Freedom Four

Karin and Kent Yohe and Craig

Karin and Kent Yohe and Craig

1st place men's 50-59.

1st place men’s 50-59.

On July 4th I raced one of my all-time favorite events – the Freedom Four Mile Run in my hometown of Glen Ellyn, IL.  I was back in the Chicago area for the holiday weekend visiting family so I decided to run the race for the 15th time.  The Freedom Four was the 2nd race I ever did, way back in 1982 when I was just a pup.  Now I’ve done over 500 races all around the world.  I’ve come a long way, baby!

I had a very good race on the hilly course.  At about 1 mile into the race another runner asked me my age.  I told him 54 and he said he was 42.  We were both relieved that we were in different age groups.  I let him go ahead because I had no need to chase him.  At mile 2.5 I could hear the spectators cheering for a girl named Lindsey who was moving up behind me.  Uh oh!  At mile 2.75 I passed the 42 year old guy.  I told him “42, you are about to get chicked.”  42 got chicked and soon after I got chicked.  Lindsey won the women’s race and beat me by 32 seconds.  I think this was the 3rd time she’s won the race.  She got a trophy that was at least 2 feet tall.  So jealous!  My time of 23:00 (5:45/mile pace) earned me a tiny medal.  I placed 1st out of 66 men in the 50-59 age group and 15th out of 793 overall finishers.  

My grade school buddy Kent Yohe was also in town visiting his family.  Kent, his wife Karin, daughter Megan and sister Beth were all at the race.  It was great to see all of them.

The #1 highlight of my visit, though, was staying with my 95 year old Mom and seeing my sisters Cindy and Debbie.  We all had a great time.  The good Lord has blessed me.

Living the life…  

Posted in 2016, Running Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Bob Babbitt – May 2016

Bob in his frog outfit at the Mini Muddy Buddy Austin event with double above knee amputee Cody McCasland.

Bob in his frog outfit at the Mini Muddy Buddy Austin event with double above knee amputee Cody McCasland.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently to talk triathlon with the legendary funky dude, Bob Babbitt.  Bob is a TCSD member as well as a member of the Ironman Hall of Fame and the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.  It is an honor and a thrill to share Bob’s story.  We are so lucky to have this guy in our club!

Craig: Who was the most influential person in your life?

Bob: The most influential person in my life was my dad, the amazing Jack Babbitt.  He and his three brothers worked seven days a week at the auto parts store that my grandfather had started back in the 1920’s. Each brother would get one day off per week and they would rotate taking holidays like Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving off. Long hours, customer service and hard work was what the Babbitt family represented. The only day that the auto parts store was ever closed in its long history was the day of my grandfather’s funeral.

When I was about 16 years old, I remember my dad bringing me into his office at our house and walking me through the stocks and bonds that he had been investing in for years and years. He told me something that day I have carried with me ever since: “Bob, I don’t care how good of a doctor or lawyer or carpenter you are,” he said. “There are not enough hours in the day to support your family for the long haul just by working. You have to invest, you have to find a way to make money when you’re sleeping.”

When we launched Competitor Magazine back in 1987, we had a very small staff and no money, so it became imperative that we create long term relationships with our readers, our clients and our writers and photographers to help promote not only our magazine, but also these young sports of triathlon, running and cycling. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, that it would take a village.

When Jeffrey Essakow, Rick Kozlowski and I founded The Challenged Athletes Foundation in 1993 to help our buddy Jim MacLaren after his second accident, my dad’s words again came into play. We had the three of us plus Virginia Tinley and Tabi King working on putting this new charity together. We needed the community to embrace the cause and to raise money through their efforts as well as ours. For any charity to survive, you need to be able to figure out a way to make money when you’re sleeping.

Craig: You went to the greatest university in the world – the University of Illinois which happens to be where I went to school.  What was your career after graduation?

Bob: When I finished college at the University of Illinois in 1973, In moved back to the Chicago area and started working at a place called Central Baptist Children’s Home where I worked with emotionally disturbed children. It was a great experience and I learned a ton about patience during those two years. Then I moved to San Diego in 1978 and took a job at The Children’s School in Sorrento Valley. I ran the PE program there for seven years – it was called Bob Time- and I had the opportunity to go out and play for about six hours a day and get paid at the same time. It was the best! During the summers I put on Bob’s Sports Camps and we played racquetball, baseball, capture the flag and swam in a local pool. I started working at the school in 1978 and that’s when I started running and doing this new sport called triathlon. Most of the early races were at Fiesta Island and my roommate and I raced as many of them as we could. My roommate’s name? Ned Overend. Ned went on to become one of the most decorated mountain bikers in history, but  this was way before mountain bikes had been invented and he was working as a mechanic at San Diego Suzuki.

Craig: What was your experience like at the 1980 Ironman?

Bob: Ned and I read about this event in Sports Illustrated called the Ironman Triathlon after the 1979 race. Tom Warren, who ran Tug’s Tavern here in San Diego, had won the race and there had been only 15 people in the race and only 12 finished. Ned and I tracked Tom down to learn more about this Ironman thing. It’s not like you could go online and sign up for events back then! We bought bikes at the police auction for $75 each. Mine had been burned in a fire and the back end was charred. I added a fuzzy raccoon seat cover and foam grips to the handlebars plus I bungie corded a Radio Shack radio to the bike so I could listen to tunes along the way. I added flat proof solid-rubber tires since I had no idea on how to change a flat tire plus I added panniers, to the back so I could carry a sleeping bag and tent with me during the Ironman. For some reason I thought the Ironman was a two-day adventure, that we swam 2.4 miles and rode 56 on day one, camped out, and then rode back to Waikiki and ran the marathon. Who knew?

On race day in 1980 there were 108 of us on the start line for the third ever Ironman and the last one on Oahu. Because of the huge surf and because ABC was going to televise this crazy event on Wide World of Sports, the swim was moved from the Waikiki Rough Water Swim location to Ala Moana Channel. The surf was so huge they didn’t think they could run the event on the designated race day, and if the event had to be postponed from Saturday to Sunday, ABC had another commitment and couldn’t film the race. Ned and I were happy since the surf at Sans Souci Beach, the original site, was 8-10 foot that weekend, we had done all of our training in a 15 yard pool in Mission Valley and we would have definitely died if the race hadn’t been moved. Dave Scott and the Navy SEALs who were entered that year were definitely not happy that the swim was moved from the ocean to the calm waters of the channel.

We had no idea how to fuel for the Ironman so I had my crew carry Hawaiian Sweet Bread and Gatorade for me to eat and drink throughout the day. My crew treated me to a Big Mac, fries and a coke 25 miles into the bike ride and to a root beer snow cone at about mile 80.

When I finished the bike ride, I heard the sound of a boom box when I entered the transition area. My crew had a bamboo matt laid out and asked if I would like a massage. Who wouldn’t? I had a 45 minute massage between the bike and the run and felt awesome! Then I started the marathon after weighing in. They had a rule back then that you had to stop and get weighed a few times during the bike ride and the marathon. If you lost 5% of your body weight they would pull you from the race. When I got off the bike, I weighed in and went right back to eating Hawaiian Sweet Bread and drinking Gatorade. At about mile four they weighed me again:

“Hey,” said a voice from the other end of the walkie- talkie.“ Can you give me that number again? This guy gained four pounds…you can’t GAIN weight doing this thing!”

I did.

When I was running the last part of the marathon up Diamond Head with my crew driving behind me in their Fiat convertible, I knew that this event, that this thing called the Ironman, was going to change my life. I was expecting to see big crowds at the finish, but instead I saw a line of chalk across the road and a light bulb hanging above me. A voice from the darkness in the park yelled ‘Hey, you…are you in the race?’ When I answered yes, the response came immediately back: “You’re done!”

That was it. No flowered lei, no medal, no bands or crowds or music.

Just one fellow finisher doing one arm push-ups in the park.

But I knew immediately that I was changed, that finishing this Ironman event had given me a level of confidence in myself that I had never had before. I had earned this business card that day in Oahu card that told me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. If and when things got tough in life, I could draw on that experience.  If I could finish the toughest day in sport, in my mind I could accomplish absolutely anything.

Craig: What was your path to a career in journalism and media?

Bob: After finishing the Ironman in 1980, I put together a fun event at The Children’s School that I called the IronKids Triathlon. Pretty creative, right? I went to Tijuana and bought Incredible Hulk plaster banks as prizes for the kids and we combined a short run, an obstacle course and a swim across the pool in the complex so the kids could get a feel for the sport of triathlon. I called up Mike Plant at Running and Triathlon News Magazine and asked him if he was interested in covering my new event. He said he was too busy and that I should write it up. I had never written anything before, but I put together a short article. Mike liked it and asked me to keep writing. That led to a series of articles I wrote for Mike that somehow touched a nerve. If ‘The Running Wino’ didn’t upset enough people, maybe ‘The Old Fart of the Month’ could be a tad more offensive. Then came my phony advice column called ‘The Reverend Campagnolo Minister of Triathlism’ and for some reason people seemed to respond to the articles.

And I realized I loved to write.

Mike ended up hiring me to be the Los Angeles Editor for Running and Triathlon News in 1984 and Lois Schwartz, the art teacher at our school, decided to join me as our LA photographer. The two of us would drive to running, triathlon and cycling events every weekend and we savored every minute of it. We met great people, covered awesome events and got to tell inspirational stories. What could be better than that?

Craig: How did Competitor begin?

Bob: In April of 1987 Running and Triathlon News closed down unexpectedly and Lois and I were out of a job. We went to meet with the owners of both Southwest Cycling Magazine and California Bicyclist Magazine to ask them about working together on a magazine that would cover running, triathlon and cycling. Neither group was interested and told us that cycling was their passion, that triathlon was a fad that would be gone in five years and that they would never put a skinny runner on the cover of their magazine.

When we returned home, Ron Mirolla from The Sports Page, a running store in Pacific Beach, and Larry White from San Diego Vitamins, called Lois and I and asked us to meet with them and some friends. They presented us with a check for $17,000 and told us to start our own magazine.

We rented out 200 square feet of space in a race director’s warehouse underneath thousands of pounds of bike racks for $200 a month and in June of 1987 came out with the very first edition of Competitor Magazine. We didn’t pay ourselves for the first two years and I lived on friend’s floors to save on rent. We had no background in business, but we were passionate about our publication, our sponsors and our readers. Nothing else really mattered.

Craig: When did the radio show begin?

Bob: Three years later, in 1990, we created Competitor Radio and it aired every Sunday night on what was then The Mighty 690 am and is now The Mighty 1090 am. Since our sports and our athletes were not that well known at that time, what if regular sports fans went from a radio chat with Wayne Gretzky or Magic Johnson to one with Steve Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser or Mark Allen? To grow Competitor, we needed to grow the awareness of our sports and our athletes among mainstream sports fans and mainstream sports media. That was the reason we created Competitor Radio. Now in its 26th year, it is definitely the longest running show in endurance sports. Back then people had to listen on live radio here in Southern California on Sunday nights to hear our show, but everything changed when we were able to save the shows and put them on iTunes and on our own website so people could listen whenever and wherever they liked. The show, now known as Babbittville Radio, not only airs on The Mighty 1090 am every Sunday night between 8 and 10 pm, it also airs on iTunes and on so our fans can get a workout in while listening to a conversation between myself and Taylor Phinney, Dave Scott, Jan Frodeno, Daniela Ryf or Kara Goucher. Over the years the world of endurance has expanded to include obstacle racing, adventure racing, running, cycling, triathlon, cyclocross and mountain biking. I just added it up the other day and I’m pretty sure we’ve interviewed over 4,000 people on our show.

Craig: Back in the day, you organized an underground Ride & Tie race at Penasquitos Canyon on Thanksgiving and Easter mornings.  How did those events come about and what did they lead to?

Bob: Back in the early 1980’s, I was asked to participate in an event up in the Laguna Mountains called Ride & Tie. It was a 28 mile trail event where a team of two runners took turns riding a horse and running, leapfrogging their way through the course. Ride a few miles, tie your horse to a tree, start running. Your partner runs to the horse, gets on, rides by you and ties the horse to a tree. Simple, right? Unless you’ve never ridden a horse before. The race started with a shotgun and our horse Shasta suddenly changed his name to Lightning with smoke coming out of both nostrils by the time I tried to climb on his back four miles into the event. Eventually I was able to mount up and hold on for dear life as my horse jumped over rocks, trees and runners on his way to the front. I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is a really cool concept. We just need to lose the 2,000 pound eating and crapping machine that can kill me.’ At mile 20, there was a vet check before the horse was allowed to run the last eight miles. By the time I arrived at that checkpoint, I had run 16 of the first 20 miles and was looking forward to walking the last eight miles sitting tall in the saddle. When I arrived at mile 20, I was surprised to see Shasta being loaded into the back of one of those horsey corrals. “what’s wrong with him?” I asked. “His hooves are sore,” someone yelled back. “His hooves are sore?” I responded to no avail.

While running the last eight miles, it became very clear to me. Keep the concept…..lose the horse.

So in 1982 or so we did the first ever Ride & Tie on Thanksgiving morning. Two runners….one cruiser bike or mountain bike… permits and definitely no horses. It was an off-road event and Mark Allen, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina and all of the legends came out to give the event a try. It was 12 miles round trip, I was in a Turkey suit, we had spam stations instead of aid stations, and I hid stuffed animals along the way. It was a safari and every stuffed animal had a time bonus attached to it. So you didn’t necessarily have to be fast. You had to be cunning and, since there were absolutely no rules, you could steal other people’s stuffed animals or take the front wheel off their bike and toss it deep into the woods. One of my favorite moments was two-time Ironman World Champion Scott Tinley and another participant arguing over who actually should get a time credit for the four foot tall purple Barney. The event was a total hoot and everyone had a blast. Entry fee was ten cans of food per team that was donated to a local charity. We had championship belts made out of tin foil by my buddy Ben Boyd for the winners and before you knew it we had 100 teams of two showing up on Thanksgiving and Easter, since I also happened to own a bunny suit.

Flash ahead to 1998 and a meeting with the President of Brooks Shoes to put together an ad plan for Competitor Magazine. When he said he was looking for a cool new event to partner with rather than an ad package, we pitched the idea of taking my off- road ride & tie event with mountain bikes with the addition of some obstacles and a mud pit. We called this brand new event Muddy Buddy and launched with 250 teams at Camp Pendleton in 1999. Over the years the Muddy Buddy Ride and Run Series grew from one San Diego event to 18 events.

I always was a firm believer in promoting and connecting Muddy Buddy to Competitor Magazine and, when possible, with our Challenged Athletes Foundation as well. As the Muddy Buddy Series grew, we promoted it through Competitor Magazine and our radio show and only put events on in regions of the country where we either had a regional edition of Competitor or a publication that was part of our Gen A Media family of publications. As the official charity of Muddy Buddy, we generated over $300,000 for CAF over the years and showcased many of CAF’s amazing challenged athletes.

Craig: One of my greatest victories was winning the 2007 Ride & Tie with John Montanile as my teammate.  I still have my tin foil belt on display at home.  You have had quite a career.  What is the lasting legacy of Bob Babbitt that gives you the most pride?

Bob: Of everything we have been a part of over the years, nothing has brought as much joy to my life as CAF. Watching Sarah Reinertsen become the first single above knee amputee woman to finish the Ironman Triathlon World Championship was special. To be able to witness the growth of double above knee amputee Rudy Garcia-Tolson from a six-year-old hoping to be able to walk and run one day to a 26-year-old CitiBank sponsored, Ironman Arizona finishing,  four-time Paralympian and a two-time Paralympic Gold Medalist has been unbelievable.

People may not realize that CAF started to help one man, Jim MacLaren. Jim was a 300 pound football player at Yale who was going to acting class in New York City on his motorcycle when he was hit by a bus and thrown 90 feet in the air. He lived, but he lost his left leg below the knee. Jimmy became the best amputee endurance athlete on the planet running a 3:16 marathon and going 10:42 at the Ironman World Championship in Kona on a regular everyday walking leg. This was before the cool OSSUR running legs even existed.

I met Jimmy while covering him through Competitor Magazine. He was fully sponsored and was racing all around the world. In 1993 Jimmy was racing a triathlon in Mission Viejo when a van went through a closed intersection, hit the back of Jimmy’s bike, propelled him head-first into a pole and a guy who was already an amputee became a quadriplegic. From covering wheelchair athletes at Competitor, I had interviewed wheelchair bound athletes and asked them the worst part about being paralyzed. Repeatedly they told me how tough it was to be 25 or 30 years old and have mom and dad come back into their lives. They had lost their sense of self and independence because they needed help to do anything and everything.

So when Jeffrey Essakow, Rick Kozlowski and I got together to put on a triathlon for Jimmy at La Jolla Cove in the fall of 1993, the goal was to raised $25,000 to buy Jimmy a vehicle that he could drive with his hands. We raised $49,000 through the support of the triathlon community and thought our job was done. But three amputee women approached us after the event to let us know that Jimmy had been their hero and that Jimmy had inspired them to get into endurance sports. They also told us that, when someone is injured, their health insurance covers a walking around leg or an everyday wheelchair, but that anything to do with sports is considered a luxury item and not covered by insurance.

That’s when we decided to get our 5013C designation and make sure that if anyone needed a piece of equipment, travel expenses or coaching to stay in the game of life through sports, CAF would be there for them. Through the support of the wonderful world of endurance sports we have now raised north of $70,000,000 dollars and provided north of 13,000 grants to challenged athletes all over the world. Just a few weeks ago, out of our amazing state-of-the-art Deni and Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Center building in Mira Mesa, we sent out over 2,098 grants worth north of $3.7 million dollars. Plus, Paratriathlon for the first time will be in the Paralympics this summer in Rio. I don’t think that would have happened without the great work of our amazing CAF athletes, supporters and the triathlon community here in San Diego.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of membership in the Triathlon Club of San Diego?

Bob: I think the world’s greatest value is a membership to TCSD. I think the cost is $70 for the year. For that you get four aquathlons, which are my favorite events of the summer. Are you kidding me? Each Aquathlon should have an entry fee of $100! So you start with four Thursday evening races with permits, lifeguards, full on post-event buffet and chip timing.  Watching the sun go down while hanging out with your buddies after an aquathlon is one of life’s great pleasures. I’m serious about this. I race upwards of 30 times a year and the very first events I put in my schedule each year are the aquathlons. There is absolutely nothing better.

Then you need to add on the Fiesta Island Triathlons, again with food and timing and actual permits and a duathlon series. That’s not including the weekly workouts and our monthly club meetings where we have one-on-one interviews with, I don’t know, only the greatest endurance athletes in history. Check out the list sometime. Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee, Taylor Phinney, Mirinda Carfrae, Rod Dixon, Chrissie Wellington, Sebastian Kienle, Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall are just a few of the guests we have had with us over the past few years. To me, with the amazing value TCSD brings to the table, I can’t believe we don’t have 5,000 TCSD members.

Over the years I have seen a lot of clubs become exclusive and not inclusive. Cycling groups are notorious for having first timers show up and doing nothing to make them feel welcome. TCSD has never been like that. We have been the model for inclusion. I remember when Jim McCann was the President of the club. We were at La Jolla Shores and a first timer was trying on a wetsuit for the very first time. He put it on inside out and came walking out of the bathroom. Jim walked over and very quietly said to him, “You know, I think it might go the other way.” It would have been easy for everyone to point and laugh and make this person feel awful. That’s not the way Jim or TCSD has ever been. We want everyone to love the world’s best sport and to understand that on race day, it’s you against yourself and you against the course. Yeah, there are other people in your age group, but those are your buddies who have the same goals you have: to enjoy the day, enjoy the sport, enjoy the catered workout and enjoy getting a great workout in before most people are even awake.

Craig: If you had a magic wand that you could waive over the sports world, what would you change?

Bob: Right now the sport of triathlon is flat in terms of growth. The reasons? There are a few, but in my mind we are in this awesome era of Endurance Entertainment where people have so many fun options from triathlon to running to Spartan and Tough Mudder to Gran Fondo and Color Run. Because there are so many options, triathlon has to do a better job of letting people know how great and inclusive our sport is. I think we are missing the boat by USA Triathlon not promoting the sport of triathlon at running events. You have sometimes 20,000 marathoners and half marathoners at an event and, in my opinion, the orthopedic reality is that one day, if they want to stay in endurance  sports, they will need to add in some cycling and swimming and weight training. Very few people can become better runners after the age of 50, but triathlon is the Fountain of Youth. Because there is no weight bearing, you can become a better swimmer and cyclist as you age. I know I have!

Craig: It seems like you race all the time.  How have you been able to continue racing and why do you love it so much?

Bob: Last July I decided to change my eating habits and eliminated bread, gluten, sugar, salt, soft drinks and alcohol. Dr. David Clayton was a guest on Babbittville Radio and I asked him for a verbal cue, something to remember when I was about to eat the wrong things. He told me the following: If it wasn’t around a million years ago, don’t eat it. And if it has a label on it, it wasn’t around a million years ago so don’t eat it. For some reason, that message made sense to me and, along with the help of my wife Heidi, I eliminated bread, butter, sugar, salt, soft drinks and alcohol. I went from 184 to 161.4 in about 16 weeks and went from 24% body fat to 16%. More importantly, my energy level is even all day and I feel better than I have in years. Getting rid of two bowling balls makes cycling and running so much easier! I have always loved racing and, over an 11 week span recently, I raced 12 times including Triton Man, Lava Man, Super Seal, Ironman 70.3 California, two TCSD Fiesta Island races plus the Boston Marathon in my Elvis suit, which I highly recommend!

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Bob: My goal is to race as often as possible. I love meeting people, getting feedback on our shows and interviews. I have always believed that hanging out with 20, 30 and 40 year olds helps to keep us folks in the 65 to death category young. I’ve raced 12 races in the past 11 weeks and I’m hoping to see how many weekends I can race in 2016.  Aging up to 65 is a good thing. Fun story. Some of my fellow members of the 60 to death age category were chatting before the Solana Beach Triathlon last summer about how long we were going to keep getting up so damn early to hang out in a dark parking lot. The answer was unanimous: As long as we can!

Craig: Bob, thank you so much for sharing your story.  You have done so much for the TCSD, our sport of triathlon, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and everything else you have touched.  Your success has not changed you.  You have always been and always will be one funky dude!

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

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

Big Bear Triathlon

Men's 50-54 Podium - Kevin 1st, Craig 2nd, Duane 3rd

Men’s 50-54 Podium-Kevin 1st, Craig 2nd, Duane 3rd


On June 18th I raced the Big Bear Triathlon in Big Bear, CA.  This race has been around for 20 or 30 years, but I’ve never done it.  It has been on my bucket list for a few years and now I can say I’ve done it.  It is a unique event because it is held at 7,000 feet above sea level in the San Bernardino Mountains.  Not easy!

The 0.85 mile swim was in Big Bear Lake.  The signs of the drought were immediately apparent as the lake was very shallow.  The lake bottom was soft and thick with mud to mid-calf.  I was amazed I did not lose my timing chip which was strapped to my ankle.  The water was 66 degrees and very comfortable for the 2 lap swim.  Typically I breathe every 3rd stroke, but the altitude forced me to breathe every 2nd stroke.  I had the 4th best swim with a time of 22:13.  Bill Richardson swam 19:15, but the next handful of guys came out of the water with me.  I was in a good position.

The 30.5 mile bike was on open roads, but there was very little traffic so that was not an issue.  The road surface was mostly good.  The course offered plenty of ups and downs, but no brutal climbs or descents.  The only part I did not like was the final 4 miles was thru a residential neighborhood with a lot turns.  But everyone had to ride the same course.  The weather was clear and temperatures were in the mid 70’s so it was a gorgeous day.  I had the 7th best bike split with a time of 1:36:35 (18.9 mph) to drop me into 6th place.

The 5.6 mile run was all on paved neighborhood roads and it also had plenty of ups and downs.  My wife, Laurie, was out there spectating which is always nice.  I saved some energy for the run.  I had the best run split with a time of 37:37 to finish 2nd out of 16 men in the 50-54 age group with a time of 2:41:03.  Kevin Sullivan won the age group by a whopping 13:43.  Kevin won the race with his outstanding bike split.  His bike split was 17:38 better than mine.  Either he’s a much better cyclist than me or he was breathing out of a bigger straw than me.  I managed to edge out Duane Morrison who placed 3rd by 5 seconds.  And I placed 17th out of 125 overall finishers.  I was satisfied with my race as this event definitely favors the better cyclists.

Living the life…

Posted in 2016, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tri Rock San Diego Triathlon

Craig running at 5:59/mile pace.

Craig running at 5:59/mile pace.

Men's 50-54 Podium: Scott Jones 1st and Craig 3rd.

Men’s 50-54 Podium: Scott Jones 1st and Craig 3rd.

On May 22nd I raced the Tri Rock San Diego Triathlon in downtown San Diego by the Convention Center.  I knew when I arrived on race morning that I would have my hands full as I saw Steve Thunder racking his bike.  Steve is in my age group.  We had raced the Superseal Triathlon in March and I narrowly edged him out for the win.

The most unique aspect about Tri Rock is the time trial start format.  Each age group does start together – sort of.  Before the race they line us up by age group.  But the swim start area is so narrow that only 1 or 2 athletes can jump off the pier at any point in time.  Each athlete’s race officially starts when he crosses a timing mat at the end of the pier.  This means you better race hard all the way to the finish line because you really won’t know how you did until a few minutes after the race. 

The swim course was 1.5K (0.93 miles) in the San Diego Harbor.  We were aided by a gentle current.  I had a great swim as I completed the course in 21:06.  As it turned out, I had the fastest swim time in my age group, but I did not know that at the time.

The bike course was a major challenge for me.  It was only 22 miles, but it had a lot of turns and was very bumpy at times.  The turns posed the biggest challenge as that meant a lot of energy was spent to re-accelerate back up to speed.  Very few courses in North America are like this so I was not trained for this type of anaerobic effort, but I doubt my competitors were either.  I only managed the 9th best bike split in the age group with a time of 1:03:17 (20.8 mph), but I did the best I could.  This effort dropped me down to 6th place.  Steve did pass me about 13 miles into the bike course, but I had no idea of when he started the race.

The run course was 2 laps for a total of about 5.6 miles.  Parts of the course were on concrete and brick so it was not very easy on the body.  I knew I’d feel it the next day.  The 1st turnaround was about 1.5 miles into the course and Steve was about 1:50 ahead of me.  Uh oh!  Steve is too good a runner.  I knew I’d never catch him, but hopefully I could get close and hopefully he had started the race before me.  I did have the best run on the day as my run split was 33:22 (5:59/mile) for a finish time of 2:01:12.  That was good enough for 3rd place out of 18 men in the 50-54 age group and 15th out of 353 overall finishers.  I did manage to beat Steve by 6 seconds, but 2 guys from Boulder (Scott Jones) and Las Vegas (Todd Mitchell) beat me.  Oh well.  I had a lot of fun and that’s what counts.

The highlight of the day was racing with my Team USA friends George and Jane Esahak-Gage.  It’s been 10 years since we all raced together.  Back in 2006 George and Jane were on a Sunday morning bike ride near their home in Arizona when they both got hit by a car.  Jane got a pretty serious concussion, but George was a real mess and nearly died.  It is a miracle that he lived and has been able to race so well – thank you God!  Jane won her age group and George placed third in his age group.

Living the life…

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

TCSD Conversation: Erin Hunter – April 2016

Erin Hunter on her way to a 5th place age group finish at the 2015 Ironman Coeur d'Alene.

Erin Hunter on her way to a 5th place age group finish at the 2015 Ironman Coeur d’Alene.


TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent 

I recently had the pleasure of talking triathlon with Erin Hunter, who has worn many hats for the Tri Club over the years from Potluck Coordinator to Head Swim Coach.  Please join me in getting to know one of our best volunteers.  And you will see that she is also a pretty accomplished athlete. 

Craig: What was your sports background prior to triathlon?    

Erin: I grew up in Placerville, California which is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s near South Lake Tahoe.  I grew up trying pretty much every sport there was to offer in my home town (soccer, softball, volleyball, swimming, basketball, track & field, cross-country); it took me a long time to decide which sport I wanted to put all my efforts into.  After a lot of heartache and indecision I finally decided during my senior year of high school that swimming was the sport for me.  I walked onto the UC Santa Cruz Women’s swim team in college and had the time of my life!  I worked really hard and managed to qualify for NCAA’s three of the four years; I received 7 All Americans in total at NCAA’s.  My best race was the 200 breaststroke my junior year; I managed to place 3rd overall!  Swimming has really taught me how to work hard and how dedication and persistence pays off; it also has given me some great stories and memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. 

Craig: How did you get started with triathlon?   

Erin: In college we had to fundraise money for the swim team and one of the main volunteer events we did was work the Santa Cruz Triathlon (Olympic distance) every year.  The only way you could (1) get out of volunteering both days (I know, terrible of me) (2) get to take it easy at our Saturday swim workout before the race was to actually participate in the triathlon.  Seemed like a sweet deal to me!  So the summer between my freshman and sophomore year I bought a road bike and raced!  I did that race every year until I graduated; to this day it is still my favorite race.  One of these years I will make it back to do it again! 

Craig: In 2015 you raced your first Ironman at Coeur d’Alene and finished 1 place away from qualifying for Kona.  Congratulations for such a great Ironman debut!  What was this experience like?   

Erin: My first Ironman race was actually supposed to be Challenge Roth in Germany but a few months before the race I realized that race wasn’t going to happen for me; Ironman Coeur d’Alene (IMCDA) was scheduled around the same time of year so I decided since I had already put so much time into training already that I would switch it up and make it work.  I am fortunate to have a lot of friends in San Diego that also train for triathlons so I was able to do a lot of my longer training workouts with great people who have a ton of experience and they really helped push me through the harder/longer training days.   

I honestly wasn’t convinced that IMCDA was going to happen; the weather was forecasted to be 107 degree Fahrenheit (holy hotness)!!  Everyone was talking about how they were going to cancel the race or make it a half (which would have been disappointing).  They decided to start the race at 0530 in the morning to try and help beat some of the heat, I woke up and asked my brother, Erik, if he would rather spend the day with me at the movies and he just looked at me, rolled his eyes and told me to suck it up.  Thanks Erik! 

Not surprising to anyone the swim went phenomenal, I was first female overall included the pros out of the water. Hopped on the bike and really enjoyed the first loop of the bike; by the time I was about a third of the way through the second loop it started to getting REALLY hot.  It felt like a blow dryer out there; the paramedics said that the heat permeating off the road was over 130 degrees!  I finished the bike still in first place but then I started to the run…… and knew it was going to be tough.  Immediately I decided all I need to do was run to each aid station and then walk the aid station shoving ice down my top and dumping water on my head.  That worked well but I really started cramping bad halfway through the run and had to walk a bunch.  I knew I was going to finish but thought there might be some crawling involved.  Even though I felt like I was in bad shape I was WAY better off than the majority of the people left on the course.  I would say 99% of the people were walking by the time I got into my second loop.  I was in position to qualify for Kona until 2 miles from the end when I got passed by two girls in my age group.  I tried to stay with them, my heart wanted it but my legs couldn’t run without cramping. 

Honestly, even though it would have been cool to qualify for Kona my two goals for the race were (1) to have fun and enjoy every moment no matter how trying the day may be and (2) to finish.  I can say with a smile on my face that I achieved that.  That feeling of running through the finish line and having Mike Reilly tell you that you are an IRONMAN and knowing all the hard work you put in is a feeling I can’t even describe with words but it is a feeling that makes you realize that it was all worth it. 

Craig: What suggestions do you have for those preparing for their first Ironman? 

Erin: To enjoy the process; to live the minute, or the mile you are in.  Don’t spend too much time thinking ahead or about the end of your workout or your race.  The reality of training for an Ironman is that 99% of the work is in the preparation so if you don’t enjoy your training days then you won’t have a successful race. 

What really got me through the longer training workouts was being creative with my workouts; don’t always do the same bike ride or the same run route.  Make a weekend vacation out of it and do a destination ride or run! 

Craig: What athletic accomplishment are you most proud of?   

Erin: In general I am most proud of my collegiate swimming career.  I am pretty sure everyone on the team thought I was crazy.  You kind of have to be if you swim competitively.  I would always be pushing the limit, getting up extra early to run up to campus, or do the extra/optional swim workouts.  I believed I could be great so I was going to do everything I could to achieve that. 

I squeaked into NCAA’s my sophomore year so I wasn’t expecting to make finals.  On the second day of the swim meet I competed in the 400 IM and had a great race! I was in the second to last heat so depending on the last heat there was a chance I could qualify for finals. I remember standing on the pool deck next to my swim coach; I didn’t think I breathed the entire four minutes.  When the results popped up I saw I had snagged the 8th spot and made finals! I think I jumped 10 feet in the air, screamed, did a little dance, I may have even kissed my coach (I can’t remember but seems like something I would do).  Even though I had more successful races after that day, that race and that day will always be my proudest.  

Craig: You have done a lot for the TCSD over the years – Pot Luck Coordinator and Head Swim Coach for 3 years, among many other things.  What have been the benefits for you of getting so involved? 

Erin: There are tons of benefits that come from volunteering for TCSD; you get to interact with professional athletes, you are provided opportunities to volunteer for really fun things that you normally wouldn’t, lots of yummy food, and you are surrounded by a wealth of knowledge of the sport so you learn a lot.  I would say the number one benefit is all the great people you meet, I have met some of my best friends through the club and I am very thankful for that! 

Craig: You obviously know a lot about swimming.  What are some of your most common swim tips for triathletes? 

Erin: Rotation! A lot of triathletes (especially new to swimming) spend a lot of time on their bellies. While swimming you should constantly be rotating side to side, using your core and hips to do so.  So I spend a lot of time when I coach technique working on rotation and core strength. 

Craig: What gives you the most joy as a swim coach? 

Erin: By being a swim coach for the club it has renewed and reinvigorated my passion for swimming.  I have been involved in swimming for such a long time I had forgotten what it took to get to the level I am at, I had taken for granted how easy swimming is for me. 

I have coached hundreds of people throughout the years; many of them came to TCSD not being able to swim a full length of the pool or being terrified of putting their faces in the water.  Working with people like that and helping them overcome their fear and finally being comfortable enough to compete in a triathlon (or any race) is a great feeling.  The excitement is palpable when they come back to tell you that they finished the race and actually enjoyed the swim (shocker!)!  That is one of best feelings in the world!  In a way I think I get more out volunteering for the TCSD swim program than the people I coach, I always leave the swim workouts with a smile on my face and feeling grateful.  

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

Erin: All the club races, especially the aquathlons.  It is so fun to have a small local race mid-week, on the beach, with pizza, and a guaranteed beautiful sunset. 

Craig: You have probably done some amazing things over the years with sports.  Do you have any particularly epic memories that stand out?   

Erin: Over the years I have had the opportunity do a lot of fun/crazy things through sports.  Last year I got to participate in the coast ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara (375 miles in 3 days, insanity!); to date that is the hardest thing I have ever done on my bike, but I got to ride through some of the most gorgeous parts of California!   

I would have to say the most insane thing that I did (multiple times) was in college, every year we had two teams swim from Santa Cruz Harbor to Monterey Harbor (6 people, 20 to 30 minute legs, rotate through until you’re done), without wetsuits.  That swim is about 26 miles if you swim in a straight-line and the water temperature varies between 52 and 58 degrees (brrrrrrrr), with the threat of great whites being high we were always so happy to survive and not freeze to death.  There have been a few years where there were smacks of jellyfish that we tried to swim through (ouch!), we have seen sea lions mating, whales breeching!   The year after I graduated they had a 19 foot great white shark circle the group (everyone got out safely) so ever since then they haven’t done the relay across the bay.   

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

Erin: My family has hands down been the most influential people in my life.  My mom and dad have always been my number one fans and support system, even if I made decisions in my life (like quitting soccer, sorry dad!) they did not completely agree with.  They always trusted my decisions and were (and still are) always there to cheer or give a supportive hand.  I am so fortunate to have parents that I can rely on even as a grownup.  I also have to give a huge shout out to my brothers; I really don’t know what I would have done without them growing up and even now.  They are always there give me a kick in the butt when I need one (literally and figuratively). 

Also, my swim coaches throughout the years.  Coach Kenworthy for throwing me back in the pool when I had a hissy fit and kicked him in the shin; Terry Jones for seeing my potential in high school and all my UCSC college swim coaches Kim Musch, Joel Wilson, Larry Baeder, and James Cisneros who pushed me harder and farther than I thought I could ever go.    

Craig: What are your future goals with triathlon?  (This could be far reaching.  You might want to work in the industry, hold an office with the club, continue with swim coaching, or achieve some goal as an athlete.) 

Erin: I am always looking to try something new; there are so many deviations of the sport out there.  So my goal every year is to try a new type of triathlon or similar multisport race (xterra, short or long course, swim/run events, adventure races, etc.).  It keeps competing in triathlon fun!  This year I am participating in a swim/run race in Portland, Maine for the first time! I get to go somewhere I have never been before and complete in a new type of multisport race. 

Craig: Erin, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  I have been wanting to interview you for a long time.  It was well worth the wait.  Good luck with your future goals.  The women in your age group don’t have a chance!

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

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

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…

Posted in 2016, Marathon, Running Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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