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…

Posted in 2018, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

TCSD Conversation: June 2018 – Keith Benline

Keith putting his granddaughter to work at Robert’s Auto Service

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Keith Benline.  Keith is a long time member and sponsor of TCSD as the owner of Robert’s Auto Service.  Keith is passionate about giving back to the community as you will see.  I am certain you will thoroughly enjoy getting to know this great guy!

Craig: What activities were you involved in before triathlon?

Keith: I was an All-Star Little League baseball player for Corona National Little League. After Little League, I made the baseball team for Auburndale Junior High School and thought I would be baseball player. My best friend and his cousin were guitar players, though, and kept asking me to learn to play the bass. So I decided instead of baseball to be a Rockstar, so I gave up on baseball during high school and pursued playing the bass guitar and singing. When my band got to play during the school lunch period I thought I had “arrived.” It was a surf band called Soundwaves and we were pretty popular from 1982 – 1984 in Corona and Riverside. People also knew us because of the cars we drove. The lead singer drove a 1966 Willy’s Jeep and I drove a bright orange 1975 Honda CVCC. My Dad loved those cars because no one knew how to work on them. We had 4 different Honda CVCC’s in those days. My dad taught me how to work on them and together we would keep all the cars running, rebuild their engines, plus work on the family boat and truck. So, as I entered my community college years, I had built a background as an athlete, rockstar, and auto mechanic.

Craig: What led to your becoming a triathlete?

Keith: After high school, I started to struggle a tad with my weight and so I started running. I would run all over Riverside (where I lived at the time) but mostly just for a workout. I loved the freedom that running gave me plus it always helped drop pounds fast. When I moved to Carlsbad in 1997, I started running along the coast and loved it even more, to the point I decided to sign up for the Carlsbad Half Marathon in 2000 and see how I could do. I ran a 1:33:30 for my first race and I was hooked. But, while training for my next race I dealt with a nagging injury on the inside of my left foot that would creep up my leg. It was frustrating and would not heal. It would act up about half way in my run then nag me for the next day. During one of my run attempts (it was Thanksgiving day in 2001 I think), I met a gentleman from Switzerland who was out running. I had seen him before and so I asked him if he had any plans for Thanksgiving. He did not so I invited him over to my house. His name was Christian. I told him about my injury and he recommended switching to triathlons so I could swim and cycle and take some pressure off my foot and all the running. We headed to the Carlsbad Pool a few days later to work on my swimming. The only lanes open were the “fast” lanes so we jumped in there and worked on our strokes. I could barely make it 50 meters without having to take a break. Suddenly we look up and there were two very fit male and female swimmers wanting to jump into our lane. I asked them if there were “fast” (because I would get out of the lane if they were) but they just jumped in and started hammering out laps. I was in awe as to how fast they were. They had names on their swimsuits. The guy’s suit had “McCormack” and the girls suit “Jones.” My friend from Switzerland was laughing at me because I had asked them if they were fast. He asked me if I knew who they were, but I had no clue. He informed me it was Michellie Jones and Chris McCormack and he was bragging about how Michellie took the silver medal in the first Olympic Triathlon because the Swiss girl beat her. So that was my first venture into the Triathlon.

Craig: What are some memories from doing your first triathlon races?

Keith: So after my first triathlon on a borrowed bike, I purchased a bike and started triathlon training. I saw the Tri Club had their local races at Glorietta Bay so I signed up. I had a short stint racing dirt bikes in the desert when I was 18 – 20.  I wisely gave them up when I got married and raised a family, but the drive down to Glorietta Bay with my triathlon bike in the back of my Xterra so reminded me of when I used to take my Dad’s truck with my dirt bike in the back heading towards the race. The race went well and I’ll never remember all the talk back then about this new coach from Alabama named Mike Plumb who was fast and joining the Tri Club and that he was racing that day. I had met Mike earlier so I knew who he was. Well, when I got out of T2 and headed on the out and back run, about  ¾ into the first mile here came the leaders back heading towards the finish. It was Anders Aannestad followed by Mike Plumb close on his heels. Mike’s face showed pain, determination, and grit and sure enough Mike made the pass that day and won. When I asked Mike about it, he said it’s all about pain management. And the second club race I did there was some guy that won the race that had the most goofy looking bike you’d ever seen. I thought maybe you have to have one of those bikes to go fast. I later learned it was none other than Craig Zelent. So then, we all went out looking for that “edge” that Craig had. I’ll never forget fellow Tri Clubber Tom Washington and I meeting up before those club races and trying race wheels and everything to compete, then realizing it isn’t just about the equipment and laughing about it. Those were great times!

Craig: What was your favorite all time endurance race?

Keith: I have 2 favorite all time endurance races and then one short distance race that almost killed me every time I tried it. The first all time endurance race was the Carlsbad Half Marathon.  I think it was 2002 and I had Mike Plumb coach me. I hated him with a passion during those extremely hard track workouts and tempo runs he had me doing. But they worked. I ran a PR 1:23:30 and felt great the whole time, wisely drafting off faster runners.  Drafting off Elvis and three beautiful athletic women at different times during the race helped.  Then I signed up for my first Half Ironman (when Oceanside first became a Half Ironman) and all my friends told me to not even try for a sub 5 hour result on my first try. I had a PR of 4:53:13 and was so thrilled. It was really coming together. Then lastly, the hardest of them all for me was trying to break 18 minutes for a 5K. I ran 6 or 7 5K’s trying to beat that time, from the Carlsbad 5K, La Jolla Shores 5K, to a few different downtown San Diego 5K’s. I blew up so many times with only a few hundred yards to go. The closest I got was 18:02, so close. You have to run 5:45 per mile splits to beat 18 minutes on a 5K and for me it was more brutal then any of the long endurance races. I could run 6:00 per mile flat all day but as soon as I dropped below that it was brutal!

Craig: What have been some of your most embarrassing sports moments?

Keith: My very first triathlon was a backwards triathlon in Hemet. It was a 5K run, followed by a 12 mile bike, then a 100 yard swim in the high school pool. I thought to myself, “I could do that.” I had done no bike workouts at that time. Only swimming and running. I thought to myself, “How hard can it be to bike 12 miles?” So I borrowed a road bike from a friend who is a cyclist and off I went. I was 5th overall after the 5K (because my run speed was really improving) but I fell flat on the bike. So many people passed me. I really struggled. I had my swim speedos on under my run shorts. Once we got into T2 I pulled off my running shorts and started sprinting towards the high school pool. But something was wrong, something felt very wrong and it seemed everyone was staring at me. I then realized I felt like I was naked down below. I thought maybe I pulled my swim speedos off by mistake, but I looked down and nope they were still on. “Whew, I thought, only to feel naked again 25 yards later and have to relook down to make sure again. I finished the swim then noticed a strange numb feeling down below. I thought I had permanently injured myself. I was so relieved when my cycling buddy laughed hysterically and told me about numbness from not wearing padding and it would pass.

The other most embarrassing sports moment was peeing my pants playing baseball in front of everyone. My dad was the coach and was adamant that everyone go to the bathroom before the game. Well, I didn’t. We were playing the Yankees, the #1 team and they got to bat first. I played shortstop and they scored like 20 runs in that first inning and it took forever to get them out. I had to go to the bathroom bad and wasn’t about to face my Dad, so, go I went, right there in front of everyone in my pants.  I remember the kids on the Yankees pointing it out and laughing. It was really embarrassing.

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

Keith: It seemed that back in the day, triathlon was more of a unique sport. Those of us that participated in it were more casual about things and enjoyed the camaraderie amongst us. Jim McCann (former Tri Club President) was very casual yet did a fantastic job keeping us from getting to caught up in ourselves and handling situations. It was like we were an extended family. These days the sport has become more professional, serious, and seems to have lost some of that camaraderie from the early days. I know things change and the sport has grown tremendously which is good. I just loved the early days of the small Tri Club of San Diego before things got too big and serious.

Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people or events in your life?

Keith: Pastor Dave Bolton and Asst. Pastor Cheyenne Figueroa were a huge part of my life spiritually. I was raised Catholic, but had given up.  They led me back to the Lord and helped me start my marriage and family on Jesus’ foundation, right at the time I was getting married to Kelly. Remember I was trying to be a Rockstar back in those days. Our band was trying to get signed by a record label and we were getting close. I decided to quit the band and focus on my Lord and my family. I then became the Worship Leader at the church for 7 years before moving to San Diego. Bob Cooper was an automotive repair consultant I worked for from 1995 – 2003 in San Diego. He was very influential on my business life and it motivated me to read as many business books as I could to help our automotive repair shops that hired us to do better.

Craig: What was your career path before becoming the owner of Robert’s Auto Service?

Keith: After attending Riverside City College pursuing business as my degree, I dropped out. I was too busy trying to be a Rockstar. My girlfriend’s dad at the time worked for a finance company. So I thought it would be a great career to be a branch manager for a finance company and work my way up. The pay was not so good, though. That’s when I met a drummer who was working for an oil distributor selling motor oil to automotive facilities. I was very familiar with automotive and engine oil having grown up working on cars with my dad and working on my own cars now that I was married. So I went to work for the oil company for more money and better perks. I was living in Riverside by March Air Force base and they had two openings, either on the other side of Los Angeles or San Diego. I chose San Diego. It was then I met Bob Cooper the consultant to automotive repair shops. After a few years I joined up with Bob to help shops and one of the first shops that I got to sign up with us was Robert’s Auto Service. Bill Clum was the owner and it was one of the most popular long time shops in San Diego. But Bill was getting tired and ready to move on so he kept offering me to either manage or buy the shop from him. My house in Carlsbad had sky rocketed in value and I was able to leverage the house and buy Robert’s Auto Service from Bill Clum in 2003 and then the land it sits on in 2005. With the years of reputation of Robert’s Auto Service (since 1969) and its family owned and operated focus, I knew I could take Robert’s Auto Service to the next level with my finance background and the business knowledge I learned from consulting. Combined with my mechanical expertise I knew I could make it work.

Craig: What makes Roberts unique among the local auto repair shops?

Keith: When I worked for the auto repair consultant, I noticed there were only a handful of well-run independent auto repair shops in San Diego. Robert’s Auto Service was at the top of that list. Anyone who has lived in San Diego, especially around La Jolla, PB, etc. knows about Robert’s Auto Service. It was started by Robert Martin in 1969 as Robert’s VW on Cass and Grand St in Pacific Beach. Bill Clum partnered with Robert shortly after and bought Robert out in 1974. Shortly after that Bill Clum moved Robert’s Auto Service over to the Bird Rock area right on La Jolla Blvd. Robert’s stayed there until about 1984 when it moved to its current location at 4630 Mission Bay Drive. Most automotive repair shops are run by mechanics who lack in communication skills, frustrating most people. I have strived to fix that and make sure communication and understanding are key between us and our customers. Our online reviews reflect this. I have always been a fan of the Tri Club and from the time I purchased Robert’s Auto Service I signed up to be a club sponsor. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be accepted because we are a non-triathlon sponsor but I figured people need their vehicles to get to their triathlons. Over the years I have used Robert’s Auto Service to help those in the Tri Club who go above and beyond to volunteer their time in the Tri Club. I have given them HUGE discounts to say Thanks. This includes, but not limited to former Presidents Gurujan Dourson, Jim McCann, Brian Long, Thomas Johnson, and Mike Plumb.  Also coaches Bill Gleason, Jim Vance, and a few others. I also fix the Tri Club of San Diego’s van and keep it going no charge to the club! Robert’s Auto Service offers a 10% discount ($100 max) to any tri club member. I also make sure I oversee any Tri Club Member’s vehicle that comes in. I may not be here when the car gets checked in but I go through every repair order and find out who they are. If it’s a fellow Tri Clubber I make sure I go over the repair thoroughly and always try to greet and say hello when they pick their car up. Robert’s Auto Service is also an Approved Auto Repair facility through the AAA and we have over 700 5 star reviews! We care and we will always care. You can put your trust in us.

Craig: How do you use your business as a ministry?

Keith: So, after being involved in church music ministry, I noticed many Pastors and leaders in the church don’t get paid very much.  So, just like I help those special people in the Tri Club who go above and beyond, I help Pastors with their vehicles. I have fixed / repaired many Pastors vehicles at no charge. It’s my way of giving to God. Some of the Pastors I don’t even know, they were referred to me so I figured it was God’s way of putting us together. A lot of these people could make money in the secular world but they have chosen the path of ministry to help people, and so I want to help them. It isn’t just Pastors. There are those who have ministries, such as my friend CJ who goes into prisons and ministers with Christian music and teaching to the inmates. Of course he needs his vehicle to get to these prisons. God has changed many lives of inmates who CJ ministers to. God has blessed me with Robert’s Auto Service, so I use Robert’s Auto Service to minister back!

Craig: What is the prison ministry you are involved in and how do you think that helps people?

Keith: With my music background, CJ has asked me to go with him into these prisons. I have been doing it on and off over the past 10 years with him. You would be surprised how many good men and women are incarcerated, that are good people who just made some bad decisions. God has reached into the heart of these men and women and changed them. I have been reading articles in the news lately with factual evidence showing the much higher percentage of rehabilitation of inmates who find God. I believe in that. Recently the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has been going through changes and focusing more on down to earth ministries and getting away from Televangelists. So they asked CJ to go into the prisons across America where they have their TV installations and put a “face” to the programs. CJ asked me to join him for one week up and down California on the tour bus to go in and play Christian music and minister. It was quite the experience. Especially when we ended up in McFarland and the Prison Chaplain was telling us all about the movie (about a high school cross country running team.) That was like God putting everything together.

Craig: How has the prison ministry opened your eyes?

Keith: The ministry has opened my eyes to who is in prison and how a few momentary bad decisions in their lives caused it. Yes, there are the really bad people that are in there. But there also husbands, wives, young men and woman who are really good people and just got a little off track. I realized quickly that but for the grace of God I could’ve made those few bad decisions. Some of them are so nice and polite, they just got caught up in drugs. They have worked hard at changing their lives to not have it happen again. These are the inmates that make the effort worthwhile. They are so incredibly thankful that we took the time to come out and visit them.

Craig: What are your future goals?

Keith: When I bought Robert’s Auto Service in 2003, my goals were to achieve a business that can run itself so I can support Pastors and Ministers and don’t have to worry about a “job” or “finances” per se. I have accomplished that goal but life also changes. For the past six years, my wife Kelly and I have babysat (and now homeschool) 2 of our 6 grandchildren who live in Bonsall by us. This keeps us pretty busy and I’m very blessed to be able to spend time with my grandchildren in the morning before I come into the shop. As far as triathlon, I get motivated when people like Bob Larsen (who has been coming to the shop for years) come into the shop and tell me what Meb Keflezighi is doing and then watch him win the Boston Marathon. That is very motivating. But with my life schedule and goals, I currently don’t race much. I still swim, bike and run, I just don’t race much anymore. Having set all my PR’s in my 30’s and 40’s and now dealing with an aging body (52) and things like a slightly bulged disc, I have to be smart and not let my ego get the better of me and make things worse. I did have a “bucket list” to get back and race dirt bikes like I used to and I did do that in the desert from age 48 to 50. But I quickly wised up about that as well and have since “retired” from that kind of racing. I plan on owning Robert’s Auto Service for a long time and continuing to use it as a ministry, sponsoring and helping the Tri Club of San Diego, and making sure we continue to earn everyone’s trust who comes in the door. So, until things change, I’m currently focused on raising grandkids, running Robert’s Auto Service, staying involved in ministry and giving back, and using triathlon as my fitness goals to stay in shape as my body ages.

Craig: Keith, thank you so much for sharing your story.  The work you do in the community with Robert’s and your ministry is very impressive and much appreciated by all whom you touch.  We are all proud to call you our friend.

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

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

LA Tri Series Triathlon

Brenda Goller and Craig.

Peter and Fiona Pallag in Cairns, Australia

On May 12th I raced the LA Tri Series Triathlon at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA.  This was my 4th race in 5 weeks.  It went well as I placed 1st out of 13 men in the 55-59 age group and 10th out of 166 overall finishers.

The ground was wet from a light drizzle just before the race, but at least it never rained during the race.  The air temperature was not too cold – it was probably 58 degrees when the race started and the low 60’s by the time I finished.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) fresh water lake swim went well for me.  I swam 24:55 putting me in 3rd place, just 18 seconds behind 1st place who was my friend, Mike Plumb.  Unfortunately I had a terrible time getting out of my wet suit so I lost some more time in transition.  T1 has never been my strength.

The bike course is very challenging.  The 22 miles is comprised of 3 laps of a hilly course.  The roads were 100% wet when I started the bike, but by the time I was done they were mostly dry.  I biked reasonably well.  My bike split was 1:04:45 which was 4th best and that performance kept me in 3rd place, 5:37 behind Mike.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run is also very challenging, but it plays to my strengths.  It is hilly and much of the course is on trails.  Just after mile 2 I passed Mike.  I did not know it at the time, but that put me in 1st place.  I continued to run hard all the way to the end since I was not certain if there was anyone else ahead of me.  I had the best run of the day as I ran exactly 40:00 to finish the race in 2:13:35.  Mike finished 3rd and another friend, Chris Dyrek, finished 4th.

The race was a lot of fun, but the highlight of the day was yet to come.  My cousin’s wife, Brenda Goller, lives nearby so we were able to get together for lunch.  We had a great visit and I look forward to seeing her again when I race in the area.

And later in the day back in San Diego I was able to attend a Celebration of Life for Peter Pallag who had died earlier this year.  Peter had a lot of friends from the Triathlon Club of San Diego so it was a wonderful reunion of old friends.  This day reminded me how blessed I am to be alive and healthy enough to participate in triathlon.  Every day and every race is a gift from God.

Living the life…

Posted in 2018, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: May 2018 – Tami Threet

Tami Threet and her Dad, Carl Johnson at the 2017 IM Oceanside 70.3.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with TCSD member Tami Threet.  Tami has been a great volunteer for TCSD over the years.  This year she stepped up and served as Coordinator for our USA Triathlon National Challenge Competition (NCC) team.  I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Tami.

Craig: What sports did you participate in as a kid?

Tami: I am a native San Diegan and grew up in East County. I did not do much running as a youth or other organized sports but did have a passion for horses.  When I was about 10 years old, I spent a couple weeks visiting family on their farm in Illinois. I discovered my love of horses. I came home thinking it was the best thing in my entire life and I wanted to get one. When I was about 11, my parents took me to a barn for horseback riding lessons.  So it began. I eventually convinced my parents to purchase a horse and I spent nearly everyday at the barn. I also bred the horse and she had a foal. Caring for both of them, it became obvious to me that I really liked the responsibility of being involved in their well being. That also led me to have an enjoyment of the outdoors, take risks, be patient, and fight fears.  In addition, competing and bringing home the 1st place blue ribbon was very fun.

Craig: How did you get started running as a young adult?

Tami: My dad, Carl Johnson, has always been an incredible athlete and ran nearly everyday that I can remember growing up. I ran in some small races with my dad’s encouragement (or insistence) growing up.  I insisted I was not competitive in running and refused to join him in the front where he always started. I started consistent running when I was 27 after having my son in 1997. It was a great escape to the outdoors and I felt sure my son enjoyed the buggy ride. By the time I had my daughter in 2000, I really enjoyed running and pushing a double stroller up and down the hills in my neighborhood.  I began to enter local races. One of the first races I recall entering is the Mt. Baldy Run to the Top in 2002. It was the first time I spent actual time training for a race. I joined my dad and his friend Jerry Schad in the Cuyamaca Mountains in an effort to practice running with elevation. It was exciting to train and race with them and I became a little competitive in the process.

Craig: What was your Boston Marathon experience like?

Tami: In 2006 I ran my first marathon and finished with a time I later found out was very close to a Boston qualifier.  My friend Michelle Barber Howell was part of the Track Club’s Rockn’ and Running program. She welcomed me in for many a run. It was there that I heard people talking about qualifying for Boston. Suddenly qualifying peaked my interest. I decided to see if I could qualify at the Rock n Roll marathon in San Diego (my 2nd marathon) in 2007. My dad has always encouraged me to meet my goals. I remember at mile 23 thinking how much I just wanted to trip on a railroad track so I could take a little rest.   I refrained from doing that for many reasons, as I knew my dad would “encourage” me to just choose another marathon to qualify with since I had set that goal. My dad decided to qualify with another marathon that same year so we went off to Boston together in 2008. I had mixed feelings about packing up and leaving my family to travel just for a race. They were very excited for me, though, and encouraged me to go. The race was on my son’s 11th birthday.  He was excited about that. It wasn’t until we got to Boston that I really realized what a huge marathon it was. My dad and I took the train around town and explored. We went to the expo at least 2 times. It was huge, we filled up on the many samples and called that lunch. People everywhere talked about what race they had qualified with to get there, I was proud to say San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Race day had near perfect weather, I knew to listen for screaming girls from Wellesley College and watch for the Citgo sign. I ran that day feeling grateful to be there and even more grateful that my dad was out on the course with me. There were very few thoughts what my finishing time would be. I just enjoyed the day.

Craig: What led you to become a triathlete?

Tami: Again, my dad’s example and encouragement was a huge influence.  After a few years training for marathons, I began to have pain in my knees and thought I should try some other things.  In 2009, I decided to do a Tri Club race with my dad. I was not a swimmer or a cyclist at all. I got in a pool to see if I could make it across but didn’t do much more. I remember asking my dad on the way to the race what order we would be doing things.  I raced on an old mountain bike that I pulled out from under my deck shortly before the race. I completed the race and thought it was the most fun thing ever.

Craig: You raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2015.  What was that experience like for you?

Tami: In September 2014, My dad and I drove up to  Lake Tahoe. He was competing in the Lake Tahoe 70.3 while I was doing the Full Ironman.   Lake Tahoe was surrounded by fire at that time. There was much talk throughout Ironman Village about the fires, it was hard to ignore.  We were breathing the smoke and felt like we were right in the middle of it. But we seemed to be ok, and the night before Ironman, we had the all clear. I woke up and did my usual pre-race rituals. As I was in the water waiting for the start the announcement came across: The race was cancelled due to fires. I was shattered at the news of this. I had been training for months for this race. It was surreal, I couldn’t believe that it was over just like that.  As I came out of the water, they told me where I could go to pick up my finishers hat and medal. What do you do with that information? I didn’t want the hat and medal, I hadn’t completed the race. Just like that, we were back on the road to San Diego.

But my IM Tahoe had a much better unexpected ending that is almost as good as being able to compete in Ironman Lake Tahoe. There were still 50 Kona slots for IM Tahoe that were then allocated to a special lottery.  I was a lucky winner for a spot to Kona in 2015. It was a mixed feeling of excitement beyond belief and slightly disappointed to be racing Kona having not qualified the traditional way.

I trained like I was going to Kona. I did the Great Western Loop clockwise then counterclockwise; rode out to Mexicali in August; long run in Palm Desert, and did hot yoga almost daily.   It was also a thrill that my family traveled with me to Kona. Funny because there has always been little interest in going to other races, but going to Hawaii was quite appealing to the family.    The town was overflowing with incredible fitness. Never had I seen such athletes everywhere I looked. I had more pre-race anxiety than I have ever had. I was calmed by the hug and race number body marking applied from TCSD member Crazy Tracy Cohen on race morning. The 95 % humidity, the 95 degree day and those headwinds made it the hardest race I have experienced.  The swim was not as congested or crazy as I had envisioned and there was a lot of friendly chit chat as we waited for the cannon. It was 2.4 miles of swimming without a buoyant wetsuit. The clear warm water and all the fish made it manageable, but I was fatigued. It seemed like my bike was the only one in transition by the time I exited the swim. The men started in their own wave before the women so that contributed to my seemingly lone bike.    Whenever I passed a man, I thought, “wow, he must be having a really bad day”. It was a long, difficult, and at times lonely bike ride. I could see and feel the heat coming off the blacktop as I rode. Those NBC drama shots of the steamy heat are no joke! I did my best to just embrace the day. I was doing the Kona Ironman! Once I finished the bike and started running, I felt surprisingly ok. It was fun to run by or with fellow competitors and feel good. I made a point to walk through just about every aid station, though, and hydrate.   I loved seeing fellow TCSD members on the course and on the sidelines. I loved seeing my family out there when I ran by. They had positioned themselves in front of our hotel on an out and back portion. I loved seeing my dad in multiple places on an old used mountain bike he bought upon arrival. I loved entering the Energy Lab. It was pitch black; nothing like I had seen on TV when the pros go through. The finish line was full of energy. I could hear it from about 2 miles away making me “sprint” to it. I remember vividly that triumphant feeling when I crossed the finish line, realized where I was, and hearing that Mike Reilly had just said, “You are an Ironman”.  I was initially very disappointed with my performance on the bike and wondered what happened and why it was so hard for me. I eventually concluded that it was the Kona Ironman, making the reasons obvious to me. Today, I look back on the experience and just smile. It was an amazing day and amazing journey leading to that day.

Craig: What has been your favorite destination race?

Tami: My favorite destination race was my first Ironman in Penticton, Canada in 2012. My dad and I talked a great deal before signing up.  We wanted a gorgeous place to race and that’s just what it was. My dad drove from San Diego (transporting our bikes) and met me at the Spokane Airport, as I flew up.  The scenery on the way to Penticton was gorgeous as was the town itself. The swim was a mass start in crystal clear water with visibility to the bottom and beyond. I thought about waving to the diver during the race who was positioned under one of the buoys. The bike ride was 1 giant loop through the most beautiful mountains and valleys.  One of the many things my coach, Mike Plumb, described about this race were the peach orchards in the beautiful little town of Okanagan that I would ride through. I planned my peach purchase during the ride. The run was an amazing single scenic loop as well. The town was so welcoming and genuinely happy to have us there. Sadly, 2012 was the last year Ironman Canada would be held in Penticton. The local hotels were liquidating their welcome banners. I paid $25 for a 30 foot banner that I hung on the front of my house upon my return. My kids thought this was a ridiculous site so it did not hang long.

Craig: How has your perspective changed over the years regarding doing a race to win versus doing a race to have fun?

Tami: After winning the lottery spot to Kona, I decided I must do the race again but qualify conventionally. I strategized what race to do and chose IM Chattanooga thinking it suited me best. I worked with Coach Brian Maiorano and bought a power meter for my bike.  I rode more than I had ever ridden and spent more time than seems possible training. I was fortunate to have my dad and/or my friend Sally Boettger meet me on most rides at various points. I had high hopes that I would actually qualify. The day did not go as I had hoped or trained for.  I really was extremely disappointed that I did not have the race I thought I should and spent considerable time analyzing it. Soon after though, I remembered all the races that I had completed and did fairly well without that goal to win. I signed up for IM Louisville and definitely set a goal but did not spend a fraction of the energy thinking about it. I still strive to have the best race I can, without losing track of how much enjoyment I get from just a swim, bike, and a run.

Craig: What volunteer activities have you done for TCSD?

Tami: I have looked forward to participating in USAT NCC for the past few years.  NCC is a great challenge that can help a person stay in shape in December, January and February. NCC also may challenge you to put in many more miles of training than you normally would during the winter months. TCSD enters a team that competes nationally with other clubs. We log all of our individual miles for these three months. The team with the highest average miles wins. TCSD won first place this year!  TCSD has always had strong teams and the usual strong TCSD volunteers. This year I was a coordinator for our TCSD NCC team. There are so many opportunities to volunteer for TCSD and our local races. There is always a chance to jump in and help even if you haven’t officially signed up to volunteer. Volunteering is what keeps our club going. I don’t always officially volunteer, but I’ve been at different TCSD events and have been able to pitch in when needed. Another benefit of volunteering is it is also a great way to get to know people.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD?

Tami: I have felt fortunate to be a part of TCSD from day one.   I thoroughly enjoy the club meetings, the pro triathletes we meet, the food we are fed, and the raffle prizes we win.  The races are an incredible benefit and hard to believe they are free! There are so many amazing people in the Tri Club with so many different stories.   It is a privilege to train with other members and to race with those same people.

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

Tami: I do a lot of my training in very early hours of the morning before work and am fortunate to have good friends who do it with me.  My friend, Deanne Ross and I had a good laugh the first time we finished a run to find Strava had titled it “Night Run”. That’s early!

Craig: How has sharing the sport of triathlon with your Dad enhanced your relationship with him?

Tami: I don’t know how someone would prepare for a race without having the encouragement  from someone, like I have had from my parents. Since my Dad has taken part in races, and knows just what they are like, he has been the primary support for me.  Since we live close, he is on many of my bike rides throughout my week. Being that we experience so many things together, he is like a good friend to me. He’s very laid back and offers advice only when I ask for it.  His wisdom is something I appreciate and have come to treasure.   My kids have witnessed my Dad’s never give up and encouraging attitude throughout their lives.  I believe they each have those concepts embedded in them. 🙂

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

Tami: I am racing Ironman Arizona this year.  It will be my 6th Ironman. I would like to see if I can qualify for the Boston Marathon using my run time from an Ironman race.  Currently there are 2 races that allow that, Kona and Louisville. I was not successful in my first attempt at qualifying in Louisville last year, but would like to give it a go again. Maybe lucky #7 Ironman?

Craig: Tami, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  It is great to see you sharing your passion for an active lifestyle with your Dad.  You are both setting a great example for your kids and the rest of us.  Good luck at Arizona and hopefully another Boston and Kona in 2019.

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

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35th Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

Craig and Laurie on race morning.

Age 55-59 Podium: Craig (3rd), Amy Rappaport (2nd), John Van Heyst (2nd)

On May 5th I raced in the 35th Wildflower Long Course Triathlon at Lake San Antonio, CA in the wine country of central CA.  This was my 14th time racing Wildflower as it is one of my favorite races of all time.

Due to the drought, Wildflower was not held in 2017.  And during the 3 years from 2014 – 2016 they had to tweak the course because of the low water level in the lake.  The water level is still quite low, but we did get enough rain a year ago that we were able to race on the traditional Wildflower course.  It is such a beautiful venue.  Words don’t describe how good it was to be back on the old course.

Lake San Antonio is a fresh water lake.  The water temperature was about 68 degrees and the air temperature was 75 degrees and climbing when my race started at 9am.  It might have reached 90 degrees by the time I finished.  I love warm conditions like that.  I had a great 1.2 mile swim as I exited the water in 6th place with a time of 30:54.

The 56 mile bike course is very challenging.  It offers hard climbs at the 1 mile mark and then again from 42-44 miles when we climb Nasty Grade.  Beyond that, the course has some flat sections and a lot of rollers.  It also has some fast descents where it is easy to exceed 40 mph.  I was determined to pace myself conservatively on the bike because I recalled being toast by the 50 mile mark in previous years.  A challenge I did not anticipate was the poor road quality.  Many sections were very bumpy.  I suspect those sections added up to about 10 miles.  They were especially fatiguing on the upper body, but everyone had the same challenge.  My bike split was 3:03:05 (18.4 mph) which was the 10th best in my age group and it dropped me into 9th place.  I was very pleased with this effort and most importantly, I felt like I started the run with plenty of energy.

The 13.1 mile run course is absolutely brutal.  It is the hardest 13.1 mile run course I have ever done.  70% of the route is on trails which I love.  And there are some very hard climbs that most people walk.  Not me.  I am very willing to suffer by running everything on this course, except for a few seconds when I go through an aid station.  In years past the aid station at mile 4 has been supported by the topless girls from Cal Poly.  I had not done the race since 2014 so I was really looking forward to this part of the Wildflower experience.  Unfortunately the girls did not get the memo this year as everyone had their clothes on.  I thought about asking for my money back, but decided to press on as I was still feeling good.  That all changed by mile 6.  I did manage to keep running, but I was so tired I wanted to tap out.  I’ve learned from experience to push through that as I just might feel better in a few minutes.  I took in some extra calories, salt tablets and fluids over the next 2 miles as I found my determination again.  I managed to kick it in all the way to the finish line.  My run split was 1:43:02 (7:52/mile) which was the fastest run of the day in my age group.  That moved me up to finish on the podium as I was 3rd out of 45 men in the 55-59 age group.  1st and 2nd place were 13 and 6 minutes, respectively, ahead of me and 4th place was 5 minutes after me.  My finish time was 5:23:33 and I was 144th out of 1,084 overall finishers.  For my efforts, I won a bottle of Freakshow wine.

To see my race pictures, click on this link:

My wife, Laurie, also did the race.  This was Laurie’s 6th Wildflower finish and I could not be more proud of her.  Laurie led the way with pushing us to do Wildflower this year.  The Race Director, Terry Davis, is a strong Christian.  We wanted to support Terry and his efforts to bring back this great race.  We feel so blessed by God to get to do this stuff.

Living the life…

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122nd Boston Marathon

From L-R: Katherine, Kent, Karin & Megan Yohe, Craig and Laurie

Craig with sisters Cindy and Debbie

On April 16th I raced in the 122nd Boston Marathon.  This was the 16th time I have done the race and these were by far the most difficult conditions I’ve run a marathon in.  The temperature in Hopkinton at race start was a raw 39 degrees and we had headwinds all the way into Boston of 20+ mph.  And it rained.  A lot.  Every minute of the day.

It sounds horrible, but I was actually A-OK with it.  We could see from the long range forecast that the weather was going to be brutal so that enabled me to wrap my head around it and actually get excited for an epic Boston.  I figured if it is going to be sloppy, let it be real sloppy.

Our contingent consisted of my wife (Laurie Kearney) and the daughter (Megan) of my grade school friend Kent Yohe.  This was going to be Laurie’s 22nd Boston and Megan’s 1st.  All 3 of us were in the same start corral – wave 2, corral 2 – so our race started at 10:25am.

The toughest part of the day was the 90 minutes in Hopkinton after we got off the bus at the high school.  Nearly 27,000 runners were left to mill around in the mud and rain.  They did have some huge tents set up, but they were already packed with athletes.  In desperation, we popped our heads in the Clif Bar tent which was basically 4 small pop up tents tethered together.  The Clif tent had walls which was key because that kept the wind and rain out.  This was the best decision we made all day.  Within 30 minutes we were able to find seats.  And I met a guy who gave me hand warmers to stick inside my gloves.  Those hand warmers were a life saver!

I wore a record # of clothes for the entire race.  I never tossed a single item.  I actually wore 2 hats – a scull cap and a Clif Bar trucker hat I found in the tent.  For my upper body I had a singlet, short sleeve tech shirt, long sleeve tech shirt, wind breaker and a plastic rain poncho.  For my legs I had on compression sleeves, compression shorts, running shorts and tights.  I was hardly aerodynamic, but I was warm enough.  I actually was sweating by mile 2 and I really never overheated.  I did make certain to drink a lot of fluids at most every aid station.  Each time I thought about tossing the rain poncho it seemed to pour buckets and so by mile 8 I knew I would not be tossing anything.

Some of my favorite sights were the runners that had soap suds forming on their clothes.  I guess some people need to leave their clothes in the rinse cycle a bit longer.  And I saw some spectators wearing snorkels and dive masks.  My favorite sight, though, was the water logged $5 bill I picked up at mile 5.  I had hopes that there might be a $10 bill at mile 10 and a $20 bill at mile 20, but I must have missed them.

My finish time was 3:26:11 (7:52/mile).  That is 11+ minutes slower than 2017 and I was in very similar condition.  I placed 129th out of 1,455 men in the 55-59 age group.  I placed 5,474th out of 14,142 men.  And I placed 6,854th out of 25, 746 overall finishers, beating my bib # which was 9493.  Finishing this Boston Marathon was a badge of honor so I’m very pleased with those results.

Laurie really had a great race.  Much better than mine.  She finished in 3:38:46 and placed 60th in her age group.  This was Laurie’s 252nd marathon finish.  She is such a strong runner and I could not be more proud of her.  And Megan had a great race, too.  She ran 3:18:50, beating us both and showing the old timers how it’s done.  Pretty good for her 3rd career marathon!

Desi Linden was the first American to win the women’s race in 33 years.  Desi’s winning time of 2:39:54 was 17 minutes slower than her 2nd place finish in 2011.  That speaks volumes as to how hard the day was.  It was a day for grinders.

Click on the link below to see my race photos.

The day after the race, Laurie and I headed in opposite directions.  Laurie went to New York to visit her family and I went to Chicago to visit mine.  I had a great time seeing my Mom, my 2 sisters – Cindy and Debbie.  In addition, I shared meals with my grade school buddy, Bruce McNair and my fraternity buddy, Dave Dungan.  While staying with my Mom, a man from Faith Lutheran Church stopped by to give us both communion.  I was aware that they do this every month for Mom, but it really warmed my heart to share the experience with my Mom.

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: April 2018 – Mark Alfaro

Mark Alfaro on the run at Ironman Santa Rosa

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I recently got the chance to talk triathlon with Mark Alfaro, TCSD’s new Track Coach.  We are so lucky to have Mark coaching us.  It is always great to such good volunteer leaders like Mark.  I’m certain you will enjoy getting to know him.

Craig: What sports did you like to do when you were a kid?

Mark: I grew up in Paradise Hills in the 80’s and my cousins and I would play stickball which we played with a half of a broomstick and balled up wad of aluminum foil with rubber bands wrapped around it. We didn’t have videos games to keep us inside back then so we had to be creative which was mostly due to the fact that our parents immigrated from the Philippines and had no personal experience with American sports.

My friends from the neighborhood and I were constantly outside riding our bikes, sometimes for miles or running from one person’s house to the next.  When we moved into a new house, I would ride my bike back down to my old neighborhood and ride up and down some really steep hills in between.  With that being said, I never complain about the bike elevation in a triathlon bike course, the more climbing, the better!

A few years down the road, I became active in team sports starting with basketball and football but stuck with football because I didn’t have to wear my big plastic athletic glasses as a defensive player.  I continued to play football in high school, but because I played running back, I was automatically put on the track and field team and ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, 300 meter sprint and anchored the 4 x 100 sprint relay.  I won the 100m, 200m and relay a few times and made the All CIF team in the 100m and 200m events. I also tried to run cross country as well but the longer distance killed me because it felt like we were running races like 400m sprints, which was probably the case.  Most guys were laid out on the ground after passing the finish line.

After high school, I kept up with running, but mostly short distances and dabbled in mountain biking but didn’t sign up for any races because I felt pretty burned out from all the years of structured training.  I did however, remain a gym rat, sometimes going to the gym three times a day.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Mark: A good friend of mine was home from Los Angeles one weekend and he told me he was training for a triathlon.  I honestly had no idea what was involved in a triathlon but after a short explanation of the three events, I felt that it couldn’t be that hard.  I knew how to swim, I could ride a bike pretty well and I was a runner – I got this!  So about four weeks before the race, I start training for the Hemet Tinsel (reverse) Triathlon.  I went to my neighborhood 24 Hour Fitness, jumped in the pool and quickly found that the swim was going to be a challenge.  I couldn’t make it to the other side of the pool without gasping for air!  I came back the following day and an older guy could tell I was having some problems so he tried to give me some tips but nothing was sticking.  After two weeks of failing miserably at swimming I was ready to give up but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends.

With four weeks of swimming under my belt and a few bike rides and runs, I was nervous but ready for my triathlon. But this wasn’t a regular triathlon. This was a reverse triathlon starting with a 5k run, 20k bike and finishing with a 150m pool swim.  The other thing that made this triathlon unique is that it is during the holiday season so people are dressed up in Santa Claus, reindeer, and elf costumes!

The experience was unforgettable.  I ran the 5k way too hard and my legs were cramping half way through the bike and getting passed by people in costumes was really embarrassing and humbling.  I finally got off the bike and nervously jumped into the 50 meter pool which looked gigantic compared to my 3-lane 25 yard pool back home.  Within the first 10 strokes, both of my calves cramped up and I couldn’t swim!  I hung on to one of the lane dividers until the cramping subsided and got back to work but the cramping wouldn’t stop. On my last lap of the swim, I tried to back stroke instead and my friends were cheering me on from the deck.  I felt really defeated that day but I did not want to let that defeat be my defining moment in triathlon.

Craig: How did your first TCSD races go?

Mark: After the Hemet Tinsel Triathlon, I decided to get a little more serious about my training and took swim lessons at the YMCA and I also got all of the right gear for my next triathlon. I got a triathlon kit, a wetsuit, triathlon cycling shoes. My second-hand bike had an old Triathlon Club of San Diego sticker on it, which I thought was ironic because I never imagined I’d be doing a triathlon and that sticker was the reason why I initially joined the club. After a few more months of swimming, the right gear and “serious” training, I signed up for my first TCSD Beginner Triathlon at Glorietta Bay.  I had been out for a few practice swims before and I could swim pretty well to the white buoy which was about 100-150 yards away from shore.

As people started lining up at the swim start, I noticed that there were a lot of kids and people who did not look very athletic.  I really felt like I could actually win this race today.

I can’t remember if it was a whistle, buzzer or gun shot to signal the start of the race but I went out right in the middle of the pack and swam really hard for the first 50 yards and the combination of contact with other swimmers and losing my breath got me into a panic.  My chest felt really tight and I couldn’t breathe! I swam to a paddleboard and hung on for what seemed like forever and I stared back at the beach watching people transition onto their bikes.  As I watched the last few swimmers starting to head towards the beach, I felt good enough to give it another go and finally made it out of the water, extremely disappointed in myself but also felt that this was the defining moment of my triathlon career.  I got out of my wetsuit, clipped on my helmet, unracked my bike and finished the rest of the race.  It was a humbling and comedic experience because I really felt like I could win the race that day and I was the third to last person who came out of the water, with the other two being kids.

My second event with TCSD was the duathlon in Black Mountain, which was another event that kicked my butt, but these early experiences are what motivated me to get help from a triathlon coach.

Craig: What led you into coaching and what are your certifications?

Mark: My first triathlon coach was Tomas Atiles who also happened to work at Hi-Tech Bikes at the time.  I told him I wanted to get serious about training and that my goal was to do an Olympic distance triathlon in the summer.  For the first time in a long time, I was back on a structured training plan and this was an adjustment for me and my family.  Triathlon training takes a chunk out of somebody’s time and when you have a full time job and three small kids, time is a precious commodity.  Over the next few years I would work with a few different coaches and my abilities improved over time.  After completing my third half ironman, I was ready to take on a full Ironman and after that experience I decided that I wanted to help other people realize the same dream.  I earned my USAT Level 1 Certification in 2013 and will be doing my Level 2 within the next year or two.

Craig: What is the Performance Strength Lab?

Mark: Aside from being a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach, I am also an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach and partner at an athletic training facility called Performance Strength Lab.

Joe and Shiloh Beckerley were long-time friends of mine from the Hi-Tech Bikes triathlon team and we shared the same dream of one day breaking free from our corporate jobs and having a training facility for endurance athletes. We are all working professionals in other fields, but we all had a passion for fitness and working on the side as personal trainers for our friends and led small group workouts and spin classes throughout San Diego.  One day, Joe tells me that he was ready to make the move and found a facility within a stone throw’s distance from Mission Trails and within a few weeks he was buying equipment and moving in.  I decided to stop by the new facility one day and after seeing Joe’s dream starting to come to life, I wanted to share that dream with him.  After bribing Joe with a few IPA’s at our local brewery, he and Shiloh agreed to let me go on this journey with them as their partner.

In the first few months of building the facility, we were trying to define ourselves and as we worked with our athletes, we knew our primary focus was strength training for endurance athletes.

Joe and I are both passionate about strength training but we are also triathletes and runners and we know that many people in our sport lack the knowledge and experience to enhance their abilities through strength training.

Many of our clients are competitive athletes who come to us are looking to become stronger and faster and there have also been a few who come to us with overuse injuries often caused by repetitive motion and the lack of strength training.

We are big believers in implementing a periodized strength training program that complements the athlete’s endurance program and we hear our athletes tell us how much stronger they felt during their races.

Craig: What is the philosophy behind Performance Strength Lab?

Mark: One of the main reasons why Joe and I are good friends and partners is because we both have an unquenchable thirst for learning and improving.  And learning bears its greatest gifts in failure and getting over failure and moving on to the next challenge.

Our philosophy is built on strength and helping someone become a stronger person both physically and mentally and we often tell our clients, “Finish Strong!”.  For those Ironman athletes out there, we know how tough the marathon can be at mile 2, 6,12 or 25 but we spend a lot of time programming strength training so our athletes can cross the finish line feeling strong and great about what they accomplished.  Joe and I have both competed in some tough events and “Finish Strong” came from Joe’s dad during Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2015 when it was almost 110 degrees on the run course and he was ready to throw in the towel.

Craig: What advice would you have for a person considering going to their first TCSD track workout?

Mark: My advice for someone new to our track workout is that everyone will have to start from somewhere.  If you are new running or haven’t done structured interval training, we will slowly ramp you up and also teach you about proper technique and strength training to help you avoid common injuries that new runners experience.  Even seasoned runners can benefit from our track workout because we program our workouts with a strength component like squats, lunges and core work which help runners and triathletes delay the onset of fatigue during the longer events like half marathons and marathons.

Craig: What are some of the more common running mistakes made by triathletes?

Mark: Many common mistakes that new and seasoned runners make is running too much, too fast, too soon.  Newer runners are feeling the health benefits and the endorphins that running produces and before they know it, they are dealing with common running injuries like runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints or other leg injuries. Seasoned runners may take a break after a long season and many feel the need to get back to mid-season form as quickly as possible, but the body needs time to adapt to that kind of stress.  I know, because I have made some of the same mistakes.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I decided to become a coach.  I want to help people avoid the same mistakes and help them reach their goals without having to go through the same challenges.

Craig: How can people contact you if they would like more information about your coaching, the track workouts or Performance Strength Lab?

Mark: The best way for someone to get more information about our coaching and what we do is to come to facility.  We are on the eastern border of San Diego right in the heart of Mission Trails Regional Park.  I am also always available to talk during our track workout on Tuesday and many of our clients attend the workout and they can tell you more about us, as well.

We offer a free trial membership to TCSD members so they can experience what we do every day.

Send me an email at or visit our website at to schedule an appointment.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?

Mark: When I decided that I was ready to take on an Ironman, I wanted to race a tough course but also a course that my family would really enjoy.  I have family in Vancouver (Canada) and have always heard awesome things about British Columbia and Whistler and it did not disappoint.  Whistler is an amazing town that is usually known as a winter destination but the race is in the middle of the summer and the scenery is amazing.

Another city I really loved was Chicago.  I was there for work a few years back and when I found out that there was a marathon there, I put it on my bucket list. In 2016, I was lucky enough to get a lottery spot for the Chicago Marathon and it was one of my favorite marathon venues because the course runs through the entire city of Chicago and everyone is out cheering for the runners from start to finish.  As you know, Chicago is known for the deep-dish pizzas and it’s a great post-race treat for pizza lovers like me.

My next destination bucket list race is somewhere on the east coast like New York City Marathon or the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC.

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

Mark: When I started racing triathlons, I had no intentions of ever doing an Ironman and these days I see more and more first-time triathletes want to race an Ironman for their first triathlon.  I love their courage and inspiration and it is not their fault for wanting to do something as exciting as an Ironman.

With that being said, I am an advocate for a system that requires first time Ironman entrants to have raced a half-iron distance race within the last year.

I think there are two main reasons why this should be put in place.  The first reason, being that Ironman training is at least double the amount and time of training for a half ironman.  Most people can’t handle the amount of training for a half-ironman and think they can get away with using a similar training program. Those of us who have trained for an Ironman know that this isn’t the case, especially if you want to do well.  The other reason is simply just safety.  Racing an Ironman is stressful even on seasoned Ironman athletes.  There were at least four reported deaths during Ironman events in 2017 and most of them probably had pre-existing conditions that were probably unknown to the athletes until then. According to an article written in 2016, “Eighty-five percent of the 109 deaths reviewed between 1985 and 2015 were men, with their average age hovering around 50 years old…. a full seventy percent of the deaths, as ESPN noted, happened “during or upon exiting the initial swim leg.” Available autopsies showed pre-existing heart problems in more than half of cases, which likely contributed to fatal arrhythmias in the water.”  There are risks even in the safest sports but almost all rigorous sports require experience at difference levels before being allowed to enter the main event. Baseball has the minor league system, basketball has the college system and the D-league, American football has the college system and no martial arts tournament would allow a white belt to face a three-stripe black belt, so why allow a novice triathlete attempt an ironman? (Source:

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Mark: My favorite benefit of TCSD is the people you get to meet during events and meetings.  I still remember a lot of people from the first time I did the beginner triathlon eight years ago. I met Tony Truong at San Diego International Triathlon five or six years ago while we were both still fairly new to the sport and we have been friends ever since and I have been able to share a lot of great memories with him on and off the course.  Bessy and Roger Leszczynski, I have known for a few years in different social circles and I feel that we are threads of this great community of people who just happen to love the sport of triathlon.

Craig: Tell us about your relationship with TCSD legend Jonathan Jefferson?

Mark: Back in college, I worked at the Union Bank as a customer service rep and I worked with man named Jon.  I didn’t know too much about him except that he was a really nice, down to earth guy who had two massive Chesapeake Bay retrievers whom he talked about often and I always remember Jon’s smile.  After college, I moved on to work somewhere else and during my first year as a member of TCSD, I saw a familiar name on the yahoo groups email come through, it was Jon!  Apparently, Jon was coaching or leading the open water swim at La Jolla Cove and I sent him an email telling him that I would come out there one day and he said he was looking forward to seeing me.  It wasn’t until a year later that I finally saw Jon, but it was during his fight with cancer.  I think of Jon Jefferson every time I come to a TCSD meeting because I can feel his smile and his presence in the room.  Many of the people reading this may not have known Jon, but if I could give you a reason why this club is one of the best triathlons clubs in the world it is because of how the people of this club loved on Jon and his family during his fight with cancer.  TCSD is more like a family than it is a club, some members may even take the last slice of pizza just like your older brother or sister used to.

Craig: How has triathlon saved your life?

Mark: Before I started training for triathlons, I was working 60 hours a week and was at risk of hypertension and diabetes.  I was also 50 pounds overweight.  It wasn’t until I saw a picture of myself from our vacation in Hawaii that I was shocked at the person I had become.  I was an athlete all my life and I let work and other things take over that part of my life.

Triathlon has saved my life in more ways than I can imagine.  The sport of triathlon not only brought me back to my athletic roots, it also helped me become a balanced athlete, both mentally and physically.  Some sports require you to be an extremist. Ultra-runners for instance (my people as well) will only run anything over 50k because marathons are too short. In triathlon, we are a melting pot of runners, cyclists and swimmers and everything else in between, even ultra-runners!

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Mark: This year started off with Oceanside 70.3 which I came into without too much expectation because of a knee issue I was recovering from and just too many workouts missed on my training plan for one reason or another.  The best part about being out on the race course is seeing all the people I have gotten to know over the years from TCSD like Tony Truong, my old friends from Peakfinders and FilAmtri, and our Performance Strength Lab athletes.

Next month, I will be taking another shot at Mountains to Beaches which I did last year and didn’t do as well as I had hoped and I am also signed up for Santa Cruz 70.3 in September.  I plan to do another marathon or ultramarathon in the fall but that is still up in the air.  I also plan to do a few local triathlons this year as I’ve been missing out on those the last two years because of Ironman training and hopefully I can earn an invitation back to nationals in 2019.

Craig: Mark, thank you so much for sharing your story and for all you do for TCSD.  Good luck with Performance Strength Lab, your racing and everything else you have going on!

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

Ironman 70.3 Oceanside

Leaving it all on the race course

On April 7th I did my first race of 2018 at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and it went very well.  We had ideal conditions as the low temperature at the start of the race at 7am was in the high 50’s and by the time I finished around noon it was about 70 with very mild breezes.

The 1.2 mile swim was in the 59 degree Oceanside Harbor.  They were hoping to make the race be a surf entry to put the “ocean” back in Oceanside, but the surf was too high to be safe for many of the athletes.  So 2 days before the race it was announced that we’d swim the same out and back course as in the past.  Once again we had a “rolling start” so that means each athlete self-seeds themselves based on the time they expect to swim.  That leads to a much better experience for everyone as the faster swimmers start first.  I seeded myself with the 30-35 minute group which was spot on as my swim split was 31:51, good for 12th place in my age group.

I was surprisingly warm upon exiting the water so I opted to just put on a short sleeve jersey for the 56 mile bike ride.  That was the right decision.  The route follows the coast for the first 20 miles and then we turn east through the hilly parts of Camp Pendleton for the next 25 miles.  I love that section of Pendleton.  It is a shame that the only time we can ride that section is during this race.  They actually have 2 no passing zones for short stretches because the road gets narrow.  And then there is a 3rd no passing zone at mile 39 on a steep, curvy descent where an athlete crashed and died when I did this race back in 2001.  Thus, they also have a strict 25 mph speed limit for that ¼ mile section.  The athlete who crossed the finish line 1st in my age group actually got disqualified because he exceeded the speed limit.  We all knew the rules.  He should have known better.  The final 10+ miles of the ride are on a nice flat road.  I thought I biked pretty well, but was surprised to see my bike split was 2:34 slower than in 2017.  My bike split was 2:58:28 (18.8 mph).  This was the 49th best bike split and it dropped me to 26th place.

The 13.1 mile run course was 2 loops along the coast.  The entire run course is lined with spectators, many of them friends of mine.  I had a lot of fun feeding off the cheers and support of the crowd.  My favorite spectator, of course, was my wife Laurie.  She is awesome!  I had the fastest run on the day – 1:34:34 (7:13/mile).  That effort moved me up to tie for 8th place out of 145 men in the 55-59 age group with a finish time of 5:13:12.  This is a very competitive race every year so I am very happy with my result.  I finished 10th in 2017 with a finish time of 5:11:34, so I slowed down by 1:48, but I improved by 2 spots in the rankings.  I was 317th out of 2,397 overall finishers.

The highlight of my day, though, was undoubtedly the performance of an athlete I am coaching.  In my opinion, Susan Powell had her best race during the 2+ years I have been her coach.  Susan finished the 2016 race in 8:27 and she did not finish in 2017.  She finished this year’s race in 7:42 and is clearly on her way to even faster times this year.  I am so proud of her!

Living the life…

Posted in 2018, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: March 2018 – Guto Antunes

Guto Antunes earning his IM 70.3 World Championship slot at Ironman Brazil 70.3

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the opportunity recently to talk triathlon with TCSD member Guto Antunes.  I think you’ll enjoy getting to know this great guy who has learned to balance family, a challenging career in the banking industry and a challenging career as a professional triathlete.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Guto: Since I was very young, my parents gave me the opportunity to study at a school (Colegio Santo Americo) that allowed me to experience a bunch of sports like soccer, basketball, swimming, track & field… You know, Brazil is a very different country compared to the US: We grew up playing soccer, so mainly that was my “A” sport. But I didn’t like much to be involved on team sports, I was a very selfish boy. I had to discover a sport that training and racing results would rely on my own efforts. Triathlon came late in my life, once my father couldn’t afford all the equipment that I needed for the 3 disciplines.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Guto: Oh man… Seems like yesterday! It was the 2000 “Trofeu Brasil de Triathlon” (Brazilian Triathlon Trophy) in Santos – Brazil. I didn’t have any specific equipment (no wetsuit, a simple bike and heavy running shoes.) I suffered like hell. But that day I discovered that I like to suffer and still have fun. I just wanted to finish the race to say “I did a triathlon” for my friends and family. I was in my early 20’s, so my friends were calling me to go party and asking why I was doing that and losing my life.  At that race, I crossed the finish line and the got the answer. I was so happy and felt so accomplished.  After the race I was heading back to the hotel and heard my name being called to go to the podium. I said: “What???” I was 5th overall in the age group division. From that moment on, I was hooked! Bracing the suck made me feel like home.

Craig: What was your business career like during your early days of triathlon?

Guto: Before being a pro triathlete, I was studying business administration and got an internship job at a bank (trading floor), dealing with FX Derivatives. At that time, I gave up training for a while, once I thought it would be impossible to cope with everything. It was a VERY stressful job, I could win/lose millions in the blink of an eye. One day I left the office stressed and feeling empty. I remember saying to myself:  “I’m done”. I was heading home and had a “deja vu” about my first race. How training and racing made me feel less stressed and happy. I needed that again. So, I started training very early in the morning for 1:20 hours, only to lose weight again. I perceived that working out in the morning made me feel less emotive while dealing with stressful situations at work. After a month, I started swimming to leave my stress in the water and started going after work, to get back home happy and fresh!

Craig: What was the process like to become a professional triathlete?

Guto: That’s a great story . After I started training again, everyone (work partners, family, friends) were saying I was crazy (at that time, I think I was the only financial market guy to have that hectic training routine). They were always asking: “Where do you wanna go with all these crazy trainings, boy? It’ll be bad for your banking career”. But one day I was running and felt a hard pain in my right foot toe. I had a terrible ligament injury and had to do a surgery never performed before by the doctors. My dad went with me for the final appointment, and I heard from the doctor that probably I would never run again in my life. I was devastated.  I got into my dad’s car and cried like never before. He looked at me and said: “Nobody can tell you’re not running again! You’ll do it even if you have to go crawling to the finish line, but you’ll do it. Stop crying and fight”. That was a wake up call. A week after the surgery, I went after my coach at that time and long time friend (Ademir Paulino – “Miro”) and asked: “Miro, do you think I can go pro?”  He didn’t hesitate: “If there’s someone I ever knew that can do it, that’s you.”  From that day on we started to train very hard. I wasn’t running much (as the doctor predicted, I had a lot of pain). 3 months after the surgery, I said to “Miro” that I would go for one of the main draft legal races in South America (2004 Caioba International Triathlon). He said that probably I would not be able to finish it (due to the foot/toe pain). Right after crossing the finish line I’ve called him, crying like that day in the car with my dad: “Miro, we won overall dude!!!!”. To our surprise, I won the overall sprint distance event (only for age groupers) and got my federation allowance to race as a pro.

Craig: From the short time I have known you, it sounds like you led a double life during your early years as a professional triathlete.  You kept your business career in 1 corner and the triathlon world in another corner and neither world knew the other existed.  When and why did you finally start letting your colleagues at work know about your triathlon life and vice versa?

Guto: Yes, you’re right.  I was afraid of my boss saying I wasn’t into the banking career and my sponsors in triathlon pretending that I did not need the money to race because I had another job. You know, there’s a lot of prejudice on both. So I kept the “secret” only for close friends. One day I had a bad race because I was very tired from work travels and my wife said: “It’s not fair, you have a real life story and nobody knows the truth! You need to tell them! You have such an inspiring overcoming story!” I was still concerned of its effects, but decided to follow her advice (girls are always wiser than the boys!). I called one of the main triathlon media groups in South America ( and told the publisher the truth. He made me the cover magazine guy telling my story: “The Triathlete in a Suit – Find Time to Train!” To my surprise, I never received so many messages, phone calls and interview requests. I became the local hope that, even with a hectic working life, you can reach your sports goals.

Craig: What have you learned over the years by balancing family, career and triathlon?

Guto: That they all need to work together! I discovered that being a triathlete made me a better banking professional and also a better husband and father. I can see things faster and wiser, not losing time with those emotional riots that we have to deal with when not training. Obviously, the opposite is also true: My banking job taught me a lot how to respect and fix my limitations. I always say that probably I found the Greek’s concept of “Source Mind, Source Body” applied to a real life.

Craig: What have been some of your most gratifying accomplishments as a professional triathlete?

Guto: For sure, being a world ranked 70.3 Ironman pro triathlete and being able to race the 2010 World Championship in Clearwater, FL. The road to get the spot was rough.  It was one of the most hectic moments of my banking career and I was not training for a half distance event. Me and my coach (Alexandre Blass) decided to race just two weeks prior to the event. Going to the WC was my longtime dream, more than going to the Olympics (especially because the 70.3 distance is not part of the program). But I knew there were better athletes to get the 3 Brazilian spots. The day before the race was a mess. My wife missed her plane and I went to the airport at 11pm to get her. I did not sleep much and my wetsuit broke the zipper lock just 5 min before race start (had to borrow one from a spectator). That race I faced all my fears. Was above the “red zone”, physically and mentally, for the whole race. I was 5th in a very tough international field (2010 – 70.3 Ironman Brazil). When I crossed the finish line, I was completely dizzy and did not realize I was the third Brazilian. Somebody came and said: “You got the WC spot!”  It seemed like a dream. I collapsed to the ground and my wife came along. That was the best hug ever. Both of us, crying and happy. She asked me: “How are you feeling, you got it!!!” I just had the strength to hug her very tight and say: “Honey, we did it. We are in the World Champs!!!”

Craig: How has your wife, Claudia, helped you realize your dreams?

Guto: She loved me since day one. Claudia helped me understand the ghosts and fears I face everyday while dealing with that dual life. And getting the kids involved to understand that dad is not a superhero, just a guy that dreams big and fight for it – day in and day out. I really hope that my daughter, Luiza (6 years old) and my boy Antonio (3 years old), understands that we can face any challenge and be successful, doing it our own way. That will be the best legacy I’ll leave for them.

Craig: What is one of your most crazy triathlon travel stories?

Guto: The funniest was the first time I came to race in the USA. It was 2006 and I had a sponsor from LA which told me I had to come to race the Malibu Triathlon (they were the main sponsor for the race). The problem is that I had just started a new banking job, and couldn’t take vacations to travel (at that time there was only one 24 hour flight from Sao Paulo to LA!). So, I left the bank on a Friday at 6-ish pm, got a 3 hour traffic jam to the airport and almost missed the fight. I had a connection at NYC (JFK Airport) and my flight got delayed to the gate! So I had to run a 1 mile dash to not miss the plane connection. I arrived in LA on Saturday, 2:30pm and had to go straight to the pro meeting, but MY BIKE DID NOT ARRIVE! I told my sponsor that I would give up and only watch the race, that stress was too much for me. But he came up with a plan: Get me to Agoura Hills, rent a bike and all the necessary equipment. So there I was, at 7pm renting a bike that wasn’t set for my bike fit and going to the hotel to sleep. At 3am my phone rang and I thought it was my ride to the race site. The hotel receptionist said: “Sir… There’s a bag…a big bag for you here”. I said: “MY BIKE”! I went down, assembled it and left (late). Got into T1 almost by race start time (Malibu is famous for its pre-race traffic jam) and as soon as I arrived at the start line, they “shot the cannon”!  I ended up being third and went back to my hotel (biking, 15 miles) to pack up my bags and straight to LAX. Got the flight back home and arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday, 6am and straight to work!!! When I sat at my desk, my boss asked the famous question: “Hey Guto, how was your weekend?” I told him: “You tell me” – LOL!

Craig: How did triathlon help you get a visa to move to the USA?

Guto: Triathlon gave me the opportunity to get what is called “an extraordinary ability visa” for all those things that I’ve achieved. My goal is to race and be within the community sharing my knowledge and passion, helping the sport to grow in the US. I arrived in June 2016, but on my first day in San Diego I had a terrible bike accident (broken collarbone + surgery) at an abandoned bike lane (El Camino Real towards Torrey Hills). Those first few months were terrible, I had to skip a lot of races and events on my calendar to focus on my recovery. But it was a good opportunity for the city to hear our requests. Everyone deserves to be safe while riding your bike.

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

Guto: I would love to see people doing it again for the sake of the challenge. That’s what made me start doing this sport. Now, it’s all about showing off in social media. We used to go to races to meet friends and laugh. Racing was not about winning or losing.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?

Guto: The 70.3 Hawaii Ironman, because Kona is Kona whatever distance you’re racing! It’s magical: the atmosphere, the pristine nature, the many challenges (wind, heat, grass) you face during the race. And, of course, Lava Lava’s Waikoloa sunset drinking a post race beer, watching the most amazing sunset in the world.

Then Santos International Triathlon, in Brazil: It’s my wife’s hometown and also for its almost 30 years of history that helped many of the Brazilian triathlon icons to rise as international stars.

Last, but not least: The Malibu Triathlon.  My first race in US and also where my body always performs well. I still have that overwhelming feeling from the first hectic race day. Everytime I go there, even to get my kids to play at the beach, I feel an amazing vibe.

Craig: What is your favorite benefit of your TCSD membership?

Guto: For sure the barbecues! Not only because everyone has the chance to share their special recipes, but because that’s what makes triathlon special for me: Sharing experiences, no matter if you’re a pro or a newcomer to the sport. You get to know so many overwhelming stories.  That’s what fuels my passion.

Craig: Who are your sponsors?

Guto: Forca Dinamica, Mormaii, Velofix San Diego and Join.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Guto: I always think that the best is yet to come. I want to go back to World Champs and also be among the top 5 in the main non-draft triathlon races in the world. And for sure: Keep inspiring people to keep doing this sport, even dealing with a hectic “real life”. As I like saying: Life is real, not ideal!

Craig: Guto, thank you for sharing your story.  I have a feeling you’ll find success at anything you set your mind to.  Brazil’s loss is San Diego’s gain.  TCSD is lucky to have you among our members.  Good luck to you!

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

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

TCSD Conversation: February 2018 – Jack Shannon

Jack at his first Ironman 70.3 at St. George, Utah with wife Cheryl and kids Sarah and Patrick

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Jack Shannon.  Jack has been leading the Pannikin Ride for a few years and is an instrumental member of our club.  I’m certain you will enjoy getting to know Jack.

Craig: What sports did you participate in when you were younger?

Jack: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I’m a life long soccer player, starting at age 7, playing on both club and school teams. I was also on the swim team in elementary and middle school.  I credit this time swimming with my comfort in the water as an adult. Moving to San Diego six years ago I took up the year-round outdoor sports of surfing, biking, running, and swimming.  I found many coworkers who shared my love of the outdoors who joined me on multiple lunchtime, nighttime and weekend events.

Craig: What circumstances led to your first triathlon?

Jack: Triathlon, what are you crazy? At my core all I ever wanted to do was ride my bike and see the sights along my ride. So, when I moved to San Diego in November 2011 I bought a mountain bike, started riding to and from work and on the trails including Peñasquitos, Anderson Truck trail, Black Mountain, Calaveras and Elfin Forest. Two years later my mountain bike got stolen and my friends talked me into a road bike as a replacement. I rode my new bike all around San Diego and formed a bike club where I worked. It was then a co-worker/TCSD member Steve Folio talked me into signing up for the Pendleton Semper Tri in August 2014. I was still skeptical about Triathlon until the last minute of the race. I recognized 3-4 competitors running ahead of me and it was then I told myself, I’m going to beat them. I picked up my pace and then sprinted the last 100 meters passing several competitors at the end.

After the Semper Tri race, two of my high school buddies saw my Facebook posts and challenged me to enter Ironman Boulder 70.3. The rest is history.

Craig: What was your first introduction to TCSD like?

Jack: My first introduction was the Pannikin Ride. Again, Steve Folio recommended the ride because it’s a great ride and I lived in the La Jolla village. I joined the club and started riding with the Pannikin Ride in late 2014. The athletes on the Pannikin Ride recommended participating in the TCSD Duathlon on March 7, 2015. I remember trying to keep up with Doug Small and Markus Hofmann during the final run. I think I came in 4th place.

Craig: What is the Pannikin Ride and when did you start leading it?

Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a no pressure, fun 15-mile bike ride with 1000 feet of climbing. The ride starts and ends at the Pannikin Coffee shop (7467 Girard Ave, La Jolla, California) every Tuesday and Thursday.  We meet at 6:15am, ride for about an hour and 15 minutes, and then head to the Pannikin for a chat before work over coffee and/or breakfast. I’ve been leading this ride since June 2015. My predecessors are awesome people like Thomas Johnson, Brian Flora, Ryan Georgianna, Sandi Smith and Janis Intoy. I think it safe to say the Pannikin Ride participants have contributed over 3000 accents of Mount Soledad.  The views of San Diego and the ocean from this spot are breathtaking!

Craig: How has taking a leadership role in the Pannikin Ride enhanced your TCSD membership?

Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a bonding experience for TCSD members, visitors and friends. We discuss races, workouts, family and even work. The most common email questions I get are centered around the ride difficulty and time the ride ends. Like I mentioned earlier the ride is a fun ride, there is no pressure, you are encouraged to go as fast or as slow as you wish.  As a leader of the ride occasionally I switch up the route to add variety, we may go to Kate Sessions Park or Fiesta Island. Lasting about 60 to 90 minutes, the ride is meant to be short and sweet!  For me it is the best way to start the day in beautiful San Diego. Taking this leadership role has enhanced my knowledge of the San Diego area. Looking from the top of Mount Soledad I feel like a tour guide pointing out places like where we swim at the Shores, the Miramar airstrip, Cabrillo, Downtown San Diego, and even as far as Dana Point (on a clear morning!).

Craig: You also volunteer in other ways to support triathlon.  What else do you do?

Jack: For me swimming comes naturally, but I have found that is not how most people feel, so this past year I started volunteering as a swim buddy.  Whether I was there to help with a fear of the open water, a beginner who just needed help with technique, or to give a boost of confidence. I have met some truly amazing people who trusted me to help them.  I really enjoy being a swim buddy and would encourage anyone who loves swimming to volunteer.  It is easy.  Just contact – Tom Washington ( or Ian Kelly (

In 2018, I will continue to volunteer as a swim buddy at the KOZ events and as swim catcher at Oceanside 70.3. Something new I’m getting into is volunteering as a bike leader for local half marathons/marathons. My first event is in Encinitas coming in March. There are many ways to volunteer, and many races depend on volunteer help. I found out about opportunities through TCSD and race websites.

Craig: What is your favorite part of TCSD membership?

Jack: Since I’ve been volunteering at quite a few triathlons this past year, I’ve really come to love the club races. The aquathlons are my favorite events the Tri Club has to offer. They are a great excuse to get out of work early. Summertime at La Jolla Shores is an amazing place to gather with friends, swim in the State Marine Reserve (aka The Shores) while you bob-n-weave around beachgoers and tourists.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Jack: Well, at the time it was completing the Semper Tri back in 2014. I don’t remember training except for riding my bike every day. I really didn’t know what to expect from my body. I didn’t think I would even finish the race so at the end when I was able to sprint across the finish line I was very proud of myself. Now I think back to Ironman Boulder 70.3 in June 2015. That race was the original mark that made triathlon a fulltime hobby. My friends challenged me and I achieved my fastest time to date; 6 hours 3 minutes. That’s my greatest accomplishment and the goal to beat!

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

Jack: One reason, I moved my family to San Diego was for a healthier lifestyle. My wife Cheryl has been there every step of the way: encouraging me in my training, making sure I have all my gear for races and waking up at the crack of dawn on race days so she and the kids can support me. Cheryl will find me multiple spots throughout a race always cheering me on and ringing the cow bell. More cow bell, please! Cheryl’s support goes beyond the races. She’s a passionate cook and healthy eater.  She keeps our family happy and healthy.

Doug Small is my technical guide to everything triathlon. He has shared his knowledge and specific tips more times than I can count. Now, if only I would listen I could improve my times.

Craig: Who has been the most influential person in your life?

Jack: My Dad has always been there pushing me to do the best I can. To be honest, I’m not sure I truly listened to him until I was nearing the end of my college career. I cared for school but I never consistently tried to do well in school until my senior year in college. But throughout college during winter and summer breaks I would come home and work for my father. He worked for a construction company supervising the labor force and was able to hire me on part time. We didn’t work side by side but I witnessed his skills and his interactions with crew and it was then I gained a new respect for him and for hard work. I guess that’s when I partially matured. My professional career and my work ethic are a direct result from what I learned from my Dad. Love you Dad.

When I was young my Dad was there encouraging me at my soccer games, at my swim meets and to take those long bike rides with my friends. Those are the memories that stick with me and those are the actions I try to emulate with his grandkids. Especially with my son now that he has joined the Cross-Country team and Track team in high school. He hasn’t started doing triathlons, yet, but there’s still time!

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

Jack: This is not necessarily a change but I’d like to have a big race come to San Diego. The Tour of California started in San Diego a couple years ago which was an awesome experience. So, I’d like to see Triathlon Nationals, Triathlon Worlds or even an ITU cup race take place in San Diego.

Craig: What are your future athletic goals?

Jack: Well, my main goal is to go under 6 hours in a 70.3 race. I don’t have a race picked out yet, so I’ll keep working out on the Pannikin Ride and with the TriClub! Go TriClub! After that (or in the meantime) I also enjoy long adventurous bike rides. I usually do a Century ride once a year and one day I’ll get up the nerve to ride my bike from Temecula to Palm Springs over the Santa Rosa Mountains. The route is not bike friendly with little to no bike lanes but the scenery is spectacular. In addition to the Temecula to Palm Springs ride, I’d like to ride around the Salton Sea again. Back in November 2014 a couple friends and I circumnavigated the desert sea. 115 miles in about 8 hours. Very windy and challenging, but lots fun.  As an extension to traditional triathlon I hope to one day get back into mountain biking and participate in an Xterra Triathlon.

Craig: Jack, thank you so much for sharing your story and for being such a good volunteer.  It is volunteers like you who get the most joy out of their TCSD membership.  I have a feeling you are going to see your Ironman 70.3 finish time start with a “5” very soon.  You got this!

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

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