Los Angeles Triathlon Series – May 7th

1st place men's 50-54 age group.

1st place men’s 50-54 age group.


On May 7th I raced the Los Angeles Triathlon Series Olympic distance race in San Dimas, CA.  I enjoy these kinds of events because they are smaller races with a family atmosphere.  The races are held at Bonelli Park which is only 90 miles from home so I can sleep at home and still arrive in time for the 8am race start.

Southern California had had rain the previous couple of days and I did drive thru some rain on race morning.  Thankfully the skies cleared up nicely at the race venue and we had dry roads.  My biggest problem during the 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was glare from the sun.  It was not a problem at all.  I was amazed and thrilled it was shaping up to be such a nice day.  I had the best swim as I led out of the water by 1:51 with a swim split of 24:06.  The fresh water lake is wonderful for swimming.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course is comprised of 3 laps of just over 8 miles/lap.  The course has plenty of ups and downs so it is challenging.  My bike fitness is not where it needs to be, but I managed to minimize my losses.  My bike split was 1:15:58 (19.1 mph) which was 3rd best, dropping me down to 2nd place.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run course is also hilly and challenging.  Much of it is on trails including a section the locals call “the jungle” so it is a lot of fun.  I had the best run split of the day by 5:22.  My run time was 38:52, giving me a finish time of 2:22:18.  I was very happy with my race as I placed 1st out of 24 men in the 50-54 age group and 14th out of 363 overall finishers.

My good luck continued after the race as I won a gift basket in the raffle.  The basket was a variety of swimming gear – goggles, snorkel, cap, USA towel, and 1 month complimentary masters at a pool 90 miles from my house.  The only thing I wanted was the Aqua Sphere goggles to give to my wife, Laurie, because that is her brand.  I was able to give away all the other stuff.  It’s always nice to be the lucky one and pay it forward.

While I was racing, Laurie was running the Revel Marathon in Las Vegas.  This was her 230th career marathon.  She ran 3:13 – she continues to amaze and inspire me.    

Living the life…

Posted in 2016, Marathon, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

120th Boston Marathon

Triathlon Club of San Diego friends fueling the day before.

Triathlon Club of San Diego friends fueling the day before.

Craig and Laurie just before the race.

Craig and Laurie just before the race.

Craig at 40K. 2K to go!

Craig at 40K. 2K to go!


On April 18th I ran the 120th Boston Marathon. Thankfully I keep pretty good records because there are days when it seems like I’ve done all 120. This year was my 14th Boston finish and Laurie’s 20th. This was also Laurie’s 229th overall marathon finish. She is really amazing!

Compared to 2015 when it was cold and rainy, we had a gorgeous day this year. The temperature was around 70 degrees at the start in Hopkinton and it dropped to the low 60’s by the time we got to Boston. The heat offered a bit of a challenge, but I thought the headwind was an even tougher opponent.

Laurie and I had a great time in Hopkinton hanging out before the race. The sunshine warmed us and we found a comfortable place to sit. We were both part of the 2nd wave of starters. Once the 1st wave athletes left the village we found 2 discarded inflatable rafts to lounge on. We were so comfortable that our biggest risk was falling asleep and missing our start at 10:25am. We were too excited so that was never going to happen. Not only were we both in the 2nd wave, but we were also in corral 3 so we got to start the race together. It was a real bonus for me to kiss my wife right before the start, instead of some stranger. Not that I would ever do that.

One of the race highlights every year are the women of Wellesley College at the half way point. You can hear the girls screaming well before you arrive at Wellesley and well after you leave. My favorite Wellesley sign this year was “Kiss me or I’ll vote for Trump!”

I was very pleased with my race as I finished in 3:17:09 (7:32/mile pace) which was 33 seconds faster than 2015. This was exactly what I had trained to do so I’m very thankful. I placed 221 out of 2,032 men age 50-54. I placed 3,751 out of 14,471 men. I placed 4,293 out of 26,639 overall finishers. Laurie really had a great race as she finished in 3:33:03 and placed 130th in her age group. I am so proud of her!

Upon getting to our hotel room after the race I flipped on the television for the local race coverage. The highlight of my race experience was unfolding. I was able to watch Patrick Downes finish the race. I had no idea who Patrick was until that moment. Patrick and his wife Jessica were both victims of the 2013 bombing. Patrick lost a leg in the bombing and Jessica’s injuries were even more severe. Jessica is a beautiful woman, but she still has additional surgeries scheduled. In 2015 Patrick completed the Boston Marathon on a handcycle. This year Patrick completed the Boston Marathon using a prosthetic leg. He has clearly made great progress on his road to recovery. Patrick finished at 2:49pm – the exact same time of day as the 2013 bomb blast. He has come full circle.

At first glance the 2013 attack represented so much bad. But after seeing Patrick’s emotional finish, it is apparent that so much good has come of the 2013 tragedy. I personally think more good than bad has come out of the 2013 race. The running and Boston communities have shown great resolve and solidarity in banding together.

Another interesting fact about the 2016 race involves Dave McGillivray. Dave has been the Boston Marathon Race Director since 1988. After putting on the race for 26,000+ of his closest friends, Dave went back to Hopkinton that night and ran his 44th consecutive Boston Marathon.

To see my race photos, please click on this link:


Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Alexis Barnes – March 2016

Alexis Barnes crossing the Nautica New York City Triathlon finish line.

Alexis Barnes crossing the Nautica New York City Triathlon finish line.


TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I was privileged recently to talk triathlon with TCSD volunteer extraordinaire, Alexis Barnes. Alexis has taken on leadership roles as a TCSD Newsletter Editor and our club’s Coordinator for the USA Triathlon National Challenge Competition. I know you will enjoy getting to know this lady.

Craig: What sports did you participate in prior to triathlon?

Alexis: I have been swimming for as long as I can remember, and I have competed for teams up and down the state. My earliest team was for Swanson Pool in University City, but I quickly graduated to club swimming. When my family moved back to Northern California, I swam for the Walnut Creek Aquabears. By my senior year of high school, though, I was ready to quit, so I took almost a 15-year hiatus while I went to college (Temple University for undregrad and Columbia University for grad school). It wasn’t until I moved back to San Diego from the East Coast in 2011 that I really started swimming again.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Alexis: Well, if Sopranos fans remember the episode when Paulie and Christopher get lost in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, that was pretty much my first triathlon. It was called the Pine Barrens Sprint Triathlon and it took place in the Pine Barrens in 2006. I didn’t study the course. I figured I would just follow whoever was in front of me. The problem was that I was so slow on the bike that I was quickly at the back of the pack….the waaaayyy back of the pack. With no one to follow, and no real route markers (this was a true local race; the roads were still open to cars, and the dew had eliminated most of the chalk arrows), I quickly got lost. For those who don’t know, Jersey is farm land—lots of open roads and cows and horses. As I was riding, I saw a farmer on his tractor heading back toward his house. I rode up his driveway and asked him for directions back to the lake where the race had started. Thankfully I wasn’t too far off course. By the time I got back to start the run, most of the folks were done with their race. It was a humbling experience. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson: never race in Jersey without a good map or GPS. Seriously, I study my courses a bit better these days.

Craig: What experience helped you turn the corner with your bike training?

Alexis: Up until 2013, I had a trusty, dusty road back fitted with aero bars.  I got the bike when I lived in NYC, and I was terrified to ride it. The first time I tried to clip in and out, I fell over into a couple’s picnic in Prospect Park. That was it for me. I rode it only during races. No training rides. No trainer rides. No riding. Period.

I figured out the clipping in and out, but I couldn’t figure out the shifting. I once had a guy tell me to get out of the big ring while I was going up a hill. If I had known what that was, I would have gotten out of it. Fast forward to 2012, and I hosted pro triathlete Trish Deim for Oceanside 70.3. I started talking about my triathlon dreams, and somewhere in there it came out that I didn’t know how to shift properly.

The day after her race, she took me out on my bike and taught me how to ride. She had me go up and down hills, around corners, on flats. She taught me about cadence, how to change my tires, how to do flying mounts and dismounts. It was awesome. I’m really indebted to her for teaching me proper bike handling skills. Even though the bike is still my least favorite part, I have a lot more confidence now in my basic riding skills. In fact, I love riding up the coast and into Rancho Santa Fe. Cars no longer terrify me.

I think it’s super important for everyone who rides to know how to do it properly, to have that confidence, and to know how to coexist with cars.

Craig: Who has been the most influential person for your triathlon career?

Alexis: Oh gosh! Trish has certainly been influential. She was the first one to convince me that I could actually push myself a little harder and go for longer distances. I mean my husband had always said that, but who listens to their spouse!

Actually, my husband Charlie Brown has been a tremendous influence. When we lived in New York, there were two tri shops, and one of them had this yearly clearance sale. The sale was so good that people lined up overnight for it. My husband knew that I wanted a bike, so he got in line at something like 2 am in February. He got me everything I needed to start in triathlon—a wetsuit, a bike, shoes, a trainer (which I never used until 3 years ago), a helmet. This was in 2006.

Since then, he’s been to almost every one of my races. He shoves me out the door to train. He’s delivered food to me on long training rides/runs. He gives me pep talks when I need them. He gives me the harder, “quit complaining” talks too, and he doesn’t get upset when I fall asleep at 6 pm because I’m exhausted from a tough day of training.

I also have to give props to Julie Dunkle for coaching me through my first two Ironman races and teaching me how to fuel properly.

Craig: What are some of your favorite triathlon events?

Alexis: I love the LA Tri Series at Bonelli Park in San Dimas. It has this real grassroots feel to it. Plus, it’s in the same park as Raging Waters, so if you time the race right, you can recover on the water slides.

I also like some of the local races—Solana Beach, Carlsbad, SD Classic, SD International. My dream race is Ironman France, which is ironic because everyone who knows me knows I hate to ride hills, yet almost every race I sign up for has hills, and France has some of the most difficult climbing. I’d also love to do Norseman or Savageman. I’m always looking for new race challenges.

Craig: You have worked with Dean Sprague for nearly 2 years on the TCSD Newsletter.  The two of you really do produce an excellent product.  What are some of your challenges with creating the newsletter?

Alexis: Thanks. I love editing the newsletter. There are so many interesting people in the tri club, and I love reading their stories. I also love all of the tips that people share. I learn something new every month. That said, the biggest challenge is finding content. Dean and I both have other careers, and all of the content is submitted by volunteer writers, so it’s not like we sit down each month and put together a line up or an editorial calendar. We go with what’s submitted.

If readers have an idea of something they’d like to read, I encourage them to either write the piece themselves, or share the idea with me or Dean to see if it’s something we can get written. I know that writing can be intimidating, but that’s why we edit the newsletter. They can email me their submissions by sending them to asdbarnes@yahoo.com.

Craig: Another role you have filled the past 2 years is the TCSD’s NCC Coordinator. What is the NCC and what has been your involvement?

Alexis: Every December, January and February, the USA Triathlon (USAT) holds a friendly, national competition designed to keep people active during the winter. The National Club Championship (NCC) consists of swim, bike, and run segments. Members of triathlon clubs sign up and compete individually and for their clubs.

Two years ago, I took over as administrator for TCSD. I put together a questionnaire to get names, ages, estimated mileage, etc and then assign TCSD members to Team 1 or Team 2 (each club gets to teams) based on anticipated mileage. I submit the names to USAT, get passwords so that everyone can enter their data, and monitor the competition for TCSD.

It’s a lot of up front work, but we’ve had great leaders for each of the disciplines. Julie Dunkle has headed up swim month the last two years. Kevin Fayad was in charge of bike month this year, and Tracy Cohen-Peranteau has led run month. They’ve been really instrumental in getting the teams motivated.

Craig: What has been your experience as an athlete participating in the NCC?

Alexis: I enjoy the challenge. I do a lot of my training solo, but during the NCC, I make an effort to join in the group workouts. I spent most of the latter half of last year injured, so NCC has helped me get focused in my training this year. I couldn’t let my teammates down, so that helped push me and get me out the door.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Alexis: I think like most people, I love TCSD for the friendships I’ve made. I joined shortly after moving back to San Diego in 2011, and I’d say that I’ve met the majority of my friends through the club. I think Lisa Serrano and I post race pictures every weekend, with Marcus Serrano, Jeff Krebs and Jim Murff sprinkled in. In fact, I need to publicly thank Marcus for saving me at Ironman Arizona in 2014. I was starting my second lap of the run and was freezing, and he gave me his jacket. So in my finisher’s pictures I’m wearing his TCSD jacket.

Craig: You were on the TCSD Ambassador Team in 2014 and again in 2016.  What does this experience mean to you?

Alexis: After I joined TCSD, I started volunteering as a way to learn more, meet more people, and share some of what I had learned. My favorite races to volunteer at are the club races on Fiesta Island and the Beginner Tri at Coronado. They’re so much fun, especially when the races are over and we all get to eat Dawn Copenhaver’s fabulous food.

We all give so much time to this sport, training and racing, that I think it’s nice to take a break every now and then and spend a Saturday or two giving back. So for me, I look at being a TCSD Ambassador as another way to give back to the sport in a more formal fashion. I have a platform to share my experiences and my love of the club and TCSD.

Craig: What sporting accomplishment gives you the most pride?

Alexis: Wow. I mentioned earlier that I swam for Swanson’s rec team growing up. Well there was this girl, Jenny Queen, on the team. We were frenemies before it was even a word. We were friends outside of the pool, but in the pool, we were fierce rivals.

We ended up at different high schools (I didn’t move to Northern California until fall 1990). She went to UC High, and I went to Bishop’s, but we met again in ’89 at the CIF qualifiers. No one was paying attention to us. It was rightfully all about Alison Terry at the time, but the race of the meet will always be me and Jenny in my mind because I out touched her at the wall in the 500 free to win. It wasn’t my first win against her, but it was the sweetest because she had been telling people that she was going to cream me.

I never kick, but I found my legs during the last 25 yards and used them to propel me to the wall. When we got out of the pool, Jenny and I hugged. I have no idea if she remembers me or the meet.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Alexis: My ultimate goal is to qualify for Kona, which means winning my age group at an Ironman. Right now, though, I am concentrating on my run and getting my times down. I’m running faster and stronger than ever, but it’s a lot of work.

Outside of my personal triathlon goals, I’d like to have more time to devote to the TCSD newsletter. We have so many members with so many stories and advice to be shared.

Craig: Alexis, thank you for sharing your story. You have come a long way from impersonating Amelia Earhart in New Jersey to becoming adept at getting out of the big ring. Good luck achieving all of your dreams. Your friends at the TCSD are behind you 100%.

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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Superseal Triathlon

Susan "Ironman To Be" Powell with Craig at the finish line.

Susan “Ironman To Be” Powell with Craig at the finish line.


On March 20 I raced the Superseal Triathlon at Coronado as my first triathlon of 2016.  This was my 6th time doing this race over the years.  The 2015 race had only 285 finishers so I was concerned for its future.  The Ironman brand now puts on this race and it is a good and growing event once again. I had a great race to open my season as I placed 1st out of 47 men in the 50-54 age group and 30th overall out of 577 finishers. 

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim went well as I had the 2nd best swim split – 23:20.  The swim course was much improved as it was a more straight forward rectangular shape.  The race started 2 hours earlier than in past years so that also really helped as there was no glare from the sun.

The 40K (24.8 mile) bike went adequately.  My bike fitness is not where it has been in the past, but this was a flat course so I was able to hide my weakness and minimize my losses.  My bike split was 1:08:32 which was 6th best on the day and 2:38 slower than in 2015.  But that was good enough to put me in 3rd place to start the run.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run went very well, but it was no picnic.  I had the best run of the day by 53 seconds for a run split of 38:09 and a winning time of 2:14:12.  I started the run just behind Steve Thunder and 1 other guy that I did not know.  Steve has been on Team USA with me and he can really run.  I knew we’d both run under 40 minutes.  That type of run speed at our age is really rare at a local race.  I had chatted with Steve about 4 days before the race.  He said he was going to “train thru Superseal”.  Well, he looked pretty good to me.  I had my hands full with him.  We took it out really fast.  Finally, by the 2nd mile I had gained a tiny bit of separation from Steve and I had the lead.  Once I started heading back from the turnaround at mile 3, I could see that he was still too close for comfort so I kept the pressure on all the way to the end.  

I did spend some time around the finish line after the race.  I’m glad I paused to notice the mesh snow fencing in the finish area – it was adorned with the pictures and names of Navy Seals who have paid the ultimate price for us.  We have a lot to be thankful for and we owe a debt of gratitude to these men.

One of the highlights for me on race day was seeing Susan Powell have a great day.  I have been coaching Susan since July, 2015.  Susan is training for Ironman Arizona in November 2016.  She has become a good friend to me and is an inspiration to many.  Susan is going to be an Ironman!

Click on this link to my race pictures:



Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Brannen Henn – February 2016

Brannen Henn on the run at Ironman Hawaii 2015.

Brannen Henn on the run at Ironman Hawaii 2015.


TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Brannen Henn who is the TCSD Secretary and finished Ironman Hawaii last October in 11:18. Brannen does a lot for the TCSD and she is definitely someone you should know.

Craig: What sports did you participate in prior to triathlon?

Brannen: I grew up in Encino, CA, yep, I am “like” a Valley Girl. I ran track in high school, the 400M and 4x400M relay. I actually thought cross country runners were crazy for running how far they ran. And when I do track workouts today I am in awe at my high school self for being able to run a 400 in under a minute. I went to the University of Arizona, GO CATS!, but didn’t run or play sports in college, unless you count intramural flag football.

Craig: What were your first multi-sport race experiences like?

Brannen: The first multisport race I did was Superseal in 2008, but I didn’t do all three disciplines. I was so nervous and uncomfortable for the swim portion, I got a friend to do the swim and I did the bike and run. I had signed up for San Diego International Triathlon for later that year and felt more comfortable starting with just two out of the three sports. I had so much fun at the race, and my relay partner was so supportive. I do not remember my times or any of those details, but I remember having fun and being really proud of myself for putting myself out there, even if I did just do the bike and run. After that I did SDIT in June and tackled all three disciplines. The swim was nerve racking for me, still can be in certain races to this day, and my anxiety was pretty high for the start of that race with the unknown of how the swim start would go. Having multiple people around me where I wouldn’t be in 100% control was nothing I was excited for. Fortunately, I was given advice to count to 10 after the gun went off, let everyone go and then start when it was less chaotic. It was great advice and I didn’t have to worry about people swimming in to me and invading my space. I was so happy to get out of that water and get on with the race, you would have thought I came out first. Again, I don’t remember times off the top of my head, it wasn’t important to me. I remember again being so proud of myself and having a bunch of my friends and family there to support me. After that I knew I wanted to do more and whenever I was able, I signed up for Oceanside 70.3. And now, 3 Ironmans, 15 half Ironman and a couple handfuls of other distances, I still get some nerves about the swim, but I no longer count to 10, I line up in front and allow my space to be completely invaded.

Craig: I think you have developed into a very strong swimmer.  After all, your swim split at Kona in October was 1:11.  Yet, you have expressed a lot anxiety about the swim.  What troubles you about the swim and how have you overcome these challenges?

Brannen: Swimming…I grew up in the pool, but I was playing Marco Polo and diving for toys in the shallow end. No laps or swim team for me. I had an incident in the ocean when I was little where I got held down by a wave, tried to come up for air and got knocked down again. That feeling of needing a breath and not being able to take one has stayed with me all these years. I work on it and have made progress, but I don’t like having to hold my breath for a long time in the water, and really am not good at it at all. In fact, I can’t swim the length of a 25 yard pool under water unless I start by diving in (I have probably done it without diving 4-5 times in all these years). I know, you are thinking, it’s so easy, but really for me it is not. Really. All that spills in to the race environment because the bumping and pushing and chaos in the water makes me feel not in control, and to be out of control in the water is extremely uncomfortable for me. I am obviously not over my swim issues, but I have come a long way. I know it is a mental block and I work on it, and that is how I am able to do Ironman starts. I put myself out there because of what the entire experience of the race brings me. And I can’t do the rest of it, if I don’t get through the swim. The more I race, the more comfortable I get, but you will never hear me say, “I love the start of the swim, I look forward to it.”

Craig: What athletic accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

Brannen: To be honest I find something in all my races to be proud of. Before all of my bigger races I have a moment of patting myself on the back for just getting there. Dedicating the time and effort, going through the ups and downs of training, holding a full time job, balancing the rest of life. Up there in accomplishments is my race at Ironman Cozumel. I had a great swim (it was a wave start which is great for someone like me) and completed it in under an hour at 58:57, about 4 minutes faster than I expected. That was very exciting! My bike was average, it was so windy that year, 30mph winds that were never at your back…how does that work???, and a 3 loop course so I knew what I was headed in to every time. My bike split was 6:01, about 16 minutes slower than I planned BUT…I love to run, really love to run! Running is my strength and when I get off the bike I am so excited to be on my feet. I actually had stomach cramps about 7 miles in to the run so I dealt with that the entire run. But these races are mental games, especially the run, and I just didn’t let it get me down or make me stop. I wanted to break 3:30 in my run and my split was 3:29. I had to pick up the pace the last half mile to get there. So what makes me proud is that I didn’t let my bike set me back and I didn’t give up, even with my stomach issues. I put my head down for the run and ran myself in to second place from being 5th off the bike. This is where I qualified for Kona and I had some great friends that were there in Cozumel with me and was able to share the experience of getting my slot and going to the awards ceremony with all of them.

Craig: What advice would you pass along to someone planning to race their first triathlon in 2016?

Brannen: Have fun! Enjoy the experience from the training all the way through race day. If there is something you aren’t comfortable with or sure about, ask people their advice and experience. You will find you aren’t alone and most likely will hear something that will help you with your race. Don’t not sign up because you aren’t a good…fill in the blank. You will miss out on so much if you let fears and hesitations prevent you from participating. You will meet some of the most amazing people through the sport, and the race environment is so positive with an energy that buzzes in the air like no other events you go to. It is a great experience!

Craig: What advice would you offer someone trying to qualify for Kona?

Brannen: My advice for trying to qualify for Kona. I feel I was lucky because I qualified at my second Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico. I went in to the race hoping I would qualify, but I kept it in perspective because I know so much can happen in that distance. I would say it is important to get your training in, but just as important to rest and get in an appropriate taper. The last thing you want to do is show up to a race you are trying to qualify for Kona at and be tired. Another thing is never give up. I didn’t have the bike split I wanted at Cozumel because it was SO windy, but I didn’t let that get me down and didn’t mentally give up on my race. The mental game is so important when racing. I think mentally what helped me at Cozumel was I was more focused on what I wanted to accomplish in each segment, and knew if I hit those times I had a chance to qualify, and I also knew if I hit those goals and didn’t qualify I still would be really happy with my race and what I put in to it.

Craig: In what ways have you volunteered for the TCSD?

Brannen: I started volunteering at the TCSD aquathlons. I helped register and check people in. I enjoyed meeting all the participants. So many ranges of ages, abilities, speeds, but in general all very friendly and enjoying themselves. I also have volunteered at some of the expos that TCSD has a booth at. At the expos I enjoy meeting some of the new members that are also new to the sport and come by to ask questions. I like being able to help them with the experiences I have had and hopefully reduce some of their anxiety. It’s great to see those that are racing their first triathlon. I can feel their excitement and nerves and remember when I did my first triathlon. I still get excited and nervous for my races, but I can never replicate that first race feeling. Through volunteering I have met some of the greatest friends; friends I will have for life. They are training partners and friends that are like family…all just from volunteering, who would have thought.

Craig: What is something that you sense people don’t know about the TCSD Board of Directors that you would like them to know?

Brannen: I am not sure what people think of the TCSD Board of Directors. I am sure there are some mixed opinions out there. I think what people should know is that it is run like a true Board of Directors with rules and policies that we follow. We might be off on the timing/due dates of things, but they are volunteer positions and we all have other jobs and lives outside of making the club run. It is a lot of work to keep the club running and the Board of Directors dedicate a lot of their time to make it run, along with other volunteers. Everyone on the Board is there for the good of the club, to make decisions that are best for the members at large. We will never make everyone happy, but we do our best to do what is best for the longevity and continued growth of TCSD.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of being a TCSD member?

Brannen: Still, after the years that I have been a member, I am amazed at how much we get. I am not sure I have a favorite, but TCSD membership offers everything I could want if I need it: free coaching, free workouts, free food, informative meetings, discounts with great sponsors, giveaways, and free races. Hard to pick a favorite there.

Craig: What is the funniest thing you have seen in triathlon?

Brannen: Volunteering at Oceanside 70.3 in the transition area provides all sorts of humor you can see and hear. You have people who are so focused and making every second count (I can relate to this), trying to dodge the people that are out there taking all the time they need and want. You have people who put their helmet on backwards, people who keep their shoes on their bike and completely botch getting in to their shoes. You have the minimalists (again, me) who have just the basics tiny towel, shoes, some nutrition, glasses, visor, and those who brought their living room and kitchen to the race (will never believe this is necessary). One year there was a man who came out of the water and walked to his transition area, or better yet, transition room. He had it all, a big bucket, a couple towels, lots of nutrition, a big bag. And when he gets there he goes in to his bag, pulls out his phone and calls his wife/girlfriend. He sat there on the phone with her chatting it up. Then hung up the phone proceeded to put on cologne, yep, I said it, cologne and ran his fingers through his hair to straighten it out before he put his helmet on. As he walked out with his bike he gave a big “oh yea!” and on he went. At least he was enjoying himself.

Craig: What can you say about people who pee on the bike?

Brannen: Peeing on the bike, it’s a good skill to have, don’t knock it. I really have no problem with it, it is a race, and every second counts. Just be courteous, make sure you look behind you before you go, maybe wait if someone is coming up. If someone is drafting off you (that is illegal), don’t wait, they deserve it:) I actually feel the worst for the mechanics who have to work on your bike after the races, especially if you didn’t clean as you should.

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

Brannen: My parents: mom and stepdad. My stepdad has a huge heart and kind soul. He is a hard worker and has shown me what hard work and dedication can get you in life. My mom has shown me you have to go after what you want. It might not always be comfortable and can even be a bit scary, but it will work out and I will learn from all the experiences that get me there. She is a strong, independent, loving, loyal, and my number one cheerleader in my races and life, and I know all my accomplishments have been reached because of her influence.

Craig: Do you have any sponsors?

Brannen: I am part of the Betty Designs Team. We are sponsored by Betty Designs (duh): “Where runway fashion meets sport”. Kristen Mayer has done a great job designing fashionable, yet very functional kits, as well as lifestyle items. So if all else goes wrong training or on the course, at least I look good. Timex, watches! Watches for sport and watches for lifestyle, lots of options! Rudy Project: sunglasses and helmets, Bonk Breakers: bars, great for when I am on my bike or if I need an in-between meal snack, Nuun: electrolyte tablets for hydration, I love that there is no sugar added and so many flavor options, Roka: swim and cycle gear, COOLA Suncare: use mostly natural ingredients, have organic products too. Mavic: wheels, tires, apparel, Designer Protein: a variety of proteins to fit your needs.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Brannen: My goal is to make sure I am still having fun. Yes, I want to do well, place well, have good splits and overall time, but no matter how all that turns out, my goal is to have fun and finish with a smile on my face, even if my legs are on fire and can barely hold me up. Other goals would be some time goals in specific distances. This year I would like to run another sub 1:30 off the bike in a Half Ironman. And maybe one year really focus on running and see if I can break 3 hours in a marathon…I have 11 minutes I need to shave off. This year I decided to go to USAT Nationals. I think it would be cool to finish in the top 18 in my age group and be able to represent the USA at Worlds.

Craig: Brannen, thank you so much for sharing your story. The TCSD is very lucky to have you among our leaders. I look forward to racing Nationals with you in 2016 and hopefully both of us qualifying to race the 2017 ITU Tri Worlds in Rotterdam.

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

Posted in 2016, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Dieguito Half Marathon – 2016

Donating my 20th gallon to the San Diego Blood Bank.

Post Race: Donating my 20th gallon to the San Diego Blood Bank.


On Valentine’s Day I raced my 1st event of 2016 – the San Dieguito Half Marathon in Rancho Santa Fe. I treat this race pretty seriously and in my warped little mind think of it as the World Championships of San Dieguito. I had a great race as I placed 1st out of 51 men in the 50-54 age group and 9th overall out of 710 finishers. I did get chicked by 1 young lady. My time was 1:23:30 (6:23/mile) and I won my age group by 10:59.

One of the highlights of this race is a special spectator, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen positions herself about 1.5 miles from the start/finish line so we see her twice. The thing about the Queen is I’m not sure if she is a man or a woman. I’ve done this race 17 times now and in the early years I thought it was a guy in drag. Now I think she really is a lady. I have talked to many people over the years and I’m not the only one who wonders.

Another highlight is the chili that is served afterwards. The Queen even made an appearance to eat chili. Part of my motivation to run fast is to get my share. I stopped after just 2 bowls this year.

The chili was critical for me as 3 hours after my finish I made my 161st career blood donation which brings me to exactly 20 gallons donated to the San Diego Blood Bank. Donating blood is easy for me and I do wish more people did it. The only downside is that I feel like I’m pulling a sled during my workouts for the next 7-10 days. But it’s hard for me to pass up the Nutter Butters and orange juice they serve.

Living the life…

Posted in 2016, Half Marathon, Running Race | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Eric Davidson – January 2016

Eric Davidson on the run at Ironman Hawaii.

Eric Davidson on the run at Ironman Hawaii.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

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

Craig: What was your athletic background prior to triathlon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig: What is the Ironman Legacy Program?

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

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

Craig: What was your Ironman Hawaii experience like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

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

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

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

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

Christmas Caroling 2015

The TCSD Christmas Carolers.

The TCSD Christmas Carolers.

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

This year we sang at these locations:

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

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

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

Living the life…

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

Bonfield Express 5K

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

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

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

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

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

Living the life…

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

TCSD Conversation: Ironman Hawaii – November 2015

Katherine Adler moments before her 1st Ironman.

Katherine Adler moments before her 1st Ironman.

Lisa Rehberg cycling past the giant Lisa Rehberg heads.

Lisa Rehberg cycling past the giant Lisa Rehberg heads.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m so happy I love this race again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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