. That is not to say that the same or similar training and individual workouts cannot help all athletes. Often they can. But if you are looking for that extra 5%, or even 1%, improvement in performance, you have to go beyond what everyone has in common in terms of increasing fitness from a base level. I am very good at identifying and developing those unique differences in most all athletes.

I am also known as swim coach. It’s true; I have had a lot of success developing the swim for many triathletes, both in the pool with technique and with open water skills. But that is not the complete picture of what I have to offer. I have also helped many with run form and durability, bike specific strength, handling skills, and also functional strength. I believe that when a functional strength approach is applied correctly to triathlon, it can have powerful effect both on performance and longevity in the sport, if your goal is to be around for many seasons.

I am also patient with my athletes in their development, accessible to answer their questions, and concerns, as well as give advice and support.

Craig: What coaching achievement are you most proud of?

Bill: Again, there are several. One story I love to relate is an athlete that came to me who had signed up for IMAZ, gotten a new TT bike that she did not know how to ride, and could not swim a lap in the pool. Fortunately, IMAZ was 9 months away. Luckily she had a marathon background. Cutting to the chase, we got her there ready to race, and she finished IMAZ under our goal time and continued on in the sport.

I am also proud of coaching a young athlete to get his pro/elite license in duathlon and make the big improvements needed to get the USAT elite license. That remains our goal, and I am confident he can achieve it.

Perhaps most of all, I am very proud of the significant progress that I have helped many athletes achieve in triathlon, and other endurance sports. Seeing people make real progress, become better athletes, achieve their goals and have fun is really what gives me the most satisfaction and what I will probably remember the most. It is also what I relate to most personally. This sport will give you good days and disappointing days, but the progress I see many athletes I coach make is the best part and cannot be taken away. That makes me happy.

Craig: How can people reach you?

Bill: See my website @

Or email me @ Gleasoncoaching@

Or come on out to one of my workouts!

Craig: What are your favorite benefits to TCSD membership?

Bill: The benefits are extensive and broad. Since 2005, I have benefited from the workouts myself, going back to track, the Cove Swim, Darrell Steele’s Saturday AM ride, and many others. I think the comradery and the support from other athletes is indispensable. I love the feel that everyone has a common passion, is eager to train and make friends and talk about their accomplishments. It’s also a great place to see great interviews at the monthly meetings, make connections and get training buddies.

Also, the Club events such as Aquathlons, monthly races, and beginner races are absolutely fantastic. It’s such a great opportunity for all the members. We are really lucky to have such a great Club. Keep it rolling people!

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

Bill: Personally, I would increase the popularity of the short course, draft-legal, and ITU style racing. I feel that watching short course draft legal, ITU racing, even at the regional or local level, as well as on the international stages, is absolutely thrilling. Watching races being won by a second or less, down the finishing chute is the essence of racing to me. And at some level, at some point, it’s all about racing – be that against yourself, your buddies, your local AG, or at the Olympics. It happens at the half-iron distance too. However, I believe that training for and performing well in an Olympic distance format is very complex and extremely interesting, as well as very challenging from a coaching perspective. I guess I would make more short course, Olympic distance racing in particular, more accessible in the way IM events are.

Craig: How did you meet your wife?

Bill: I met my wife, Maggie, in LA in late 2009 at a USAT Level I Coaching Clinic. At lunch break on the first day, I went up to her sitting by a water fountain in the front of the hotel, and asked if I could sit down with my lunch. We started a conversation and covered our experiences at Wildflower and other races. So the following day, she and her friend, with whom she had come to the conference, invited me to ride with them before our first class. We did, and I noticed that I was faster than her on the bike, and she noticed that I had a hole in my bike shorts. We hit it off.

We kept in touch, and soon found ourselves doing the long distance dating thing, as she lived in Mill Valley, Marin County and I was in Downtown SD. Anyway, things worked out great, she moved here to San Diego. We were married in 2013 and had our daughter, Willa Rose Gleason, later the same year. Willa is the pride and joy for both of us and a fantastic, amazing little person. She turns two years-old this month. Since she is not online yet, I post her workouts on the refrigerator each morning. Just kidding, of course. I want her to get into athletics only if she wants to. Of all the accomplishments I’ve tried to touch on so far, she by far and away is the best one I have ever had, and always will be.

My wife is also a fitness professional and a Triathlon Coach. She has several positions teaching fitness, at the YMCA, the Sporting Club La Jolla, and she owns her own personal training business “Up Your Fit” which you can find on the web @

Craig: What experiences have been the most important in your life that have shaped you into the man you are today?

Bill: Again, there are too many to cover. Really when it comes down to it, matters of life and death; Having my girl, Willa, with my wife Maggie. Losing my father too early in his life, my mother’s life, and in the lives of the rest of my family. These things are normal life, but they served to put things in perspective for me, and they placed a new premium on health and fitness, happiness and family for me. That is truly what matters most in my mind.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Bill: Stop getting slower.

(Find the time to) increase my endurance.

Maybe make Team USA at the Olympic distance one year, when (and if) I can find that time.

Craig: Bill, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is obvious that you have found your calling in this world. You were meant to be a father, husband and triathlon coach. The Tri Club would not be what it is today without you. Thank you for all you do!

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

Posted in 2015, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ITU Triathlon World Championships – Sprint Distance

Craig (closest cyclist) completing 1 of 6 U turns.

Craig (closest cyclist) completing 1 of 6 U turns.

Glen Ellyn friend Paul Winans and Craig.

Glen Ellyn friend Paul Winans and Craig.

On September 17th I raced the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. Racing Worlds in Chicago was a dream come true for me as I was raised 25 miles west of the city in Glen Ellyn, IL. I qualified to race by placing 14th in the men’s 50-54 age group at the 2014 USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships. As much as I was looking forward to racing in Chicago I knew the flat course would not be in my favor. I’m light so I thrive on a hilly course. My realistic goal for Sprint Worlds was top 40 and my pie in the sky goal was top 20.

My race started at 12:30pm and it was very warm, especially waiting for the race to start while in my wet suit. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 80’s. The sweat was rolling off me as I cooked under the hot sun in my wet suit. I made a big mistake and the race had not even started. I should have brought a water bottle for the final 30 minutes prior to my race. To improvise I scrounged and drank from 3 water bottles I found on the ground. I was so desperate!

There was no swim warm up permitted. I jumped in Lake Michigan as soon as they would allow it. 63 degree water never felt so good! But I only had about 3 minutes before my race began. The swim was a 750 meter point to point route. We swam into a small chop, but the bigger problem was the glare we swam into. Instead of looking into the glare to sight, I simply kept the shore about 50 meters to my right shoulder. That worked well. I swam the best I could despite the heat and somehow managed the 21st best swim split – 12:47. Under better conditions I would have swam sub 12, but I’ll gladly take this result.

The bike course was 3 laps for a total of 11.6 miles. The bike course was very flat and fast, despite 6 U turns. The biggest challenge was 2 huge bumps in the pavement. There were plenty of other bumps, but these 2 really stood out. I did my best to bunny hop the bumps, but just after half way my bike took the full brunt of the biggest bump. I was amazed I did not crash, but my aero bars slipped a full inch. My bars appeared to still be tight, but it would be a major problem if they slipped any more. I had no choice, but to slow down on the final lap as I went through the bumps. It probably cost me 10-20 seconds, but it did help me recover for the run. My bike split was 31:30 (22 mph). It was the 60th best bike split and I dropped down to 40th place.

The 5K (3.1 mile) run was 1.5 laps. I was flying, but I was also dying from the heat. I had the best run split on the day by 15 seconds. My run was 18:52 and my finish time was 1:09:24. If only the swim and bike had been cancelled, I would have been World Champion.

I stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel and was joined by my Mom who is 94 years young. Our hotel was only 2 blocks from the race course, but I figured it was still too far for my Mom to push her rolling walker. But she was determined to see her boy race. I had no idea she was spectating until I saw her when I flew by during the bike and run. For Mom covering the total of 4 blocks had to seem as far as an Ironman. My Glen Ellyn friends Paul Winans and Bruce McNair also came out to watch. Words can’t describe what their determined support means to me.

For the next 3+ hours after I finished I figured I had a good race and probably finished around 30th. Another Glen Ellyn friend, Scott Davis, who now lives about 2 miles from me in Carlsbad texted me that I finished in the top 10. I did not believe it until I saw it for myself. I had finished 9th out of 118 men in the 50-54 age group for my best World Championship result ever. I was the 3rd out of 24 Americans in my age group and 309th overall out of 1,906 athletes. I was shaking as I read the results. I still can’t believe I finished in the top 10! A great result is one thing, but sharing it with my Mom meant everything to me.

Team USA had a great day. We won 36 medals – 16 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze. 23 countries were represented. One of our newly crowned World Champions includes Robert McKeague from Villa Park, IL. Robert won the men’s 90-94 age group with a time of 2:20:49. Forever young!

To see my finish videos by the gorgeous Buckingham Fountain, click on this link. The “Before Finish” 25 second video shows me approaching the finish line 15 seconds into the video. And the “Finish” 20 second video shows me crossing the line 9 seconds into the video.

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Tassia Bezdeka – September 2015

Tassia on the run course at the 2015 Oceanside 70.3.

Tassia on the run course at the 2015 Oceanside 70.3.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I have seen the Triathlon Club of San Diego make some great improvements this year largely due to the efforts of Tassia Bezdeka, our Marketing Director. I hardly knew Tassia before interviewing her, but I’m so glad I reached out to her. Tassia is clearly a TCSD Superstar as you will soon discover.

Craig: What sports did you participate in when you were growing up?

Tassia: Other than running cross country in middle school and Tae Kwon Do (fun fact, I became a junior-level black belt when I was 13), I led a pretty sports-free existence until after college. In January 2010, I signed up for the AIDSWalk 10K – to be honest, I don’t really remember what pushed me register, but I definitely caught the bug. I ran my first half marathon (La Jolla Half) in 2011 and started collecting race bling. To date I’ve completed 12 half marathons, one Carlsbad 5000 All Day 25K, and a handful of 5- and 10Ks.

Craig: What was your first triathlon experience like?

Tassia: I was never interested in tri until I moved to metro San Diego in 2012. When I met and started dating my now-boyfriend Evan Bricker, his group of friends were in training for Superfrog, with one of them on their way to IMAZ. Mainly to make a good impression on Evan, I started joking about the possibility of making the transition to multi-sport. I say “joking” because I’d developed a pretty severe distaste/fear of the ocean after having my foot sliced open by a sting ray when I was in my early teens, and I really hadn’t been in the ocean in nearly 8 years. The more I joked about doing a tri, the more I started getting excited about the prospect. I registered for Seal Sprint and started training. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Michelle Nation for loaning me a bike… in fact she let me borrow her bike for nearly a year until I was ready to take the plunge and buy one for myself. That’s one of the earliest things I found about the tri community in San Diego – it’s incredibly generous and supportive. Anyway, a little over a month before Seal Sprint, I was at the tail end of a training ride on the 56 bike path. As I went under the 5 Freeway Overpass I ran over something on the road, a pebble or a stick or something, and went down the embankment. You should know that I’m pretty much a walking accident and prone to things like this happening. The good news is that I missed the cement columns supporting the overpass as I went down and that recent rains had made the area really muddy and relatively soft to land in; the bad news is that my right shoulder broke my fall. I was diagnosed with a 2nd degree shoulder separation. The limited mobility meant swimming was off the table, and even running and cycling was tough. I ended up going to Seal Sprint to complete the bike and run, but I definitely felt some FOMO (fear of missing out) watching everyone at the swim.

After some PT, I was ready to resume training and put Solana Beach 2013 on the calendar. After hearing glowing reviews from my friends, I also joined TCSD around this time, which put an instant surge in my training. The Beginner Open Water Swim (BOWS) program was instrumental in the transition from the pool to open water, and I really got to experience what tri was all about at the club races. As Solana Beach got closer, it was also announced that the July Beginner Tri would be the day before. I had heard such great things about the beginner tris and didn’t want to miss it, so I ended up with a double-header weekend for my first full triathlons (TCSD Beginner Tri on Saturday and Solana Beach on Sunday). What an incredible (and exhausting) weekend! The experience of the TCSD Beginner Tri is absolutely unmatched, in my opinion. The support, instruction, athlete camaraderie, and of course Dawn Copenhaver’s amazing breakfast – it really cannot be beat.

Craig: How has group camaraderie played a role in your development as a triathlete?

Tassia: You know the part of Newton’s Law that “a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an external force”? We should really just call that Tassia’s Law. I was the queen of the laz-athlon – Sleep, Couch, Netflix. I enjoyed being active, but I also really wanted to binge watch 5 seasons of Mad Men. Sometimes those things can really be at odds with each other! I moved to San Diego without any local friends, and embracing the tri-life gave me a way to quickly make strong relationships. Having a group of active friends and the TCSD events calendar got me moving in a way I had never really moved before. You should know that I’m not a morning person. Imagine my surprise when Saturday mornings became about bike rides, and I actually started getting excited for Friday First Light swims.

The summer of 2013 leading up to IMAZ was a serious game changer for me in terms of my desired level of tri commitment. While I wasn’t a participant, I was friends with 17 San Diego athletes who all trained together. I tagged along when I could – lots of Fiesta Island loops and Masters Swims, mainly – but watching them support each other so wholeheartedly and the relationships that deepened as a result was incredible. On race day, I watched 17 of my now-close friends get called home by Mike Reilly. This was the day that I decided I wanted those kinds of experiences for myself. It was time for me to do more than sprints and super sprints. Ultimately it’s what led me to Oceanside 70.3 this year.

Craig: Congratulations on completing your first 70.3 earlier this year at Oceanside. How did your day go?

Tassia: I could talk for hours on end about my Oceanside experience and the months leading up to it! I think there’s something incredibly powerful about going out to do something you’ve never done before… The week leading up to the race I was a basket case of emotion and had some serious doubts about whether I could actually complete the race. But then you have that flip at some point – for me it was coming in off the bike and knowing from experience that I could handle the half marathon. There is nothing like that in the whole world – that knowledge that yeah, you actually can do this crazy thing you set yourself up for and worked so hard for. I was incredibly blessed to have such amazing support all day long. Evan and Alan Deicas (one of my close friends who basically functioned as my coach) were there from the very beginning of the morning and were later joined by my whole family and several other friends. The course support in general was amazing, but it was also incredibly special to see TCSD members volunteering along the course.

I have to make two more big TCSD shout outs. Remember when I said I was accident-prone? I also happen to have big problems with time. To this day I can’t tell you what happened, but despite being awake around 2AM race morning, I somehow made it into the transition area with only 10 minutes before the transition area closed at 6:30AM. I was pretty much having a mental melt-down trying to put myself together and then remembered, panic-stricken, “TIRES!” I had basically 3 minutes to finish getting ready and pump my tires and how on Earth was that going to happen? At that moment, my knight in shining armor, Marcus Serrano, appeared. I know there was some real crazy look in my eyes when I asked if he could help me, and he really saved me in that moment.

Since I was a Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) fundraising athlete, I also happened to be in the first wave after the pros. I’m pretty sure the nerves and adrenaline were physically visible, so you can imagine my gratitude when I ran into James Ismailoglu in the chute and got a calm, “take a breath, you got this” pep talk. I really think I may have hyperventilated my way through the swim if I hadn’t run into James. This TCSD Community is so giving and supportive… I think without James and Marcus specifically, I would have had a drastically different day.

Craig: You raised funds for Operation Rebound as part of your registration for the Oceanside 70.3. What was that experience like?

Tassia: I’d previously run Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon as an American Cancer Society Determination athlete and the experience of fundraising as part of the race journey really makes a difference for me. Sure, the physical training is important, but when you can use that to fundraise and also share the message and goals of an organization, it becomes about so much more than just the tri. When I decided I wanted to race Oceanside, I knew it would have a significant impact on my experience if I raced for a cause.

I’ve been involved with CAF as a volunteer on-and-off for a while through Tri Challenge and their paratriathlete camps, and it was really an honor to fundraise on their behalf. The support, resources and experiences CAF provides for challenged athletes is unmatched and fills such a necessary space for differently-abled people. I’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on a person and their family – it’s hard to put into words how moving and vital the organization is.

Going back to race day… As part of fundraising for CAF Operation Rebound, you get a CAF kit. I wore mine (with TCSD tattoos and hat, of course), and it added a new level to the support I felt on course. Every other person in a CAF kit is your friend, just like when you wear a TCSD kit. That camaraderie, and knowing that you’ve helped make an impact for the CAF community, takes an already incredible experience and deepens it even further. If you’ve never raced for a cause before, I highly recommend it.

Craig: What volunteer roles have you done for the TCSD and how has this enhanced your experience as a member?

Tassia: I volunteered on-and-off for TCSD when I was able to after about 6 months of being a member – mostly as an ambassador at expos. Once I had really experienced the club (the races, the workouts, the meetings), it was so easy to tell prospective members why they were truly missing out if they didn’t join. I think my spiel was something along the lines of “Where else are you going to find 25+ workouts a week, monthly meetings (with meals, huge raffles and amazing speakers), club races (with meals), and such an amazing community for less than the cost of one race? If you count up all the free food, you’re already breaking way over even!” I’m not sure about you, but food is the easiest way into my heart, so I think I really sold that aspect hard.

When the board elections happened in 2014, it was really exciting to see that the club wanted to have a Marketing Director for the first time. I jumped at the chance to take that on, and after a year on the Board, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

TCSD has been such an integral part of my life over the last few years. It’s been really great to be able to contribute to something that has meant so much to me.

Craig: What have been your responsibilities as Marketing Director and what are some of the new initiatives that you have spearheaded?

Tassia: Since the position never existed before, it was really a blank slate (which is both incredibly exciting and also a little daunting). I had a few goals before I stepped into the position, but once I got to see behind-the-scenes, I was much more able to focus on things that would be advantageous to the club in the long run.

One of the first and most critical things was to set the Board and key volunteers up with Google Apps. Previously, everything was done through people’s personal email accounts and Google accounts, which creates a big problem when there is turnover or elections. I can’t even imagine trying to detangle two years of TCSD-related emails and documents from my personal account. With Google Apps, we now have a fully transferrable historical record of emails plus a huge document repository that allows us to collaborate from anywhere. It’s really as easy as changing the password and handing the account in its entirety to a new Board member or key volunteer.

We’ve also made huge changes to the way TCSD communicates with members. The Yahoo Group was a great solution for our needs at the time, but the changing technology landscape has provided better options as time went on. By transitioning our club communications to MailChimp, we’re able to make sure that only active members are receiving member information (like sponsor discounts). We can also track statistics like open-rates and click-thru which helps us deliver the most compelling and pertinent information to the club. Open-rates and click-thru are metrics in digital campaigns. Open-rate refers to the percentage of people that received your email who actually opened it. Click-thru refers to the percentage of people who clicked a link, in our case the link in an email to get more information, register, etc. The communication pieces are also branded and have much more appealing design than a text email sent through the Yahoo Group. The Yahoo Group continues to be an important resource for our members, but we’re working on transitioning it to more of a “triathlon community of San Diego list-serve, as moderated by TCSD,” meaning that it will be open to foster community and communication regardless of TCSD affiliation.

My two favorite things that we’ve put into play are the TCSD Workout Finder and the Weekly Schedule emails. The Workout Finder is a place on our website where a user can drill down to workouts that are important to them based on date, location, experience level, and more. The Weekly Schedule email is something I put together every Friday, send to our coaches and workout leaders for review, and then send to the club. Both are a continual work-in-progress as our workouts fluctuate throughout the year and even throughout the month. It’s a labor of love, truly, but helps me feel like we’re making a tangible difference for our membership week after week.

Craig: What recommendations would you have for new TCSD members and new triathletes in general?

Tassia: If you’re new to multi-sport, I cannot recommend the beginner resources highly enough! Even if you’re comfortable in one of the disciplines, you can take advantage of BOWS or the monthly Beginner Bike Ride and don’t miss the Beginner Tris. If you’re just new to TCSD, a great way to meet new people is through volunteering. There are so many opportunities – at meetings or events, at race expos, or even supporting new athletes at a Beginners event (my personal favorite). Speaking from the leadership side, this entire club is volunteer-run. It’s our most valuable asset and if you want to help, there’s always some way to do it. Don’t underestimate the power of a good Strava workout name! If documentation is your thing, I’ve really loved Instagraming my tri-life; the right hashtags can open your support community to a completely new level around the globe. Oh, and on a general note: make sure your phone updates if you go to race in a different time zone. I almost missed RnR Arizona because I thought I had another hour of sleep available.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Tassia: Ummmm, all of them?!? I’ve never left a club meeting feeling uninspired by the speaker (Meb, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Mirinda Carfrae and Lynne Cox are particular stand-outs in my memory), and more often than not I’ve taken home some type of amazing raffle prize. The value of membership just in terms of race opportunities is incredible. This year I participated in 3 triathlons and 3 aquathlons, which breaks down to less than $15 per race. Of course, the food has to be mentioned – Dawn is basically a magician in the kitchen and your life will be better for eating her meals. If you’re forcing me to pick a #1 though, without question it is the TCSD community. I’ve made some great friendships and now have a huge base of people that I know on a relatively personal basis that I can turn to for advice, support and inspiration.

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

Tassia: I think the financial barrier to entry is incredibly high… it would be amazing if the gear, race fees, travel expenses and increased food expenditures were a little more wallet-friendly!

Craig: What have been some of the cornerstone life experiences that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Tassia: Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are from hanging out in the ocean with my dad. We’d swim out together (mainly him pulling me out on a boogie board or surfboard), he’d push me into a wave then swim back in to get me, lather-rinse-repeat. I remember him always being fairly active, but dedicated exercise was never really a part of that. I’m really excited that he and my mom have recently decided to become more active again, in large part due to the impending birth of my nephew and their first grandchild. We’ve started spending time together on paddleboards and bikes and have even done a few 5Ks together. It’s really awesome watching my parents make fun physical activity a regular part of their routine! The other day my dad shared that he wants to do Bay-to-Breakers at some point, and we’ve talked about maybe relaying a half marathon.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Tassia: I’m really looking forward to re-racing Oceanside 70.3 again some day! I put in a hard race this year and finished in 7:05… so naturally I have to do it again and break into the sixes.

Recently I’ve been falling back in love with the run. Evan paced me to a 2:12 half marathon this year at RnR San Diego (which beat my previous PR by 15 minutes!), and I’m looking forward to getting closer to the 2 hour mark.

And at some point in the near-ish future, I can’t wait to have Mike Reilly call me home too.

Craig: Tassia, thank you so much for all you have done for the TCSD and for sharing your story. You have made a significant contribution in such a short time. The TCSD is lucky to have you as one of our leaders. It’s just a matter of time before Mike Reilly says “Tassia Bezdeka, YOU are an Ironman!”

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

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USA Triathlon National Championships – Sprint Distance

On my way to 19th place.

On my way to 19th place.

On August 9th I raced the USA Triathlon Sprint Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. I had raced in the Olympic distance race the day before so this was going to be more for fun, but I was still going to give it 100%.

My wife Laurie and I began the long weekend by flying into Chicago and staying with my Mom for 1 night. From there, Mom and I drove to Milwaukee for Nationals and Laurie drove to Benton Harbor, MI for the IM 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon. On 8/9 I raced the Sprint and Laurie raced Steelhead. We both had good days. The local MI paper even published Laurie’s picture during the bike portion of the Steelhead race.

Sprint Nationals was going to be short and sweet. The swim was 750 meters in Lake Michigan. My swim split was 12:14, putting me in 18th place. The bike was 20K (12.4 miles). I biked an average of 21.7 mph for a bike split of 34:22. This was the 57th fastest, dropping me to 37th place. The run was 5K (3.1 miles). My run split was 19:02 and the 5th best on the day to finish in 1:09:31. My run moved me up to finish in 19th place, just like the day before. I’m not great, but I am consistent. I was 19th out of 116 men in the 50-54 age group and 211th out of 1,673 overall finishers.

Laurie works with Maggie Riley-Hagan. Maggie is one of the pediatricians at Rady Children’s Hospital and also a great triathlete. In fact, Maggie placed 5th in the women’s 60-64 age group in the Sprint. The day before the Sprint race Maggie and I exchanged text messages. She was going to start 17 minutes before me. I was just kidding around, but I warned her that I might pass her in the finish chute. It was just a little friendly trash texting. During the race I had completely forgotten about Maggie. During the run I was focused on catching a guy named Jeremy who had passed me during the bike. I don’t recall Jeremy ever beating me so I really wanted to catch him. As we approached the finish line I could see Jeremy, but I simply ran out of real estate. Jeremy beat me by 3 seconds. But I did pass Maggie. I should pick on someone my own size. I really had no idea it was her until after we had finished. Click on this link to see me outsprinting Maggie. I nearly fell over in the process.

Some of the athletes race “The Double” where they race the Olympic on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. The Double is more of a badge of honor than anything prestigious. I did win The Double for men 50-54 back in 2014 and was 5th this year.

Click on this link to view my photos including some classics of the finish line sprint:

It was a great weekend. I got to spend quality time with my Mom. She’s 94 years old and a joy to be around. I also saw my sisters and their husbands. And Laurie and I are healthy enough to race at some really cool events. God has truly blessed us!

Living the life…

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