Legacy Triathlon

Wade Grow and Craig before the race.

Jeremy Oury, Craig and Wade Grow after the race.

Craig with Mike Long on the podium.

On July 20th I raced the inaugural Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach, CA.  This venue is the proposed course for the 2028 Olympic Games so this race will only grow bigger over the coming years.  USA Triathlon produced the race and they poured a lot of resources into it.  The athletes were well taken care of and my experience was so good that I have already registered for 2020.

Triathlons often represent a reunion of old friends.  The night before the race I had dinner with my friend of 20 years – Wade Grow and his wife Mary and son Darwin.  The Grows drove in from Arizona to escape the heat.  Wade and I met at Nationals in 1999 at St. Joseph, Missouri.  They treated me to a wonderful dinner.

My accomodations were perfect.  I stayed in a seedy hotel 1 mile from the start so I was able to ride my bike to the venue on race morning.  It was awesome riding my bike past the stressed out athletes in cars looking for a parking spot.

The 750 meter (0.46 mile) swim was in a relatively protected cove so the ocean water was calm.  The course was pretty basic – an in-water start with 2 turns.  I had a good swim as I was 4th out of the water in 12:00 (1:37/100 meters).

The bike course was 2 laps covering 18.5K (11.5 miles) over a mostly flat route.  The only hills were some bridges and entrance ramps.  I was pleased with my effort on the bike as my split was 32:20 (21.5 mph).  That was 7th fastest and it dropped me down to 8th place.

The 5K (3.1 miles) run course was an out and back on the concrete ocean boardwalk.  I had the fastest run on the day – 19:13 (6:12/mile).  I caught Wade pretty early on the run.  He had a good race and finished 8th.  I knew the 2 fastest guys ahead were Jeremy Oury and Mike Long.  I have raced Jeremy many times over the years and, in fact, I go to church with his brother Dan.  But I had never raced Mike so I did not even know what he looked like.  At the run turnaround I was able to see that Jeremy was about 30 seconds ahead of me.  Somehow I managed to catch Jeremy with less than a half mile to go, but I could not catch Mike.  Mike was 1st, I was 18 seconds behind in 2nd and Jeremy was 17 seconds behind me in 3rd.  My finish time was 1:08:35 – 2nd/36 men age 55-59 and 15th/648 overall finishers.

Triathlons also represent an opportunity to make new friends.  I had a good time hanging out with Mike at the Awards Ceremony and I look forward to racing him in the future.

Click on this link to see my race photos.


Living the life…

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Glen Ellyn Freedom Four Mile Run

1st place men’s 50-59 age group.

Mom and Smokey.

On July 4th I went back to my hometown in Illinois to race the Glen Ellyn Freedom Four Mile Run.  This was the 17th time I have done the race.  I had fun as always on the hilly course.  They changed the course this year so it ended up closer to 3.75 miles.  I ran 23:32, placed 1st out of 71 men age 50-59 and 27th out of 912 overall finishers.

This trip really was not about running the race.  This trip was all about giving my 98 year old Mom some news that I was very anxious about.  In mid-June, after much prayer, my sisters and I decided that we needed to move Mom to a higher level of care at Beacon Hill and we were going to break that news to Mom on 7/4.  For the past 10 years Mom has been able to live independently at Beacon Hill.  But especially in the past year it has become apparent that she needs more care.  Mom chose Beacon Hill 10+ years ago because it offered such levels of care.  We were just hoping that she’d remember that and make it easy on us.  Mom took the news exceptionally well.  In retrospect, I think giving her the news was harder on us than it was on Mom.  I’m very thankful for that.

On 7/16 Mom moved into the Health Center at Beacon Hill.  The move went very well.  For the next 6-12 months Mom will probably have a roommate in the Health Center while she waits for a private room to become available.  She seems happy with her 1st roommate so we are very thankful.  She is getting more exercise and social interaction so that is also very good news.

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: June 2019 – Maggie Riley-Hagan

Maggie on a bike ride in Maui.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I recently had the good fortune of sitting down and talking triathlon with TCSD member Maggie Riley-Hagan.  Maggie is a real pioneer for the women athletes of today.  Maggie did the TCSD and USA proud by recently winning a Bronze medal at the ITU Aquabike World Championships in Spain.  I know you will enjoy getting to know Maggie.

Craig: What sports did you do through your college years?

Maggie: I grew up in Dallas, Texas in the 1950’s, when it was a relatively small city, with large, rural land areas close by.  My first love in the outdoors world was horses, as my grandfather’s hobby was raising quarter horses and appaloosas on a farm he rented.  I spent as much time as I could on the farm, riding bareback through ponds and fields by myself at age 8.  I was encouraged to enter some rodeos, where I participated in western horsemanship, as well as barrel racing (a timed event doing a cloverleaf pattern around 3 barrels) and pole bending (a timed event weaving in and out of poles). I won my first trophy at age 8 for the “flag race” (sprinting on horseback to the other end of the arena and grabbing a flag sticking up in a barrel, and racing back). Even today when I ride a bike, it reminds me of the feel and joy of horseback riding.

I loved running and all sports, but there were few opportunities for young women back then. At school I would always race the boys, and never lost a foot race until I was 12, I guess when puberty set in :)!!  I would beg to play baseball with the boys at recess, and finally one day they let me play, and I hit a home run. After that I was included in the baseball games at the playground.

My grandfather had to give up the horse hobby due to poor health, when I was 12. My parents helped me look for another way to spend my time. That summer I tried swimming, track and tennis.  I was on a swim team for a couple of months in which I participated in my first competitive swimming events.  I found a local track team, and won the state 440 yard race, and the running long jump.  I would have loved continuing all of the activities, but my parents asked me to choose one sport. We settled on tennis, as that was the only sport for girls in junior high and high school, and I could ride my bike to the local park courts.  We got my first racket with “green stamps”, which you collected back then when you bought enough groceries.

I played tennis throughout high school, and won the Texas State Tennis High School Championship.  In the summers from age 13-18, I played the national junior tennis circuit, which allowed me to travel throughout the US for tournaments, often by myself or with other players from Texas. I was a nationally ranked junior tennis player. Fortunately, Dallas had a very supportive tennis program, which helped sponsor me, as my family would not have been able to pay for these tournaments and trips.  It was such a wonderful experience, not only from the view of sports, but to be able to travel alone as a teenager, and gain confidence, and knowledge about other parts to the country.

My senior year in high school, there was finally a track team for girls.  The tryouts consisted of “who wants to run a race on the track team?”  I volunteered to run the 880, running in my tennis shoes, and tennis clothes, and won the district and regional meets.  After I qualified for the state meet, one of the coaches, offered me a pair of spike track shoes for the state meet.  With my new track shoes, but still running in my tennis clothes, I placed 5th in the state meet.

Craig: You played tennis in college at SMU in the early 1970’s.  How did your experience on the women’s team compare to the men’s team and how were you treated as a female athlete?

Maggie: After graduating from high school in Dallas in 1970, I attended Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.  My mother was employed at SMU, which allowed me to attend tuition free.  Fortunately, there was a women’s tennis team, but the experience was quite different than that of the men’s team. We had separate tennis facilities. We had concrete courts with metal fences that we shared with the students and recreational players.  The men had a state of the art facility with beautifully maintained courts and a stadium. One day in the middle of the hot Texas summer, all of the recreational courts were taken. It was probably 97 degrees and no one was on the men’s court.  I went there to practice my serve, and was told by the men’s coach that I should “go home and do my ironing”.  I did not respond, and just kept serving, and he quietly departed. Though no more words were spoken, I felt that I gained his respect.

At that time, there were no scholarships for women in sports.  We bought all our own equipment, rackets, balls, paid our own entry fees to tournaments, and drove ourselves to various tournaments, accompanied by our coach.  Our team finished as high as 5th in the nation one year at the NAIA Championships. My senior year, 1973-4, Title IX came in, which mandated scholarships, and equal facilities and equipment for women.  It was a big change for us, being able to travel to bigger tournaments, and practice at the better facility.

As I have gotten older, I see the pluses and minuses of our situation. While we did not receive scholarships nor equipment, we were able to focus on our studies as a first priority. As a science major, I was able to take courses with afternoon labs, miss a tennis practice here and there, and still be able to play #1 on our tennis team. We played because we loved the game.  It seems a lot of pressure now for those on scholarships to be able to be a good scholar as well. I think that a good balance is the answer.

Craig: You played professional tennis in Europe after college.  What was your lifestyle like in those years?

Maggie: My sophomore year in college, I attended a semester abroad in Spain. It was a fabulous experience, and while I was there, I sought every opportunity to play tennis as well.  I made many tennis friends, some of whom I still stay in touch with today. I also learned about the “Spanish Summer Tennis Circuit”, which is a series of tournaments that take place throughout Spain. So after I graduated college in May of 1974 (double major in Spanish and Biology, Phi Beta Kappa), I decided to pursue my dream of playing tennis full time by moving to Spain shortly thereafter.  It was a fabulous time of my life, as the tournaments usually took place at beautiful resort towns in Spain located on amazing beaches. After that summer, I decided to stay in Spain and teach at a tennis club. I played tournaments on the weekend to make some extra money.  I lived over a bar, close to the tennis club, and push started my old truck every day by running around the town square.

With the encouragement of my friends, I decided to expand my tournament experience into France. I landed a teaching job at a club outside of Marseilles, France, and despite not knowing any French, decided to move to Marseilles. I obtained a French textbook, and had informal lessons at noon every day with a 90 year old women, who still played at the club every day.  I lived in a farm house on the property, taught tennis, and played on the club team, while also playing weekend tournaments. My workouts often involved running along the “calanques”, the limestone cliffs found along the Mediterranean coast. Our team won the Team Championship of France, and we all received a medal from the City of Marseilles for our accomplishment, something I cherish to this day.

At that time, the professional women’s circuit in the US was just getting started, so playing in Europe was a great option.  While there was not much prize money, we were given travel expenses, housing, food, and extra money if we won. In addition to Spain and France, I played in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, The Netherlands, and England, as well as a 6 week circuit in Brazil.

Men and women played the same tournaments and we stayed in homes or lovely hotels. Besides the great tennis competition, there were many social events, great food, and we had a lot of fun, just visiting and getting to know people from all over the world. In addition, we were able to experience the rich history and art of the various places where we played. My goal was really just to have enough money to get to the next tournament.

Craig: How highly ranked were you and what were some of the big tournaments you played in?

Maggie: About 1978 I was invited to play on a club team (after winning their tournament) in Montrouge, France, just outside of Paris, which I accepted. There, I lived at an apartment on the premises, taught tennis, played on the club team, and traveled Europe to various tournaments. I also was able to attend school in Paris, and received a “Certificat en Francais” (a French language competency certificate) from the Institut Catholique in Paris. As part of our training, the tennis team ran in the “Cross de Figaro”,a cross country race for amateurs held in Paris every year. Again, my tennis shoes and clothes served me well, as I won the women’s race. As a tennis player, I was ranked #5 in France, which afforded me a lot of perks and opportunities to play in bigger tournaments in Europe as well as in Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US Open.  I believe that my best world ranking was around #95.

Craig: What are your favorite memories from those years?

Maggie: It is hard to say what would be my favorite memories from those years–so many!! Mostly, an overall gratitude for the experience of being able to pursue my passion of playing tennis and traveling–meeting so many interesting and wonderful people.  Also receiving such hospitality where ever I went.  I remember playing in Turkey, where representatives from the US Embassy came to watch us play.  There were players from USSR. I was shocked when they told me that this tournament was their first time to be allowed to play outside of their country.  It was also Ramadan during that tournament, and I was amazed at the dedication of some of the players to be able to play all day in the hot sun, and not eat or drink. Again the hospitality and warmth shown to us by the Turkish people were very touching.

I will never forget my travel experience after playing in the finals of the Team Championship in Bayonne, France, which is on the far Western coast of France. As soon as we finished playing our last match, I had quickly boarded a train to Paris, in order to catch an airplane to London, to play in my first Wimbledon the next day.  About halfway to Paris I remembered that I had left my passport with the team captain. I got off of the train in a remote town at the next stop, called the captain from a pay phone at the hotel in Bayonne (remember no cell phones back then), who then instructed me to wait at the small train station where I was located. She then went to the train station in Bayonne, handed my passport to a train conductor headed my way, who somehow found me waiting in the middle of the night at the small train station, and gave me my passport. I did make it to London on time to play, but probably not my best match. Again, the kindness of friends and strangers helped make my dreams come true, as playing in Wimbledon is the ultimate dream of any tennis player.

Craig: How did you meet your husband?

Maggie: After several years of living in France and traveling in Europe, I was also now frequently flying to the US as the US pro circuit ramped up. I began having a lot of back injuries. Although, I still enjoyed my life as a tennis player and coach, I knew that it was time to look ahead to another career.  I moved back to the US in 1979 to pursue a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science at the University of North Texas (UNT), in Denton, just outside of Dallas. I was able to work as a tennis pro at the local tennis club to pay my tuition and living expenses.  While working on my Master’s degree I met the love of my life, Raymond Donald Hagan (Don), who had a doctorate in Exercise Science. I had come to the Aerobics Center in Dallas (founded by Kenneth Cooper, the “father” of aerobics) to turn in a research paper. The prior evening, we were doing an experiment in Environmental Physiology, in which I, as the subject, would take my temperature and other vital signs before and after sitting in a hot tub.  The only problem was that everyone left and they forgot I was sitting in there. After about an hour I decided to get out, quite warm and dizzy,which led to me turning in my paper the next day.  When I was asking directions to my professor’s office the following day, Dr. Hagan ask me about my experiment. When I explained what had happened, he said, “What were you trying to do, beat the test?”  I thought WOW this guy already knows who I am!!!  We were married in 1981, and enjoyed an active life style together. Due to my back issues, we started doing master’s swimming together, and would run in local 5k and 10K races for fun.

Craig: How did you get your first bike and what did you learn through that experience?

Maggie: During this time, I also became interested in triathlons, but I had no bike to ride. There was a local bike race, with a bicycle as a prize for the first place man and woman. So I hopped on my husband’s then 15 year old Schwinn, two sizes too big, and of course in my tennis clothes and tennis shoes. I had no experience in bike racing, but was doing pretty well, fairly close to the front, when it began raining, and I slipped and fell. Just then some women in a pack of riders, dressed in spandex passed me; laughing at my old Schwinn, tennis clothes, tennis shoes, and lack of proper bike clothes and equipment.  I thought–that is NOT GOOD sportsmanship. My Dad had taught me to be a gracious winner and gracious loser. I got right back up, and off I went with determination. I passed them at the very end, motivated mostly to make a point that their behavior was unacceptable. I won the race and the bike, a steel Bianchi, which I rode for years, until I got my current bike in 2005. I can still see the shocked expression on their faces!!

Craig: What are your earliest memories of triathlon?

Maggie: I believe my first triathlon was at Texas A&M during the mid-1980’s, in which the course was swim (in a pool), run and then bike at the end. I also remember being at Lance Armstrong’s first triathlon in Texas, when he was a young teenager. At the end of my race, my husband was so excited that some young kid had crushed the field. It was good to be part of the beginning of triathlon.

Craig: How did you end up in medicine?

Maggie: While finishing up my Master’s in Exercise Science, my husband encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine.  I was accepted to medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School (UTSW) in Dallas, where I began my studies in 1984. I finished my Pediatric residency in 1991, also at UTSW in Dallas. During medical school and residency, we had 2 children. While I stayed active during this time, usually running at lunch, or swimming when I could, competition was sporadic, as my priority was my family and my studies. I am so grateful for having a husband who was so supportive and encouraging of everything that I wanted to do.

Shortly after finishing my residency in 1991, we moved to San Diego, where my husband had accepted a job in California with the Naval Health Research Center.  I started working as a pediatrician at a community clinic in Escondido and at Palomar Hospital. I also finished a residency in Sports Medicine through the family practice department at UCSD, and moonlighted at the Urgent Care for Rady Children’s Hospital. During this time we had 2 more children, so my workouts usually consisted of 30-45 minutes at lunch, just to stay in shape, and competition was not a priority. I occasionally did an event for fun.

Craig: You had a 3 year grant from the state of California focusing on childhood obesity.  What did you learn from that experience?

Maggie: In the early 2000’s I obtained a 3 year grant from the state of California focusing on childhood obesity. It was a great program, and we had psychologists, nutritionists, social workers, and nurses, as well has several pediatricians at the clinic participating. Our patient population consisted mostly of socially and economically disadvantaged families, who embraced the program with great enthusiasm. Information about a healthy lifestyle was provided to all overweight children and their families at our clinic, but only those really wanting to make changes and willing to invest the time were enrolled into the program. I was also able to get memberships at the local YMCA for our participants, and their families.

Our focus was on “healthy living”, and not weight loss per say. As young children will grow taller, and need time to develop life style changes, we do not promote large amounts of weight loss in a younger age group. For older adult-like teens, weight loss might be a focus.

Craig: What can we do as Americans to solve the childhood obesity problem?

Maggie: Many hours of education are needed to provide information about preparing healthy meals and to communicate the benefits of exercise. Many parents do not really know what constitutes a healthy meal and appropriate proportions.  We would have pot lucks in which the families would share healthy meals every week, based on their increasing knowledge of nutrition. The parents had to participate in the exercise program with their children.  We would have several sessions a week, some at the clinic and some at the YMCA.

Our program included pre- and post-testing of fats, lipids, and glucose, as well as markers for diabetes, and pre-diabetes. We did see encouraging improvement in the lab results as the children participated in the program. As the program grew, we also had volunteers, former participants and parents, who would help introduce newcomers to the program, encourage them and hold them accountable.

Our program was enormously successful, and I would say that most all of the children and families made great strides toward healthier living, and many lost weight.  Unfortunately after 3 years our grant money ended, and so did the program.

I am very concerned about the youth of today.  I believe more education and programs similar to the one that we had could be helpful.  Encouraging families to eat foods from the earth, instead of processed foods or fast food is a good beginning. It is really important that the whole family participate in all aspects of creating a healthier living environment for the children. Families cannot just point a finger at an overweight child, and say “don’t eat that”, and “go outside and play”. Walking even 15-30 minutes 3 times a week as a family can be a good start and very beneficial. My philosophy is that any healthy change that the family unit makes is great, no matter how small it seems. Also “decreasing inactivity” is essential, meaning limiting time on the phone, computer and video games.  Having children have a passion to pursue, whether it be sports, music, art, theatre, dance, animals, or the environment can help direct children toward a healthy lifestyle.

Craig: The mid-2000’s presented some major challenges for you.  What happened?

Maggie: In 2004, we moved back to Texas, the Houston area, when my husband took a job at NASA, heading up the Exercise Physiology program at NASA, and designing exercise programs and equipment for the International Space Station.  I took a year off from work to help get the children settled, and look for work.

As a way to meet people and work out, we joined the YMCA, where I met a fun group of people who encouraged me to get back into triathlons. I started participating again in triathlons that year, and was introduced to open water swimming in lakes (the triathlons I had done previously were in pools), which I really enjoyed. I took a job as a pediatric hospitalist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas in 2005.

My life was turned upside down on May 12, 2007, when my husband died suddenly of a heart attack, while driving our 10 year old son to his baseball game. My 92 year old mother had just moved in with us 2 weeks earlier. The day after he died was Mother’s Day, and my flowers that he had preordered arrived on Mother’s Day.  I keep that in my heart always to remind me what a thoughtful and loving husband he was, and how fortunate I was to have him in my life for 26 years. I was suddenly a widow, with one child in college, 3 minor children at home, as well as a 92 year old mother in my care.

I must say that without the help of my “nanny”, Consuelo, who has been with us for 30 years, I could not have cared for everyone.

I attended Don’s funeral on a Wednesday, and decided to do the triathlon that I had already signed up for the following Saturday. While I usually made the podium in local races, I just wanted to honor his memory, and finish, as I knew that he would have wanted me to.  It puts in perspective how meaningless those medals and trophies we receive can be. After no sleep for days, I did finish, no recollection of my time or finish. I just remember feeling stronger, and thinking “ok, that was something I did that sort of feels normal”, I can do this–I can raise 4 children, work, be a good mother, and take care of my own mother. As odd as it might sound, finishing the triathlon was the beginning of being able to rise up to the challenges that I faced.

We made a family decision in August of 2007, to move back to the San Diego area, where we would have more family support.  I began working part time, in order to have time with the children, for Kaiser Permanente and Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego. I also decided to continue to pursue training for local sprint triathlons, as a way to stay fit, and stay mentally focused on caring for my family and working. I participated in events in and around San Diego, and at times in Northern California.  I got my first introduction to swimming in the ocean, as well as using clip in bike pedals. As my training knowledge increased I became competitive in local races, being lucky enough to score some podium spots in my age group.

Craig: In 2012 you broke your neck.  How did that happen and how has that changed your life?

Maggie: In  September 2012, while bike riding, I hit a big bump in the road, and suffered a fracture of 2 vertebra in my neck, requiring placement of a titanium plate and bone graft in my neck. I had to take 3 months off of work, and my only exercise during that time was walking and eventually stationary biking. I was not allowed to lift my arms above my head for one month, leading to some major upper body decrease in strength.

I slowly recovered, starting with a few swimming laps with a snorkel, and working my way back into shape. My first triathlon after that was in March of 2013 in San Diego.  I was so happy to compete, and just full of joy and exhilaration of being out there, that I had absolutely no expectations. To my surprise, I had a great race, and won my age group (60-64).

Craig: At about the same time you broke your neck, my wife Laurie crashed on her bike and suffered 4 pelvic fractures.  One of my all-time favorite stories was the one where you and Laurie showed up at 24 Hour Fitness to work out together – you with your neck brace and Laurie on crutches.  The reception person at that club must have thought you 2 women were nuts!

You started doing some of the more high profile triathlons in 2015.  You raced Sprint Nationals in Milwaukee that year.  What was that experience like for you?

Maggie: In 2015, I went to my first National Sprint Triathlon race, which took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I was quite intimidated by the competition, hoping just not to finish at the bottom of my age group. How could I, with no real competitive swimming background, a 10 year old $450 aluminum road bike, and running 10 miles a week to keep down the running injuries compete against these women? Many of the women had a long history of national and international competition as well as state of the art carbon fiber triathlon bikes. My philosophy however, is always just to do my own race, focusing on keeping a good pace in all of the disciplines.  By finishing 7th in my age group (60-64) I qualified to go to Mexico for the World Age Group Championships in 2016.  However, I fell off of my bike and broke my arm about 2 months before the race, so I was not able to participate that year.

As the children have grown into adulthood, I have been able to travel more, both for work and triathlons.  I have been fortunate enough to work the past 4 years for 3-5 months at a time in Maui, Hawaii.  In Maui, I really became comfortable with ocean swimming, after being embraced by a wonderful “pod” of experienced ocean swimmers.  Every Sunday was a magical experience, where we would swim about 2 miles, while enjoying the beautiful clear ocean scenery of Maui.

With encouragement from my friends, I decided to try to qualify again for the World Age Group Sprint Triathlon, which would take place in Australia in 2018.  Figuring out the qualifying process can be a bit daunting, as I had to go to Florida in November of 2017 to compete. It was about 95 degrees with 95% humidity. The swim (one of my stronger disciplines) was cancelled and the race became a duathlon with a run, bike, run. Although I had not trained for, nor competed in a duathlon in 15 years, I gave it my best shot, finished second, and qualified for Australia. I figured growing up in the Texas heat and humidity was my best advantage in that race!!

Going to Australia in 2018 was a fabulous experience.  One of my sons, Colin, now age 24, accompanied me.  I finished 5th in that race, again quite surprised, and also realized, that my strengths were the swim and bike.  Thus I decided to train for the Aquabike World Championships which were to be held in Spain in 2019. It was an opportunity to return to a country that I loved, with many great memories, and compete again.  Also being fluent in Spanish, I would be comfortable with the language.

Craig: Congratulations on placing 5th at the 2018 ITU Draft Legal Sprint Triathlon in Australia.  And even bigger congratulations on winning a Bronze Medal at the ITU Aquabike World Championships in Spain a few weeks ago.  What was the Spain experience like for you?

Maggie: The qualifying race was again in Florida, hot, humid and flat, a 1.2 mile (2000 meters) swim and a 56 mile (94 K) bike ride, a pretty big stretch for me, who usually did only the sprint triathlons. I discovered, to my surprise, while I was in Florida that if I were to qualify, that the race in Spain would be even further, a 3000 meter (1.8 miles) swim and a 112K (67.2 mile) bike with 6000 feet of climbing. That would really require an enormous increase in my training!! I finished 2nd in my age group in Miami, qualifying for a spot in Spain!

I was fortunate enough to again be working 4 days a week in Maui from January-March of 2019.  It was the perfect setting to train for the race in Spain, which took place early in the season in May. Swimming with my friends in the ocean every week, sometimes with huge waves and currents, and bike riding in Maui, which is VERY hilly, gave me confidence that I could feel strong in the Spanish race. Most of all, training in Maui was fun, and beautiful.

Going to Spain was the fulfillment of another dream, as I had always wanted to represent the US in an athletic contest. I was very proud to be on Team USA, and relished meeting athletes from all over the US, and other parts of the world.  It was also a reminder from my youth what a great experience it is to travel internationally as an athlete. Again, I was lucky enough to have my son, Colin, accompany me, his support and encouragement being invaluable—his father would have been very proud of him!

The swim was in a beautiful river in Spain, quite chilly about 58 degrees.  Due to current in the river, and the cold temperature, the swim was shortened to 1500 meters.  I was second out of the water, and then began the 3 loops of the gorgeous and hilly 67 mile bike course. Again, I just tried to do my own race, and finished 3rd in my age group (65-69), getting passed on the last downhill by a British woman, with incredible hill descending cycling skills. Standing on the podium that evening, with an American flag wrapped around me, and with other Americans as well, was a very emotional experience.  I also was reminded how fortunate I am to be able to compete, and also that it always helps to be at the younger end of your age group!! I can’t wait to be 69, so I can “age up” to compete in the 70-74 year old age group!

I must thank my “pod” of swimmers in Maui, Chris, my message therapist, Richard and Ben, my biking buddies, my friends Laurie and Craig, and all of my friends and coaches at the Carlsbad Masters for all of their encouragement as I was training.

I see being active as an extension of leading a healthy life style. For me competition is always about having fun, doing my best, and accepting the outcome.  As the saying goes in Desiderata– “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself”. So I encourage everyone to get outside, have fun, and see where your own personal journey might take you.

Craig: Maggie, thank you very much for sharing your story.  I have wanted to interview you for a few years and it was well worth the wait.  Laurie and I are honored that you are our friend and TCSD is fortunate to have you as a member of our great club.  Good luck in your future races and everything else you do.

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

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TCSD Conversation: April 2019 – Danny Arnold

Danny at finish line of his “comeback race” – 2019 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I recently had the pleasure of talking triathlon with Danny Arnold.  Danny is one of TCSD’s Co-Sponsorship Directors so he is playing an active role in shaping the future of our club.  In addition, Danny has built up an impressive resume of marathon and triathlon races over the last 10 years.  I am very confident you will enjoy getting to know this great guy!

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Danny: I grew up in Upstate New York in a town called Averill Park right outside the capital of the state, Albany, New York.  While I was growing up, I played Little League Baseball. I played both third base and fill in pitcher.  My large extended family, especially my father and uncles were really into sports, both baseball and football.  They had a local team called the Polecats and as a younger participant of the team, I was the official bat boy.  We also used to play pickup football every Sunday when my family would gather for our weekly Sunday outings.

Craig: How did your endurance sports career get off the ground?

Danny: That is a funny story.  While I was busy and preoccupied with building a very successful Information Technology in the Healthcare Industry Consulting Company, I suddenly realized that on the my 49th Birthday in September of 2006, that I needed to set a goal and get fit by my 50th Birthday.  So, I embarked on a regular training routine that included strength training and cardio weekly.  That sparked my interest in running so in January 1, 2007 as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to run a marathon before my 50th Birthday that year.  I found a local running group called Team in Training that supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I joined the group, then fundraised and trained with them for 5 months and then ran my first marathon in San Diego that year in June 2007, the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon.

Craig: What about Team in Training resonated with you to the point where you took on some leadership roles?

Danny: I was so impressed by everyone I met that was involved with Team in Training and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society while training with them that first year.  Their passion to make a difference in helping people that have been inflicted with a blood disorder was very inspiring for me.  I immediately returned home from the San Diego Marathon in 2007 and started fundraising and training for another marathon that year, the Marine Corps Marathon in October in Washington DC.  Soon after I became a Team in Training Run Coach and continued fundraising and racing for Team in Training right up until I moved to SoCal in 2016.  In 2010, I started participating in their cycling and triathlon teams as well.  I also became a board member for the Upstate New York and Vermont Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Through the years, I helped fundraise close to $50,000 for the cause.

Craig: What inspired you to become a triathlete?

Danny:  I had been running marathons regularly for 3 years since I started in 2007.  My friends were always trying to convince me to try triathlons.  So finally, in 2009 they dragged me to Lake Placid where I signed up to be a volunteer at Ironman Lake Placid.  I was so inspired by the events during that weekend that I stayed until Monday after the race and signed up to train and race for the following year. I trained really hard and one year later, my first triathlon ever ended up to be Ironman Lake Placid 2010 which started the journey of participating in 12 Ironman races to qualify for the Ironman Kona Legacy Lottery.  I have done 8 Ironman Lake Placid, 2 Ironman Arizona, 1 Ironman Florida, 1 Ironman Texas.  To this day, Ironman Lake Placid has always been my favorite which is why my 12th Ironman finish occurred there in July 2018.

Craig: You have done over 40 marathons and over 50 triathlons over the years.  What have been some of your favorite destination races?

Danny: My favorite marathons have been, of course, my first San Diego Rock ‘Roll because everyone loves their first marathon.  I have run that race five times and coached it in 2010 as a Team In Training run coach.  Some of my other favorites have been Disney World Races in Orlando especially the Dopey Challenge which you run a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, Half Marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday.  I have run Disney World races spanning more than six years.  I also love destination races like Dublin, Ireland, New York City, Big Sur, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Marine Corps Marathon.

My favorite triathlons will always be Lake Placid as I have developed many relationships  in that town and a close second is Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant which I have done 3 times.  I just love the beauty of both those locations and courses.

Craig: What are some of the funniest things you have seen in endurance sports?

Danny: Some of the funniest things I have seen in this sport still make me laugh today.  They all have to do with wetsuits.  We have all been there when first learning how to put on your wetsuit for an open water swim.  I have seen people wearing them backwards, I have seen them wearing their wetsuit while biking as well.  I don’t know why, but to this day, those sightings make me laugh.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Danny: After relocating to San Diego in August 2016 with my partner Tim Booth, we immediately joined TCSD so I could continue in my journey to get to 12 Ironman finishes to qualify for my Ironman Kona Legacy slot.  It was amazing right from the start, the people I met, the camaraderie of the group, the opportunities that the club offers.  TCSD has also allowed me to develop so many lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever.  We are all so fortunate to be part of such a great triathlon club.  The monthly meetings, the weekly workouts, the TCSD races, the training and coaching, social events, and sponsorship discounts are invaluable assets to all of us.

Craig: What have you done to get involved as a TCSD member?

Danny:  In 2017 I was the Expo Coordinator for the tri club.  I try to make myself available based on my race schedule to volunteer whenever necessary.  This year, I’ve also taken on the role of Co-Director of Sponsorships with two other Co-Directors, Marc Sosnowski and Kevin Fayad.  We’ve created a great team.

Craig: What are your goals as TCSD Sponsorship Director and how can other club members help you achieve these goals?

Danny: The goals of the sponsorship director team is to continue to negotiate discounts from our sponsors to make available to our members. So please members, let us know if there is a company that you’d like for us to reach out to and we would be more than happy to make that happen.

Craig: You retired in 2012.  What did you do for a living?

Danny: I have been working in the Information Technology in Healthcare industry since graduating from college.  First for a hospital in Upstate New York and then moving into consulting soon afterwards.  I built healthcare vertical market consulting services for professional services firms until 2001.  In 2002, I co-founded my own Information Technology in Healthcare Consulting Services Company called Vitalize Consulting Solutions.  The business grew very quickly and 9 years later it had become the second largest privately owned Information Technology in Healthcare Consulting Company in the United States.  In 2011, Vitalize Consulting was acquired by SAIC/LEIDOS and today is part of Leidos Health.  I worked with SAIC/LEIDOS on the transition in 2011 and then retired in 2012.

Craig: You experienced a very severe cycling accident in October 2018.  What happened and what have you learned from this experience?

Danny: I was training for my 13th Ironman in Arizona last year when on October 13, 2018, the day of Ironman Kona, I was in a horrific bike accident while on a training ride.  I was rushed unconscious to Scripps Hospital Trauma Center with a cracked skull and hematoma of the brain.  I spent the first week in the ICU in an induced coma and then came out of it 6 days later.  I spent a total of two weeks going through rehab and then three months working with neurologists, cognitive therapists, and many other specialists. Basically, I had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and after the first three months, and after doctors gave me the go ahead, I did my first Half Marathon in Carlsbad in January this year as my comeback race and I felt so blessed, grateful and thankful all at the same time.  I’m now almost 6 months post-accident, and I’m back to doing the things I love which is training and racing endurance sports again.  As I look back on this incident, I was amazed and very thankful for the outpouring of support that I felt from all my friends, family and this community. I‘ve realized now that I’m at peace with the struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength which was cultivating mindfulness to monitor my mental attitude.  I focused on things I was grateful for and didn’t dwell on the past as I forged ahead with my recovery.

Craig: Who have been the most influential people that have shaped you into the man you are today?

Danny:  I grew up with very loving parents, especially my mother. She has been the greatest influence throughout my life.  Her incredible loving support of anything I have done has been unwavering.  She taught me how to be the well-rounded loving, people pleasing human being that I am today.  The other two people in my life that I am incredibly blessed with and that have made me the person I am today are my two sons, Connor 27 and Nick 24. The proudest moment for me is telling others that they are my sons.

Craig: What are your future goals in endurance sports?

Danny: I am participating for the first time this year at the Boston Marathon which I qualified for in May 2018 at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in Ventura. I am very excited to be racing one of my bucket list races this year as well, Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in June in San Francisco.  I was surprised and very pleased to be accepted after my first entry into their lottery process.   I’m also excited to be racing my 13th Ironman at Ironman Canada in Whistler this July 28th.  Most importantly, I have earned a Legacy spot at the Ironman World Championships in Kona for 10/10/2020.  IM Kona has been a goal I have been focused on since Ironman announce the Kona Legacy program in 2011.  WOOHOO!!!

Craig: Danny, thank you so much for sharing your story.  I knew it would be a winner!  Congrats on your successful return to triathlon at the Oceanside 70.3 and good luck at Kona and everywhere beyond!

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

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San Diego International Triathlon

Before SDIT with friends Don and Diane Ridgway.

With friend and athlete I have coached since 2015 – Susan Powell.

Craig and Mike Plumb – 1st and 2nd place, men’s 55-59.

On June 23rd I raced in one of my favorite local triathlons, San Diego International Triathlon (SDIT).  I always feel blessed by God every day to be healthy enough to do the sport I love, but this day took that to a new level.  On May 23rd I was at a cross roads with my right knee.  I had just learned that I had a torn meniscus.  Not a total show stopper, but it did/does cause plenty of concern for racing in 2019.  On 5/23 I took the advice of my doctor to go the route of a cortisone shot, rather than surgery.  For the next week I questioned my decision, but every day the inflammation in the knee went down and I started feeling better.  The cortisone shot was a big success – I was able to put in some very solid training for the 4 weeks leading up to SDIT.

The day before the race I ran into another snag.  I had trouble with my front race wheel.  There was not enough time to re-glue the tire so my friend Dan Rock loaned me his front race wheel.  That wheel was sweet – you gotta love ceramic bearings!  It is good to have friends.  Let’s face it – Dan Rock rocks!

The 1K (0.62 mile) swim in Spanish Landing went well.  This was my first race in my new Xterra wetsuit and it felt great!  I swam 14:17 (1:26/100 meters), putting me in 4th place.

The 30K (18.6 mile) bike also went well, thanks to Dano’s wheel.  The bike course features a climb up to Cabrillo Monument.  I always notice the many headstones in the cemetery, but this year it seemed like there were twice as many.  I know that is impossible, but I took it as another reminder of how blessed I am that men and women have died for the freedoms we get to enjoy today.  My bike split was 52:46 (21.2 mph).  That was the 7th best bike split and it put me in 7th place.  Unbeknownst to me, but Mike Plumb was in 1st place and was 6:16 ahead.  I’d have to run at least 1 minute/mile faster than Mike to win.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run went better than I could have hoped.  In 2018 my split was 40:04.  In 2019 it was 40:46 (6:34/mile).  I had the fastest run of the day in my age group by 4:15.  I caught Mike near the 5 mile mark and went on to win by 1:20.  My finish time was 1:51:06, compared to 1:48:25 in 2018.  I placed 1st out of 25 men in the 55-59 age group and 30th out of 420 overall finishers.  I was very happy with the win, but absolutely ecstatic about still being able to race reasonably fast.

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


Living the life…

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123rd Boston Marathon

Celebrating our finish with dinner at Legal Seafood.

On April 15th I ran the 123rd Boston Marathon.  God has blessed us so much in our lives as He has enabled me and my wife Laurie to now have finished Boston 17x’s and 23x’s, respectively.

Training was a bit more challenging this year as I have been struggling with sore knees.  I had lots of massages and daily would roll out my quads so I did everything possible to get to the start line.  I hope to complete 20 Boston Marathons, but time will tell.

Rain was in the forecast leading up to the race, but we had good weather for the actual race.  It rained as we boarded the bus at the Boston Commons at 7:15am, but it had stopped by the time we got to Hopkinton at 8:30am.  We were lucky to leave Boston when we did as we heard they temporarily stopped letting athletes board buses because of lightening.  The Athletes Village was soggy, but much more pleasant than 2018 as we did not have to scramble for shelter.  And it was much warmer!  By the time the race started it was over 60 degrees and it climbed into the high 60’s and was very humid by the time we got to the finish line.  The race was a sweat fest for me, but I love it when it is warm.

I had a good race as I finished in 3:24:54 (7:49/mile), 2 minutes faster than in 2018.  I’m a pretty strong runner, but it is always so humbling to see how I stack up against those who run Boston.  I was 206 out of 1,552 men age 55-59, 6,245 out of 14,662 men and 7,762 out of 26,632 overall.  I wore bib # 14959 which is based on an athlete’s qualifying time.  I always pride myself in “beating my bib” as 7762 is much better than 14959.

Laurie also had a good race as she finished in 3:41:16 to finish 125th in her age group.  We were both part of Wave 2 which started at 10:25am.  Laurie had a faster qualifying time so she was seeded about 4,000 runners ahead of me.  The Boston Marathon is such a crowded race course that once the race started, we never saw one another, even when I passed her.

2 news stories from this year’s Boston Marathon captivated my attention.  First is Joan Benoit.  Joan won the women’s race in 1979 with a time of 2:35.  Her goal this year (40 years later) as a 61 year old was to finish within 40 minutes of her 1979 time.  Joan finished in 3:04 (7:02/mile) to win her age group.

The second is Tedy Bruschi.  Tedy is a 3x Super Bowl Champion who had a 13 year NFL career.  Tedy suffered a stroke in 2005, but miraculously recovered and was able to play in the NFL for a few more years.  In 2005 Tedy started Tedy’s Team which is his foundation to raise funds for stroke research.  Over the years they have raised over $5 million.  Tedy finished his 2nd Boston Marathon this year in 4:35 as a 45 year old.  I am so impressed with his fundraising and that he is in the trenches with his fellow runners.

Our trip was not 100% about Boston.  From Boston, Laurie went on to New York to visit her Dad, her brother Kirk and his family.  I went to Chicago to visit my Mom, my sisters Cindy and Debbie, and a couple friends.  Being with loved ones was the real highlight of our trip.  We have much to be thankful for!

To see my race pictures, click on this link


Living the life…

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Ironman 70.3 Oceanside – 2019

Running my way into 10th place.

On April 6th I raced the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.  This is just the 3rd time I have done this race, but it has become one of my favorites.  It sure is nice having such an ultra-competitive and high profile race only 15 miles from my home in Carlsbad.

With all the rain we have had this winter it was tough to get in enough cycling miles.  Thankfully the weather turned around and I was able to complete 4 rides of 70+ miles in the 4 Saturdays immediately prior to race day.  I was probably better prepared than many of the people who flew in from out of state.  I spoke to a guy from Dallas who had only biked outdoors 2x’s so far this year.

This year they were able to “put the ocean back into Oceanside”.  In the past the swim portion was always done in the protected waters of the Oceanside Harbor.  This year the swim was a point to point surf entry start and the finish was in the Oceanside Harbor.  The only way they were going to have the surf entry was if the surf was less than 3 feet.  On race morning, the public address announcer said the surf was so small that they were measuring it in inches.  It was still dark when he made those announcements.  That all seemed to change once the sun came up.  By race start, they might have been measuring in inches, but it would have been a lot of inches!  Honestly, it was a lot of fun.  I got tumbled by 3 waves, but nothing that really stressed me out.  The water temperature was about 60 degrees.  That is chilly, but I wore a wetsuit and a thermal swim cap so I was A-OK.  My 1.2 mile swim split was 32:51 (1:42/100 meters) which put me in 18th place.  I was exactly 1 minute slower than in 2018 and I’m sure that was entirely due to the surf entry.

The 56 mile bike course is why I do this race.  The course starts along the coast for the first 20 miles and then it heads inland into Camp Pendleton.  Specifically the route from 20-45 miles is the best part.  That section of road on the base is off limits every other day of the year.  Because of all the rain, the hills and foliage were absolutely gorgeous this year.  Because my bike fitness was a bit suspect, I tried to race conservatively.  My bike split was 2:57:26 (18.9 mph) and surprisingly 1 minute faster than in 2018.  I had the 36th best bike split and it dropped me down to 25th place.  That’s not bad for me.

The 13.1 mile run is mostly flat with a couple of short, steep sections along the ocean.  It is comprised of 2 laps.  I ran the 1st lap pretty well, but faded a bit on the 2nd lap.  Much of the run is on concrete and that surface is so hard that it really beats me up.  The run course is lined with lots of spectators so it really is wonderful to feel the crowd support.  My favorite spectator who happens to be my wife Laurie was there giving me the best encouragement.  My strategy for these longer races is to start fast and try to hang on.  I managed the 2nd fastest run split in 1:38:37 (7:31/mile), but this was 4 minutes slower than in 2018.  My finish time was 5:18:33 which put me in 10th place out of 134 men in the 55-59 age group and 405th place out of 2,356 overall finishers.  I was happy with that and I had fun.  That is always the bottom line.

In addition, 3 of the athletes (Susan Powell, Mark Fackler and Ron Graham) I have been coaching also did the race.  All 3 had great days and successful finishes.  It gives me great pride to play a role in their success.

To see my race pictures, click on this link https://www.finisherpix.com/gallery/photos/en/USD/2843/1013

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: March 2019 – Chris Holley

Chris finishing the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I recently sat down and talked triathlon with TCSD member Chris Holley.  Chris was on my radar because I knew he was a great volunteer, but along the way I learned he has achieved some amazing weight loss accomplishments.  I know you will be impressed with his story.

Craig: What was your athletic background from your school age days?

Chris: I was in sports all through my childhood.  Started with swimming back in Minnesota and onto soccer, football, wrestling, and swimming all through high school.  Going to school at Westlake High School (Westlake Village, CA) I was never a stand-out athlete being around several other athletes who went onto play for the NFL (Superbowl Champion Tight-End Billy Miller of the Saints), but I was always towards the top.  We were league champs all 4 years that I played, and it was great to be a part of that history.  I got into football because it gave me a reason to not go home after school, and a free reason to hit someone.  So, every practice I was always running the ball up the middle when I could.  Looking back I’m happy I don’t have any TBI’s (traumatic brain injury), or so I’ve been told.  Swimming I was only 1 of about 5 people on the team that could butterfly without being disqualified so I ended up being pulled from freestyle (my best) and stuck on butterfly for 50, 100, 200, and all the IM relays.  I still hate the stroke.

Craig: How did you end up living in San Diego?

Chris: I was living in Nashville, TN at the time where I just got into the IT field.  I moved away from CA since my dad was able to get me a job out there, and I was always good with computers.  When I was traveling upgrading routers (the things that make the internet possible) during the whole Y-2K scare, I was sent to San Diego for a week.  Ironically, growing up in Westlake Village I never went down to visit San Diego.   The farthest south I had gone was Seal Beach for family gatherings.  When I got here back in 1999 I knew right then that this is where I wanted to move to next and stake my claim.  I’ve been here for 10 years only to realize that my family who lives in Minnesota still hates me when I rub the weather in their face as they are freezing.   It was the people, the weather, and the laid-back way of life that really made this place where I want to call home.  I’m not in the IT field directly very much since moving into the technical side of sales, so I spend most of my time being the pitchman and training sales reps for Quest Software.

Craig: You have shared with me that at one point you were very over weight.  At what point did you bottom out and how heavy were you?

Chris: I’m not sure what my heaviest was. I was in denial about being overweight, so I just brushed it off. I avoided the scales because I didn’t want to know that I was over 400 pounds. I’d work all week and then go to the local bar on the weekends to try and escape those 80 hour work weeks.  I felt trapped, like this was the best my life was ever going to be.  One night I passed out in a friend’s bathroom at a party.  When I woke up, I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what he saw.  I knew right then that I needed to make some major changes so I immediately stopped drinking and started working out at 24 Hour Fitness.  That one night is when I realized everything would change for me.

Craig: What were the key factors that enabled you to lose weight?

Chris: Not liking who I saw in the mirror was a pretty big factor.  It was that spark that I needed to start changing things.  Cutting out drinking, though, was the most difficult.  It wasn’t so much because it was drinking, but it was also my social life.  I felt as though I was going to lose who I was and my sense of community at the time.  That was a huge step.  I had to give up who I was and my sense of security so that I could become someone I liked and felt good about.   I’d use going out for walks, or going to the gym to pass the time instead of going out drinking to socialize.  As I got more active and weight didn’t come off I started moving to the various fueling strategies laid out in Bob Seebohar’s Metabolic Efficiency Training.  This has enabled me to stay healing and when I decide to follow it, my weight has stayed healthy.

Craig: What prompted you to do your first triathlon?

Chris: It was back in 2010 when I happened to get a postcard in the mail about the inaugural TriRock Triathlon.  I was just doing 5K’s then and I really don’t like running.  So I figured why not give it a tri?  I was a high school swimmer, I’ve peddled 12+ miles around Pacific Beach (intoxicated at times), and I can walk a 5K… why not give it a shot?   It was Steve Jobs who said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward: you can only connect them looking backwards”.   When I look back at things I managed to see all these dots I connected, that I had no intention of trying to connect at that time.

Craig: What was your experience like at TriRock?

Chris: Going into this race I didn’t know about TCSD, I didn’t even know people did triathlons outside of the Ironman that was on the ABC Wide World of Sports that I remembered from watching with my uncles back in Minnesota.   I showed up to the race with a bike from craigslist, a 5 gallon bucket from Home Depot, bike gloves, 7-up, and a small sandwich for once I was finished with the bike.  I didn’t have a wetsuit or a tri kit.   I was a bit in shock showing up to get my packet the day before and if I had a loudspeaker in my brain people might have heard me say “Oh, Sh*!” more than 5000 times.  I really leaned back on what I learned from my high school football coach Jim Benkert.  He taught us that everyone faces adversity of some kind, and only you can control how you’re going to let that affect your outcome.  I set out to do that race because I hadn’t done anything like that before and I wanted to finish.   I didn’t care that in T1 I did a full wardrobe change, took about 15 minutes to eat some food, drink a soda, dry off a bit, and then put my bib on my shirt for the bike ride.   I was there for me, and I blocked out everyone around me.  Coming out of T2 I rolled my ankle, but I had a brace with me in my transition area (I had rolled it 2 weeks before).  I threw it on and walked every meter of that 5K without any care of time.   I remember turning the corner on the island, seeing the red carpet and getting my medal.   To me at the time, that race seemed like Mount Everest.  I think I was so intent on finishing and proving to myself that if I set out to do something, that I forgot to have fun and enjoy the experience.   I always make it a point to tell people new to the sport to enjoy the experience.  When you’re an overweight athlete it’s a constant battle of inner voices in your head of judgement, negative self-talk, and self-doubt.  I think reminding people to stop, take a look around at the people who are cheering for you, and be grateful to be a part of the moment.

Craig: You had a big gap between your first triathlon and your 2nd triathlon.  What brought you back to triathlon?

Chris: I had always wanted to return to do another triathlon, but 2011 I injured myself snowboarding up in Mammoth (I still blame Def Leppard’s Rock of Age’s).  I was at the snowboard park and took a jump and landed pretty rough.  Gave myself a concussion, broken collarbone, hyper-extended right knee.  Needless to say I didn’t recover with enough time to race in 2011, and then in 2012 I had signed up to do the TriRock again.   At the same time I found myself going back to my old drinking ways and decided to go to the Vikings/Chargers game that same day so I blew off the race.  Then at a ’12 NYE party, I was talking with couple about running.   As we were talking the wife mentioned that she did the 2010 TriRock and we shared some stories about the race.   Then back in March I get a message from her that I need to sign-up for ITU 2013 in April.  I laughed and said I haven’t been training for anything and I’m out of shape.  She kept bugging me almost daily about it.  Apparently her husband signed up before she did, and she wanted the buddy discount and package that included sunglasses and a backpack.  So she really needed someone to sign up.  Finally I caved, and about 3 weeks before the race I signed up.  That woman is Diane Borys who I give the credit to for getting me into this sport.   I got a one piece tri kit from Amazon, and a wetsuit (NOT A TRIATHLON WETSUIT).   I told myself that I’m not going to make the same mistakes as TriRock.   I had a lot of fun this time around and looking at the Clydesdale times, I thought to myself if I get the right gear and some training… maybe I can be the fastest fat guy.   I wanted to be called up on the podium in front of everyone.  A couple months later at the 2013 TriRock I went from sprint to Olympic and took first in the Clydesdale division.

Craig: You have had 4 Ironman finishes.  Which races have you done and what were those experiences like?

Chris: Ironman Arizona in 2014 was my first Ironman when I decided that if other people could do an Ironman I could.  After going to a TCSD Meeting of the 2013 Kona viewing party and listening to Luke McKenzie talk about it and seeing other members wearing their gear and tattoo’s I decided that if they could do one, I can do one.   I had always thought only professional athletes did Ironman events.   I remember seeing Julie Moss doing the crawl on TV with my uncles saying that only crazy people do these things.  So my perspective had completely changed after that meeting.  I wanted to do Wisconsin but registration was closed, and only IMAZ was available.   After hearing horror stories of trying to get into IMAZ, I got the help of 2 friends and my mom to help get me into IMAZ online.  When registration opened, I didn’t get it, and 2 of my friends got messages that they couldn’t register.  Then I got an email saying that I was registered for the 2014 Ironman Arizona.  I’ve got the best Mom in the world!  I happened to be in Vegas at the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon, and was going to be boarding a plane back home.  The internet at the airport sucks for registering for Ironman events, just an FYI. The girl I was dating at the time Corine Rogers was also doing Ironman Arizona and we each finished the race and became an Ironman.  I’d go onto marry her 3 years later.  I then went onto do Ironman Louisville in 2015, and Wisconsin and Arizona again in 2016.  Everyone should do Wisconsin and Louisville at least once… the support and the crowds are like no other.

Craig: You have shared with me that you could be the poster boy for making a checklist of gear to bring to a race.  What pieces of equipment have you forgotten to bring to a race?

Chris: Everyone who knows me, knows that I forget at least something for races.  In 2013 at ITU, I forgot the timing chip and my wetsuit (the water was cold… very cold).  At St. George 70.3 I forgot my bike helmet and my girlfriend (now wife) worked it out for another member to bring my helmet out to me.  Got into the NYC Triathlon, sent my bike using TriBike Transport … only to forget my pedals at home.  I did the Lifetime Tri up in Oceanside and forgot my wetsuit yet again, and that race was in October… I couldn’t feel my legs until mile 3 of the 5K.  I also go against the grain of trying new things on race day… at Ironman Louisville I forgot my tri kit shorts.  I didn’t discover that one until Saturday getting my gear ready.  Thank GOD I didn’t chafe.

Craig: What are your favorite TCSD membership benefits?

Chris: I hear everyone say the discounts or the aquathons, but for me it’s watching new people come into the sport and find themselves like I found myself.  Being able to volunteer coach with the TCSD Masters program the last 3 years has been amazing.  I’m taking a break from it as my job has picked up and has me travelling more, but giving back has always been my favorite benefit.

Craig: You are in charge of the swim exit volunteers at SuperSEAL and Oceanside 70.3.  What has this experience been like for you?

Chris: I’ve been a volunteer and moved into a Volunteer Captain at the Ironman races here in San Diego for the last 2-3 years.  I started volunteering as a swim buddy at Koz races, and really had a lot of fun.  The first time I was a swim buddy was at the Carlsbad Triathlon, and there was a woman struggling and freaking out a little because she felt she couldn’t do it.  We did the side stroke and talked a bit, and before she knew it we were at the shore.   As she got up, she gave me a big hug and said that she could not have finished the swim without me being there.  I was hooked, and then being a VC with Ironman and pulling athletes out of Oceanside harbor is just a feeling like no other.  Thousands of athletes coming through with smiles, thanking you, giving you hugs, and then the volunteers coming up to you afterwards sharing their stories and seeing them come back the following year to either race or volunteer.

Craig: You are a certified coach.  What are your strengths as a coach?

Chris: I’m an Ironman Certified Coach and Licensed Primary Sports Nutritionist.  I take a holistic approach to the athlete and what they are trying to accomplish.  What an athlete does during the day and what they use to fuel during the day affects how they will perform.  It’s not just what you eat 30 minutes before, or during your workout that’s going to get the best performance gains.  I don’t just deal with triathletes either, I’ve worked with Crossfitter’s, Strongman Competitors, Runners, Swimmers, Obstacle Course Racers as clients who have gone on to place first at their competitions.  It took some trial and error finding my coaching strengths, but I’m a no nonsense coach.   I expect my athletes to follow the plan that we build out that works with their goals, take ownership of their choices, and put in the work.

Craig: What tips would you share with someone doing their first triathlon this year?

Chris: As cliché as it sounds… it really is just about having fun and enjoying the moment.   When you sign up for that first triathlon you have a goal in mind.  Stay focused on that goal, but also be grateful for the chance to be a part of the experience and the moment.

Craig: If people would like to contact you about your coaching services, how can they reach you?

Chris: I can be reached via email at chris.holley@evolutionmultisport.com

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

Chris: I mentioned my football coach Jim Benkurt earlier.   Every football practice he would talk about adversity and to always hold your composure in the face of adversity.  He didn’t limit the adversity to football either, it was a life lesson that I still carry with me today.  One of the things he would always tell us, as well, was that you’re not going to be the best at everything and you don’t have to be the best, but you have always be the best you.   He would say that every time that we would lose our composure on or off the field.

Les Brown is the other person that has played a huge role lately not just with Triathlon, but my personal and professional life.   He’s a motivational speaker, and during my training I’m always listening to him along with some others instead of music.  He mentions a few things that really stand out and change how I was I looking at life.  He quoted Wayne Dyer “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” And that quote resonated with me, and it really allowed me to change my life.  He also speaks of the 3 P’s: Passion, Patience, and Perseverance.  Those P’s have gotten me through the many dark times of an Ironman race, and also with my career.

Craig: What are your future athletic goals?  (This does not have to mean a specific race time or a specific race finish.  It could mean that.  But it could mean lots of other things, too, like keeping the weight off and leading a healthy life.  It could mean being a good mentor to others as a coach.  Etc.)

Chris: I’ve been taking a break healing up, but I would like to complete the Trans Am Bike Race from Astoria to Yorktown before I’m 50.  That’s my big one, but right now as I heal up and am able to do more things I want to get back into the short course where it all started and help find that fun again.

Craig: Chris, thank you so much for sharing your story.  TCSD and the San Diego community are grateful for all you do.  Good luck with your future goals.  I know you will continue to inspire everyone who is lucky enough to come into contact with you.

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

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St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon

Closing out the final meters of the race.

Collecting the 1st place medal.

On March 3rd I ran the St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon in El Cajon, CA. I think the race organizer needs to check his calendar because St. Patrick’s Day is actually on March 17.  I guess they were determined to get the party started early.

This was my first race of the year.  I selected this race because I wanted to see how my training was coming along for the Boston Marathon on April 15.  I also needed a fast half marathon time (sub 1:36:00) to get entered in a lottery to run the 2020 New York City Marathon, the 50th anniversary of that historic race.

The weather forecast called for drizzle so it was hard to get excited in the days leading up to the race.  On race morning I drove through some light rain, but by the time I parked my car the rain had stopped.  I was pleasantly surprised that the rain brought some warm air.  I decided to race in compression shorts and a singlet.  That was perfect as I had a good sweat going after the 1st mile.  The course was an out and back.  It was pancake flat for the 1st 2+ miles and then we had a couple of hills to break it up.  We had a light drizzle at mile 10 for about 10 minutes.

I had a great race as I finished in 1:25:51 (6:33/mile).  I placed 1st out of 7 men in the 55-59 age group and I won my age group by 2:45.  I placed 14th out of 167 overall finishers as it was a very small field.

To see my pictures, click on this link  https://scsphotoworks.zenfolio.com/f670280498?eq=18

Living the life…

Posted in 2019, Half Marathon, Running Race | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

TCSD Conversation: January 2019 – Marc Sosnowski

Marc proposing to Melissa at 2014 Ironman Arizona

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure of talking triathlon with Marc Sosnowski, one of TCSD’s Sponsorship Co-Directors.  Marc and I grew up about 10 miles from one another in the suburbs of Chicago, but it took TCSD to introduce us in 2014.  It is a small world as in the mid ‘80’s I worked at the Morton Arboretum with Marc’s Dad, John.  The apple does not fall far from the tree – both Marc and John are great guys!

Craig: What sports did you do as a kid?

Marc: As a kid, I did a wide variety of sports including soccer, hockey, baseball and football.  I went to a smaller sized high school in the western suburbs of Chicago.  I ended up playing both ways in football, tight end/receiver on offense and defensive end on defense.   In track, I ran the 800m, occasionally the mile and the 2 mile relay.  I was speedy enough to run varsity as a freshman.  ​The thought of running longer than ONE MILE was ridiculous to me…why would anyone want to do that?!  As a teen I skied…a lot.  I also taught lessons and managed a sports and ski shop.  I taught my younger sister how to ski and she subsequently won many Special Olympic medals…more medals than I have for sure!  All those years of skiing, especially on the moguls, took its toll on my knees.  I never thought I’d be running long distances, let alone Ironman triathlons!

Craig: What sports did you do once you were out of school, but before triathlon?

Marc: I started coaching my son and daughter’s soccer teams at the YMCA and a few of the other kids’ fathers were interested in starting a team. For nearly 10 years I played on a men’s arena soccer league on Sunday mornings at Mission Valley YMCA (​with a knee brace!).   We played year around.  During those ten years of play, we won the Sunday morning league championship 2 seasons and placed 2nd a hand full of times.  I stayed in that league up until the time I started triathlon training.  Eventually doing both was not possible and the young men on my soccer team had matured enough to be able to manage the team themselves.

Craig: What are some of your first triathlon memories?

Marc: When I met my now-wife Melissa in 2012, I was training for my first half marathon.  She had done many half marathons and had just joined TCSD to train for her first triathlon.  At first I thought she was nuts but eventually my competitive nature took over.  My first triathlon ​was the TCSD beginner triathlon that was held on Coronado Island ​and it was quite interesting.  I went into the race overconfident in the swim due to being a lifeguard during 3 years in high school.  I will never forget Steve Tally giving an in depth transition clinic and helping everyone prepare for the event.  I had rolled my eyes when Steve had stressed taking it smooth and easy at the beginning of the swim.  I KNEW how to swim, DUH!   Approximately 25 yards into the swim, I was completely hyperventilating and doing the backstroke to regain my breath.    My darling wife Melissa, loves to tell this story to anyone willing to listen.

Craig: What have been some of your favorite triathlon experiences?

Marc: My favorite Ironman experience would have to be Ironman Arizona 2014, where I proposed to my wife at the finish line.  Knowing I would be crossing the finish line about 2 hours ahead of her, I had a friend bring me a change of clothes, I got a massage and was ready!  My coach, Jim O’Hara, put me into contact with Mike Reilly and we had a script ready to go when Melissa was to cross the finish line.  ​We both had great first time Ironman experiences and cherish the memory of our engagement.

Craig: You have done 3 Ironmans so far – Arizona, Canada and Santa Rosa.  What advice would you share with someone contemplating doing their 1st Ironman?

Marc: For anyone considering attempting their first 140.6 Full Ironman, I would strongly recommend building all three disciplines slowly over time.  Investing in a coach who is adamant about long runs and bikes both on the same day.  Long hard training days will help to guarantee a more enjoyable race day.

Craig: You have also had quite the running career which includes running the Boston, Chicago and New York Marathons.  What have been some of your favorite running races?

Marc: My favorite marathon was the New York City Marathon that Melissa and I ran together from start to finish.  We took photos every mile for the first half then ran a negative split for the second half which earned us two pairs of New Balance shoes from the New Balance NYC Back Half Challenge of 2016.  The NYC Marathon has huge spectator energy and support from start to finish.  The year we ran the race it felt like there was live music/bands every mile of the race.

For the last 5 years, I have raced Hood 2 Coast Relay with my coach Jim O’Hara and a mixed Masters Team of guys from San Diego, LA Track Team and Washington.  The team name is the Extra Virgins as we were once sponsored by Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  The race is a 200 mile relay that starts on Mount Hood, Oregon and ends at the coast at Seaside Oregon some 20 plus hours later of sleepless racing.  With 1500 teams and 12 people per team, there are a lot of runners and crazily decorated transportation vans everywhere.  Every year it’s a great weekend of hardcore racing with some really funny dudes who lay it all on the line.

Craig: You are also part of a running club.  What is the name of that group and what is their focus?

Marc: I have been a member of the Seaside Striders Running Club coached by Jim O’Hara who has been a local running coach for many years.  SSRC’s mantra is “Never outrun your joy of running”.  Jim has coached me through three Boston Marathons, NYC Marathon, Chicago Marathon and three 140.6 Full Ironman races.  Jim was a member of Team USA for Triathlon and has extensive knowledge of all distance running races.  Jim is both a great friend as well as a fantastic coach.  Fellow members of SSRC are more like extended family members than running partners.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Marc: I race with Prado Racing Men’s Masters Cross Country Team.  In 2017 we came in third in the nation at the National Cross Country Championships.  In triathlon, I have been able to qualify for the USAT National Championships every year I’ve been in the sport.  I don’t always attend, but just being invited is an honor.

Craig: In what ways have you volunteered to help TCSD?

Marc: ​I started volunteering for TCSD at the beginner triathlons around 2015.  That was where I learned about the sport and I thought I could share my experiences as a “newbie” and then, later, as a more seasoned triathlete.  I thought I should pay forward the support that I received when I was starting out.  I would also randomly help set-up and take-down at various races, nothing in an “official” capacity.

Craig: Why did you want to take more of a leadership role in the club at this time?

Marc: My wife is now entering her 5th year as TCSD Treasurer.  Knowing how much work she had done and that she had weathered the ups and downs of various boards over the years, I decided that it was time for me to serve in a more official capacity.

Not only that, but I had been mentored by many of the Club’s long-time members.  I ran with Mike Plumb and Chris Costales at Mission Bay; Kevin Fayad taught me how to swim at the JCC—side note:  he was also the best man at my wedding; I would ride on the Club rides with Darrell Steele; and I had the fortune to meet Dean Sprague, bike fitter extraordinaire.  All of these people made an impression on me and I wanted to serve the Club as they did (and still do!).  I was also really excited about the new leadership that took office this fall; I have known AJ Lawson for many years and he was there when I proposed to my wife in Arizona in 2014.  I had high hopes and had discussed with him the possibility of volunteering when he took office.  So after a few discussions, it was determined that I would be a good fit in Sponsorship.

Craig: What are your goals as TCSD Sponsorship Director and how can other club members help you achieve these goals?

Marc: Sponsorship Director is such a huge role for the Club.  Not only do you negotiate on behalf of the Club members, but there is also a lot of follow-up including marketing, contract closing, billing, and planning throughout the year.  The Board has decided to have one “main” Sponsorship Director; that would be Danny Arnold.  Marsha Connors and I were appointed as “Co-directors” to support Danny.  I was a good fit based on my prior retail experience and my personality fit really well with negotiating.  I also understood that any partnership had to be mutually beneficial to both the sponsor and TCSD.  We have really worked hard this year to give TCSD members great deals and to promise to be better at following up with sponsors to be sure that they are happy.

Craig: Who and what have been the most influential people or experiences in your life?

Marc: My parents have been the most influential people for me growing up.  They always supported me in everything I did.  This goes for both sets of my grandparents, as well.  They attended every sporting event that I participated in.  And, of course, my darling wife has been my rock.  Her philosophy of always doing the right thing has had a substantial impact on my decision-making.  She makes sure to put me in my place when I truly deserve it.  I would never have gotten into the sport of triathlon if it wasn’t for her.

Craig: What are your future athletic goals?

Marc: My goal for years has been to run a sub 3-hour marathon in Boston.  I’ve done it in St. George, and have been chasing that dream since 2015.  Eventually, I’d like to qualify for Kona, someday, sometime.

Craig: Marc, thank you so much for sharing your story.  One of my favorite things about you is your never-ending enthusiasm.  That is a special gift in today’s world.  The club is lucky to have you and Melissa.  Thank you both for all you do!

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

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