Los Angeles Triathlon Series

Craig with cousin Trevor Goller

Craig with cousin Trevor Goller

Men's 50-54 Podium: Craig 1st place and Chris Dyrek 3rd place

Men’s 50-54 Podium: Craig 1st place and Chris Dyrek 3rd place

On May 9 I raced the Los Angeles Triathlon Series race at Bonelli Park in San Dimas. I had a really good race as I was 1st out of 27 in the men’s 50-54 age group; winning by 4:43. I placed 6th out of 326 overall finishers in a time of 2:21:22.

The race did not start until 8am and Bonelli Park is only 90 miles from my home so I could drive up on race morning. I car pooled with my friend Dan Redfern who happens to be one of the athletes I have been coaching.

The 1.5K (0.93 miles) swim is in a fresh water lake. I had a solid swim as my time was 24:40 (1:38/100 meters). I managed to come out of the water in 2nd place, 16 seconds behind the leader. Dan is 1 age group older than me and he swam 22:21 which is amazing since his wetsuit got an 8 inch rip just before the race started. I wish I could swim like that!

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course is 3 laps on a hilly course through the park and surrounding neighborhoods. I had the 5th fastest bike split (1:14:56) and averaged only 19.4 mph, but the course is a grind so times are never very fast. My effort put me in 3rd place to start the run.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run course does have a few hills to make it a significant challenge. Some of the course is off road and that section has earned the nickname of the jungle. Somewhere prior to mile 2 I passed my friend Chris Dyrek to move into first place. Chris is an awesome guy that I met way back in 1992 and happened to coach back in 2010. It is great to see Chris is still actively living the triathlon lifestyle. I ran the entire run with Julie Ertel who was the women’s overall champion and the only woman to “chick me”. My run split was 38:22 (6:11/mile) and the best on the day for my age group by 6:05.

After the race I was chatting with Chris when my cousin, Trevor Goller, walked up. I had no idea Trevor was in the race. And low and behold Trevor and Chris are part of the same triathlon club in the Pasadena area called Volt Multisport. And they frequently train together. It really is a small world! It was so great to see both of those guys. That made my day!

To see my race photos, click on this link, then click on “Search” and enter bib #345. http://captivatingsportsphotos.shootproof.com/event/1430964/view#a_search-mason

Living the life…

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

TCSD Conversation: Jessica Tomasek – May 2015

Jessica Tomasek - 1st woman to receive NCAA scholarship for triathlon.

Jessica Tomasek – 1st woman to receive NCAA scholarship for triathlon.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently to sit down and talk triathlon with TCSD member Jessica Tomasek. Jessica became the first woman to receive an NCAA scholarship for the sport of triathlon when she signed her National Letter of Intent to attend Queens University of Charlotte. Please join me as we get to know this accomplished young woman who is on the rise.

Craig: How did you get your start as a triathlete?

Jessica: My parents were the biggest factor in my initial interest and involvement in triathlon. My dad, Wayne, was, at the time, a part of a military endurance sports team, which was how he got his start in triathlon. My mom, Melissa, followed his lead and got involved in the sport as well. In October 2008, I decided to join in on the fun and completed my first triathlon. My first race was part of the Women’s Triathlon Series San Diego. I competed in the super-sprint family wave with my mom, and swam with my head out of the water for the entire swim! I did the bike portion on a mountain bike, and put running shorts on over my swimsuit for the run. Though I didn’t know much about the ins-and-outs of triathlon, I had a blast doing my first race. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I asked my mom when we could sign up for the next race!

Craig: When did you get involved with TriJuniors and what was that experience like for you?

Jessica: I joined TriJuniors in July 2010. After training on my own for a few years, I really liked the idea of being a part of a team. At the formation of the team, the Youth and Junior Elite draft-legal racing format was really starting to become more competitive. Coach Jim Vance realized that there was a need for a high-performance team in San Diego. Through TriJuniors, I had the opportunity to develop the skills needed for this type of racing.

Craig: Why did Jim re-brand TriJuniors and turn the group into Formula Endurance? What improvements resulted from this change?

Jessica: In the fall of 2013, Coach Vance changed the name of the program to Formula Endurance. The structure of the team is now both a USAT High Performance Team and a USA Swim Club. The reason for this change was to develop our athletes into competitive swimmers, which is necessary for success in draft-legal triathlon. With a larger number of athletes, the level of the team as a whole has increased and has become more competitive.

Craig: Where have you traveled for races?

Jessica: I have traveled to various places around the United States for races such as Junior Elite Cups, USAT Junior and Youth Elite Nationals, and CAMTRI Junior North American Championships. Some of these places include Richmond, Seattle, Ohio, Florida, and Iowa.

Craig: What have been some of your favorite destination races?

Jessica: I have always had an interest in traveling, so getting to explore different parts of the country through competing in different races has made the last few years very exciting. My favorite place that I have traveled to so far is Seattle. I have raced the Junior Elite Cup in Monroe (a city right outside of Seattle) for the past three years, and each race has been very successful. Apart from the enjoyment of doing well in the race, I’ve liked traveling to this race because I can explore more of the interesting culture and beautiful sights that Seattle has to offer!

Craig: What was your experience like last November when you raced the first-ever Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships in Clermont, FL?

Jessica: I went into this race just looking for a good experience, and to get a feel for some of the collegiate triathlon competition. The race started out well, as I came out of the water towards the middle of the field. On lap 1 of 3 of the bike course, I was quickly able to get into the chase pack, and we gained 20 seconds on the lead pack by the end of the 1st lap. Then I took a technical turn too fast, and crashed into a fence. After fixing a few mechanical issues on my bike, I was able to finish the remainder of the race, but I had lost the pack. After the race, as I was addressing my crash injuries in the medical tent, Sonni Dyer came and introduced himself as the triathlon coach of Queens University. Now, at this point in my college search, I had already submitted applications and had my mind set on which university I wanted to attend…or so I thought. After Sonni told us about the new triathlon program at Queens University (in Charlotte,NC, not Queens,NY) the school was a strong contender on my list.

Craig: Why did you select Queens University?

Jessica: At the race in Florida, Coach Dyer saw that I am an athlete who gets back up after I fall. Because of that (and other previous accomplishments in the sport) he offered me a spot on the inaugural triathlon team, which included an athletic scholarship. It was not until I went to visit the school that I realized just how much Queens has to offer. The campus itself has state-of-the-art athletic facilities. As a triathlete I will have a number of coaches, to include multiple swim coaches (the same coaches who just led the swim teams to a national championship win), run and strength coaches, in addition to my triathlon coach, Sonni Dyer. I also really liked the academics at Queens. The small student-to-professor ratio (12-1) will allow me to connect with my peers and professors. When I first met Coach Jeff Dugdale, who is the head swim coach and will be overseeing the triathlon program, he had just been reviewing a spreadsheet of his swimmers’ grades. I was impressed by this and the rest of the coaching staff, and I got a sense that I would be really well taken care of, in addition to being held accountable for my academics. All of this made me feel like I was already a part of the Queens family, and I can’t wait to start this experience!

Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people in your triathlon career?

Jessica: My parents have always been very supportive of my triathlon goals, and have kept me motivated through difficult periods of training. They have also kept me very grounded when I do have success in the sport. My coaches are also very important because they are the ones who have shown me the process to take in training and racing, and have shared their own experiences with me. Jim Vance and the Formula Endurance coaching staff have a huge amount of knowledge of the sport and have provided me with the guidance that I have needed to get me to this level. I also believe that I am a product of the entire San Diego triathlon community. Many TCSD members have seen me grow up in the last few years, and have always been very encouraging and supportive.

Craig: How has your Christian up bringing helped to shape you into the athlete and woman you are today?

Jessica: Knowing that I am a part of something greater than myself has really kept me grounded and humble. I know that God has given me the talent and ability to be a triathlete, and because of that, I am able to find true joy in the sport and share that joy with others. Also, our faith in God as a family has kept our relationships with each other strong even through stresses of life, as well as extremely busy training and race schedules.

Craig: Who are your sponsors?

Jessica: I am currently sponsored by Fusion Bikes, a bike company based out of Arizona. Formula Endurance also provides support with equipment and some general costs of the sport for the team as a whole. Also my biggest sponsor is “The Bank of Tomasek,” i.e. my parents. I could not do triathlon without the tremendous support of my sponsors!

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Jessica: My short term goal would be to do well in collegiate triathlon, and help take the Queens University team to a national championship (Go Royals!!). In the future, I would like to race triathlon professionally, but my ultimate long-term goal is to maintain the multisport lifestyle for my lifetime.

Craig: Jessica, the TCSD has been a huge fan of yours over the years. Thank you for telling us your story. We are going to miss you when you are away in North Carolina. The sky is the limit for you!

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

Posted in 2015, TCSD Conversation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

119th Boston Marathon

Craig and Laurie with Tim Yount at USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at The Harvard Club

Craig and Laurie with Tim Yount at USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at The Harvard Club

On April 20th I ran the 119th Boston Marathon. This was my 12th Boston and my wife Laurie’s 19th. We had a fantastic weekend full of social events and 1 cold, wet run.

We flew in on Saturday and after a quick stop at our hotel to change we went to The Harvard Club for the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Dinner. As an Ivy Leaguer Laurie was right at home at The Harvard Club, but Big 10 Craig was a little lost. We were hosted by our good friend Tim Yount, the COO of USA Triathlon. It was a spectacular evening as triathlon legends Bill Bell, Tim DeBoom, Dan Empfield, Karen McKeachie, Carlos Moleda and Susan Williams all gave heart felt induction speeches. So cool!

On Sunday we met up with some Triathlon Club of San Diego friends for lunch and then a special screening at the AMC Theatre of “City Slickers Can’t Stay with Me – The Coach Bob Larsen Story”. Our friend Bob Babbitt hooked us up with complimentary tickets. Coach Larsen is a legendary Southern California running coach who ultimately coached Meb Keflezighi, the American man who won the 2014 Boston Marathon. We thoroughly enjoyed the documentary and it inspired us to race the following day.

Mother Nature threw some challenging weather at us on Monday – Patriot’s Day in New England. There was a light drizzle when we got off the bus at Hopkinton and rain was in the forecast for the rest of the day. We had to kill about 2 hours in Hopkinton before our race, but we found some warm, dry space to sit under one of the huge tents. All along the 10 minute walk to the start line I noticed the sewer caps all had big X’s drawn across them and onto the surrounding pavement. I noticed all the sewer caps along the race course had the same markings. I deduced that this was for security measures. If anyone lifted the sewer cap, tossed something inside and then put the sewer cap back down, the X would no longer be lined up. That would tell the security officials there had been a breach. They were not taking any chances. We felt very safe.

I ran through a light rain up to mile 16. I was wet, but not too bad. Then, it started to rain harder. From there on, I was soaked. Despite the rain, the crowd was still huge. It was wet and chilly (45 degrees) with a head wind all day. It was uncomfortable for the runners, but it had to be worse for the spectators because they were not burning up energy like we were to stay warm. By standing out in the rain, the Boston spectators really demonstrated how much they love this race.

My goal was to finish in 3:15-3:20. I finished in 3:17:42 (7:33/mile) so I was very satisfied with my result. Laurie also did very well as she finished just a few minutes after me. I placed 366th out of 2,058 men age 50-54. I placed 5,536th out of 14,588 male finishers. I placed 6,396th out of 26,610 overall finishers. I knew that my temperature would drop as soon as I finished the race. I made really quick work of the finish line process. The volunteers gave me my finisher medal and the best space blanket I’ve ever seen. It was thicker than usual and it actually had a hood. I did not bother grabbing any food or drink. I simply bee-lined it directly to my hotel for a hot shower. Ahhh!

To see my race photos, click on this link:
http://www.marathonfoto.com/Catalog/List/209872229?PIN=7Y0Y29&LastName=ZELENT

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Marathon, Running Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: Richard Reilly – April 2015

Richard Reilly with son Aaron.

Richard Reilly with son Aaron.

Ironman finisher Richard Reilly

Ironman finisher Richard Reilly

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

When I learned a few months ago of the journey Richard Reilly has been on I knew I had to interview him. Richard has lost over 140 pounds, now fits into size 34 jeans and is an Ironman Finisher. Please join me as we get to know this skinny guy!

Craig: What was your athletic background before your became an adult?

Richard: My parents encouraged us to play multiple sports and were really involved at many levels. I am not sure there was a time when we were not playing a sport. We played football and baseball and I branched out in high school and added wrestling, soccer, golf and even threw the discus and shot put. Baseball was really my favorite sport as a youth.

Craig: What is the tale of the tape? How much did you weigh at your peak and what weight have you settled into?

Richard: Sadly, my highest weight was just over 340 pounds and which included a 52” waist. Today I try to stay around 185 pounds and a 33/34” waist.

Craig: What do you do for a living and did that lead to your weight gain?

Richard: I would like to blame my IT career for my weight but my issue is that I am a food lover and a workaholic. Being on call all the time leads to long hours and poor eating habits and with my ability to eat just about anything, it really did not help. It is so easy to just plod along through life focused on work and family and without any real exercise.

Craig: What inspired you to change your lifestyle?

Richard: It started with a doctor that was so focused on my weight and trying to make me believe I was a diabetic instead of just over-weight. She went so far as to enroll me in a program even after I did 3 months of testing and never was in any range showing I was a Diabetic.

I did start to work on my eating habits and exercise, but the real change came when my wife started training for her first triathlon. I could not walk a mile without knee pain but would walk with her and walk the block by our house as she cycled and ran. Then I got a bike so I could ride with her as she continued to train. I wanted her to have someone that could be there with her on her workouts. It just kind of steam rolled from there.

Craig: What were some of the key components that led to your successful weight loss and newfound health?

Richard: It was actually a few items that really kept me on track.

First, I had not eaten a regular breakfast since starting high school. This was one of my first changes, but it took me a while to find a few items I could eat that also helped me kick-start the rest of my day.

I also started actually watching and recording what I ate. Most people say this is hard but it really isn’t and it really helps you understand what actually goes in your mouth. There are a few really good tools out there that are free and work on multiple platforms, which allow you to record your input from anywhere. I used a tool that worked on my iPhone called “My Plate”.

The last item was finding enjoyment in exercise. Before starting this process, I broke a sweat getting my shoes on. Working out with my wife I found enjoyment in doing these three separate events and actually making some goals in the process. I had no idea that this would lead to me doing a triathlon and even running.

Craig: Did anything nearly derail your efforts? If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?

Richard: I have had knee issues since I was a teenager. As I started working out the weight was an obstacle but the knee swelling really was an issue. I went to several doctors who would drain the knee but often they would tell me to stop doing what I was doing since it was the cause of my issues. I was losing weight so I was not going to stop doing what I was doing, but it was discouraging. We found a doctor who was sports minded and he actually looked at me, learned about what I was doing and was the first one to say, keep it up, but maybe it is time to focus on other muscles. He actually pointed out that I had to do more than just pedal my bike and run. What a concept!

Over the last 6 years, the knee issues subsided as I got lighter and stronger and became more aware of my body. I still have little issues on and off but I no longer have major issues and appreciate that I was able to continue to move towards my goals and lose the weight.

Craig: Your wife Lisa really played a key role in your success. Not only in helping to get you out the door to exercise, but also by continuing to love you during the journey. Is she the best wife ever?

Richard: I can’t say enough how much Lisa has meant to me. She has supported and encouraged me even when I was discouraged and not the best person. Often she has done this giving up her time and that had an impact of her goals and desires. We have had several journeys in our 24-year marriage that should have really broken us and yet she kept everything together. It is so easy to get sucked in to the machine of life and what is next with work and home and so on.

Often people say you two are so lucky that you can do this together. I used to find this as an odd comment but today; I get what people are saying. I have had the benefit of a wonderful woman in my life and now we get to do things together especially as our children grow-up and become adults. It is enjoyable to do this together and learn more about each other along the way. I can’t wait to see what the rest of these years we have together bring. There are some destination events we are really looking forward to doing in the near future.

Craig: What race performances are you the most proud of?

Richard: My first timed event was the Wildflower long course. I definitely had no idea what I was doing. I had never run a trail and had never run a half-marathon either. I finished this event and when I got to the finish chute, I was hooked. It only took me a couple of hours to decide I wanted to do this again.

I would like to say that my first Ironman finish was my moment but it wasn’t and only led me to want more.

The real moment was watching my wife finish Ironman Arizona in 2013. It was an epic day for so many reasons but being there supporting her was hook number two for me and really took this whole thing to a new level. I can’t wait for this year’s event to get here as she signed up again and I look forward to this next journey.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination events?

Richard: Leadman in Bend, Oregon was absolutely a destination event not only for the location but the race was handled so well. It is one of the events we want to do again.

I would love to do Wildflower again just to see how far I have come and compare the experience. I would have to do it without camping this time since that is part of the experience the family did not really enjoy.

We are now looking at events that we can do together including Ironman Chattanooga and Ironman Barcelona.

Craig: In what areas have you served as a volunteer for the TCSD?

Richard: I joined TCSD in 2009 before doing any events and answered an email about some tech help for the club and showed up to help. I have been helping somewhere ever since. I tried to do several things early on by helping at the events with timing, setup and tear down but as the training picked up, it was harder and harder to help out in those areas and still get those longer training days done. Of course, I still fit in other volunteer efforts at local events too. Helping on the website and in the digital arena really fit my schedule and I have been doing that ever since.

Today, I do website administration and manage the workout calendar, help moderate TSCD Yahoo groups and then assist on Facebook. I also work on covering race discounts and post them for members on the website. In 2014, I joined with a friend (Jim Richardson) to co-lead a running group at Lake Miramar. It really was a great way to help manage some new running goals and grow the training partner group. It has been a blast.

I did decide to do more this year and ran for a club office but was not successful at getting a seat but look forward to continuing to assist and hopefully run for another seat if time allows the next time they are open.

Craig: Beyond your TCSD job, what is your triathlon related mission?

Richard: I want to show people it can be done. It takes work, but it can be done and it can be fun. You can get outside, enjoy working out with others and even eat. Yes, you can watch your weight and eat too. It really gets easier when you find something you enjoy doing. It helps that we have a great group in TCSD and as you are out there in your gear, you hear “GO TCSD”; what a motivator.

Craig: What TCSD member would you like to single out as someone you really admire?

Richard: A few people came to mind here including many training partners and others who have supported me along the way. So many good choices, but I have to say Gerry Forman sticks out for me. He embodies that TCSD spirit and, of course, is always encouraging. We could be in a deep conversation during a run, figuring out some odd world issue and he would acknowledge others, stop and pet a dog, say hello to people and still continue on like nothing happened. Too often we just go about our workouts and this really showed a different side of the process. It has had a big impact on me and, of course, I find myself saying hello during a workout while passing others and I really enjoy the feedback. Now if I can just figure out how he remembers so many names.

I have met a lot of people in this journey over the last 6 years but I learned a few things from him and not just about the sport. I know a lot of people say “I want to be doing this when I am his age” and of course that would be great but I think what stuck out to me most is his engagement with others not just the ladies and the dogs.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Richard: I want to continue to do the 140.6 races (not focused on a brand but the distance). I want to start doing other courses outside my comfort zone. It is time to start going further to races than I can drive in a day. Yes, you heard right, so far, we have driven to all our races even Bend, Oregon. We have some destination goals like Barcelona Spain and I really want to do a 50-mile run soon. This opens up the course choices, now we just need to pick a new venue or two and work towards the goal.

Craig: Richard, the obstacles you have overcome already are very impressive. Thank you for sharing your story. Your family, the TCSD and our local community are lucky to have you as a great example of all that is possible. The sky is the limit!

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

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

Superseal Triathlon

Mike Drury (3rd place  40-44) and Craig (2nd place 50-54)

Mike Drury (3rd place 40-44) and Craig (2nd place 50-54)

On March 15th I raced the Superseal Triathlon at Coronado. This was the 9th time this race has been held, but the 1st time it has been a USA Triathlon sanctioned race. Not all races in the US bother to get sanctioned. It is absolutely my preference to do sanctioned races since they are safer and also factor into the National rankings.

I had a very good race as I placed 2nd out of 20 men in the 50-54 age group and 11th out of 285 overall finishers. I did not get chicked, but it was close as the top woman was only 41 seconds behind me.

I always want to win, but it became apparent when I arrived on race morning that I’d probably be racing for 2nd place. I was greeted by Todd Witten, from Arizona, who had beaten me by nearly 3 minutes at the Lifetime Oceanside Triathlon back in October. Todd had the best swim at Superseal so he led wire to wire. I had the 2nd best swim over the 1,500 meter San Diego Bay course with a time of 21:34. I really had a great swim. My swim training is right where I want it to be.

I was only 34 seconds down after the swim, but Todd extended his lead to an insurmountable 4:09 on the 40K (24.8 mile) bike course. The course was pancake flat so I managed to squeeze out a pretty good bike split 1:05:54 (22.1 mph). I had the 3rd best bike time enabling me to have a comfortable lead of 3:43 over the 3rd place guy.

The 10K run is flat, but there are some sandy sections and it was 80+ degrees so it was tough. I ran it pretty hard, but did not totally go to the well. I had the 2nd best run split of 39:50 to finish the race in 2:10:58. I made up some ground on Todd, but he still beat me by 3:12. After the race one of my friends suggested that we “Tanya Harding” Todd if he keeps traveling to San Diego and winning my races. Tempting, but he seems like a good guy so we’ll let it slide.

During the run I witnessed a man (not in the race) pacing a woman (in the race). This is against the rules. The woman was an excellent athlete and really did not need any help. I recall seeing her win her age group in a race last fall and she did win again at Superseal. If she had been a beginner, I might not have said anything. At the finish line I did nicely suggest to them that the man was pacing her and giving her an unfair advantage. As I confronted them, I learned there was a 2nd woman who was in the race who was in their little group. They all 3 denied my allegations. I did not press the issue. But I have no regrets. I’m glad I spoke up. I was nice with my approach. I hope they’ll think twice the next time. While I waited for the awards I noticed the 3 of them hung around together for the next 90 minutes. That simply confirmed what I had seen. At the end of the day, triathlon is an individual sport.

To see my race pictures taken by my good friend Osamu, click on this link:
http://www.opix.net/main/?p=2923&image_id=91746251489&key_word_type=zkn_key_name&key_word=Zelent

Living the life!

Posted in 2015 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Jonathan Jefferson – March 2015

JJ as SpongeBob Elvis

JJ as SpongeBob Elvis

JJ and his lovely wife, Marilou

JJ and his lovely wife, Marilou

Jonathan Jefferson - Always at the top step of life's podium.

Jonathan Jefferson – Always at the top step of life’s podium.

It is with deep sorrow that I report the passing of my good friend and long-time TCSD member Jonathan Jefferson after a gallant battle with cancer. JJ passed away on February 2nd. JJ was the ultimate volunteer as he was always willing to lend a hand.  JJ gave so much to so many.

To honor JJ, the TRI-Palooza Endurance Sports Weekend awarded the Tri Club Members of the Year with the “Jonathan Jefferson Tri Club Member of the Year Award”.  The TCSD recipient was John Hill.  The LA Tri Club recipient was William Robinson.  The Orange County Tri Club recipient was Amanda Barth.  The California Triathlon recipient was Harrison Shao.

To further honor JJ, we re-published the following interview in the March 2015 TCSD Newsletter. This interview was originally published in the January 2012 TCSD Newsletter.

Donations in the form of a check to help offset the medical costs can be sent to

Marilou Jefferson

c/o Paula Munoz

PO Box 91291

San Diego, CA 92169

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the chance to talk triathlon recently with the Tri Club’s Jonathan Jefferson. JJ’s most visible position with the TCSD was as our Beginner Open Water Swim Coach, but he represents the true spirit of the TCSD as he always seems to be there doing the “heavy lifting” as a volunteer whenever needed. Please join me as we get to know this great guy.

Craig: What was your athletic background before you got involved in triathlon?

JJ: I started swimming on a team at the age of 6…spent most of my time on the pool deck in the summer. Mom would bribe me to get to a 7AM swim practice with a chocolate covered donut. My brothers both wanted to play Little League baseball and my parents made me play, too. They would pull me out of the pool and take me to baseball practice. I would be the only DORK there in shorts…just in time for sliding practice. I thought every pitcher was hurling the ball right at my head. They managed to hit it several times too! Not a good experience. Growing up I would ride my red 10-speed bike everywhere. When I was old enough I would ride it 10 miles to the pool…do swim practice…then run around all day. I was a little triathlete in the making. I was on my community pool swim team for 11 years. My only team sport was lacrosse. I started playing in 5th grade through high school. I loved to play. But like swimming…I was passionate about the sport, but not the best at it. That didn’t matter though. I was on the team and loved it. By the end of high school I had become a lifeguard at a local reservoir. Fellow TCSD member, Shawn Moran used to swim there as a kid…while I was lifeguarding there! We would not meet for another 25 years. I probably had to yell at him a few times…I’m sure. My lifeguarding experience culminated with a stint as a pool manager/lifeguard at a country club. Let’s just say the pool area at this country club was “big cat country”…cougars around every corner. A 19 or 20 year old college student/pool manager didn’t have a chance. I survived.

Craig: What memories do you have of your first triathlon?

JJ: The Major Walter Murphy Memorial Triathlon on Staten Island held in 1984 was my first triathlon. I trained pretty hard for the race. I was always swimming and running with guys that were faster than I was…and still riding my bike to work every day. When I told them I was hoping to get in the top ten at the race they gave me a quick nod and a good luck but didn’t mean it. Even my father…in the kitchen of our house on race day said to me “are you sure you are ready for this?” I said “Dad…if that was your pep talk, thanks…now let’s get to the race.” The swim was held in Great Kills Harbor and if you think you have swam in dirty water…the water you were swimming in was Perrier compared to this stuff. Engine oil on the surface…chopped up fish and jelly fish floating everywhere…and other things…don’t ask. The first time I actually got any in my mouth I dry heaved. I was 2nd or 3rd out of the water…5th or 6th on the bike…and 10th overall. Back then the song Eye of the Tiger was new and they played the heck out of it. All through the run people were playing it on their boom boxes thinking it would help us run faster. I ran faster just to get out of ear shot of the song. I’ve got to admit…I like hearing it from time to time today. After the race everyone was congratulating me and I found my way to the beer garden. Bud Light taps coming right out of the side of the Bud Light beer truck. Triathlons were going to be OK in my book, forever!

Craig: I know you’ve been racing forever and have done everything from 50k running races to half ironmans, but what race result are you the most proud of and why?

JJ: I have done many races between 1984 and today, but none really stand out as best races. I always trained and raced with guys…and girls that were faster than me. As a result I was always finishing behind them. I was seldom very pleased with my results. I brought home some hardware (awards) from Bud Light USTS and other races here and there. But nothing memorable in my book. My first triathlon is up there and the 50k I did. It was all trails and through streams. Tough race. My time for that race is faster than the last few marathons I have done! I would have liked to have been on Wide World of Sports’ Survival of the Fittest competition. Scott Tinley mentioned doing that when he was at one of our meetings. I always thought I would have done well there. The only race result I will consider notable will be completing the Hawiian Ironman. No ETA on that one.

Craig: What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done as a triathlete?

JJ: Back in the day…90′ or 91′ me and a few other guys were going up to a run-bike-run race in LA. There was one guy with us who would not…or could not shut up. Good guy…and a strong runner and biker…but talk talk talk. We were in the line of traffic waiting to get on to some military base. The race was held on an air strip. I could not take the talking any longer and decided to get out of the car and do a little warm up run. I would hook back up with them and get my bike after they parked the car. Well, I found the guys and they pointed in the direction where the car was so I could get my bike and helmet. There was a sea of cars, I could not find it. Running around the parking lot I finally found the car…ripped my bike out of the back and ran to the transition area to rack it. I forgot my helmet. By this time my heat start was just minutes away and I could see them all waiting behind the current heat being sent off. I was a hundred yards from where I needed to start and had no helmet. A spectator was standing behind the fence…with a helmet in hand. I took the helmet, yelled out my race number and thanked him for letting me use his fine helmet. Then…the nightmare we have all had…seeing your heat start and you are running to catch them because you are late. DUMB!

Craig: What was your experience like as the TCSD’s Beginner Open Water Swim Coach?

JJ: Like joining the club in the first place…coaching beginner triathletes how to conquer their fear of swimming in open water just felt right. I had just joined the club and was sitting next to the then current coach Steve Koci at a club meeting…I think it was the last meeting Jim McCann presided over…and Steve stood up and asked for some help with the beginner swim. I knew I had to step up. As it turns out…Steve had a pretty busy schedule that year training for an Ironman and traveling so I ended up running many of the sessions in the latter part of that season. The next year he decided to let me take over as coach. I enjoyed many fun filled workouts with fledgling triathletes…many of whom are coaches for the club today. But what makes my day/year/life is when someone comes up to me and thanks me and tells a friend how much I helped them get over the fear of open water and made them a better swimmer. What a great reward for doing something you love to do anyway! I get back to those workouts when I can.

Craig: You have been very involved in fundraising efforts for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. How did you get started with that and what have you done to raise money for the CAF and what have you done to raise funds for CAF?

JJ: CAF is one of the main beneficiaries of our club members’ fund raising efforts…and for good reason. They help change the lives of so many people who are faced with physical barriers to sports. I got involved after attending CAF fund raising events held by other club members over the years. At those events I met fellow supporters of CAF as well as the beneficiaries of those efforts. These athletes who get the equipment needed in order to have the freedom of going on a bike ride, or run…or play basketball…or ski are so very gracious and thankful. They work harder than any one of us…they have to learn to use their new leg or arm or chair. In return, many have become the ambassadors we meet today at our meetings and at races…everywhere. They are always donating their time and leading by example. There are endless stories of inspiration among the athletes of CAF. Raising funds for CAF can happen in many ways…sending requests to friends and family, fun events, raffles. I have never considered myself a good fundraiser. But what takes my mind off of the task at hand…getting cash from others for a great cause…is the notion that in talking to the greatest number of people about a worthy organization I am possibly giving someone else the motivation to continue our effort.

Craig: What was your experience like doing the 2011 CAF Million Dollar Challenge?

JJ: The Million Dollar Challenge is a cycling event held each year where 100 people pledge to raise a minimum of $10,000 each. The fund raising effort culminates with a 7 day bike tour through our state’s most scenic roads from San Francisco to San Diego. The ride is 620 miles. I actually GAINED weight on this ride! You are treated like a king…or queen for this week. The best hotels, food and support like you have never had on any ride in your life. We rode with many of the challenged athletes that have benefited from our efforts. You get to know their stories and learn more about them outside of just riding or running. What got me going on the idea of joining this effort was watching John Skoglund, one of my spin class buddies, experience the joy of raising funds via parties, mailings to friends and family, “selling some stuff” as he put it, and finally reaching his goal. I actually gave John a donation after he had already made his goal of $10,000 and I could almost see tears in his eyes. John was moved by the generosity of others. John did the ride in 2010. He trained hard and was in the best shape of his life. Shortly after the ride, John discovered he had a battle of his own to fight. After a long battle with cancer John passed away. I told John that he motivated me to join the Million Dollar Challenge so in a big way he helped CAF through my efforts. When someone invites you to an event benefiting the Challenged Athlete Foundation…GO…and bring some cash! You are guaranteed to have fun and feel really, really good knowing you are helping a great organization and others in need.

Craig: What is your new business venture and how do you hope to incorporate that into the TCSD?

JJ: I recently got back in to a hobby from my childhood. Back in the woods of New Jersey where I grew up we lived on a small farm. My dad was an attorney but had this farm also. We had pigs, chickens, an occasional veal calf, a huge garden…and bees. The bees were my interest. We had 7 bee hives. I would bring our chicken’s eggs and our bee’s honey to church to sell each Sunday. When the county fair came to town every summer I would go with my 4H bee keeping club and be the crazy…or stupid guy putting on a safari hat filled with bees for everyone to see. I had more hair back then and the bees would get tangled in it every year. This past June while dad was visiting from good old NJ I got to talking with him about bee keeping. I said I have always wanted to get back in to it. We went out and got everything we needed to get started…except for the bees. Had the hive, the bee suit, gloves…everything…except bees. I looked on Craigslist and soon found someone with a colony of bees they needed taken out from under their shed. I went out to get them (thanks to Bob Cunningham for helping out…look for that one on video soon) and had my first bee hive…have not stopped growing my hive numbers since. I now have 20 bee hives. My plan is to become a sponsor of the Club! With 20 hives I will have roughly 2,000 pounds of locally harvested, raw, unfiltered honey…as healthy as you can get. A dollar of every pound of honey I sell to club members will be given to our club charity, TCSD Cares. I still make my living as a financial advisor but plan on having a lot of fun with my new small business. Marilou, my girlfiend, is my partner in this venture and we will be heading out to farmers markets as well. Some of the honey harvested will even come from our own Daniel Powell’s back yard…which happens to be San Elijo lagoon. Look for a dark amber wildflower honey from this location…yum. I have long term visions of owning one to two hundred hives and getting involved with the almond polination in central CA. One third of all the food we consume each year comes from crops that need polination from bees. Without bees we would be in a serious food shortage.

Craig: I can’t wait for the honey to be ready, but I’ll leave that work to the professionals like you to harvest. What is your favorite part of membership in the TCSD?

JJ: The part of membership in TCSD that stands out for me is the endless opportunities to meet great people. Not just at races, workouts and club meetings, which are awesome. What I also enyoy is going to plays, dinners at people’s homes, wine tasting trips…we even had the start of a book club. We all read Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat and got together for the book review. I missed the book review but read the book only because we had decided to read it together. There is such a rich mix of people to experience and get to know.

Craig: A couple of years ago you came close to getting elected President of the TCSD. What did you learn from that experience?

JJ: What a whirlwind that was! It was Friday evening and a bunch of us were at Jose’s having some dinner and “re-hydrating” after a Cove swim when the topic of club president came up. I rattled off the obvious picks, Don Lopez, Brian Wrona, and you! A very attractive friend leaned across the table and said to me “what about Jon Jefferson?” This really knocked me off my barstool. I had given it some thought, but felt I had not been in the club long enough. She gave me the push I needed to run. I finished in the top 2…of two. I would consider it a privilege to help lead the greatest triathlon club on the planet and would consider running again sometime, but starting a small business combined with my current fulltime profession as a financial advisor and training for a few races each year really eats up a lot of time. Thomas has done an amazing job over the past few years as did Brian Long…each with the quiet strength and help of John Hill and an army of us as volunteers. But the job of Prez., it has been said by many, is like a full time job without pay! We are over 3,000 members strong and have a huge budget. There are so many events to coordinate and people to contact. Hats off to all you presidents out there…past and present. I would be honored to join your ranks some day. We have an election coming up this year…I think. I cannot wait to see who is willing to step up and take the position. One request for all club members…get out to vote! When I ran there were only 300 or so votes cast out of 2,500 members! Whoever gets elected, they can count on me to help them out any way I can.

Craig: What are your future goals in triathlon?

JJ: IRONMAN. But only one. Hawaii. This may anger some of the Ironman purists, but I will be happy to accept a lottery slot for the race…or a fund raising entry if I ever was awarded one. When you have you, Dean Sprague, Steve Tally…and many other fast guys in your age group getting a qualifying slot is like finding the golden ticket in Willie Wonka. Ever since I picked up the first issue of Triathlon magazine, with Dave Scott crossing the finish line at dusk, I wanted to do that race. The race has a certain destiny to it. I will be there. The day will play out however it plays out, but I will finish that goal and be very sad when it is over. In the mean time I plan on volunteering with fellow club members, doing a few club events…some involving triathlons and heading to a few destination type races like Wildflower.

Craig: JJ, thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s just a matter of time before you cross that Hawaiian Ironman finish line. Good luck with all you do!

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

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San Dieguito Half Marathon

Jonathan Jefferson - Always at the top step of life's podium.

Jonathan Jefferson – Always at the top step of life’s podium.

Men's 50-54 Podium: from left to right - Mark Ford (3rd), Craig Zelent (2nd), Jeff Creighton (1st)

Men’s 50-54 Podium: from left to right – Mark Ford (3rd), Craig Zelent (2nd), Jeff Creighton (1st)

On February 8th I ran the San Dieguito Half Marathon in Rancho Santa Fe. This was the 47th time this great race has been held and it was my 16th time to cross the finish line. I had a great race as I finished in 1:23:06 (6:21/mile) and placed 2nd out of 68 men in the 50-54 age group and 13th out of 1,107 overall finishers. This was the 2nd year in a row where I got dusted by Jeff Creighton who won the age group with an amazing time of 1:19:13. Hopefully next year Jeff will oversleep because I can’t hold a candle to that guy.

They changed the course for this year’s race. I biked the new course 1 week prior to the race. I could tell the new course was going to be more challenging. The old course was very hilly and hard enough. The new course was going to be faster for the first 5 miles, but after that I predicted we would pay the price. I was not mistaken. I was more fit going into this year’s race so I was faster by 47 seconds, but there is no doubt the course is now more difficult.

One of my highlights was running with the eventual women’s champion Beth Gerdes…for a while. Until she chicked me! Beth won the women’s race with a time of 1:20:54. She was the only woman to beat me. Beth and I have been friends for the last 6 years. She does hold down a real job while also being a professional triathlete. It has really been exciting to see her triathlon career take off. We ran together for the first 7 miles and we even managed a little bit of conversation. The final thing I heard her say was “I wonder if my boyfriend will win this race or my ex-husband?” and then she dropped me like a bad habit. As it turned out, her boyfriend Luke McKenzie did beat her ex-husband James Walsh by 59 seconds. They went 1-2. Luke has placed as high as 2nd place overall at Ironman Hawaii. James has won his age group at the Xterra Triathlon World Championships. Both are amazing athletes.

To see my pictures from the race, click on this link
http://www.opix.net/main/?p=2893&image_id=92510010973&key_word_type=zkn_key_name&key_word=ZELENT

I ran this race in the memory of my Tri Club friend Jonathan Jefferson who passed away recently after a gallant battle with cancer. JJ gave so much to so many. I miss you, my friend.

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Paula Munoz – February 2015

4x Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington and Paula Munoz

4x Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington and Paula Munoz

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

Recently I had the good fortune of talking triathlon with TCSD member Paula Munoz. Paula was elected TCSD Secretary this past fall and has worn many hats for the club over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Paula and I know you will, as well.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Paula: I grew up in Sacramento and was lucky to attend really small schools. Really small schools meant that I didn’t have to “try out” for teams! I played volleyball, basketball, and softball in junior high school. When I went to high school, I really took advantage and played every sport that they offered. Volleyball, basketball, track and field, cross-country, soccer, tennis, softball. If there was a team, I joined it! I moved on to a very small college, where I was on the basketball roster my freshman year. Yes, this 5’1’’ girl was on a college basketball team for a hot minute! In my “grown-up” years, I mainly stuck to running events and soccer. My soccer team is where I met (JCC Swim Director) Chris Costales and first heard about TCSD.

Craig: You were on the inaugural Team Solana in 2009. What is Team Solana and what was that experience like?

Paula: I joined the Club in 2009 with a great group of people. I was a part of the inaugural Team Solana (currently known as Team Classic). This Team was created as a fundraiser for TCSD Cares (“the giving arm” of TCSD) and designed to take people from true beginner to the Solana Beach Triathlon in eight short weeks. Coach Steve Tally took fifteen perfect strangers and turned them into triathletes and great friends! Steve told us up front, “Nothing bonds like fear!” Together we learned all the aspects of triathlon through workouts and clinics. Joining the Team was a true life-changer for me. I was bored with just about everything and was thinking about moving back to Lake Tahoe. I needed *something* new in my life, and oh I got it! I met some great people and learned a new sport.

Craig: The following year you became one of the Team Solana Coordinators? How was that experience different from the previous year?

Paula: In 2010, Steve Tally asked me to help coordinate the new Team. I was so flattered and so excited! I definitely wanted to recreate my experience for the new Team. I wanted to facilitate the relationship between the Team members, as well as with the mentors from the previous Teams. As the program has grown, it has become a large undertaking to organize everything, but the time investment is worth it to me when I see the athletes complete a beginner race at Glorietta Bay, or cross their first official finish line. Years later, I have also been able to watch as some crossed the finish line at their first 140.6! I think the time and effort we have put into the program has inspired volunteerism in the members. Out of the Teams have come a couple of Race Directors, a Programs and Events Director, Membership Director, several Beginner Bike Ride leaders, the Social Director, and a Pot Luck Coordinator. Even those who haven’t taken on a specific title can be found volunteering at expos, meetings, and races. In addition to all the training and clinics, a huge benefit to joining the Team is that we know someone at nearly every Club event. This is a major plus when you join a Club of over 2,000 members!

Craig: Now that you have been a triathlete for a number of years, what are some of your favorite destination races?

Paula: I haven’t participated in many out-of-town races (YET), but my favorite so far has been Barb’s Race. This race takes place on the same day and same course as Vineman (the oldest independent 140.6 in the US). Barb’s Race is the only all-women’s 70.3 in the world, and serves as a fundraiser for cancer charities. I think those two factors contribute to the very positive and encouraging vibe of the race. Barb’s is the trifecta of racing a beautiful course, for a great cause, with lots of TCSD members! It was so much fun to yell “Go Tri Club” at all the members who passed me on the bike course, and I received lots of high fives from fellow members on the looped run course. The last couple of years, I have gone as a spectator and it has just become a really fun summer trip with friends.

Though I have not participated, another race that is great fun for members is Ironman Arizona. This is another race with a very large TCSD presence. Both years I’ve made the trip, President Mike Plumb has hauled out the Club tents and set up on the run course. He set up the BBQ and had food and snacks for our members and their families. It’s great to have one meeting spot to get together and cheer for our athletes. A 140.6 can be a long day for spectators too, so it helps to have snacks and company!

Craig: Another area you have had significant involvement in over the years has been the “Introduction to TCSD” meetings. How can a person benefit by attending an Intro meeting and what information is covered at these meetings?

Paula: In 2012, Jay Lewis and I took over the monthly Beginner and Networking meetings. We modified the content a little bit and renamed them the Intro to TCSD meetings. We have had a great run of bringing people into TCSD family. Essentially, the Intro to TCSD meetings answer the question, “What do I get for my $75?” We talk about the workouts, meetings, events, discounts, FRIENDS, all the advantages of being a member of the best club on the planet! We try to keep the mood casual and unintimidating at these meetings, so I like to start out by sharing some of my triathlon exploits. Like when I zipped my wetsuit up front, or about the time I nearly set my rims on fire by riding my brakes down the hills on the 56 bike path. No-speed crashes are always a fun topic. I think it’s important to convey the message that we all have to start somewhere! I strongly recommend that beginners attend both the Intro and Tri 101 meetings. Tri 101 covers the basics of the sport, while the Intro covers the basics of the Club. Both are beneficial, both are monthly, and both can answer the question “Where do I start?”

Craig: Can you tell me about your double life…that you were once a spy? Nobody really reads these interviews so I’m sure it will be fine if you just tell me.

Paula: Haha! Well, I do have a degree in Investigations, which came in handy when I was considering joining our Club! Seriously though, I made it sound like I heard about the Club and then just signed up. Nope. This was a process. While Chris assured me that the Club was for everyone, I couldn’t take his word for it. He is one of the best athletes I’ve ever known, and also one of the nicest people around. I had to see for myself that he was telling the truth and not just trying to be nice. So I looked at the website, found out where the workouts were taking place, and showed up to a few wearing a hat and sunglasses. I wanted to see who was there, what they were wearing, what they were doing, what equipment they needed, etc. I even “went out for my Saturday run” at Fiesta Island so I could see the who, what, where, and how of the Club races. I like information and I learn best by seeing things for myself. I quickly found out that Chris was right, the Club really is for everyone!

Craig: Who do you look up to in our local community of San Diego?

Paula: Someone I looked up to in our local community was Joan Kroc. Sure, we can talk about where her fortune came from, but I’d rather talk about what she did with it. I admired the way she donated money to all kinds of causes and never wanted any recognition. Her name is on several buildings in San Diego, but that was only to encourage others to also donate money. My favorite piece of her legacy is the Kroc Center located in Rolando. She provided the funding to turn an abandoned grocery store and empty parking lot into the most amazing recreation center I have ever seen. When I was studying recreation at SDSU, one of my assignments was to design the facility of my dreams, without regard to budget or other roadblocks. When the Kroc Center opened a couple of years later, it was almost exactly what I had drawn! She paid attention to the details. She wanted the center to be located in an underserved community, and be accessible by public transportation. She wanted the Center to provide not only athletic opportunities, but also arts and education. She gave many gifts to San Diego.

Craig: Who do you look up to in the TCSD?

Paula: This is a no-brainer for me, definitely Steve Tally! I am so glad that he was one of the first people I met in the Club. His knowledge of triathlon is endless, his enthusiasm for the sport (and life) are contagious, and he has a way of convincing people that anything is possible. The one quality of his that I really admire and try to emulate is that when a person speaks to Steve, he gives his full attention. No matter what else is going on, the person in front of him is most important. This is a very rare quality. I always try to do the same because it makes such a difference. I can’t tell you how many times Steve has stood in a dark parking lot answering my silly questions and giving me advice on this, that, or the other. When he first asked me to help with Team Solana, it was the least I could do to start giving back to all the new triathletes. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work side-by-side with Steve and hope that some of those great qualities would rub off on me! I also admire how he balances work, family, triathlon, being a rock star, and so many other things.

The kindness and investment of time shown to me by Steve and Jonathan Jefferson in that first year set the tone for my involvement in TCSD. Many of our member’s stories begin with “I didn’t know anyone in the Club and Jonathan introduced himself and then swam/biked/ran with me.” This is the spirit of our Club. Jonathan’s legacy is for us to make everyone feel welcome and HAVE FUN. We are blessed with good health and plenty of sunshine. Let’s enjoy every minute. I will always be grateful to these two men and that’s why I do what I do for our Club.

Craig: A couple of years ago you had to endure a pretty serious surgery. What happened and what has your recovery process been like?

Paula: In 2012, one week before Soma 70.3, I felt a very sudden, very sharp pain near my shoulder blade. Since all the plans were already in place, I attempted to do the race and had a predictable outcome. When I got back home, I started a long string of doctor’s appointments to try to find out what was wrong. I heard everything from strained muscles to shingles to rotator cuff issues. Finally, someone took an x-ray of my neck and it was very clear. I had a disc that was about to sever my spinal cord. The rest of the appointment was a bit of a blur. He told me to go home and stay home until surgery because if I made one wrong move I could be a paraplegic. I think I was in shock because on my way home, I called the doctor’s office to ask if I could still play in my soccer game that night. I asked a lot of questions about what caused this condition because I never wanted it to happen again. It was a degenerative condition, so as far as anyone can tell, it was caused by a car accident I’d had about ten years ago. I ended up having cervical spinal fusion surgery, and the recovery has been so much slower than I was prepared for. I understood that I would resume normal activities in approximately ninety days (FYI “normal activities” means different things to different people). At first, the fusion was not taking place as it should, so I was possibly facing a second surgery. I was so frustrated. Peyton Manning had the same surgery and he was cleared for the NFL in nine months. I couldn’t lift over ten pounds for a year! After what seemed like an eternity, I was cleared to begin training again. I’ve had a difficult time getting back into the swing of things. I am still anxious about being out on the roads, but I need to remember that with all my metal parts, my neck is actually stronger than ever. It hurts to do certain things, but that it is because I am still regaining strength in my neck. I have felt very discouraged because I can’t keep up with my friends anymore, but I know I can get there again. I am very fortunate to have the encouragement of my Teammates and others who continue to invite me on rides and runs. I just have to go at my own speed and then sometimes they buy me coffee or bread afterward.

Craig: What do you do for a day job, and what do you do to encourage healthy lifestyles at work?

Paula: When I am not taking minutes or planning an Intro meeting, I spend my time at a psychiatric hospital. Yes, as an employee. I work at an outpatient program for mentally ill adults. This is a very emotionally difficult job for me. The wheels keep turning even after I pull out of the parking lot at the end of the day. The Club is a good outlet for me to help take my mind off of work and focus on other things. The upside of my job is that my co-workers also have athletic backgrounds and we are all on the same page as far as encouraging healthy habits for each other and the clients we serve. In fact, I have been successful at talking my co-workers into doing the Spring Sprint relay with me!

When I first started my job, no one (staff or clients) really made an effort to move around during the course of the day. I started a walking club a few years ago, and it helped to get people up and moving. Some started calling it “Walky Talky” because we would pick a topic and have everyone chime in. It was great for social interaction as well. Currently we have a program going called Fit15. One of my co-workers created a calendar of daily movement activities and chart to track progress. Some of the clients will now initiate a morning stretch or dance party, so I think it’s all slowly catching on. It is no secret that exercise can help alleviate some symptoms of depression and anxiety! I have made a standing offer that I will buy a race entry and a pair of shoes for anyone who trains for a 5k event. So far no one has taken me up on my offer. As soon as one person takes advantage though, it might snowball and then I’ll need a second job!

Craig: What are your future goals?

Paula: A long term goal of mine is to establish a program similar to CAF, but for people who have mental health issues. This population could truly benefit from participating in triathlon, running, or other recreational sports. I think the interest is there, but for many people, basic equipment such as shoes and clothing are simply not in the budget. My co-workers and friends have donated new or gently-used shoes and equipment, and I have helped fix up/accessorize a bike or two with some of my spare parts. For most of my clients, bike helmets are unaffordable luxuries and getting a flat means they stay home and isolate until they can somehow get the money for a new tube or tire. This is an undesirable option for anyone with mental health issues. So I guess it really isn’t just about recreation. Yes, I’d like to save the world.

Craig: Paula, I knew I’d hit a home run by interviewing you. In fact, it was a grand slam! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for doing all you do for the Tri Club, your patients and everyone else you come into contact with. I wish you the very best of luck in every area of your life. You deserve it!

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

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TCSD Conversation: Steve Banister – January 2015

Steve Banister representing the TCSD at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland

Steve Banister representing the TCSD at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Steve Banister, our most recent President. Steve did an awesome job as President the past 2 years. Please join me as we get to know a great guy who has given selflessly to the club and our community, but who also happens to be a pretty fast triathlete.

Craig: What sports did you do prior to triathlon?

Steve: Soccer, baseball,football, track, and swimming growing up. Football, baseball and track to a much lesser extent. I probably fit best with the swim team and therefore chose to stick with them in retrospect.

Craig: What do you remember about your first triathlon?

Steve: I do not remember the name of the event, but it took place in Bradenton, FL. I believe I was 5th in my age group and mom says I was 12 years old. I remember being totally lost, pretty much the entire time. It was a pool swim, a mountain bike ride across a field, and a short run. I remember having a strange tasting sports drink after, that I only recently tasted something similar to again in Japan (pokari sweat). That stuff is great… if you are ever in Japan! I didn’t race again until my first year of college. I was 4th overall in a local small sprint race called Top Cop Triathlon in Temple Terrace (Tampa,FL). I rode bikes a bit growing up but never had an opportunity to race. I guess after the finish at Top Cop on a $40 yard sale bike I realized that I had been training for triathlons for a while without realizing it. I’ve fooled myself into believing triathlon serves a greater purpose ever since then. I guess it really does, but I try to keep in perspective with all the more important things in life.

Craig: I’ve heard that you’ve raced the Ironman distance once. How did that come to be and what was your experience like?

Steve: One of my first meetings with the club was at Road Runner Sports. I remember they had a deal where anyone could buy a pair of Avia shoes and get a free entry into a list of races. I was funemployed at the time and wanted to do an Ironman, so I went and signed up before the sales pitch was over. I selected the Vineman Full Triathlon and set off to train for it. There were still several months to train, but I went out a week or two later and came pretty close with a 100/15 brick. You know, just for practice. I kept training and eventually got a bad case of plantar fasciitis. The race itself was great. Well supported, small and comfortable, with a focus on the athletes.

Craig: You have had your share of podium finishes over the years, what race performances are you most proud of and why is that?

Steve: Winning is always fun, so I’d say my very first overall victory is one of the more memorable. It was a small race, as all overall wins I have, but a fun one. It was an Olympic distance race on the Gulf Coast called Beach Blast. I had a few minute lead coming out of the swim and came off the bike in second behind a guy with tree trunks for quads. I remember catching him at about the run turn around and him saying “its not fair, you have long legs”.

On that list also has to be Catalina Triathlon and Tri-Rock San Diego. Tri Rock was special for a few reasons. One, I was 6th overall the day before at the San Diego Tri Classic on a course that does not suit my strengths, so winning overall was totally unexpected. Two, leaving with a custom electric guitar. Three, my girlfriend Erin Hunter also won an electric guitar. Competitor, Asics and Taylor guitars teamed up and set the bar pretty high.

I’ve lost and totally bonked at enough races to know pro-triathlete isn’t a career for me and am pretty happy continuing to compete and push my limits as an age grouper, but would love to find the time to get faster and stay healthy.

Craig: What have been some of your favorite destination races that you have done?

Steve: ITU Age Group World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta mostly because I spent the week before in Banff. But partially because they built a million dollar chlorinated lake just for the event. Talk about dedication to an event.

Xterra World Championships in Maui because I started with the pros, wasn’t last out of the water AND eventually made it across the finish line. One piece of advice for Xterra hopefuls- respect the course and train like you mean it. Just because its in a park, doesn’t mean its a walk in the park.

McDonalds Ironhorse Bicycle Classic in Colorado is number one. It’s the one reason I never talk bad about McDonalds. They do a lot of strange things with food, but as long as they keep putting on the Ironhorse, I’m lovin’ it. It’s a 50 mile ride over two snow capped peaks between Durango and Silverton. As an added bonus the race is against a coal fired train.

Another favorite has to be the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland. A good friend, Daniel Crane, from grad school days qualified by being one of the top Scottsdale residents to finish at one of the hottest running races on the planet (Scottsdale Beat the Heat). 11.22 KM’s at 2:47 pm to commemorate the hottest day on record in Phoenix at 122 degrees in 1990. Scottsdale has a great sister city program set up with Interlaken, Switzerland. They set my friend up with free entry to the race and a few nights in a hotel. Daniel invited me to tag along in one of our typical “what’s the worst that could happen?” conversations and the city of Interlaken was nice enough to throw in another race entry. We we’re treated like dignitaries and offered copious amounts of rosti, beer and schnapps the day before the race. I had a pretty good idea how my race would go, so I didn’t hold back much. I had some major IT band issues leading up to the event so had to cut the training short, but thoroughly enjoyed the entire marathon. I stopped at around 35k and got a massage. The race is generally uphill with more than a mile in vertical gain. Near the top I passed some guys with Alphorn’s and saw a pretty substantial avalanche on the neighboring peaks. Daniel went on to be the 4th American at the event.

Craig: You were part of the inaugural TCSD Ambassador Team this year. How does that group contribute to the club and what does it mean to you to race in the Tri Club kit?

Steve: In taking an in depth look at how club numbers have fluctuated so much over the last 10 years it occurred to me that TCSD is finally experiencing what many other clubs around the world do. Competition from other clubs. Nearly every bike shop and coach in San Diego now have their own team. This change has reduced the overall number of members in the club, but improved access to the sport and the quality of organizations in the sport. The goal of the ambassador team is to represent the club in the best possible way by giving back to the volunteers and athletes that represent the club in all the best ways. I’m glad to be part of the team and humbled by the accomplishments of the other members.

Craig: Your 2 years as President of the TCSD have recently ended. We are grateful for your service. What would you like people to know about the day to day operation of the Tri Club that they might not be aware of?

Steve: Volunteers do what they want. We have the best volunteers because we empower members to improve the club, not because someone tells them what they should do. Our volunteers have the great ideas and see them through when we step aside. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, but often they work out much better. The position of President is more about building good working relationships than dictating policy or creating rules.

Craig: Upon looking back, what were some of the greatest challenges the TCSD overcame during the past couple of years?

Steve: Focusing on the club members we have rather than pretending that the total number of people is our ultimate goal. We put on more races and events in the last two years than ever before. My personal goal was to provide members with the best possible value for their membership.

Craig: What would you like to see changed in the Tri Club?

Steve: I think the Yahoo group should be replaced with something more conducive to discussion about the club and triathlon. We should make an effort to more closely align our club goals with the goals of USA Triathlon. I’d like to see the club converted to a 501(c)3 because it represents the best long term interests of the club. I also think we should change the logo. Just kidding!

Craig: How about the sport in general? If you could waive a magic wand over all of triathlon, what would you change?

Steve: It’s tough to see everything take on a more corporate feel, but I think it’s in the best interest of survival for the industry. The small off the path races out there are really special, but don’t do a lot to support a professional contingent. It’s great to see the NCAA bringing triathlon on as a women’s sport. I hope that trend continues with the men’s side to support US efforts at the Olympics and fostering a healthy and fan friendly format.

Craig: What was the most rewarding aspect of being the TCSD President?

Steve: Interacting with the members. Triathlon is a great outlet before or after spending a day at the good ole office desk. Our club members are great for helping to keep things in perspective.

Craig: You had a great team of support help. Who were some of the people who made the TCSD look as good as it did during your watch?

Steve: Erin Hunter, my girlfriend, has to be at the top of the list. She’s done a lot for the club as well, but she really helped me to make good decisions and make sure I kept things in perspective. Florian Hedwig really made being in the club a fun place to be. All my best friends are in the club and many have helped along the way.

Craig: What are your future goals and aspirations in the sport of triathlon?

Steve: Challenge Roth is my next big endeavor after the initial 1am PST Challenge Signup. I’d like to run the entire marathon. Anything else would be a bonus.

Craig: Steve, you did a tremendous job as President of the TCSD. On behalf of all our members and others in the community, thank you for a job well done! And thank you for sharing your story with us. We wish you the very best of luck in the future. The sky is the limit for you!

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

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TCSD Conversation: Kyle Hummel – December 2014

Kyle Hummel celebrates becoming the 2014 Men's 30-34 Ironman 70.3 World Champion!

Kyle Hummel celebrates becoming the 2014 Men’s 30-34 Ironman 70.3 World Champion!

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I got to talk triathlon with the TCSD’s most recent World Champion Kyle Hummel. It will blow your mind to hear what Kyle has gone through just to be able to walk around like a normal guy. He has come so far to become the Ironman 70.3 World Champion for the men’s 30-34 age group. He is an awesome athlete who really appreciates the gifts he has been blessed with. I know you will enjoy getting to know Kyle.

Craig: What was your athletic background before you started racing triathlons?

Kyle: I grew up competing in every sport my parents would let me be in. The one sport I never had enough time for was swim team which would have paid off big time now, but that is all good. Basketball has always been a love of mine, I never have enough time to get on the court anymore but hoops is definitely a sport that I love. I always kinda knew growing up that running was going to be my best sport. My family moved into Yakima, WA when I entered high school and was blessed by being able to run cross country and track for one of the best coaches in the country. I was able to earn a scholarship as an 800 meter runner for Eastern Washington University.

Craig: What was your first triathlon experience like for you…and the spectators?

Kyle: My first tri was a sprint tri during my junior year of high school. For some reason I thought some good cross training (swim, bike, and run) would be good for my cross country summer training. I never swam before the race, I rode a couple of times, but was running every day for Cross. I swam in board shorts and no goggles. My contact came off my eye mid swim and I was all loopy coming out of the water. I thought running shorts and especially spandex were very un-cool, so as I entered T1 I stripped my board shorts off (now completely naked), threw on underwear, bike shorts, and then basketball shorts over the bike shorts. I tossed on a cut off sleeve shirt, bike gloves, helmet, my sister’s sunglasses, socks, running shoes and hopped on my dad’s old school yellow 10 speed bike where you had to shift down on the frame; it was awesome. I came into T2 for another complete change of clothes and then ran my guts out for the 5K. No one ever said anything about me getting all naked in transition; looking back I don’t know how. Gotta love tri people, they know what’s up.

Craig: Congratulations on recently becoming the Ironman 70.3 World Champion for the men age 30-34. I heard your IM 70.3 career started a few years ago with a bang. How did your first 70.3 go?

Kyle: My first year of tris was 2006. In 2007 I gave my first shot at the 70.3 distance. I was still rocking my road bike with clip on aero bars. I was racing Lake Stevens 70.3 and at this time the bike was a two loop course. The end of the first loop went right by the swim area so all of the spectators were located there. As I came into this area I decided I wanted some water at the bottom of the hill right in the middle of what happened to be where my parents were located. I tried to grab a water bottle from a volunteer but he was holding on much too tight to the bottle and when I tried to grab it I was thrown backwards, I tried to correct but it was too late, I was going down. I bounced across the pavement like a ragdoll. Luckily my dad was taking photos and got some in action wreck shots. I was a mess of road rash anywhere on my body that was bony. My ankles, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, everything was torn up. My first attempt at a 70.3 was a DNF.

Craig: You have had some major health issues for a young guy. One of these started on August 6, 2009. What happened on that day?

Kyle: August 6, 2009 was the day that tested my attitude about life and family more than I ever could have imagined. The reason I got into triathlons was to complete an Ironman. Three weeks before trying to complete my 1st ironman I was hit head on by an SUV while on my bike.

I had never really been injured before, let alone break a bone. But I knew that day, lying face down in a ditch in the Montana summer heat, looking up at my leg with the Tibia bone sticking out that there was no doubt I had not only broken my leg, but it was shattered. The very first thought that went through my head was that all of my hard work is down the drain, I will never compete again.

But I did, and I was even faster, more committed and determined.

Craig: What was your comeback like after that terrible accident?

Kyle: Very slowly and painful. My family is incredible and my parents took me in because I needed 24/7 care. I had so much support from extended family and friends that would stay with me once I got out of the hospital while my parents were at work. I had some really dark days over the first six months. I went from full on ironman training to stuck in a bed all day. Just to do something/anything I would go in the back yard and my dad would bring weights out to do some upper body weights. After I was able to get around OK on my own I moved back into my townhouse in Missoula. I could not work so I would do as much as I could at the gym. I would lift upper body, a lot of one legged squats and toe raisers, swim in the pool but no flip turning in fear of hitting my left ankle on top of the pool. The break to both tibia and fibula were so bad that the bone growth needed was a very slow process. I ended up having five surgeries to the leg over a 13 month period with two bone grafts to help enable bone growth.

Craig: Lesley Paterson has had a big influence on your success. What have you learned from Lesley that sets her apart from other coaches you have worked with?

Kyle: I originally met Les in the pool and we swam in the same lane in Masters swimming, and she was all intense and encouraging all at the same time. I was like ‘who is this little Scottish girl all amped up all the time?’ Then I realized she was one of the strongest riders in the group rides I would do and I knew that she was someone special. We became friends and started doing workouts together and we both realized that we both have the same attitude and killer drive in ourselves that make for great training partners. I looked at many coaches in the San Diego area but I did not connect the same way with anyone that I did with Lesley. Her amazing training philosophy of strength work before speed makes so much since and my racing has had amazing improvements because of her training style. I could not maximize my racing abilities just in the race season doing all speed work. It starts from weeks and weeks of hard core strength work and gradually building in the speed to peak at just the right time.

Craig: The team at Rehab United and Tyler Forbes have also played a significant role in your success. How have they helped you?

Kyle: I was introduced to Bryan Hill with Rehab United through Lesley because our first year of working together I could not stay healthy. After I broke my leg I did zero hours of physical therapy, I honestly thought it was a waste of time. My mind set was that my body will just fix itself. But one injury after another I knew I needed outside help. Bryan and I got really close because I will do whatever it takes to be my best so I was in PT three times a week. Bryan really worked out some issues and built some needed strength in my broken leg.

But even with all of Bryan’s incredible work I was still getting injured. Two years ago I could barely walk because my psoas was so inflamed. I was a mess and needed some serious deep tissue work. That is when I was introduced to Tyler Forbes, a chiropractor with Back in Motion. This guy is quite honestly amazing. He tore into my body in a way that would make me scream for bloody murder. I would leave an hour long session drenched in sweat from Tyler breaking apart my muscles. These sessions hurt more than anything, but I knew that it had to be done. If it was not for Tyler I would still be injured and I truly believe that. My body was such a mess and so tight all over that it took two months of working with him before I was able to run pain free. I have now gone two seasons of racing with no injuries by keeping constant visits with Tyler.

Craig: What other fringe benefits have you enjoyed from your workouts at Rehab United?

Kyle: Bryan puts on great strength and injury prevention classes a couple times a week at his Rehab United clinics. I originally met Randi at these strength classes. I would briefly say hi to Randi after I originally met her, but since I was there to work out that was what my focus was on. She may be hot, but I have other things to worry about, like how bad can I make myself hurt today. But after one class I found Randi and I in a great conversation out in the parking lot for 10 or 15 minutes and was about to approach her about getting dinner together when she abruptly ended the conversation because she was getting too cold and before I knew it she was gone, leaving me standing there. I thought ‘that sucks’, but I will see her again. Rehab held a team building event at a Padres game around ten months after our original first (what I thought) great conversation outside of RU. As a triathlete there really is no time for a social life, especially the more serious you take the sport. Your training partners become your training best friends. That night I was able to attend the baseball game because I was injured and Randi had just finished an ironman so we were both out of training and actually had time get to know someone. We both connected at that game and now have become more than best friends, but each other’s better half until death does us part. Bryan claims to have set us up. All I know is that I owe that guy big time because without Rehab I would have never met the love of my life.

Craig: You had lung surgery earlier this year. What brought that on?

Kyle: The lung issues were the result of a bacterial infection to my lung and diaphragm. The exact cause of it all will always be a mystery. But it all started the week of Oceanside this year when I went into that race already feeling sick. I got in a fist fight with some guy in the swim and ended up with a black lip and swallowed a lot of that nasty water. 15 miles on the bike I puked all over the place. A week after the race I was feeling worse and worse and could barely run. In the middle of a 6 hour bike ride I was on the side of the road, not able to breathe and honestly pretty scared. Not being able to breathe is no joke and nothing that I had encountered before. I ended up in the ER and was diagnosed with Pneumonia and Pleurisy. That was the start to the crazy summer of mine.

Craig: You had a major physical set back this year. How did you bounce back so quickly from being so sick to World Champion in a few short months?

Kyle: Last year I was able to put up good results and I really wanted to get a great base of training going into this year. I was doing seven hour training days the first week of December and people were telling me I was nuts, ‘what the hell are you training this hard for when your first half ironman is not for over two months?’. The thing is that you never hear of anyone doing something great by being normal or by doing what everyone else does. I was going to take my racing to another level and that meant taking my training to another level. I really did not care what anyone else thought. My goals and ambitions are higher than the next person; therefore I am going to do twice the work as them. We must have dreams to make us strive for greatness… ‘Nothing can happen if not first a dream.’

After my 6 day hospital stay from lung surgery I spent two weeks recovering. I ended up with eight weeks until World Championships 70.3. I spent that first 3 weeks absolutely murdering myself with strength training. I maxed my body out every day because that is what needed to be done to compete at a high level. Regularly waking up before 4 AM, running hill repeats in the pitch dark or on my bike trainer pounding away. I moved into speed four weeks before Worlds getting more quality or quantity and that paid off big time. If I did not have those monster months of training in December and January my body would not have been able to handle the load I put in the two months before Worlds.

Craig: How did the IM 70.3 Worlds go down for you in Mont Tremblant?

Kyle: I came out of the water in 27 minutes which I was happy with considering how physical the first 7 or 8 minutes were from a run in start. The body felt good and headed out on the bike (what ended up being in 39th place).

I got on the bike and started passing guys with ease, groups of 5-10 guys like it was nothing. I moved into the top five by the half way mark and knew I was having a special day. By the end of the bike I came into T2 tied for second and felt great. I ran down the leader at mile five and never looked back. It was one of those days where the mind never breaks, the body feels no pain, the day every triathlete hopes they have when they race. Randi was there at the finish line and hugged her so hard with tears running down my face. I would not have accomplished what I just did without her.

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

Kyle: The largest benefit from being involved with TCSD is all of the friendships you make just by involving yourself in a couple races a year. The club has so many great opportunities that can make everyone feel welcome and a part of. Triathlons really are about the relationships that we create and build upon.

Craig: Who are your sponsors?

Kyle: Scott Bikes, ENVE composites, Oakley sunglasses, XTERRA wetsuits, PowerBar, Betty Design, On Running, Powertap, CycleOps, Tommie Copper.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Kyle: My individual goals as a racer I like to keep between my wife and coach. I will always set goals for myself as a racer but this year has shown your plans can be interrupted by just about anything. My knowledge that I have gained from Lesley and her husband Simon have made me become much more involved in the coaching side of tri’s with Braveheart Coaching. My knowledge as a racer and understanding of going through injuries and ups and downs that life throws at you enables me to work with any athlete, no matter what level of athlete they are. Everyone deserves to feel great about themselves. Braveheart Coaching creates opportunities for everyone who wants to fight those demons that tell you life is too hard, that you cannot do this, because you can. My doctors said my race season was over, and then I went on to become a World Champion.

Craig: How can someone reach you if they would like to benefit from Braveheart Coaching?

Kyle: My personal website is http://www.kylehummel.com and the Braveheart website is http://www.braveheartcoach.com/

Craig: Kyle, congratulations on your World Championship! You have made the TCSD and your loved ones very proud. Thank you for sharing your story. I know you will crush your future goals. Good luck in that journey!

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