Bonfield Express

Post race with Tera and Ben O’Malley and their kids Patrick and Violet.

Debbie, Cindy, Mom and I.

On November 22nd I raced the Bonfield Express 5K in Downers Grove, IL.  I had a solid race as I finished in 19:06 to place 1st out of 353 men age 50-59 and 80th out of 5,174 overall finishers.  This was the 4th consecutive year that I have started my Thanksgiving Day with this race.  This year my fellow running family member included Tera O’Malley while her husband Ben pushed Patrick and Violet in the baby jogger.  We all had fun.  Violet expressed her fun by crying a lot.  I guess your 1st Bonfield Express can be pretty emotional.  It sure was for Violet!

I traveled in on 11/21 and stayed with my Mom in Lombard, IL.  Mom is 97 and lives in her own apartment at Beacon Hill, in Lombard, IL. Later in December will be her 10th year at Beacon Hill.  My sisters (Cindy and Debbie) and I are so thankful she’s been able to live in such a vibrant place.  Mom and I enjoyed a delicious Beacon Hill Thanksgiving dinner.  It was safest and easiest this year for us to dine at Beacon Hill.  My niece, Katy O’Malley, hosted the big family dinner in Oak Park.  After my Beacon Hill feast, I ventured over to Katy’s for dessert.

During my visit I saw a lot of loved ones.  Beyond the usual suspects, I saw my cousin Donna Goffron.  In addition, I got together with friends Bruce McNair, Chuck Carey, Dave Dungan, Mike Gartlan, Craig Milkint, Will Johns, Ken and Lois Tyznik, Jean Pitra, and Lou and Lynda Hoornbeek.  And on top of that I had some special long distance phone calls with my cousins Ricky Jacob, Nancy Hardy, Ruth Colville and friends Jim Bremhorst and Rob Parmelee.  I hope I did not leave anyone out.

On what was supposed to be my final day of the visit the Chicago area got about 6+ inches of snow.  That led to flight problems for yours truly.  Thankfully my brother-in-law Jim O’Malley was able to retrieve me from O’Hare and I was able to spend the night at Cindy and Jim’s house in Elmhurst.  Thank goodness for their hospitality!  I finally got home 1 day later on 11/27 with 8 leftover pieces of stuffed Giordano’s pizza and some pecan Kringle, courtesy of the Hoornbeek’s.  This trip was a major success!

Living the life…

Posted in 2018, Running Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: November 2018 – Rich Sweet

World Champion Rich Sweet (right) and son Ricky at 2018 Kona Awards Ceremony.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the privilege this month to talk triathlon with TCSD member, Rich Sweet.  In October Rich won the men’s 55-59 age group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  He beat the 2nd place guy by 21+ minutes and set an age group course record in the process.  I know you will enjoy getting to know the World Champ!

Craig: What were your sports when you were younger?

Rich: As a youth I focused on swimming, racing sailboats, and wrestling in the winter in high school.  I started swimming competitively when I was 8 years old and continued until 13 years old.  I was very competitive in all four strokes, but freestyle and butterfly were my favorite.  Around age 12–13, I found myself standing among men at times because I was a late bloomer, and I was not as competitive as I once was.

My father was an avid sailor, and I grew up on sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound. At age 12, I started racing sailboats (Lasers and larger boats) with many podium finishes, at regional and national levels, and this passion and competitiveness continued into my 30s. When the boats were put away for the winter, I wrestled in high school with moderate success because I did not like to cut weight to get in lower weight groups.  As a result, I found myself facing much larger opponents at times, which was fun and challenging.

When I was 28, one of the boat owners who I raced with introduced me to auto racing – he collected and raced vintage Porsches. While I could not afford to collect and build Porsches, I did race with Sports Car Club of America Improved Touring (SCCA IT) for 8 years racing with podium finishes on a regional level. Getting back to sailing and or racing cars are bucket list items for me later in life. Both are the same type of people with one group having dirtier hands at times.

Craig: What obstacles have you overcome to become a triathlete?

Rich: In my 30s, my wife and I were raising a family and almost all of my other hobbies were put on the back burner for a while.  I was always a casual runner, but at the age of 38 my weight ballooned to more than 200 lbs.  About this time my mother passed away suddenly at 63, and my father had passed 7 years earlier at 65. Their deaths at young ages were a day of reckoning for me given my health trajectory.

At some point in life, we realize that “genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger,” and this becomes clearer as we age.  At this point I started to really watch my lifestyle and focused on losing the weight and changing my diet.  Within two to three years, I was able to get my weight and blood work to normal levels for my age and build, but I still wanted to get more physically active.  I raced a couple of half marathons and then decided to buy a mountain bike to balance the running.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Rich: After a few years of running and mountain biking I became interested in learning more about triathlons after coming across a TCSD race at Fiesta Island one weekend morning in 2006 when I was running.  After talking the ears off some of the club members that morning, I decided to join the club.  After a few weeks of stalking various races, I finally worked up the courage to try a beginners race at Glorietta Bay.  Before signing up for the beginners race, I did get to the TCSD Master swim a couple of times after not swimming for 20+ years, but I felt my bike and run fitness was sufficient to go through the paces.

I remembered this practice race morning in vivid detail, mainly because I was the only one who showed up with a mountain bike and a rented wetsuit (from Nytro).  The club members were very supportive and helped me set up a proper transition area with bike and run gear set up against a tree. Members even helped me put on the wetsuit correctly after first putting it on with the zipper in the front.  In the end I was second out of the water, way back on the bike (obviously), but I was able to finish third after a short two mile run.  Soon after, I bought my first wetsuit and tri-bike, a used Cervelo P3 that was too small but looked fast to me.

Craig: What was your experience like at the first triathlon you actually had to pay for?

Rich: Some months later, a co-worker of mine, Jeff Fieldhack, and I were randomly talking about bikes during lunch, and I learned that he was a seasoned and successful triathlete (and former professional tennis player).  Jeff mentioned to me that he was racing Wildflower in six weeks, and he encouraged me to sign up.  I later went to him as I learned the Mountain Bike Sprint and Olympic distance events were sold out, only leaving me the option for the 70.3 race.  He said, “What do you have to lose?” Just sign up for the 70.3, and we can train for the next 6 weeks together.  I said ok not really knowing what I was getting into, but I was happy for his offer to train with me.

Over the course of the next six weeks, Jeff and I trained most days during the week and weekends.  He is 100% responsible for starting me in this sport, and anyone who knows Jeff can attest that he has always been a positive influence for me during all of our workouts.  No matter how bad I was suffering at times compared to him, he was and continues to be encouraging and complementary.

In the end, I had no expectations for the race other than to see what would happen. I finished with a time of 5:48:14 (29:46 Swim; 3:19:18 Bike; 1:54:12 Run) and placed 54th in the 45-49 age group.  After the race, I was hooked: All I could think of was how I was going to improve on this time.

Jeff and I have now been training together for more than nine years.

Craig: What have been some of the funniest, dumbest or strangest things you have seen as an athlete?

Rich: Through the last nine years in the sport, there are many funny, dumb, and strange things I have experienced, but the following are the most notable.

My second Triathlon was the Buffalo Springs 70.3 in Lubbock Texas.  Jeff wanted to go there because at that time there were Kona Slots. So I thought, ok, let’s do it.  For this race I learned a valuable trick that I continue to use today for bike racks. When I got to my bike after the swim, I found my bike knocked off the rack laying on its side and all of my nutrition had poured out of the aero bottle.  Needless to say, I was very stressed about this, as I had no clue when I would have any fluids (or what the fluid would be) in this south Texas climate.  As a precaution, I now always take a bungee cord and tie it (with a quick release knot) around my seat to the rack so no one moves my bike or knocks it off.

The oddest thing I ever have seen was in the same Lubbock race on the bike. I glanced over to see a pickup truck coming the opposite direction, and I thought I saw Jeff in the passenger side of the truck…“What is he doing in the truck?” I thought.  As it turned out, he got a flat and a local guy offered to drive him back to the aid station in hopes of cutting his tubular tire off the rim so he could replace it with the spare. In the end Jeff being Jeff, he went to the Race Director at the finish and DQ’d himself for getting outside assistance, even though he had to ride in on the flat and got a ride in the opposite direction of the course.

The funniest thing I have ever seen was during the swim this year in Kona.  About 15 minutes into the swim, people are starting to settle into packs and finding feet (drafting) is a big deal to save energy.  The first guy I found literally had feet that looked like the size of a bear with very distinct big orange callas pads.  Every kick he made was like prop wash from a power boat.  So, I thought perhaps I would put in some effort and get by him but realized that he was moving as fast as I wanted to, so I settled back in behind him.  At some point at the boat turn at the half-way point, I lost him only to see him again with about half mile left in the swim, and I was actually relieved, as this was a familiar set of feet and behavior.  This was actually a good distraction as I was thinking during the swim how I would describe these feet that I have never seen before during any race.  The hobbit did come to mind during the swim, but thought they were just too big for that comparison.  Later, I did check the swim finisher pictures and believe I found this guy, he was huge in all propositions even with a full beard.  Impressive that he is competing in Kona!

Craig: 2018 was the 5th time you have raced the Ironman World Championships.  How did your first 4 attempts go and what did you learn from those experiences?

Rich: After a few 70.3 races, I decided to do my first full Ironman distance race in 2011, which was Ironman France in Nice.  At this time, my bike and run conditioning were good, but not good enough to get a Kona spot, but this was Jeff’s goal.  We also went with a few other San Diego TCSD guys, and we trained all winter/spring together for this race.  For me, my expectation was to have a good showing and learn some lessons from my first full Ironman race.

In the end, Jeff was third in his age group, and got his Kona slot.  Jeff is five years younger than me, so we don’t compete in same age group. I was 20th with a time of 10:36.  I learned that I biked too hard on bike the first 30 miles, walking aid stations on the run, and had a poor overall nutrition plan. Nonetheless, I was hooked again for this longer distance, and as soon as I got home, I signed up for Ironman Louisville eight weeks later in August.  With the primary goal to get a Kona slot.

The training for Ironman Louisville included working on the prior race mistakes and improving conditioning for the expected heat for Louisville in August. My training was impactful, and I placed 1st in my age group and 16th overall with a time or 9:31, and I got my first Kona slot!

Six weeks later, I was racing in Kona with whatever rest and conditioning could be maintained after Louisville. Kona is a tough race, and my lessons learned at this race was no sugar, like Coke, on the bike.  I ended up 39th in my age group with a time of 10:05.  Jeff finished 41st also in his age group with a time of 9:44.

In 2012, both Jeff and I were plagued with injuries. January I was hit by a car in Fallbrook and Jeff later broke his foot on a trail run.  With contusions on my right knee and Jeff’s healing foot, we raced Ironman St. George in the spring with top 10 finishes. The next year was really about focusing on work and rehab for both of us.

It was until late 2013 that Jeff and I signed up for SuperFrog and Ironman Cozumel.  The time off and rehab paid off with both Jeff and I, second and first in our age groups, finishing within 20 seconds of each other and both receiving Kona Slots for 2014.

The prep race for Kona 2014 was IM Lake Stevens 70.3, which was 8 weeks out from Kona.  My 2014 goal was top 10, and I felt I could do this based on the results of my competitors who I have raced against in the past.  In the end I was third, and this was my first podium. Still my swim/bike was top 15 only, and I ran into 3rd from there with a 3:13 marathon, and a total finish time of 9:39.  The key takeaways there were I got lucky, and I was able to execute the run.  But I was still not happy with my bike abilities.

My Kona 2015 (qualified in IM Texas) goal was still to be back on the podium but closer to the top competitors off the bike.  That was not to be, but still I was able to run down the ex pro Jurgen Zack at mile 20 after he had a 20-minute lead in front of me off the bike. This year I was 2nd with a time of 9:46.

At Kona 2016 (qualified at IM Texas again) my body was starting to feel the mileage, and my run form was falling apart with hamstring strains in both legs.  I knew going into Kona this year that my run conditioning was lacking, but my focus on the bike allowed me to improve there with a 7 min faster bike split but a much slower 3:36 run.  I ended up 8th with a time of 9:46. Not what I was hoping for, but honestly not surprised as you have to be able to run in Kona to make the podium.

Once back from Kona in 2016, I took some time off to work on house projects, reflect on run challenges and decided to hire a coach who literally showed me how to run again – the right way.  He taught me that my over striding and fixation on striking my fore foot was what caused my hamstring injuries.  After focusing mainly on the run through the winter, I decided to enter Ironman Boulder June 2017 to test drive my run.  But all I did through the winter was run with last minute swim and bike build.  This was not sufficient to put a solid race together, but still I was lucky enough to get a roll down Kona Slot.  In the end, I withdrew from Kona because I did not feel I was ready to be competitive as my bike fitness was way down. So, my sights became focused on Kona 2018 as a new 55-year old.  I kicked off my training for Kona 2018 late September with Al Torre and Jeff, who were riding their last long bike rides before going to Kona to race a few weeks later.

Craig: What was the 2018 race like for you?

Rich: After withdrawing from Kona 2017, I set course to what was needed for Kona 2018 and had to include focus on staying healthy and listening to my body.  I did have a little setback in February 2018 when I fell getting out of the pool and came down hard on my knee.  This forced me to focus more on the bike and did not really run much before IM Texas where I hoped to qualify.  What I found, though, was there was a huge amount of fitness transfer from the bike to my run fitness as I was able to run enough in IM Texas still to win.  After IM Texas I was able to resume running and was starting to see my speed come back after really spending 2 years learning to run again.  I kept the bike as the primary focus through the summer and did a test race in September with no taper at Superfrog just 4 weeks out from Kona.  This allowed me to gage race fitness and how I would taper the next 4 weeks.

For Kona, I always arrive the Sunday before the race to give me time to acclimate to the temperature and time change.  During Race Week I train enough to stay sharp but try to stay off my feet and get at least eight to ten hours of sleep per night.  Jeff and I did our normal race week workouts and noticed it was much more humid than prior races (due to rain at night) so sweat rates would be higher.  The days leading up to the race I focused on taking in more sodium than normal and even drinking my race nutrition throughout the days leading up to the race.  It is normal to have prerace anxiety through the week which can manifest in a lot of issues and for me it is normally not being able to fall asleep.  But for me having the surprise arrival of my son and brother-in-law Wednesday before the race really took the edge off and left me very relaxed and able to sleep well.  It is really great to have family and close friends at the races and this is the first time at any IM to have both here in Kona.

Race morning I was up at 3:45 and had the usual coffee and toast with almond butter.  Also drank 2 bottles of Infinite but in a lighter concentration which I use on the bike.  I typically keep my race morning nutrition on the light side and only ate a banana and Bonk Breaker bar while relaxing in the transition area before the start.   The swim start is always stressful no matter how many Kona races you have done.  The key for me was just keeping steady and not wasting energy battling for position.  For me I could swim a sub hour but then my HR would take longer to come down to normal range for the bike.  For me it was important to get on the bike and be able to push from the start which I did.  This year the marshalling was much better than previous years and the penalty tents were over flowing at times.  I mention this because during the bike it is very hard to stay away from the packs especially when the majority of the athletes are getting on the bike course in a span of 15 minutes.  Can be very frustrating at times.  Throughout the bike I stayed on target power of 200W and about 20 miles out from T2 I backed off a bit on the bike and started to take in more nutrition for the run mainly because this is typically my stronger portion of the race.

Once off the bike and running I saw my son at the first mile who told me there was one person off the bike in front of me about 8 minutes ahead of me.  I was happy to hear that but did not know who it was so I kept steady.  To my surprise I passed this leader at mile 4 and he was not running that well; perhaps he over cooked the bike.  On the way back from the first turn on Ali’i Drive I was able to see the 2 Germans who are good runners and they appeared to be running well so I kept steady knowing I was about 5+ minutes ahead of them.  Once I passed by my son again he told me I was about 8 minutes ahead of the second place guy who was one of the Germans who has won his age group 4 times in Kona.  After that update I would not have anymore chances to see how my position was fairing until mile 17 when we turn at the bottom of the energy lab to head back to the Queen-K.  At this turn I checked the mileage on my watch and then checked it once I saw the 2nd place German and he was about 2 miles back (15-16 minutes) so I again stayed steady.  Once back out on the Queen-K Jeff passed me about mile 20 and we ran for a bit and he said he felt he had 3 or so guys up ahead of him in his age group and I agreed that he should keep pushing.  I felt there was no need for me to push any harder and risk walking at the last climb 1.5 miles before the finish so again I kept steady.  As I hit the top of the last hill I saw my son again who told me I was 20 minutes ahead of the 2nd place German so that felt great to say the least.  As I entered the finishing shoot I could hear Jeff’s name being called out as he was about 20-30 seconds ahead of me. In the end my goal of arriving healthy and rested paid off as I won my age group by over 20 minutes and set a new course record for 55-59 of 9:14:23.  Admittedly the bike conditions set this up, but whatever was given to us on the bike was taken away in spades on the run as this was by far the hottest run I have ever done; even worse than Houston or Louisville.

Craig: Jeff Fieldhack has been a key person in your success as a triathlete.  How has Jeff helped you?

Rich: Jeff and I talk multiple times a day, not only because we are friends, but we share a common passion for racing and training.  We are constantly evaluating what is working, what is not, how we are feeling, what new things we will try and more importantly goals.  Recently it has been harder for us to meet to train due to life, work and distance, but we look at all of our workout stats (power, heart rate, cadence, average speed, pace etc) and chart course ahead to both training and race execution.  I will say we may not agree on everything which is healthy, but keeps us never being complacent.

More importantly we both love to hear about other peoples experiences, too, to help mix things up.

Craig: What advice would you want to share with someone just getting started in triathlon?

Rich: Enjoy the journey and find people to share it with at all levels.  I remember 1 gal in Houston at IM Texas say – Raise your hands as you cross the line in victory, because it feels the same whether you are first or last.  It is your individual journey and victory.

Craig: What advice would you have for someone that is already a few years into the sport who is trying to qualify for Ironman Kona or the Ironman 70.3 World Championships?  As you answer this question, let’s assume that athlete has proven they are pretty good by getting on the podium of some local races.

Rich: Set realistic and stretch goals for training.  Know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. Pick a course which favors your strengths and train like you race – this will help with confidence.  Know your limits especially at IM Distance races.  Make sure your nutrition is practiced, as well.  Lastly, address any physical kinks before they become chronic injuries.

Craig: Who have been the most influential people in your life?

Rich: Even at age 55 I still hear and reflect on the instruction and advice of my father.  He has shaped my ability to overcoming adversity, deal positively with uncertainty and ambiguity encountered in life daily. My father was the most influential for me and inspired me to set and achieve my goals.  He was a General officer in the Army with a very successful career.  As a family we camped and sailed all the time and he always would give me responsibilities, but first show me how to do those jobs.  For example, help him check the trailer lights, level the trailer after parked, checking the tires on the vehicles, painting my room,  and even allowed me (trusted me) to take out our boats with friends at a young age ~12.  My point being is he would inspire me to learn new things, do them the best I could and allowed to me fail and correct course on my own.  Same applies to my start and participation in triathlon.

Craig: How do you balance racing triathlons with your family and career?

Rich: I am a Electrical Engineer by education and have spent 30+ years in the wireless industry.  I have been fortunate to find the balance of work, sport and life mainly because I never stop unless I am sleeping.  However, there are sacrifices at times. My children all have their sports (Running, Tennis & Baseball) and my wife teaches and plays tennis at a level 5.  I enjoy my kids sports at times, but usually drop them off for most activities then my wife will pick up or we even ride share with other parents (uber too).  I am not an armchair parent and feel my kids will go to whatever level they want in sports as it is up to them.  If they show the interest and are putting in the work there is no limit to the resources and support I will offer for them to achieve their goals.

I bike or swim in the AM before work.  During work I will run and or swim.  Occasionally I can do a short ride depending on meetings.  After work I go to Fiesta Island and this time of year will ride until almost dark then I run in the dark on the lighted paths.  The weekends require coordination of rides for kids activities Thursday/Friday in order to plan the weekend training.  I don’t mind driving kids around in the AM because I like to train in the heat of the day when the wind is blowing.  In this case I can be found on the Strand.  In all I typically train 12-15 hours a week with peak weeks 20-25 hours which is largely a result of bike volume.

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

Rich: I would wish for safer training venues for the bike.  Better behavior from cyclists that breeds contention from car divers.   I will not ride alone anywhere, but the Strand and Fiesta Island but still with mirror and lights.  I hate the indoor trainer, but will use it at times.

I think the sport has become too expensive for new sustained participation especially at the 70.3 and IM distance with expensive entrance and lodging fees (it is all dialed in to empty your pockets).  As with sailboat racing perhaps there needs to be a Spec bike for the sport?  I talk to my nephews who think they need a $10K+ bike to get into the sport and go fast.  I have never spent more than $8K and even $3-$4K is getting a solid bike to start.  This perception needs to change.

Craig: Do you have any sponsors?

Rich: No I am not sponsored and I have never really pursued sponsorship.  I do ask for my TCSD discount thought.   I have, however, in the past been a formal/informal brand ambassador for the products I use religiously for racing and training.  Those include Kiwami, Desoto, Infinite Nutrition and ENVE.  I also have good relationships (with full acknowledgment that I am a difficult customer at times) with the local bike shops to include Moment, Pulse and special mention to Mike Willard at the Trek Super Store for his flexibility to get me in the service shop at a moment’s notice and the quality of his work is better than sponsorship.

Craig: What are your future triathlon and endurance sport goals?

Rich: I will race to win in Kona 2019 and this will be tough knowing who is aging up.  Jeff and I will perhaps enter Wildflower, IM Boulder and Superfrog.

Bucket list is an open marathon and perhaps a 50K.  Ultimately I would like to get a mountain bike and qualify for Leadville – this race looks awesome and hard!

Craig: Rich, thank you for sharing your story.  It’s not often that I get to talk with a World Champion.  And I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anyone that has seen Big Foot, especially during the swim at Ironman.  We are in the same age group, but you are such a good guy that I’m still going to wish you good luck with all your future goals.

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


Posted in 2018, Marathon, Running Race, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: October 2018 – Alex Dreu

Alex Dreu at Ironman Canada 2017

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I talked triathlon recently with TCSD member Alex Dreu.  She has already accomplished a lot during her relatively short triathlon career and I know there is more to come.  Alex has also done her share of giving back to the sport she loves.  I know you will be impressed by what she has done for Women for Tri as well as serving as a guide for visually impaired triathletes.

Craig: What sports did you play when you were younger

Alex: I guess I did what many kids do when they are younger: try out different sports.  I started swimming when I was fairly young and then all throughout high school.  Mostly focused on shorter distances, the 50m and 100m.  I wouldn’t say I was particularly great in it, but it definitely gave me an advantage when I started triathlon… I was comfortable in the water.  I also did gymnastics for a few years (yes, gymnastics), but was definitely not good in that as I really don’t have the best coordination.  In my teens and early twenties, I enjoyed ball sports, like tennis and basketball.  And specifically liked badminton, really enjoyed that.  It’s been ages since I played it ‘though.

Craig: How did you happen to become a triathlete?

Alex: I 150% blame Stacy Sauls for a) getting me into triathlon and b) make me do crazy things like Ironman races.  I was running half marathons for a few years in my mid- to late thirties and really enjoyed it, although I wasn’t particularly fast.  I actually did the first few while still smoking and about 30 lbs. heavier.  That just didn’t sit right with me, I needed to make the decision for myself to either do it and do it right or not.  So, I decided to quit smoking (cold turkey, yes it does work if you really want it) and lose some weight.  Amazing how much faster you can run 30 lbs. lighter!  That was about 6 years ago.  Then 4 years ago Stacy Sauls convinced me to sign up for the Mission Bay Tri (I think it happened during a Friday evening happy hour).  She gave me one of her wetsuits and goggles and such.  And I only had a mountain bike at the time, so that was fun.  My swim was a disaster, did the entire 500m or so on my back after a short freak-out moment, still finishing in a reasonable time.  Swimming in the pool by yourself and then open water during a race with everyone swimming over you are two totally different stories.  Nevertheless, I had a blast and got hooked.  I did a few smaller races the following year, and I signed up for my first 70.3 (of course, Oceanside) and 140.6 in the same year, in 2016.  Yes, the problem with IM Arizona is that you have to sign up very early as it sells out in like 10 minutes, so I actually did that before I had finished my first 70.3.  That year I also joined TCSD and got more involved in the club as part of the Ambassador Team.  That was a great experience and also contributed to me gaining proficiency in this sport.  I can recommend to anyone who’s new to triathlon or wants to do their first race to join their local tri club and TCSD if you are local to San Diego.  It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, people that are experts in this sport and get access to great training resources as well.

Craig: What have been some of the funny or dumb things you have done as an athlete?

Alex: As mentioned above, I did my first few half marathons while still smoking.  Looking back, I really think that was dumb.  I actually finished a few training runs and then lit a cigarette after.  Yuk!  Not good.  Anyhow, that was then.

A funny thing happened in 2016 during the Desert Triathlon in La Quinta, CA.  It was a very windy day (which seems to be the norm during that race, or many in the Palm Springs area) so they didn’t put up the large Finish arch (it would have blown away anyway).  Well, at the end of my second loop on the run I just kept on running.  I knew exactly that I had to cut left to go to the finish chute, but when you are in the moment you don’t think straight.  And I was looking for the large finish sign.  At some point, I realized something wasn’t right, so I asked someone where the finish was.  “About ¼ of a mile back from where you came.”  Darn.  Anyhow, since the run course was a little short, I actually ran the full 10k and still placed 2nd in my AG.  I doubt I’ll do that again…but you never know.

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

Alex: I love combining racing with exploring new areas.  And making fun weekends out of them.  I did Ironman Canada in 2017 and liked it so much that I signed up again 2 days after the race.  Nuts I know.  It’s a great race, although this year was hard hard hard, with 100 degrees and brutal hills on the bike.  I’d still do it again at some point, as Whistler is just a beautiful location with great race support and a gorgeous swim in the extremely clean Alta Lake.  However, so far, my favorite race has been Ironman Italy in Cervia (Emilia-Romagna) which I just finished this September.  I was born and raised in Germany, so it was amazing to have my parents and a great friend from college there to follow me along the entire day.  A friend of mine who works for Ironman Europe actually made it possible for my parents and my friend to greet me in the finish area, and my dad handed me my medal. That was very special. Ironman Italy is a very fast course… well, my run wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but that didn’t have anything to do with the course.  The swim was great… clear calm Adriatic Sea with a lot of jelly fish.  I’d never in my wildest dreams imagine I’d finish an IM swim in under an hour, but I did in Cervia… I blame it on the jelly fish making me swim faster.  If anyone is interested in an Ironman race in Europe, I can highly recommend it.  Feel free to ping me if you have any questions.

For 2019, I added 2 fun destination races to my schedule.  First Hawaii 70.3 (also known as Honu 70.3) in June and then Challenge Roth in July.  I’m super stoked to have gotten into Challenge Roth for several reasons: it’s the biggest race in Europe (has anyone seen “We are triathletes”?  I mean 5,000 participants or so) and again, I’ll have my family there to cheer me on and share this experience with me.

I also try to do smaller races throughout the season.  BBSC puts on fun small races like Pumpkinman in October or Rage and Las Vegas Tri.  The LA Tri Series is a great one too.  June Lake in Mammoth is a great race as well, a tough one at 7,000ft elevation climbing up to over 9,000ft.  Challenging yet rewarding with a great scenery.

Craig: A couple of years ago TCSD had an Ambassador Team.  What did you like about being on that team?

Alex: In 2016, I was part of the TCSD Ambassador Team.  I really liked this experience as it also was in my early stages of triathlon.  It helped me learn a lot about the sport, share experiences with others, but also promote TCSD to people that are interested in triathlon and are looking for a community.

Craig: You have had some involvement in Women for Tri.  What does that group do and how did you help them?

Alex: Women for Tri is an initiative that looks to increase female participation at all levels of triathlon.  Their mission is to identify and diminish primary barriers to entry and mobilize triathlon advocates to encourage and engage female athletes across all distances and representing all athletic abilities. Although the participation of female athletes has increased over the last years, it’s still a very valid initiative if you ask me.  For instance, at Ironman Italy the share of women was only 12-15% of overall participation.  Together with the Ironman Foundation, Women for Tri is giving out grants to triathlon clubs for programs that will support their mission.

I saw this on Facebook (amazing how much we find out now through social media isn’t it) in 2016 and shared it on the TCSD Ambassador Team page.  Paula Munoz, then TCSD Vice President, responded that yes, TCSD should apply for the grant.  So, her and I together mobilized the application process.  We conducted a survey with members and potential members of TCSD to identify what they see as the main barriers to enter triathlons.  The majority brought up their fear of the swim and that they feel intimidated in joining masters sessions at times.  With this information, we put together a swim program coached by women for women, that allowed us to apply for the grant.  Which we received.  The grant money was used for an initial fun social kick off event that Paula organized, which included multiple topics, from open water swimming to nutrition, to bike changing clinics to talking about more personal female topics (I leave it at this LOL).  Then we scheduled several swim clinics together with the La Jolla YMCA, which allowed us to rent lanes.  We had awesome female coaches (big thanks to Julie Dunkle, Carol Gasaway, Holly Stroschine and Dawn Casaday Prebula) who dedicated their evenings to work with mostly beginner swimmers.  I know that TCSD kept the Women for Tri program running and extended it beyond the 2016 swim sessions to focus on other areas of triathlon in 2017.  I very much enjoyed being involved in this and making it happen for TCSD.  If we only helped 5 more women to do their first triathlon, then we’ve succeeded.

Craig: How did you get involved guiding visually impaired triathletes?

Alex: At the end of 2017, I saw a post from Amy Dixon, a bad-ass US Paratriathlete, looking for female guides for her triathlon camp in January of 2018.  I had met Amy during a Braveheart camp a year before.  Knowing that January was still my off season and that I’d very much enjoy this new challenge, I messaged Amy.  We met twice so I could gain some experience on a tandem bike, once for a ride and then for a turn session in a parking lot.  Her camp was amazing.  It took place in January 2018 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.  The agenda consisted of many great sessions swimming, biking, running, strength and other lessons about nutrition, recovery, etc.  I met so many amazing people at this camp.  But the best part is that Amy is an excellent match maker as she paired me up with Rachel Weeks, who’s another bad-ass Paratriathlete from Florida.  Rachel is a very experienced triathlete and had completed several 70.3 and 140.6 races before camp. She taught me so much and helped me get confident as a guide.  We totally hit it off and have since participated in several camps and races, most recently at the ITU Sarasota Paratriathlon World Cup.  And more to come in 2019.  My hope is that Rachel will decide to do Oceanside 70.3, so I can guide her here locally.

Craig: What criteria did you need to meet to be a guide?

Alex: I’d say the most important criterium is to be able to handle the tandem bike, so ideally you should have strong bike skills to begin with.  And you need to be very aware of your surroundings (which you should be anyway when swimming, biking and running), as you are responsible for the safe-being of another person.

One other thing that may sound trivial but isn’t, is that guiding an athlete means that the entire event is not about you.  It’s all for them.  So, if you have a strong ego and like your own name always on top of podiums, guiding may not be the thing for you, regardless of how strong as a triathlete you are.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to race hard for myself and hit the podium every now and then, but when I train or race with Rachel, it’s the opposite.  My whole purpose switches to making sure that she has the race of her life and makes it through it without any hick-ups.

Craig: How can people get involved to become a guide?

Alex: The best way is to reach out to local organizations or join certain Facebook groups. In San Diego for instance, we have the Blind Stokers Club that helps getting more people comfortable piloting tandems.  On Facebook, you can find “Blind/Visually Impaired Triathletes & Guides” and join them.  Also, on a national level USABA (United States Association of Blind Athletes) and also USAT (USA Triathlon) are great resources.  If you are interested, feel free to reach out to me through Facebook under Alexandra Dreu.  I truly believe, this could also be a great way for TCSD to get involved in Paratriathlon by being a go-to group.

Craig: What athletic accomplishment are you most proud of?

Alex: For sure, completing my first Ironman in Arizona in 2016 is very high up on this list.  Up until 6 or so years ago, I’ve never heard of triathlon.  You’d think with so many strong German triathletes, we all start it once we are able to walk, but that’s not the case for me.  I didn’t know of this growing up in Germany.  So, going from a random runner to finishing an Ironman in 2 years is definitely something I’m proud of.  Another accomplishment is shaving off almost an hour on my best half marathon time.  I ran my first half in Carlsbad in 2010 – while still smoking – and finished in 2:43. Then 6 years later, in 2016 I ran it again and finished in 1:45 and then 1:44 at Rock ‘n Roll New Orleans a few weeks later.

Most recently, completing 2 races as a guide to a PTVI (paratriathlon visually impaired) athlete is one of the most rewarding accomplishments.  Rachel Weeks and I raced Paratriathlon Nationals in Wisconsin in June, where she placed third to qualify her for the ITU circuit.  Then again, just a couple of weeks ago, I was honored to guide Rachel again at ITU Sarasota World Cup. Through the races and camps I’ve joined as a guide, I’ve met so many amazing athletes that don’t let their situation hold them back from following their dreams.  I also know they can’t do it without having a strong guide so being just that is a great way to give back and support this amazing community.

Craig: Do you have any sponsors?

Alex: 2018 is my second year being part of the Nytro Women’s Racing Team, which consists of 10 badass female triathletes.  We have multiple great sponsors… most importantly Nytro bike shop in Encinitas, Betty Designs, Gatorade Endurance, Jaybird, Surface Sunscreen, Law Firm of Richard L. Duquette, Foodsense Now, San Diego Athlete Massage and Argon 18.  We couldn’t do it without them.  In addition, through my coach Julie Dunkle, I’m also a member of D3 Multisport, which is a national coaching group out of Boulder, CO.

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

Alex: Reduce the entry fees to Ironman races… just kidding.  There isn’t much I’d change for myself.  The one thing that I’m really not happy with is that paratriathletes aren’t able to qualify for Kona like us.  The only way for them to get a slot is through a lottery which gives out 5 slots every year.  If you want to annoy a triathlete, ask any visually impaired triathlete, what they think of this.  It cannot be very hard to also make a qualifying event for them, by either selecting certain Ironman races that are qualifying ones or set a certain time goal that needs to be achieved to be selected.

Craig: What are your future triathlon and endurance sports goals?  (This is really a wide open question.  It does not have to be all about race performance goals.)

Alex: My main goal is to finish an Ironman race and be fully happy with my performance.  In all of them, I had issues on the run that made me walk quite a bit.  My goal is to work mostly on my nutrition to keep any stomach or GI issues from happening.  And also, on the mental side as this is still a weak point for me.  I start walking way too easily.

A dream of mine would be to guide an athlete in an Ironman.  That would be something I’d love to do at some point in the next few years.  As mentioned earlier, hopefully Rachel decides to do Ironman 70.3 Oceanside so I can guide her there and gain more experience in longer course guiding.

I guess most triathletes have the goal to qualify for Kona at some point.  I’d lie if I say I don’t.  I do, but I don’t want that to control how I approach this sport, or which races I choose.  Alaskaman is also high on my list.

Craig: Alex, thank you for sharing your story.  You are a special person who recognizes the value of paying it forward.  We are lucky to have you in our community.

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




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Mission Bay Triathlon

I am flanked by 2 athletes I have coached the last couple of years: Susan Powell and Dan Redfern.

On September 30th I raced the Mission Bay Triathlon near Sea World in San Diego.  This was the 13th time I have done this race, but the 1st time in its new location at Ventura Cove.  2 years ago I volunteered at this race to be a Swim Buddy.  Some of the local races that are especially beginner friendly offer swim buddies to help the people who are deathly afraid of open water swimming.  It felt great to give back like that 2 years ago, but I wanted to race this year.

The 1K (0.62 miles) swim course was in Ventura Cove.  The water temperature was in the high 60’s so we could wear wetsuits.  I had a fair swim as I came out of the water in 15:19, good for 4th place.

The 38K (23.6 miles) bike course was horrible.  90% of the field should have been disqualified and that includes me.  The course was 4 loops of 9.5K each.  Each loop began and ended on West Mission Bay Drive where there was a 250 meter no passing zone in each direction.  That is 8 no passing zones that added up to 1K during the entire bike course.  That is not a race!  It was an accident waiting to happen as really fast cyclists were trying to co-exist with a bunch of beginners on a very narrow piece of road.  In defense of the race director, the city was doing some road construction and that was the cause of the narrow road that was made available to the race.  I was very patient and nice to people in the no passing zone, but I did pass a few people when I thought it was safe.  As far as I know there were no crashes in the no passing zone.  My bike split was 1:07:14 which was 4th best and it kept me in 4th place.  Yes, the bike course was a disappointment, but I don’t think it had any impact on my final finishing place.

The 9K (5.6 miles) pancake flat run was 2 loops.  Each loop took us along the boardwalk next to the beach and the finish was near the roller coaster.  I was pleasantly distracted by the sight of the women playing beach volleyball and some other people who contributed the smell of pot smoke in the air.  There was a lot going on at 8am on a Sunday morning!  I had the fastest run on the day as my split was 33:40.  I finished in 1:59:55 to place 3rd out of 13 men in the 55-59 age group.  1st and 2nd place went to my friends Andy Seitz and Troy Cundari, respectively.  I was 16th out of 268 overall finishers.

To see my pictures, click on this link:

I was so disappointed by the bike course that I decided not to stay for the Awards.  Instead, I drove up to my church in Carlsbad (Daybreak Church) and enjoyed the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast.  I organize the Parking Team and was initially saddened that the church picked the same day as my race for this breakfast.  But it all worked out.  Nothing puts a smile on my face like free food!

Living the life…

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ITU Triathlon World Championships – Gold Coast, Australia

Smokey wants to be the Team USA Flag “Bear”er at next year’s World Championships.

Laurie and Dee Dee McCann Burton in Sydney.

Team USA Men 55-59 at the finish line. Craig is 3rd from left.

On September 16th I raced the ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championships in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia.  This was the 14th time in my career I have raced the Olympic Distance Worlds and 25th time I have raced for Team USA at a world championship.  It has been an honor every time.

The 1.5K (0.93 miles) swim was point to point with the current so times were going to be fast.  My age group was 3rd from the last to start at 8:30am.  The water temperature was in the high 60’s so we could wear wetsuits and the air temperature was in the mid 70’s.  I had a very solid swim as I completed the course in 21:57, good for 23rd place.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course was 2 laps of mostly flat roads.  The bike challenge was going to be the winds.  The evening before the race the organizers announced disk wheels would be prohibited because of the high winds.  That was not a problem for me as I don’t race with a disk, but it did cause some athletes to scramble to borrow or rent wheels.  I had all I could handle keeping my bike on the road with the crosswinds.  I felt safe in the aero position only about 1/3 of the time.  My bike split was 1:09:07 (21.7 mph) which was 68th best, dropping me to 49th place.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run course was also 2 laps of a pancake flat road.  My legs felt as good as they have in years on the run.  I had the fastest run split on the day with a time of 36:31 (5:53/mile) to finish in 2:12:48.  I placed 19th out of 92 men age 55-59.  I was thrilled to crack the top 20.  I was the 5th out of 16 Americans.

I had raced the 2009 Worlds on this course and placed 29th in the men’s 45-49 age group with a time of 2:08:02.  I was pleased that I have not lost too much speed over the past 9 years.

Click on this link to see my race photos (very few good swim photos, but lots of good bike and run photos)

While I was racing at the Gold Coast, my wife Laurie was racing the Sydney Marathon.  Laurie had another of her great races as she placed 3rd in her age group.  This was her 257th career marathon.  I missed her for the day we had to be in 2 different cities, but I am so glad she did this race.  I could not be more proud of her!

We were in Australia for 9 days.  It was a lot of fun seeing old Team USA friends and making new ones.  The first half of the trip was spent relaxing at Surfer’s Paradise which is one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the world.  The second half we became tourists in Brisbane.  We enjoyed a few evenings of the light show at BrisFest along the south bank of the Brisbane River.  We toured the General Douglas MacArthur Museum as Brisbane was his headquarters during World War II.  We took a half day tour of the Tamborine Mountain Rainforest and a full day tour of North Stradbroke Island.  Straddie is the 2nd largest sand island in the world.  We saw kangaroos, koalas, sea turtles, dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.  We had a wonderful time!

God has really blessed us!

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: September 2018 – AJ Lawson

2013 San Diego Triathlon Classic. From left to right: Joe Taormino, AJ Lawson, Andrew Shore, Kurt Talke

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with one of TCSD’s most active volunteers, AJ Lawson.  I originally met AJ when we sang Christmas Carols at local assisted living homes and also while serving the residents of St. Vincent de Paul.  AJ is an original Team Solana member and someone you should know.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

AJ: My athletic background before beginning triathlon included some interesting sports. I grew up in San Diego and always road around on my BMX bike.  I also did all the typical San Diegan kid activities like surfing, skating, roller blading, and swimming.  I feel like I was the last generation on that cusp where we would come home from school and go hang out in the neighborhood with our friends until it was dark or we got hungry.  Cellphones were still not a big thing!  I loved cruising the streets on my bicycle, but I also enjoyed running.  It wasn’t until the end of middle school that I first played an organized sport.  I started out with pop-warner football and played for the Alvarado Patriots.

When high school began it was a whole new world of sports because of how many options we had.  I was an oddball in that I played badminton, wrestled, and played football through my high school career.  I was best at badminton and used football and wrestling to keep in shape and keep my connection with my non-Asian friends.  Badminton is known as being an Asian sport.  As a Caucasian kid playing badminton I definitely stood out.  Out of all the sports I did growing up badminton came easiest to me.  I ended up getting a badminton sponsorship from the top badminton company in the world.  I played badminton for fitness up until 2008/2009.  I coached badminton and competed in lots of tournaments.  I have a few trophies and medals but I wasn’t willing to give up my life to train for badminton so I never became elite.

Craig: What led you to become a triathlete?

AJ: While watching television when I was young I was able to catch the Ironman World Championship Coverage.  I was fascinated by the athletes and what they could put their bodies through. It was at around the age of 12 that I put triathlon on my radar. I kept the thought of competing in a triathlon race in the back of my mind throughout high school and into college knowing one day that I had to race.  I always wanted to do something extreme and triathlon fit the bill.  In 2009 I saw a post for a triathlon team through the Triathlon Club of San Diego.  That team was Team Solana and was a fundraising team for TCSD.  I joined the team and paid the fees as fast as possible.  I loved the thought of giving back to something while also having a group to train with.

Craig: What was Team Solana and how did that help you complete your first triathlon?

AJ: Team Solana was a random group of people with one goal in mind: compete in a triathlon race.  I joined the team in 2009 which was the first year it was introduced.  I believe there were about 20 of us who joined the team.  There was an information session followed by a Q & A.  I got enough information from that to know that I wanted in.  Our coaches included two guys names Steve and one guy named Dean.  The team had people from all walks of life, overweight and out of shape to hard core runner.  I knew this had to be the group for me.

The program was simple: Take people who have never raced a triathlon, give them all the tools and training needed to complete their first race, and support the tri community.  Our team coaches put together workout schedules for the week and threw us right in the mix.  We had pool swims, group bike rides, group runs, and these odd things called brick workouts. I went out and bought my first triathlon bike, my first pair of swimming goggles, and my first triathlon wetsuit.  After our initial workouts I knew I was hooked and would love this sport.  Our schedule consisted of coached beginner pool workouts at the TCSD rented pool during the week.  It was here that I learned how bad I was at swimming and how I wish I had been forced to swim growing up.  I slowly gained swim fitness and got a bit better at swimming.  Run workouts I mostly did on my own whenever I had free time.  The running came easy for me.  If I had to pick which of the three disciplines I was best at in the beginning, it would have been the run.

Cycling was a completely new concept for me.  Growing up riding BMX and mountain bikes I never thought I would be one of those spandex wierdos who get in the way of cars and ride with traffic.  Oh how one learns quickly!  Our team coaches started taking us out on the 56 bike path to get us comfortable riding distance and to gain a bit of cycling fitness.  I started out cycling in board shorts, I thought I was way too cool for spandex.  After my first few chaffing experiences I quickly bought some spandex shorts with the largest pad available.  After our first few rides I was talked into buying shoes and clip-in pedals.  This is when I experienced my first no speed crash.  I never thought it was possible to crash while not moving but man was I wrong.  After my first crash I had to let go of my pride and embrace the cycling lifestyle.  Our 56 bike path rides became my favorite training events.  It was here that I became good friends with the Christansen family as well as James Ismailoglu, Al Allington, Paula Munoz, Gordon Clark, Steve Tally, and a few others.  The rides turned in to a race each week and we all started to push one another.  After a couple weeks we started running as a group when we finished our rides.  We ended our couple month long training program with two transition clinics and a beginner triathlon before the Solana Beach Triathlon.  Solana Beach was my first real tri and it was such a pleasure having a tri family to race with and cheer for.  Being a part of Team Solana taught me what the true meaning of community is.   Team Solana Originals for life!

Craig: What have been some of your favorite races over the years?

AJ: There are so many great triathlons around the world now. One of my favorite races has to be Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens.  Ironman Lake Stevens was held in Lake Stevens, Washington, 20 minutes east of Everett and about 45 minutes north east of Seattle.  The race started out on this crystal clear fresh water lake which happened to be used for water skiing.  While doing the swim you really didn’t have to sight because of a metal wire they use for ski buoys.  The wire was always my life saver because I am terrible at sighting during swims.

The Bike course was beautiful as well.  It started out in the town of Lake Stevens and was one large loop into the country and back.  It was awesome to be riding on two lane roads surrounded by greenery and large trees.  The air was crisp and around each corner was the surprise of livestock or a hill.  During the ride I got to see horses, chickens, goats, alpacas, llamas, sheep, cattle, and the occasional deer.  The run course was scenic as well and went around Lake Stevens.  The true reason why this was my favorite 70.3 was the fact that my aunt and uncle own a home on the lake.  They would host my friends and I and were fascinated that we would travel to do a triathlon.  They were the most gracious hosts and always let any of my friends or acquaintances use their shower or hose post-race.  Unfortunately Lake Stevens 70.3 was cancelled a few years back by Ironman.

Some of my other favorite races outside of San Diego are the Wildflower Triathlon and Ironman Arizona 70.3/140.6  These races are within driving distance and have so much to offer.

Craig: What have been some of the dumbest things you have done as a triathlete?

AJ: As triathletes, I feel we do a lot of really silly things while racing.  I think it is called race brain and I tend to get a serious case of race brain.  As you know my first real race was Solana Beach in 2009.  I try to race in the Solana Beach Tri every year.  I must admit that the third time I did that race I wore my helmet out of transition and about half of a mile onto the run.  I had no idea why people were laughing and yelling at me, I just smiled and waved…  I was finally able to ditch the helmet when I adjusted my sunglasses.

You would think that I would know that course well for how many times I have raced there, but somehow I still end up making mistakes.  On at least two occasions I finished the race with no one near me and got really excited only to realize that I completely skipped the entire second loop of the run.  When I raced Solana Beach this year, 2018, I had a lot of friends racing as well.  When I got to the finish line I was chatting with my friend and fellow TCSD member Whitney Roline.  Whit said she got first in her age group, then said: “the run is only one loop, right?’’  We had a good laugh and I reassured her that I missed the second loop on the run two years in a row!

Craig: What obstacles have been most challenging for you to overcome as a triathlete?

AJ: There are many obstacles in the sport of triathlon.  What I feel is the hardest obstacle is training.  It can be so hard to wake up at 5am to get a workout in or to work a full day and know you need to put in time on your bike.  What really helps with this obstacle is will power and friends.  It has been so nice over the years to have friends who I can workout with, race with, and volunteer with.  In the end though, it comes down to our own will power and how much we are willing to give to achieve our goal.  I have learned so much over the years thanks to this sport.  It has taught me that I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it and I believe the same is true for each and every individual who wants to complete a triathlon.  We all start our journey somewhere and are all working toward the same goal, crossing that finish line!

Craig: You seemed to get involved in TCSD as soon as you joined.  What have been some of the volunteer activities you have done for TCSD?

AJ: I am all about being involved in a community in which I have the opportunity to give back. After Team Solana I knew I wanted to jump right into the triathlon world.  I started out volunteering wherever I could.  By volunteering I was able to meet so many great people and make new friends.  Many of the Team Solana members went on to have key positions in the club.  My friend Jay Lewis became the race director for TCSD for a few years.  Having Jay as a friend I got to learn about what it takes to pull permits for races and create a race schedule a year in advance so TCSD members can put their race season together.  I also became friends with this guy Joe who had a Rottweiler named Max.  Joe organized the monthly cove potlucks which are held once a month after the Friday night cove swim.  Joe was really great at handing me his dog leash and spatula so he could get his swim in.  My friend James started to lead the TCSD beginner bike rides on the 56 bike path.  I was always willing to go help other beginners at this workout because it is where I first learned to cycle.

More recently I have been filling in the gaps wherever needed.  I guess it was a good thing that I learned so much about the inner workings of the club.  For the last year I have been helping with expo coordination, race directing, club meetings, TCSD storage management, and volunteer coordination.  My Triathlon Club of San Diego experience has been absolutely amazing and I owe it all to the outstanding volunteers who put in so much time and effort to keep this club astonishing and number one.  There is so much that goes on behind the scenes and it is so rewarding being able to give back to something that gives so much.

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

AJ: If I could wave a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, I would make sure races always had plentiful cow bells and spectators.  In Europe, Challenge Roth is a major event and entire cities stop what they are doing and go outside to scream and cheer for those racing.  My wand would ensure that any long distance triathlon maintains that energy and lets those racing know that they are supported.  I feel like a lot of the local races in the USA were or are being bought out and some are losing their home town feel.  I would wave that wand so hard and make all those races feel the same.  I guess I was spoiled by being able to do a few 70.3 races in small towns where everyone in the town comes out to cheer and scream.  Much of the time you are digging deep and fighting a tough mental battle with yourself to continue pushing and the energy and cheering from the sidelines is what really keeps me pushing.  Thanks to all those who cheer their hearts out and ring those cow bells for hours.  Oh and Craig, let me know when I can pick up my wand!

Craig: Who have been the most influential people in your life?

AJ: I have been so fortunate with my life.  I am healthy, surrounded by people I love, and am able to give back to a community which is so supportive.  My biological parents always encouraged me to work hard and complete tasks.  They set me up for success in life and always support my brothers and sister in all our endeavors.  My parents were there when I did my very first triathlon and were there when I completed my very first Ironman.

When I needed advice outside of my family circle I turned to my god parents or my best friend’s parents.  I loved growing up having the advice of three separate sets of parents. I still tell all my friends that I have three sets of parents.  I get to visit with each parenting couple weekly and am grateful for the love and support they continue to offer me.  Thanks Jon, Karen, Tom, Diana, Paula, and Mark for all the advice and support you have given me throughout the years.

Craig: Do you have any sponsors that you’d like to mention?

AJ: My friend James told me how great it was being on Team Zoot for the 2017 season so I went ahead and applied for the 2018 season.  Zoot is the original triathlon clothing brand and really know what they are doing when it comes to triathlon gear.  It has been a pleasure racing with other Team Zoot members this season.  Their one-piece kit is the only one piece I have ever been comfortable in.  I am looking forward to working more with Zoot in the years to come.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

AJ: I love triathlon as a sport and I hope to continue using it as a lifestyle.  I love that I have the option to swim, bike, and run.  I do plan to complete another Ironman in my near future.  I have always wanted to do a destination race in a country other than the USA.  I think Challenge Roth or Ironman Ireland, Cork are right up my alley.  I would like to be a bit more involved in the club in the future.  I am hoping to run for President of tri club and build an awesome volunteer team.  I would love to see TCSD become a shining example of what a good club is all about as well as giving back to the community we all love and are a part of.

Craig: AJ, thank you so much for sharing your story.  You do a lot for TCSD and the community.  We are lucky to have you.  If you happen to become TCSD President, I know we’ll be in good hands.  Good luck!

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

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TCSD Conversation: August 2018 – Andy Thacher

Andy Thacher representing Team USA at the 2017 ITU Aquathlon World Championships in Penticton, British Columbia.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I recently had the pleasure of talking triathlon with TCSD member Andy Thacher.  Andy has done more races than any person I know.  This interview will be published just after Andy represents Team USA at the Aquathlon World Championships in Denmark.  Andy has had a very impressive racing career and I know you’ll enjoy getting to know him.

Craig: What sports did you do as a kid?

Andy: As a kid, I grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah. I liked sports and had the desire and the work ethic to succeed but lacked the natural talent especially in those sports that required hand-eye coordination and was a little overweight. My athletic journey began in the spring of my 2nd grade year as a runner. Our class was given the opportunity to run laps at lunchtime around a quarter-mile loop around a set of four telephone poles. We could earn rewards based on achieving certain mileage goals. Me and my friends started running during our lunch hour after we ate lunch. As time went on, the time it took to eat lunch got shorter and shorter and the amount of running got longer and longer. I ended up finishing the school year with the second highest cumulative total mileage – 125 miles.

In 3rd through 6th grade, I played Little League baseball as an outfielder and a 2nd baseman. I wasn’t very good at baseball but had fun. In 7th grade, I played on a junior tennis league team. I had the opportunity to play at a lot of real nice indoor tennis courts. I had some success and won a few matches against similarly seeded players from other teams. I had fun, but knew it wasn’t really my sport.

In 8th and 9th grade, I switched sports and became an age group swimmer. I competed in a variety of events, but breaststroke was by far my best stroke. My younger brother and I started age group swimming together. Our parents would take us to swim meets all over the state. I wasn’t a very fast swimmer, but as I worked at it I saw improvement.

In high school, I was the back-up goalie for the water polo team and competed in the breast stroke and individual medley for the swim team. Our water polo team took 2nd in state my sophomore year and won state my junior and senior year. As the #2 goalie, I got a lot of playing time in practice scrimmages, junior varsity games, and varsity games when we had a comfortable lead. My high school’s swim team won state all three years. During swim season, we were swimming 8,000 to 10,000 yards a day. Although I was one of the slowest swimmers on my high school’s swim team, I managed to letter in water polo and swimming my junior and senior years.

At the end of my junior year of high school, in May of 1980, I ran my first road race, the Farmington 5000 in 21:21. My dad and my two brothers also ran in the race. I ended up finishing ahead of my dad and two brothers. After the race, I realized I had some talent as a runner and might have a future in the sport.

I ran the mile and 2-mile in track my senior year. I was the top distance runner for my high school’s mediocre track team. My best times in high school were 5:15 for the mile and 11:15 for the 2-mile.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Andy: My first triathlon was the Big Bear Triathlon in July of 1988. The triathlon consisted of a ½ mile swim, an 18-mile bike, and a 4-mile run. The water was cold and I didn’t have a wetsuit so I swam in a speedo. I had a slow swim – 21:41. I had a bike split of 51:26 on my Centurion LeMans bike with clip on aero bars and pedals with cages. My run split was 24:43. I finished 237th overall & 69th in my age group.

Craig: What did you like most about this new sport of triathlon?

Andy: The thing I liked most about the new sport of triathlon was the challenge and variety learning to master the 3 different sports that make up a triathlon. Especially, back in the early days of triathlon, there were a lot of single-sport specialists trying out the sport. As a result, there were lots of position changes during the races. Also, the variety allowed me to supplement my run mileage with lower injury risk.

Craig: You have done more races than anyone I know.  How many races have you done?

Andy: Through June 2018, I have done approximately 2043 races. I have done 173 triathlons (including 2 half-ironman distance triathlons, 72 duathlons, 111 aquathlons, 35 swim races, 4 aquabike races and 1648 running races (including 18 marathons & 105 half marathons).

Craig: At your peak, what would be the most races you have done in a calendar year?

Andy: The most races I have done in a calendar year is 112 in 2013. This consisted of 79 running races (including 5 half-marathons), 12 triathlons, 4 duathlons, 7 aquathlons, and 10 swim races. Since 2007, I have been consistently doing around 80-90 races a year. The number of races per year grew steadily from 79 in 2007 to 105 in 2012 and reached a peak in 2013 of 112. From 2014 to 2016, the number of races per year was in the mid-80’s to low 90’s range. In 2017, I decided to cut back a little on the racing due to cost constraints and the rest of life getting busier. In 2017, I did 66 races and am on pace to do about the same number in 2018. It was never my goal to hit a certain number of races in a year, I just did races that looked interesting to me and that were reasonably priced or were part of a series I was doing. Entry fees alone for the races during the peak years ranged from $3,500 to $4,000 per year.

Craig: What are your favorite parts about race day that you can’t get on an ordinary training day?

Andy: Through most of my athletic career, I’ve done the bulk of my training alone in the early morning hours. My favorite parts of race day are (1) the opportunity to catch up with friends who share similar interests, who I’ve met at previous races, (2) the chance to make new friends who you already have something in common with, (3) races enable me to push myself harder and dig deeper than I can in training, (4) the opportunity to swim, bike, or run with other people around your same speed, and (5) the perks you get from races – t-shirts. food, and drawings.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?

Andy: My favorite destination races are the following:

The Sand Hollow Triathlon – it’s a sprint triathlon in the Southern Utah town of Hurricane. The race is very scenic and well organized. The swim is in a reservoir surrounded by sandstone mountains, the bike is rolling hills around the perimeter of the reservoir, and the run is an out-and-back rolling hill course. The race takes place in late May and the weather conditions are usually ideal.

Ogden Triathlon – the triathlon started at a lake in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah. The triathlon consisted of a 1-mile lake swim, a 37.5 mile bike that went around the lake, down a canyon, and finished at a high school in Ogden, the run was a 10K on a loop course around the city of Ogden. The race took place in late July.

St. George Marathon – the marathon starts in the mountains east of St. George in Southern Utah.  The first 20 miles of the race are a scenic rolling downhill course coming down the mountain while the last 10K are mostly level through the City of St. George. The marathon takes place in early October and can be a little cold and rainy at the start.

Deseret News Marathon – the marathon starts in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, crosses over between two canyons, runs through the University of Utah campus, runs along the parade route in downtown Salt Lake City where the crowds are lined up for the parade, and finishes at a park in downtown Salt Lake City. The race takes place on July 24th, which is a state holiday in Utah, and can get a little warm, but has an early start time.

Craig: You have an impressive streak of racing every Aquathlon World Championships since Edmonton 2014.  These include Chicago 2015, Cozumel 2016, Penticton 2017 and you are on your way to Denmark this year.  What have been your favorite parts of these experiences?

Andy: I have gone to Aquathlon Worlds for the past 4 years as part of Team USA and will be racing Aquathlon Worlds in Denmark this year. My favorite parts of these experiences are (1) the honor of representing your country at a major sporting event where you are competing against athletes from all over the world. Ever since I watched the 1972 Summer Olympics, I had always dreamed of making it to the Olympics. I figure for me, competing at worlds is the closest I’ll ever get to the Olympic experience. (2) The level of competition at worlds is a level above most of the other races. The main difference at worlds is that you have people in your age group around you throughout the whole race, whereas in most races at some point there is separation from most of the people in my age group. (3) The opportunity to see new places that I don’t know if I’d make it to otherwise.

Craig: What are some of the dumbest things you have done during your endurance sport career?

Andy: The dumbest things I have done as a multisport athlete are (1) at the Southern Nevada Road Runners Club Half Ironman in May of 1990 (my 2nd triathlon). The swim was at Lake Mead and water temperature was in the high 50’s. I didn’t have a wetsuit, so I did the swim in a speedo. I got mild hypothermia during the swim, so when I got to the swim-to-bike transition my legs didn’t work and I couldn’t get on my bike. Fortunately, it was a warm day in Las Vegas so after my body warmed up, I was finally able to get on my bike. My transition time was around 8 minutes. After this race, I bought my first wetsuit. (2) In July of 1991, I misread the race information and read that the bike portion was a 37.5K and didn’t find out until around 18 miles into the bike that the distance wasn’t 37.5K, and the race would finish at a high school in Ogden. The bike course went around the perimeter of the mountain lake, and I thought that the triathlon would all take place near the lake. Once I found out that we were finishing at the high school in Ogden, I had no idea how long the bike actually was. After we did the loop around the perimeter of the lake, the bike course headed down a canyon into Ogden and finished at the high school. It turned out the bike portion was actually 37.5 miles. (3) In August of 1991, at the Mike & Rob’s Most Excellent Half Ironman Triathlon around 40 miles into the bike leg, I hit a patch of rough road and my bike frame pump came loose. I caught the pump before it hit the ground. I carried the pump in my left hand during the remainder of the bike leg and my hand cramped up.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Andy: My favorite benefits of membership in TCSD are the club races, especially the Aquathlons. The club races are a lot of fun, have good competition, and always have good food. Also, I like the club meetings and hearing from the pros. Most of all, I appreciate the friends I have made since joining TCSD and who share a love for the sport.

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

Andy: The main thing I would change in the sport of triathlon is the swim/bike/run ratios of the standard distance triathlons to make it more balanced. Most triathlons are bike heavy and short-change the swim. I would shorten the bike leg and lengthen the swim to make it more balanced. To figure out the appropriate distances, I would use a mathematical formula based on world record times or Olympic qualifying standards for the standard distances of the current Olympic distance triathlon (1500 meter swim, 40K bike, and 10K run) to get the 3 legs more equal in terms of time to complete.

Craig: Who have been the most influential people in your life?

Andy: The most influential people in my life that helped shape my athletic career were (1) my younger brother, Dan.  My brother Dan and I started age group swimming at the same time. I had the drive and the work ethic, but my brother had the talent. I would drag my brother to swim practice, and we both improved over time, but my brother was always faster than me. Friendly, brotherly rivalry kept me motivated to improve and try to get faster. (2) My dad & mom, Jim & Pauline, were very supportive of us pursuing sports growing up. They would take me to practice and competitions all over the state. (3) Coach Killpack, my high school swim coach. Although, I was one of the slowest swimmers on the team my coach didn’t give up on me. As a result, I improved over time and learned how to train as a swimmer.

Craig: What have been the most important events of your life?

Andy: The most important events in my life have been (1) graduating valedictorian of my high school class in 1981, (2) finishing college at the University of Texas at Austin with a Master’s degree in Accounting in 1985, (3) getting married to Julie in 1986  (4) moving to San Diego and getting my first real job in accounting in 1986, (5) the birth of my daughter Melissa in 1987 & my son Timothy in 1990, (6) my divorce in 1993, and (7) my marriage to my wife Kim in 2017.

Craig: What are your future athletic goals?

Andy: My future athletic goals are to become a USAT All-American. I figure I have the best chance in Aquathlon if there is enough growth in the sport. Also, my goal is to improve my run times. My short-term goal is to get my 5K time back to under 22 minutes, and eventually back under 21 minutes.  And my goal is to get faster on the bike so that I can be more competitive in my age group.

Craig: Andy, thank you so much for sharing your story.  I have wanted to interview you for a few years now.  It was well worth the wait.  Good luck with your next 2043 races!

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 – Cleveland

Triathlon Club of San Diego friends at Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Laurie and Craig 15 minutes before race start.

Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On August 11th I raced the USA Triathlon National Championships (Olympic Distance) in Cleveland, OH.  Nationals is always one of my most important races of the year.  The primary goal this year was to get 1 of the 18 slots available in my age for the 2019 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. The slots can roll down as far as 25th place so I had to finish in the top 25 to be considered, but I wanted to be in the top 18 to control my own destiny.  My pie in the sky goal was top 10.  In 2017 I was 7th.

My wife Laurie traveled with me.  She is my #1 fan and she always brings me good luck.  We spent part of 8/10 volunteering at the race expo.  It is always good to give back to the sport.  And the night before the race we had a wonderful dinner at Great Lakes Brewing Company with some friends from the Triathlon Club of San Diego.

The big news in the days prior to the race was the water temperature of Lake Erie.  Wetsuits are allowed if the water temperature is less than 78.  The temperature was climbing and it was 79 on 8/10 – too warm for wetsuits.  I’m a reasonably good swimmer so I was not stressing over the temperature.

When I arrived at the venue on race morning, race announcer Tim Yount said the Lake Erie temperature was 76.  A big cheer erupted among many of the nervous athletes as wetsuits would be permitted.

Lake Erie is a shallow lake so it is prone to choppy conditions.  It was very choppy on race morning so I was glad to wear the wetsuit.  Typically I would swim 1.5K (0.93 miles) in 23 minutes.  It was such a rough swim that I came out of the water in 32:18.  I hoped everyone had as much difficulty as I had.  I felt like I did my best and I swam a fairly straight route.  I had no idea at the time, but I was in 26th place.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course was fast with very few turns.  The roads were smooth, except for a few bumpy patches over the bridges.  It seemed like very few guys passed me on the bike.  That could be bad news as maybe they were already ahead of me after the swim?  Or since that swim was so rough, maybe I did great and they could not catch me?  I can be such a head case during these races, but mostly I had positive thoughts.  I felt great with my performance on the bike.  My split was 1:08:42 (21.7 mph).  This was the 65th fastest time on the bike and it dropped me to 32nd place.

We ran 2 laps to comprise the 10K (6.2 miles) run course.  It was challenging as it had some tough hills.  The tougher the better for me.  I started the run next to my San Diego friend, Troy Cundari.  I figured that was good news for me since Troy is a strong athlete.  I felt solid on the run.  The course was spectator friendly so Laurie was able to see me multiple times.  One of the times she hollered at me “you are running like hot butter through a knife”.  That line has been an inside joke between us since we heard Jens Voigt say that on this year’s Tour de France telecast.  She purposely said it just like Jens and got it backwards.

A unique challenge toward the end of the run course was the flyover bridge.  This was a man-made bridge made specifically for this race.  It enabled the athletes finishing the swim to run under, while the athletes finishing the run to run over.  It was a very steep ramp up and then very steep on the way down.  The flyover bridge was positioned 200 meters from the finish line.  My mentality at that point is to sprint as fast as I can.  That mentality nearly caused me to crash running down the steep flyover bridge.  I was completely out of control, but only by the grace of God was I able to avoid a major wipe out.  I actually got caught by a volunteer just before I crashed into some metal fencing.  I finished with the 2nd best run split 38:01 (6:08/mile) to give me a 2:23:37 finish time.  4 guys finished within 61 seconds ahead of me and 1 guy was 8 seconds behind me.  This was good for 11th place out of 151 men in the 55-59 age group and a slot on Team USA in Switzerland.  I was very happy with my result.  Troy placed 19th so he should also get a slot for Switzerland.

I accomplished my primary goals for 2018 which were to qualify for 2 different World Championships in 2019.  On 9/1/19 I’ll be racing in Lausanne and on 9/8/19 I’ll be racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France.  I feel very blessed by God to get to enjoy a racation like that.

To see my pictures, click on this link:

Sadly, 75 year old Jim Hix died during the swim portion of the race.  Jim was the 2017 USA Duathlon National Champion for the men 75-79.  I did not know Jim personally.  Jim’s race started 1 hour before mine.  I had no idea of this news until 8 hours later.  Please keep Jim’s family and friends in your prayers.

On 8/12 I drove an hour to Canton to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  It was well worth it.  I can’t wait for next year’s trip to Cleveland for Nationals when I plan to visit the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Living the life…

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Ironman 70.3 Muncie

Beacon Hill dinner on July 12 – Randy, Connie, Laurie, Craig, Cindy, Bill, Debbie and Mom.

Craig and #1 Fan Laurie before the race.

Men’s 55-59 Age Group Podium.

Wandering Wheels friends: Coach and Janech.

On July 14th I raced Ironman 70.3 Muncie in Indiana.  I had actually done this race back in 1991 when it was called the Muncie Endurathon.  It was my 27th triathlon and my 1st Half Ironman distance race.  My finish time in 1991 was 4:51:37.  The 2018 edition was my 301st triathlon and my 42nd Half Ironman.  My goal at this year’s race was to qualify for the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France.  I was predicting there would probably be only 1 slot in my age group for Nice.

The 1.2 mile swim was held in Prairie Creek Reservoir.  The water temperature was 81 degrees so wetsuits were not allowed.  It was going to be a warm, muggy day.  By the time I finished the race at noon, the temperatures had reached 90+.  Following the trend of other Ironman 70.3 races, they had us do a rolling start which is when the athletes self-seed themselves by estimated swim finish time, rather than by age group.  I seeded myself with the 30-33 minute swimmers so I was one of the 1st 100 athletes to enter the water.  My swim time was slower than my estimate, but I felt like I had a very good, relaxed swim.  My split was 37:26 (1:56/100 meters), good enough for 3rd place.  1st place was only 20 seconds ahead of me.  Swim times were all slow due to no wetsuits.

I was anticipating a bumpy route for the 56 mile bike ride, but was pleasantly surprised by one of the smoother and flatter bike courses I’ve done in a long time.  The route took us 8 miles from the transition area where we did 2 loops of 20 miles each, before returning to transition.  Because I was off the front, the first 28 miles were pretty quiet, but then it started to get more crowded for the next 20 miles, but there was still enough room to avoid drafting issues.  I took in 800 calories of my Carbopro/Gatorade formula on the bike and my stomach felt perfect.  I pushed hard on the bike, but I definitely saved something for the run.  My bike split was 2:35:23 (21.62 mph).  That was the 9th fastest bike split and it put me in 4th place to start the run.  I felt like I was having a great race.

The 13.1 mile run was a simple out and back on a relatively flat road.  Simple, except it was very hot on the pavement, with little shade.  I put ice in my hat and shorts at each of the first 4 aid stations, but I had better success holding a piece of ice in each hand.  At mile 4 I started to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my right foot.  I feared a blister might be developing because of all the melting ice and my sweat getting my shoes wet.  I was managing the temperatures ok so I decided to forego any more ice.  That seemed to work as by mile 5.5 my foot felt fine again.  Thankfully the issue never really did slow me down and I never did get a blister.  My run split was 1:35:57 (7:19/mile) to finish in 4:54:16.  I had the 2nd fastest run on the day and that was good enough to win my age group – 1st place out of 65 men age 55-59 and a slot for Nice!  This was my 1st career win at an Ironman branded event.  I was 70th out of 1,400 overall finishers.  The fastest run split was only 39 seconds faster than me by Phil Young.  Phil finished 2nd, 3:32 behind me.

I was very fortunate to have such a good race.  God has blessed me.  My wife Laurie joined me on the trip and it was especially sweet to share this experience with her.  We are a team.  I know I could not have anywhere near the success without Laurie’s support.

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

After the race, Laurie and I had dinner with our friends Bob (Coach) and Janech Davenport.  I met Coach and Janech in 1991 when I biked Coast to Coast (Oceanside, CA to New Smyrna Beach, FL) with their Christian organization called Wandering Wheels.  Since 1964 Wandering Wheels has changed thousands of lives with their cycling ministry.  It was so great to see Coach and Janech!

I also used this trip as an opportunity to visit my family in the Chicago area.  Before the race on 7/12 Laurie and I had dinner at Beacon Hill with my cousin Randy and his wife Connie, my sister Cindy, my sister Debbie and her husband Bill and my 97 year old Mom.  We had another big family gathering on 7/15 with my Mom, sisters and the families of my nieces and nephews.  Laurie and I also had a great lunch at Giordano’s with my long time Delta Upsilon buddy, Chuck Carey.  And Laurie, Mom and I had lunch with Lynda and Lou Hoornbeek on 7/16.  My Mom, Lynda and Lou all live at Beacon Hill.  Lynda and Lou are the parents of my long time Glen Ellyn friend, Dave Hoornbeek who now lives in Washington state.  Yes, I have much to be thankful for!

Living the life…

Craig Zelent

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San Diego International Triathlon – #300

Craig – 1st place men’s 55-59

Scott & Susanne Davis celebrate 17th wedding anniversary. Susanne – 1st place women’s 45-49.

Craig and Susan Powell – 1st place Sprint Athena Masters.

On June 24th I raced the San Diego International Triathlon.  This was my 300th career triathlon so I was determined to have a great race.  It all went well as I placed 1st out of 25 men age 55-59 and 30th out of 438 overall finishers.

The 1K (0.62 miles) swim was in the Spanish Landing boat harbor.  This was the 15th time I have raced SDIT and typically the sun poses a significant glare challenge during the swim.  This year the sky was overcast so sighting was easy.  I had a great swim as I came out of the water in 1st place with a time of 13:25.

The 30K (18.6 miles) bike starts and finishes by San Diego International Airport.  The first 2 miles of the bike course is flat, but then it spikes up with a tough climb up to Cabrillo National Monument.  We do 2 laps of rolling hills by Cabrillo Monument.  As I was completing lap 1 it was not clear where the turn was to start lap 2.  I over shot the turn, but was safely able to stop.  I actually ran with my bike to go over the 2 timing mats on foot and then jumped back on the bike for lap 2.  It felt crazy at the time, but I definitely completed the course.  I felt great on the bike, aside from that mistake.  I had the 8th best bike split of 51:41 (20.4 mph) and that dropped me to 6th place, but 1st place was within easy striking distance.

The 10K (6.2 miles) point to point run course starts by the airport, but finishes 3 miles away at Seaport Village.  The run course is pancake flat.  I had the fastest run on the day by 5:54.  My run split was 40:04 (6:26/mile).  I won by 5:17 with a finish time of 1:48:25.

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

I heard an amazing story about some lady who completed her 1st triathlon that day at SDIT.  Unfortunately her bike was stolen from her home the night before the race.  She still showed up on race morning and she did the race on one of those ridesharing city bikes.  I can’t imagine trying to do the climb up to Cabrillo on one of those bikes.  This lady embodies the spirit of triathlon.  She has earned my respect.

My friends Scott and Susanne Davis celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary.  Susanne won the women’s 45-49 age group and Scott was there to cheer her on.  And to cap off a perfect day, an athlete I am coaching, Susan Powell, won the Athena Masters division in the Sprint race.

Living the life…

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