Ironman 70.3 Superfrog

Troy Cundari and Craig

Troy Cundari and Craig

On September 27th I raced the Ironman 70.3 Superfrog at Coronado, CA. This was the 5th time I’ve “done the frog”, but the 1st time on the new course. Superfrog is famous for much of the run course being in deep sand. Since I started battling plantar fasciitis issues in 2012, I have done everything to avoid running on sand. I decided to take the risk since this was my last race of the year.

The original purpose of Superfrog was two-fold. The first was to prepare the SEALs to race Ironman Hawaii. The second was to promote the sport of triathlon in the SEAL teams where competitive spirit is extremely high. Something every athlete and spectator must notice at Superfrog is how the race honors the SEALs who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The fencing that borders the transition area has signage that pays homage to each individual SEAL who died in the act of duty.

My goal at Superfrog was to win my age group and qualify for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Sunshine Coast, Australia. I was under the impression that there would probably only be 1 spot per age group so I felt like I had to win. The day before the race I ran into my friend Troy Cundari. Troy is in my age group and I have not beaten him for a couple of years. Troy was looking very fit so I feared he might present a problem for me. We exchanged text messages and he said he had no interest in Sunshine Coast so even if he beat me, it would be ok. But he said Alex Begg was racing. Alex is an ex pro. I’ve only beaten Alex 1x in my career and that was way back in 2008 at Wildflower. Uh oh! My only hope it seemed was the deep sand possibly slowing Alex down.

The 1.2 mile ocean swim was 2 loops with a surf entry and surf exit on each loop. The surf was fairly small so it presented only a minor challenge. I swam well. My split was 33:48 so I came out of the water in 3rd place.

The 56 mile bike course was 4 loops along The Strand which is pancake flat. I had raced Tri Worlds Sprint and Tri Worlds Olympic in Chicago 10 days and 8 days prior to Superfrog. I was well trained for short, fast racing, but not to race 56 miles. The fatigue started to show on the 4th loop at Superfrog. And the temperatures had risen to the mid 80’s. I muscled through it for a bike split of 2:38:24 (21.2 mph). This was the 15th best bike split and it dropped me to 10th place.

The 13.1 mile run course was 3 loops. There were a few out and back sections on each loop where you could assess the competition. I saw Troy less than 1 mile into my run and I calculated that he was 8 minutes ahead. At the same point in the 2nd loop he was only 4 minutes ahead. I was confident I would catch him, but would I catch Alex? I felt good and ran very aggressively. I was a bit disappointed that there was very little deep sand – maybe 200 meters per loop. The good news was that I knew my plantar fasciitis foot would be fine. But the bad news was I needed a really challenging course to catch Alex. This course was tough as it had a lot of loose gravel and some sand, but probably not challenging enough for my needs. Early in the 3rd loop I caught Troy. I had 4 miles to catch Alex. I asked Troy if he knew how far ahead Alex was. Troy looked gassed. He said nothing. I kept the accelerator down all the way to the end. My run split was 1:43:19 which was the best on the day.

As soon as I finished I started looking for Alex. He was nowhere in sight. Crap! He’s so good that he probably was already showered. Troy finished 4 minutes after me. I let him catch his breath for a minute and then I walked over to him. We were both dead. I told him I could not catch Alex. He laughed at me and replied, “Dude, Alex was not even in the race. I was just yanking your chain!” We both burst out laughing! You’d think I would want to kill Troy, but that was a heckuva practical joke. I gave Troy a big “man hug”. I had been chasing Alex all day and he was never there. I’d been chasing a ghost! Hmmm. Maybe I won?

As it turned out I was 2nd out of 55 men in the 50-54 age group. My finish time was 5:01:18. I was 57th out of 556 overall finishers. A guy named Alexander Pringle beat me by 11 minutes. Alex didn’t beat me, but some guy from Wisconsin named Alexander did beat me. Uh oh! Hopefully he would not want to go to Australia. Thankfully a couple of hours later at the Awards Ceremony I learned my age group was big enough that we would have 3 slots for Australia. I was in for sure! Wahoo!

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

Living the life…

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ITU Triathlon World Championships – Olympic Distance

Tera and Patrick O'Malley

Tera and Patrick O’Malley

Craig on the run course.

Craig on the run course.

Runners with Buckingham Fountain in background.

Runners with Buckingham Fountain in background.

Mom with her Finisher's Medal and Craig.

Mom with her Finisher’s Medal and Craig.

On September 19th I raced the ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. This was the 22nd time I have raced for Team USA and the 11th time I have raced the Olympic distance event. I give thanks every time I get to race, but especially so on the very special occasions when I get to represent my country. And racing a World Championship 25 miles from where I grew up (Glen Ellyn, IL) is beyond my wildest dreams.

My realistic goal for this race was top 60 and my pie in the sky goal was top 30. God blessed me with another great race as I placed 29th out of 117 men in the 50-54 age group. I happened to race well, but the real joy was sharing the event with my Mom. Mom is 94 years young and has probably seen me race in over 40 triathlons. Nowadays she uses a rolling walker and/or a cane to get around. Our hotel was 2 blocks from the bike and run course. That sounds short, but it is a long way for Mom. Despite her challenges, Mom was out there cheering me on. Years from now, not even I will remember how well I raced. But I will always remember sharing this race with my Mom.

I had a couple of other spectators. Mom was joined by my sister Debbie and my nephew’s wife Tera and her little boy Patrick. We had rain and high winds the night before the race, but race morning was beautiful. By the time my race started at 12:15pm the temperature was in the mid 70’s – good for me and perfect for the spectators. I raced the Sprint Worlds on September 17th, but I felt re-charged and ready to go 48 hours later. There would be no excuses.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in Lake Michigan. I swam well. I made certain to appreciate the beauty of racing in Chicago. There is nothing like swimming in the lake and looking up at the skyscrapers – epic! My time was 23:28 which put me in 31st place. The fastest swim time was 20:06 – so fast! I actually came out of the water with Michael Smith. Michael is the 2x USA defending National Champion and one of the favorites to win the Gold medal. I said goodbye to Michael when we jumped on the bikes because I knew I’d never see him again.

The 37K (22.9 mile) bike course was 2 laps. The Olympic distance bike length should be 40K so the shorter course was good for me. I would estimate that 25% of the course used Lower Wacker Drive which is underground. Conditions were very fast on Lower Wacker as there was no wind and the road was smooth. But the lighting was dim so visibility was a challenge. I much preferred being above ground because it was a gorgeous day. I biked well for me. My bike split was 1:03:01 (21.8 mph) which was only the 85th best bike split on the day. The best bike split was 55:04 – that’s smoking! These guys are so fast at this level. I dropped down to 60th place to start the run. At least I was still within the range of meeting my realistic goal.

The 10.5K (6.5 mile) run course was 3.5 laps. The Olympic distance run length should be 10K so the longer run was also in my favor. I ran great! It was so fun running by Mom, Debbie, Tera and Patrick. We ran around Buckingham Fountain on each of the laps. Sadly, at the end of my 2nd lap an American woman stumbled and face planted on the cobbles by the fountain. I was only a few feet behind her so I saw her tumble from start to finish. She was running so hard that she could not put her hands up in time to protect her face. There were enough officials in the area and I was not going to stop for anything or anyone. I imagine she did finish, but with a bloody chin and a headache. Worlds will do that to you; motivate you to race faster than your limit. My run split was 40:55, good for 3rd fastest. Only 1 guy broke 40 minutes. The best run split was 39:48. I passed 31 guys (same as the Sprint race on 9/17) and finished 29th to achieve my pie in the sky goal. My finish time was 2:13:55.

Team USA cleaned up. Across all the age groups we won 16 Gold medals, 20 Silver and 15 Bronze. We swept the medals in 6 of the age groups. Over 520 athletes raced for Team USA, making this the largest Team USA to date. Unfortunately Michael Smith was disqualified because he mistakenly only ran 2.5 laps. But an American named Adrian Mackay did win a Silver medal in my age group.

Click on this link to view my pictures and 2 videos:

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Bill Gleason – October 2015

Bill and wife Maggie and daughter Willa Rose enjoying an Encinitas sunset.

Bill and wife Maggie and daughter Willa Rose enjoying an Encinitas sunset.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I thoroughly enjoyed my recent conversation with TCSD member Bill Gleason. Bill is one of our valuable volunteers who has helped many members with their swimming, running and much more. I know you will enjoy getting to know Bill.

Craig: What sports did you do before you became a triathlete?

Bill: Growing up, I was always enamored with sports. I was a body surfer all through my youth, growing up in and around the ocean. I was also a bit of “gym rat” – I was a basketball player all my life and in high school, I ended up playing basketball. I also ran track for 3 years. As a basketball player, I was the #2 guard, or “off-guard,” mostly because I was a much better shooter and passer, than a point guard. I got my start with running doing sprints and hurdles my freshman year in high school, and loved it right away. I was a fairly talented intermediate hurdler, but unfortunately I decided to spend the last semester of my senior year in HS goofing off, rather running hurdles. It’s too bad, because I probably would have continued to develop and been decent. I had finished well the year before as a junior. Anyway, I continued to play basketball all the way through my twenties. It was always one my first activities of choice, along with body surfing, and kept me reasonably fit. I spent a lot of time body surfing and doing other water sports such as wake boarding, open ocean swimming, scuba diving, and competitive sailing as a kid. I spent a lot of time in the water, and on the court.

Craig: What sequence of events led you into triathlon?

Bill: Several factors; First and foremost, I had reached a point in my life where I was very unfit, terribly out of shape in view of how I had spent my youth and most of my twenties, as I described above, and downright unhealthy. I had been in law school and graduate school for 4+ years. Physically, I was basically a mess. Way too many bad habits and unhealthy practices, in combination with a simple lack of activity, had rendered me pretty much athletically useless. I got talked into an intramural basketball league while in my third year of law school at USD, and it was a slap in the face. At the same time, several friends including my cousin had been trying to persuade me to do a triathlon with them. My cousin was very fit at the time, an officer in the Marine Corps, and a hell of a runner. So, he finally got to me, and I started training with him by 2003. I didn’t do my first race until June, 2004 – San Diego International Triathlon. We did the sprint and he beat me. I did surprise myself in the water and on the bike that day, and I was all-in: hook, line and sinker. That day I didn’t really know it, but my life changed.

An even bigger impact was eight years prior, when I saw my father, with whom I was very close, struggle with – and ultimately lose – his battle with Type 2 diabetes. He was a great guy, but basically he did many things wrong with regard to food, nutrition, activity and lifestyle. He suffered a very uncomfortable and premature death, in his late sixties. I will not go into details here, but it was very bad. I have long since come to know that this is completely avoidable. This was a powerful revelation to me. At the time, I did not know how, but I knew that what happened in his last years would have a profound and permanent effect on me. He was a successful attorney for 35 years and was a big influence upon my decision to go to law school. Anyway, as I saw myself becoming become more and more sedentary and unhealthy, I knew deep down that I needed to do something different. I wanted to get back to my old ways. Since I was no longer any good at basketball and felt I had lost passion for the game, I turned to endurance sports. What a great decision that was.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Bill: Well, I won my age group at Los Angeles in 2011, and have podiumed and even won my AG in several local races. I improved 48 minutes over one year at Wildflower Long Course, and there are others. However, I don’t think those are a big deal. Personally, I see my own athletic accomplishments as a progression and set of small milestones over time. When I think of my accomplishments, I can point to a few good performances at National Championships, for example, though I have yet to make Team USA. I can also point to some really bad performances there too. I can point to the AG podiums and wins. However, I go back to the idea that true improvement is a hard endeavor, and significant progress for most triathletes takes real dedication. This is a point I constantly try to impress upon my athletes (and anyone who will listen). Anyway, I prefer to look back at where I was in 2003 when I started first training for endurance sports, and I see a tremendous amount of progress, which comes from deep motivation, hard work, and persistence, and a lot of learning. Above all, you must have a passion for the sport and a true desire to improve. I believe I have done that and that makes me very proud. It has also strongly shaped my Coaching philosophy.

Craig: The TCSD functions only through the efforts of take charge volunteers like yourself. What activities do you lead?

Bill: Agreed – the volunteers in TCSD are critical and a core component of what TCSD has to offer. I have been thrilled to be able to offer two workouts: Since 2011, I have been leading Open Water Workouts in the bay. I started my Workout in Glorietta Bay six years ago. Currently we have it on Thursday evenings in the spring and summer at Ventura Cove, Mission Bay (off of Gleason Road, no kidding – I still want to learn more about who that road is named after). This workout has a wide range of abilities and experience; however it is not a beginner workout. There is a beginner, Open Water workout in TCSD, but this is more of an intermediate to advanced session. It’s a great opportunity to get race-like conditions in a controlled and fairly fast interval workout, focused on racing skills. The athletes tell me repeatedly how much fun this workout is and how much they get from it, training wise, while having a good time. I love this workout.

I also am in my second season of coaching the TCSD Track Workout at UCSD. This track workout is Tuesday evening on the track at 6PM. This one is year round. It is a beginner friendly workout; we get the whole range of runners from beginners, to fast and talented runners blazing around the track, and everyone in between. We break it up into groups so most everyone is appropriately matched in their own group. I love coaching this workout too, in particular because of the progress I see so many athletes make over the course of a season, or even a few months. It also brings me back to my own track days way back in the day (the 80’s ..OMG…).

Craig: How did you make the leap from full time attorney to full time triathlon coach?

Bill: Well, I as I described above, I had already started racing competitively before I had even become an attorney. I did my first race in 2004 while I was still finishing my MBA, which I completed in conjunction with Law School at USD, as a joint-degree program. Fast forward several years, and by 2009 I realized that I would ultimately be changing jobs, most likely careers. At the least, I would be looking for new ways to apply my law and business background. It’s easy at this point in this discussion for someone in my position to bash the legal profession, and there is plenty not to like and to criticize (as with many professions). However, I will say that I had come to fully understand and to accept that it was not for me. It was not the best way for me to spend a career, so I decided to do the profession a favor, and produce one less lawyer. It was then in 2009 that I began coaching formally. Prior, I had been helping several friends and others with training because I felt I had a deep and intuitive understanding of what training was about, and what the sport demands. However I had just begun to learn. I went out that year, 2009 and got a USAT Level I Coaching Certification, and soon after an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), and CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Next, I took my USAT education to the next level, getting the USAT Level II Certification. I feel this background is very valuable, all of it is a legitimate, and a rigorous course of study (fortunately, I have spent enough time in graduate and JD level study to appreciate this).

So, I began to build my Coaching business in 2009 and, as with my own training, I stayed persistent, focused and motivated. I am still a licensed attorney, however I do not currently practice law, and have not in several years. I am thrilled with and proud of the success of Gleason Endurance Coaching.

Craig: What kind of triathletes hire you?

Bill: I love this question. The short answer is anyone who wants to get better. I want to coach anyone that is motivated (and able) to work hard at it, make some sacrifice, has the passion to improve, tempered with patience. I have coached beginners to intermediate to elite level athletes. Basically, if you want to improve, up your game, become – or get more – competitive, and you have the mind set and are willing to learn, I want to work with you. More specifically, a large bulk of my athletes have been at the point where they have been in the sport for a number of years, have perhaps hit a plateau and not seen continued improvement, and they want to get better. This is one of the best times to get a coach.

I’ve coached athletes in their 20’s just getting started, athletes going after their pro license and athletes in their sixties doing Ironman, shooting for Kona. One of my younger athletes just qualified for his elite license in duathlon. He is still trying for the elite triathlon license and has a very good chance. I also have an athlete heading to Kona this year.

Craig: What are your strengths as a coach?

Bill: I believe I have several. First, I look at each athlete as a unique individual and learn as much as I can about them as an athlete and an individual. This helps me avoid treating all athletes the same, and basically using a predetermined training plan. Each athlete responds to training stress differently and at different rates, can handle different levels of training stress over time, and each has their own sport specific strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how to develop, maintain and nurture those differences properly can result in real improvements in most all athletes. Basically, I do the opposite of applying the training plan approach. That is not to say that the same or similar training and individual workouts cannot help all athletes. Often they can. But if you are looking for that extra 5%, or even 1%, improvement in performance, you have to go beyond what everyone has in common in terms of increasing fitness from a base level. I am very good at identifying and developing those unique differences in most all athletes.

I am also known as swim coach. It’s true; I have had a lot of success developing the swim for many triathletes, both in the pool with technique and with open water skills. But that is not the complete picture of what I have to offer. I have also helped many with run form and durability, bike specific strength, handling skills, and also functional strength. I believe that when a functional strength approach is applied correctly to triathlon, it can have powerful effect both on performance and longevity in the sport, if your goal is to be around for many seasons.

I am also patient with my athletes in their development, accessible to answer their questions, and concerns, as well as give advice and support.

Craig: What coaching achievement are you most proud of?

Bill: Again, there are several. One story I love to relate is an athlete that came to me who had signed up for IMAZ, gotten a new TT bike that she did not know how to ride, and could not swim a lap in the pool. Fortunately, IMAZ was 9 months away. Luckily she had a marathon background. Cutting to the chase, we got her there ready to race, and she finished IMAZ under our goal time and continued on in the sport.

I am also proud of coaching a young athlete to get his pro/elite license in duathlon and make the big improvements needed to get the USAT elite license. That remains our goal, and I am confident he can achieve it.

Perhaps most of all, I am very proud of the significant progress that I have helped many athletes achieve in triathlon, and other endurance sports. Seeing people make real progress, become better athletes, achieve their goals and have fun is really what gives me the most satisfaction and what I will probably remember the most. It is also what I relate to most personally. This sport will give you good days and disappointing days, but the progress I see many athletes I coach make is the best part and cannot be taken away. That makes me happy.

Craig: How can people reach you?

Bill: See my website @

Or email me @ Gleasoncoaching@

Or come on out to one of my workouts!

Craig: What are your favorite benefits to TCSD membership?

Bill: The benefits are extensive and broad. Since 2005, I have benefited from the workouts myself, going back to track, the Cove Swim, Darrell Steele’s Saturday AM ride, and many others. I think the comradery and the support from other athletes is indispensable. I love the feel that everyone has a common passion, is eager to train and make friends and talk about their accomplishments. It’s also a great place to see great interviews at the monthly meetings, make connections and get training buddies.

Also, the Club events such as Aquathlons, monthly races, and beginner races are absolutely fantastic. It’s such a great opportunity for all the members. We are really lucky to have such a great Club. Keep it rolling people!

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

Bill: Personally, I would increase the popularity of the short course, draft-legal, and ITU style racing. I feel that watching short course draft legal, ITU racing, even at the regional or local level, as well as on the international stages, is absolutely thrilling. Watching races being won by a second or less, down the finishing chute is the essence of racing to me. And at some level, at some point, it’s all about racing – be that against yourself, your buddies, your local AG, or at the Olympics. It happens at the half-iron distance too. However, I believe that training for and performing well in an Olympic distance format is very complex and extremely interesting, as well as very challenging from a coaching perspective. I guess I would make more short course, Olympic distance racing in particular, more accessible in the way IM events are.

Craig: How did you meet your wife?

Bill: I met my wife, Maggie, in LA in late 2009 at a USAT Level I Coaching Clinic. At lunch break on the first day, I went up to her sitting by a water fountain in the front of the hotel, and asked if I could sit down with my lunch. We started a conversation and covered our experiences at Wildflower and other races. So the following day, she and her friend, with whom she had come to the conference, invited me to ride with them before our first class. We did, and I noticed that I was faster than her on the bike, and she noticed that I had a hole in my bike shorts. We hit it off.

We kept in touch, and soon found ourselves doing the long distance dating thing, as she lived in Mill Valley, Marin County and I was in Downtown SD. Anyway, things worked out great, she moved here to San Diego. We were married in 2013 and had our daughter, Willa Rose Gleason, later the same year. Willa is the pride and joy for both of us and a fantastic, amazing little person. She turns two years-old this month. Since she is not online yet, I post her workouts on the refrigerator each morning. Just kidding, of course. I want her to get into athletics only if she wants to. Of all the accomplishments I’ve tried to touch on so far, she by far and away is the best one I have ever had, and always will be.

My wife is also a fitness professional and a Triathlon Coach. She has several positions teaching fitness, at the YMCA, the Sporting Club La Jolla, and she owns her own personal training business “Up Your Fit” which you can find on the web @

Craig: What experiences have been the most important in your life that have shaped you into the man you are today?

Bill: Again, there are too many to cover. Really when it comes down to it, matters of life and death; Having my girl, Willa, with my wife Maggie. Losing my father too early in his life, my mother’s life, and in the lives of the rest of my family. These things are normal life, but they served to put things in perspective for me, and they placed a new premium on health and fitness, happiness and family for me. That is truly what matters most in my mind.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Bill: Stop getting slower.

(Find the time to) increase my endurance.

Maybe make Team USA at the Olympic distance one year, when (and if) I can find that time.

Craig: Bill, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is obvious that you have found your calling in this world. You were meant to be a father, husband and triathlon coach. The Tri Club would not be what it is today without you. Thank you for all you do!

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

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ITU Triathlon World Championships – Sprint Distance

Craig (closest cyclist) completing 1 of 6 U turns.

Craig (closest cyclist) completing 1 of 6 U turns.

Glen Ellyn friend Paul Winans and Craig.

Glen Ellyn friend Paul Winans and Craig.

On September 17th I raced the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Chicago. Racing Worlds in Chicago was a dream come true for me as I was raised 25 miles west of the city in Glen Ellyn, IL. I qualified to race by placing 14th in the men’s 50-54 age group at the 2014 USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships. As much as I was looking forward to racing in Chicago I knew the flat course would not be in my favor. I’m light so I thrive on a hilly course. My realistic goal for Sprint Worlds was top 40 and my pie in the sky goal was top 20.

My race started at 12:30pm and it was very warm, especially waiting for the race to start while in my wet suit. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 80’s. The sweat was rolling off me as I cooked under the hot sun in my wet suit. I made a big mistake and the race had not even started. I should have brought a water bottle for the final 30 minutes prior to my race. To improvise I scrounged and drank from 3 water bottles I found on the ground. I was so desperate!

There was no swim warm up permitted. I jumped in Lake Michigan as soon as they would allow it. 63 degree water never felt so good! But I only had about 3 minutes before my race began. The swim was a 750 meter point to point route. We swam into a small chop, but the bigger problem was the glare we swam into. Instead of looking into the glare to sight, I simply kept the shore about 50 meters to my right shoulder. That worked well. I swam the best I could despite the heat and somehow managed the 21st best swim split – 12:47. Under better conditions I would have swam sub 12, but I’ll gladly take this result.

The bike course was 3 laps for a total of 11.6 miles. The bike course was very flat and fast, despite 6 U turns. The biggest challenge was 2 huge bumps in the pavement. There were plenty of other bumps, but these 2 really stood out. I did my best to bunny hop the bumps, but just after half way my bike took the full brunt of the biggest bump. I was amazed I did not crash, but my aero bars slipped a full inch. My bars appeared to still be tight, but it would be a major problem if they slipped any more. I had no choice, but to slow down on the final lap as I went through the bumps. It probably cost me 10-20 seconds, but it did help me recover for the run. My bike split was 31:30 (22 mph). It was the 60th best bike split and I dropped down to 40th place.

The 5K (3.1 mile) run was 1.5 laps. I was flying, but I was also dying from the heat. I had the best run split on the day by 15 seconds. My run was 18:52 and my finish time was 1:09:24. If only the swim and bike had been cancelled, I would have been World Champion.

I stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel and was joined by my Mom who is 94 years young. Our hotel was only 2 blocks from the race course, but I figured it was still too far for my Mom to push her rolling walker. But she was determined to see her boy race. I had no idea she was spectating until I saw her when I flew by during the bike and run. For Mom covering the total of 4 blocks had to seem as far as an Ironman. My Glen Ellyn friends Paul Winans and Bruce McNair also came out to watch. Words can’t describe what their determined support means to me.

For the next 3+ hours after I finished I figured I had a good race and probably finished around 30th. Another Glen Ellyn friend, Scott Davis, who now lives about 2 miles from me in Carlsbad texted me that I finished in the top 10. I did not believe it until I saw it for myself. I had finished 9th out of 118 men in the 50-54 age group for my best World Championship result ever. I was the 3rd out of 24 Americans in my age group and 309th overall out of 1,906 athletes. I was shaking as I read the results. I still can’t believe I finished in the top 10! A great result is one thing, but sharing it with my Mom meant everything to me.

Team USA had a great day. We won 36 medals – 16 gold, 10 silver and 10 bronze. 23 countries were represented. One of our newly crowned World Champions includes Robert McKeague from Villa Park, IL. Robert won the men’s 90-94 age group with a time of 2:20:49. Forever young!

To see my finish videos by the gorgeous Buckingham Fountain, click on this link. The “Before Finish” 25 second video shows me approaching the finish line 15 seconds into the video. And the “Finish” 20 second video shows me crossing the line 9 seconds into the video.

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

TCSD Conversation: Tassia Bezdeka – September 2015

Tassia on the run course at the 2015 Oceanside 70.3.

Tassia on the run course at the 2015 Oceanside 70.3.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I have seen the Triathlon Club of San Diego make some great improvements this year largely due to the efforts of Tassia Bezdeka, our Marketing Director. I hardly knew Tassia before interviewing her, but I’m so glad I reached out to her. Tassia is clearly a TCSD Superstar as you will soon discover.

Craig: What sports did you participate in when you were growing up?

Tassia: Other than running cross country in middle school and Tae Kwon Do (fun fact, I became a junior-level black belt when I was 13), I led a pretty sports-free existence until after college. In January 2010, I signed up for the AIDSWalk 10K – to be honest, I don’t really remember what pushed me register, but I definitely caught the bug. I ran my first half marathon (La Jolla Half) in 2011 and started collecting race bling. To date I’ve completed 12 half marathons, one Carlsbad 5000 All Day 25K, and a handful of 5- and 10Ks.

Craig: What was your first triathlon experience like?

Tassia: I was never interested in tri until I moved to metro San Diego in 2012. When I met and started dating my now-boyfriend Evan Bricker, his group of friends were in training for Superfrog, with one of them on their way to IMAZ. Mainly to make a good impression on Evan, I started joking about the possibility of making the transition to multi-sport. I say “joking” because I’d developed a pretty severe distaste/fear of the ocean after having my foot sliced open by a sting ray when I was in my early teens, and I really hadn’t been in the ocean in nearly 8 years. The more I joked about doing a tri, the more I started getting excited about the prospect. I registered for Seal Sprint and started training. I would be totally remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Michelle Nation for loaning me a bike… in fact she let me borrow her bike for nearly a year until I was ready to take the plunge and buy one for myself. That’s one of the earliest things I found about the tri community in San Diego – it’s incredibly generous and supportive. Anyway, a little over a month before Seal Sprint, I was at the tail end of a training ride on the 56 bike path. As I went under the 5 Freeway Overpass I ran over something on the road, a pebble or a stick or something, and went down the embankment. You should know that I’m pretty much a walking accident and prone to things like this happening. The good news is that I missed the cement columns supporting the overpass as I went down and that recent rains had made the area really muddy and relatively soft to land in; the bad news is that my right shoulder broke my fall. I was diagnosed with a 2nd degree shoulder separation. The limited mobility meant swimming was off the table, and even running and cycling was tough. I ended up going to Seal Sprint to complete the bike and run, but I definitely felt some FOMO (fear of missing out) watching everyone at the swim.

After some PT, I was ready to resume training and put Solana Beach 2013 on the calendar. After hearing glowing reviews from my friends, I also joined TCSD around this time, which put an instant surge in my training. The Beginner Open Water Swim (BOWS) program was instrumental in the transition from the pool to open water, and I really got to experience what tri was all about at the club races. As Solana Beach got closer, it was also announced that the July Beginner Tri would be the day before. I had heard such great things about the beginner tris and didn’t want to miss it, so I ended up with a double-header weekend for my first full triathlons (TCSD Beginner Tri on Saturday and Solana Beach on Sunday). What an incredible (and exhausting) weekend! The experience of the TCSD Beginner Tri is absolutely unmatched, in my opinion. The support, instruction, athlete camaraderie, and of course Dawn Copenhaver’s amazing breakfast – it really cannot be beat.

Craig: How has group camaraderie played a role in your development as a triathlete?

Tassia: You know the part of Newton’s Law that “a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted on by an external force”? We should really just call that Tassia’s Law. I was the queen of the laz-athlon – Sleep, Couch, Netflix. I enjoyed being active, but I also really wanted to binge watch 5 seasons of Mad Men. Sometimes those things can really be at odds with each other! I moved to San Diego without any local friends, and embracing the tri-life gave me a way to quickly make strong relationships. Having a group of active friends and the TCSD events calendar got me moving in a way I had never really moved before. You should know that I’m not a morning person. Imagine my surprise when Saturday mornings became about bike rides, and I actually started getting excited for Friday First Light swims.

The summer of 2013 leading up to IMAZ was a serious game changer for me in terms of my desired level of tri commitment. While I wasn’t a participant, I was friends with 17 San Diego athletes who all trained together. I tagged along when I could – lots of Fiesta Island loops and Masters Swims, mainly – but watching them support each other so wholeheartedly and the relationships that deepened as a result was incredible. On race day, I watched 17 of my now-close friends get called home by Mike Reilly. This was the day that I decided I wanted those kinds of experiences for myself. It was time for me to do more than sprints and super sprints. Ultimately it’s what led me to Oceanside 70.3 this year.

Craig: Congratulations on completing your first 70.3 earlier this year at Oceanside. How did your day go?

Tassia: I could talk for hours on end about my Oceanside experience and the months leading up to it! I think there’s something incredibly powerful about going out to do something you’ve never done before… The week leading up to the race I was a basket case of emotion and had some serious doubts about whether I could actually complete the race. But then you have that flip at some point – for me it was coming in off the bike and knowing from experience that I could handle the half marathon. There is nothing like that in the whole world – that knowledge that yeah, you actually can do this crazy thing you set yourself up for and worked so hard for. I was incredibly blessed to have such amazing support all day long. Evan and Alan Deicas (one of my close friends who basically functioned as my coach) were there from the very beginning of the morning and were later joined by my whole family and several other friends. The course support in general was amazing, but it was also incredibly special to see TCSD members volunteering along the course.

I have to make two more big TCSD shout outs. Remember when I said I was accident-prone? I also happen to have big problems with time. To this day I can’t tell you what happened, but despite being awake around 2AM race morning, I somehow made it into the transition area with only 10 minutes before the transition area closed at 6:30AM. I was pretty much having a mental melt-down trying to put myself together and then remembered, panic-stricken, “TIRES!” I had basically 3 minutes to finish getting ready and pump my tires and how on Earth was that going to happen? At that moment, my knight in shining armor, Marcus Serrano, appeared. I know there was some real crazy look in my eyes when I asked if he could help me, and he really saved me in that moment.

Since I was a Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) fundraising athlete, I also happened to be in the first wave after the pros. I’m pretty sure the nerves and adrenaline were physically visible, so you can imagine my gratitude when I ran into James Ismailoglu in the chute and got a calm, “take a breath, you got this” pep talk. I really think I may have hyperventilated my way through the swim if I hadn’t run into James. This TCSD Community is so giving and supportive… I think without James and Marcus specifically, I would have had a drastically different day.

Craig: You raised funds for Operation Rebound as part of your registration for the Oceanside 70.3. What was that experience like?

Tassia: I’d previously run Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon as an American Cancer Society Determination athlete and the experience of fundraising as part of the race journey really makes a difference for me. Sure, the physical training is important, but when you can use that to fundraise and also share the message and goals of an organization, it becomes about so much more than just the tri. When I decided I wanted to race Oceanside, I knew it would have a significant impact on my experience if I raced for a cause.

I’ve been involved with CAF as a volunteer on-and-off for a while through Tri Challenge and their paratriathlete camps, and it was really an honor to fundraise on their behalf. The support, resources and experiences CAF provides for challenged athletes is unmatched and fills such a necessary space for differently-abled people. I’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on a person and their family – it’s hard to put into words how moving and vital the organization is.

Going back to race day… As part of fundraising for CAF Operation Rebound, you get a CAF kit. I wore mine (with TCSD tattoos and hat, of course), and it added a new level to the support I felt on course. Every other person in a CAF kit is your friend, just like when you wear a TCSD kit. That camaraderie, and knowing that you’ve helped make an impact for the CAF community, takes an already incredible experience and deepens it even further. If you’ve never raced for a cause before, I highly recommend it.

Craig: What volunteer roles have you done for the TCSD and how has this enhanced your experience as a member?

Tassia: I volunteered on-and-off for TCSD when I was able to after about 6 months of being a member – mostly as an ambassador at expos. Once I had really experienced the club (the races, the workouts, the meetings), it was so easy to tell prospective members why they were truly missing out if they didn’t join. I think my spiel was something along the lines of “Where else are you going to find 25+ workouts a week, monthly meetings (with meals, huge raffles and amazing speakers), club races (with meals), and such an amazing community for less than the cost of one race? If you count up all the free food, you’re already breaking way over even!” I’m not sure about you, but food is the easiest way into my heart, so I think I really sold that aspect hard.

When the board elections happened in 2014, it was really exciting to see that the club wanted to have a Marketing Director for the first time. I jumped at the chance to take that on, and after a year on the Board, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

TCSD has been such an integral part of my life over the last few years. It’s been really great to be able to contribute to something that has meant so much to me.

Craig: What have been your responsibilities as Marketing Director and what are some of the new initiatives that you have spearheaded?

Tassia: Since the position never existed before, it was really a blank slate (which is both incredibly exciting and also a little daunting). I had a few goals before I stepped into the position, but once I got to see behind-the-scenes, I was much more able to focus on things that would be advantageous to the club in the long run.

One of the first and most critical things was to set the Board and key volunteers up with Google Apps. Previously, everything was done through people’s personal email accounts and Google accounts, which creates a big problem when there is turnover or elections. I can’t even imagine trying to detangle two years of TCSD-related emails and documents from my personal account. With Google Apps, we now have a fully transferrable historical record of emails plus a huge document repository that allows us to collaborate from anywhere. It’s really as easy as changing the password and handing the account in its entirety to a new Board member or key volunteer.

We’ve also made huge changes to the way TCSD communicates with members. The Yahoo Group was a great solution for our needs at the time, but the changing technology landscape has provided better options as time went on. By transitioning our club communications to MailChimp, we’re able to make sure that only active members are receiving member information (like sponsor discounts). We can also track statistics like open-rates and click-thru which helps us deliver the most compelling and pertinent information to the club. Open-rates and click-thru are metrics in digital campaigns. Open-rate refers to the percentage of people that received your email who actually opened it. Click-thru refers to the percentage of people who clicked a link, in our case the link in an email to get more information, register, etc. The communication pieces are also branded and have much more appealing design than a text email sent through the Yahoo Group. The Yahoo Group continues to be an important resource for our members, but we’re working on transitioning it to more of a “triathlon community of San Diego list-serve, as moderated by TCSD,” meaning that it will be open to foster community and communication regardless of TCSD affiliation.

My two favorite things that we’ve put into play are the TCSD Workout Finder and the Weekly Schedule emails. The Workout Finder is a place on our website where a user can drill down to workouts that are important to them based on date, location, experience level, and more. The Weekly Schedule email is something I put together every Friday, send to our coaches and workout leaders for review, and then send to the club. Both are a continual work-in-progress as our workouts fluctuate throughout the year and even throughout the month. It’s a labor of love, truly, but helps me feel like we’re making a tangible difference for our membership week after week.

Craig: What recommendations would you have for new TCSD members and new triathletes in general?

Tassia: If you’re new to multi-sport, I cannot recommend the beginner resources highly enough! Even if you’re comfortable in one of the disciplines, you can take advantage of BOWS or the monthly Beginner Bike Ride and don’t miss the Beginner Tris. If you’re just new to TCSD, a great way to meet new people is through volunteering. There are so many opportunities – at meetings or events, at race expos, or even supporting new athletes at a Beginners event (my personal favorite). Speaking from the leadership side, this entire club is volunteer-run. It’s our most valuable asset and if you want to help, there’s always some way to do it. Don’t underestimate the power of a good Strava workout name! If documentation is your thing, I’ve really loved Instagraming my tri-life; the right hashtags can open your support community to a completely new level around the globe. Oh, and on a general note: make sure your phone updates if you go to race in a different time zone. I almost missed RnR Arizona because I thought I had another hour of sleep available.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Tassia: Ummmm, all of them?!? I’ve never left a club meeting feeling uninspired by the speaker (Meb, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Mirinda Carfrae and Lynne Cox are particular stand-outs in my memory), and more often than not I’ve taken home some type of amazing raffle prize. The value of membership just in terms of race opportunities is incredible. This year I participated in 3 triathlons and 3 aquathlons, which breaks down to less than $15 per race. Of course, the food has to be mentioned – Dawn is basically a magician in the kitchen and your life will be better for eating her meals. If you’re forcing me to pick a #1 though, without question it is the TCSD community. I’ve made some great friendships and now have a huge base of people that I know on a relatively personal basis that I can turn to for advice, support and inspiration.

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

Tassia: I think the financial barrier to entry is incredibly high… it would be amazing if the gear, race fees, travel expenses and increased food expenditures were a little more wallet-friendly!

Craig: What have been some of the cornerstone life experiences that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Tassia: Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are from hanging out in the ocean with my dad. We’d swim out together (mainly him pulling me out on a boogie board or surfboard), he’d push me into a wave then swim back in to get me, lather-rinse-repeat. I remember him always being fairly active, but dedicated exercise was never really a part of that. I’m really excited that he and my mom have recently decided to become more active again, in large part due to the impending birth of my nephew and their first grandchild. We’ve started spending time together on paddleboards and bikes and have even done a few 5Ks together. It’s really awesome watching my parents make fun physical activity a regular part of their routine! The other day my dad shared that he wants to do Bay-to-Breakers at some point, and we’ve talked about maybe relaying a half marathon.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Tassia: I’m really looking forward to re-racing Oceanside 70.3 again some day! I put in a hard race this year and finished in 7:05… so naturally I have to do it again and break into the sixes.

Recently I’ve been falling back in love with the run. Evan paced me to a 2:12 half marathon this year at RnR San Diego (which beat my previous PR by 15 minutes!), and I’m looking forward to getting closer to the 2 hour mark.

And at some point in the near-ish future, I can’t wait to have Mike Reilly call me home too.

Craig: Tassia, thank you so much for all you have done for the TCSD and for sharing your story. You have made a significant contribution in such a short time. The TCSD is lucky to have you as one of our leaders. It’s just a matter of time before Mike Reilly says “Tassia Bezdeka, YOU are an Ironman!”

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

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USA Triathlon National Championships – Sprint Distance

On my way to 19th place.

On my way to 19th place.

On August 9th I raced the USA Triathlon Sprint Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. I had raced in the Olympic distance race the day before so this was going to be more for fun, but I was still going to give it 100%.

My wife Laurie and I began the long weekend by flying into Chicago and staying with my Mom for 1 night. From there, Mom and I drove to Milwaukee for Nationals and Laurie drove to Benton Harbor, MI for the IM 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon. On 8/9 I raced the Sprint and Laurie raced Steelhead. We both had good days. The local MI paper even published Laurie’s picture during the bike portion of the Steelhead race.

Sprint Nationals was going to be short and sweet. The swim was 750 meters in Lake Michigan. My swim split was 12:14, putting me in 18th place. The bike was 20K (12.4 miles). I biked an average of 21.7 mph for a bike split of 34:22. This was the 57th fastest, dropping me to 37th place. The run was 5K (3.1 miles). My run split was 19:02 and the 5th best on the day to finish in 1:09:31. My run moved me up to finish in 19th place, just like the day before. I’m not great, but I am consistent. I was 19th out of 116 men in the 50-54 age group and 211th out of 1,673 overall finishers.

Laurie works with Maggie Riley-Hagan. Maggie is one of the pediatricians at Rady Children’s Hospital and also a great triathlete. In fact, Maggie placed 5th in the women’s 60-64 age group in the Sprint. The day before the Sprint race Maggie and I exchanged text messages. She was going to start 17 minutes before me. I was just kidding around, but I warned her that I might pass her in the finish chute. It was just a little friendly trash texting. During the race I had completely forgotten about Maggie. During the run I was focused on catching a guy named Jeremy who had passed me during the bike. I don’t recall Jeremy ever beating me so I really wanted to catch him. As we approached the finish line I could see Jeremy, but I simply ran out of real estate. Jeremy beat me by 3 seconds. But I did pass Maggie. I should pick on someone my own size. I really had no idea it was her until after we had finished. Click on this link to see me outsprinting Maggie. I nearly fell over in the process.

Some of the athletes race “The Double” where they race the Olympic on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. The Double is more of a badge of honor than anything prestigious. I did win The Double for men 50-54 back in 2014 and was 5th this year.

Click on this link to view my photos including some classics of the finish line sprint:

It was a great weekend. I got to spend quality time with my Mom. She’s 94 years old and a joy to be around. I also saw my sisters and their husbands. And Laurie and I are healthy enough to race at some really cool events. God has truly blessed us!

Living the life…

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USA Triathlon National Championships – Olympic Distance

Illinois DU Brothers: Z and D-Cubed

Illinois DU Brothers: Z and D-Cubed

On August 8th I raced the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. For me, Nationals is always the most important race of the year. I put a lot of effort into all my races, but Nationals is different. There is always something at stake at Nationals. This year the top 18 athletes in each age group would qualify for the 2016 World Championships in Cozumel. The 18 slots could roll down as far as 25th place so I had to make certain I placed in the top 25 to be considered for Team USA.

My training was spot on until July 26th when I tweaked my neck. 13 days before the race. Not good! But not impossible. I thought positively and with the help of my chiropractor, Dr. Rob Rich, I got to the race ready to go. My neck was not perfect, yet, but enough flexibility had returned that it was not going to be a factor. And the good news – I was especially well rested.

The day before the race I learned that one of my close friends (Dave Dungan) from my Delta Upsilon Fraternity days was going to be in Milwaukee to watch his beloved Cardinals play the Brewers. Dave’s middle name is Dale so we always called him D-Cubed or Cubed. Cubed was in hopes that he might be able to see my race. Now I was even more motivated. I did not want to lay an egg.

I did my swim warm up 10 minutes before the start of my race off to the side with a bunch of men in my age group. It’s kind of chaotic because everyone is swimming in different directions. Some are swimming out. Some are swimming back. Some knuckleheads are swimming diagonally. The chance for a collision exists. I got a little aggressive and started to rev my engine up pretty fast when I collided head on with another guy. I drove my left hand into his head. If my hand could see, it would have seen stars. I’ve played a lot of sports over the years, but I never jammed a finger as badly as this. I think the other guy’s head was fine, but my middle finger really hurt. The only good news was that over the years I’ve learned to be ambidextrous when giving people the finger.

I got out of the water and walked over to the swim start area. My finger was swelling up and there was nothing I could do about it. As the minutes counted down to my race start I was pretty certain I’d get through the swim, but might have a problem gripping my bike handlebars. I did have a pretty good swim. I covered the 1500 meters (0.93 mile) in 23:21 putting me in 31st place. 31st does not sound that great, but there were 15 guys less than 1 minute ahead of me.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike went well. The adrenaline had kicked in and I had no problem gripping the handlebars. There were a couple of hills and turns, but nothing too difficult. And the road was fairly smooth. I averaged 22.0 mph which is good for me. I knew I’d lose ground during the bike, but hopefully not too much. I had the 76th best bike split (1:06:46) to drop me down to 51st place. 2 guys managed to break 60 minutes – amazing!

The 10K (6.2 miles) run was going to be make or break for me. About ¼ mile into the run I saw Cubed on the sidelines cheering for me. This was awesome! I quickly found my rhythm and started picking guys off left and right. My run split was 38:11, the 2nd best run of the day. The only person with a better run was the eventual champion, Michael Smith, who ran an other worldly 36:33. Only 4 guys ran under 40 minutes. I passed 32 guys on the run to finish 19th out of 168 men age 50-54 with a time of 2:12:01. I was 320th out of 2,610 overall finishers.

We raced on the exact same course in 2014. Under very similar conditions, my time in 2015 was 1:31 slower. I was 24 seconds faster through the transitions in 2015, but 44, 48, and 21 seconds slower during the swim, bike, and run, respectively. Oh well. I accomplished my goal and that was a hard earned spot on Team USA for the 2016 World Championships. Amen!

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

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: Tracy Cohen-Peranteau – August 2015

Tracy celebrating her birthday at the Athens Marathon.

Tracy celebrating her birthday at the Athens Marathon.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the good fortune recently of talking with Tracy Cohen-Peranteau about running, triathlon and just about everything else under the sun. Tracy is the ultimate ambassador for the TCSD! I don’t think you could fit any more goodness or enthusiasm for life into a person. I know you will enjoy getting to know Tracy.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Tracy: I was raised by parents who believed that children are “seen and not heard,” which is hilarious, for everyone who has met me as an adult. I spent my childhood playing with Barbies, being a good student in school, and earning all of my Girl Scout badges. My parents took me to the local YMCA so I could learn how “not to drown” in a pool. Growing up, the closest I came to any sport was volunteering to be the statistician for my high school baseball team. When I moved away from home to attend San Diego State, I wanted to fit in to the San Diego lifestyle, so I took surfing, water skiing, and sailing at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center for my P.E. classes. If America’s Funniest Home Videos had been around back then – I truly would have been the star of the show!

I graduated from SDSU, became an elementary school teacher, traveled around the world during my vacations, and then I “settled down” to get married and have kids. In 2003, my whole life changed, when my mom passed away from breast cancer. Until that day, I had never known such a pain could exist. I had a husband and two young children who needed me, I had fourth grade students who needed me, and I had recently begun teaching aerobic classes, so those students needed me, too. I was so worried about all of the people who needed me that I didn’t take care of myself. My friends suggested that I take sleeping pills or get a prescription for my depression, as a “temporary relief to get me through the pain.” But I wanted long term relief, not temporary relief. Instead of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling for hours and hours every night, one night I just got up, and began to run. No one needed me at 4a.m. I was free. I could run for hours and mourn my mom. I could recreate happy memories and no one interrupted me. The more I ran, the more I wanted (and needed) to run. I became like Forrest Gump! As a result, I was a happier mom, wife, and teacher. When a friend suggested that I run in the 2004 Rock N Roll Marathon, I said, “Are you CRAZY? A marathon is 26.2 miles!!!” She convinced me to run the marathon with her, and I finished seventeen minutes from qualifying for the Boston Marathon! At 40 years old, I could finally call myself an athlete. For the first time, I felt success participating in a sport! I trained and successfully qualified for Boston, the following year. The same year, my only sibling passed away, and I ran to deal with the pain. The next year my marriage crumbled, and I continued to run, as my coping mechanism. I was officially addicted to the “running drug.”

Craig: How did you get introduced to the TCSD?

Tracy: I ran and ran until I got my first injury: a stress fracture in my heel. The doctor told me that the best way to heal was to bike and swim: cross train. I knew how not to drown, but I had no idea how to swim freestyle. I’d been on a mountain bike before, and I knew how to turn the pedals…….

One month after I got the stress fracture (2007), my friend Bill Gibbs told me that his friend, Jim McCann, the president of TCSD for many years, had passed away from a stroke. I wanted to support Bill, so I showed up at La Jolla Shores for the first McCannMan Aquathlon. I was in absolute amazement – there were over 200 people at this gathering. Everyone was telling stories about this inspirational man who had an amazing gift of bringing people together and creating this wonderful family called the TriClub. I wanted to be a part of this family! What would it take, and where do I sign up???? This was truly a Celebration of Life to a man who was dearly loved by SO many people. Sadly, I experienced that type of gathering again, in 2015.

Craig: What was your first open water swimming experience like?

Tracy: Bill encouraged me to attend a sprint triathlon at Fiesta Island. I doggie paddled the entire swim, and was very discouraged, when the lifeguards were bringing in the buoys, before I was finished. I laughed, when Buck Williamson told me that I had put my helmet on backwards, when I was getting onto my bike. Oh, how far I have come, in the past seven years!

I went to the pool at the gym where I now teach spin and weightlifting classes and my dear friend Lisa Rehberg tried to teach me how to properly swim. I was SO humbled. “I’ve run the Boston Marathon, I can do this!” Learning to swim as an adult has been such a challenge for me. Seven years of Master’s Swimming twice a week, and I’m still in the slowest lane. But that’s okay – I will never give up!

The first time I attended the Thursday Open Water Swim at Mission Bay, Jonathan Jefferson tried not to laugh, when he told me that the wetsuit zipper goes in the back. Seriously? That made no sense to me! JJ literally held my hand, as he led me into the water. I was petrified! The first buoy seemed so far away! My first time swimming at La Jolla Shores, where there were WAVES, I had a death grip on Thomas Johnson’s hand as he showed me how to duck under the waves. I could hardly breathe, I was crying so hard, from fear. To those of you who fear open water as I do, there is hope. Since I first swam in the open water (2008), I have completed 12 Half Ironman and 8 Full Ironman races.

Craig: What are some of your memories from your first 70.3 and Ironman?

Tracy: My first triathlon training partner, Alan MacNeilan and I were overjoyed to complete Vineman 70.3 together. We both called ourselves runners, and to call ourselves triathletes, was something we never thought was possible. We cheered for our TCSD friend Lisa Rehberg at IMAZ, and knew that a Full Ironman would be our next challenge. We swam. We biked. We ran. We practiced transitions. We did brick workouts. We joined the many weekly TCSD workouts. We became immersed. The one aspect of Ironman that I learned the hard way, was proper nutrition while racing for that many hours. I really wanted to break 13 hours at my first Ironman, and I finished in 13:04. I learned many lessons that day, but my biggest joy, was having my daughter and son at IMAZ, to cheer for me, and to see what their mom is capable of completing. The support of the many TCSD cheerleaders out on the course, truly got me to the finish line. When I doubted I could take one more step, there was Brian Long, yelling to me how close I was to the finish line….. Now I am an Ironman. I feel like I can do anything!

Craig: Over the years you have been an active supporter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. How did you get involved in the CAF?

Tracy: Through TCSD I have met many incredible and inspirational people. Bob Babbitt is one of those people. His part in creating The Challenged Athletes Foundation and The Best Day In Tri is history in the making. Please watch the four minute YouTube video “Challenged Athletes Foundation 15th Anniversary.” The amount of lives changed as a result of CAF, is an unimaginable gift that keeps on giving. Even if you are not racing, PLEASE attend and/or volunteer at The Best Day in Tri (La Jolla Cove on October 18th). It will be difficult for you to ever be more inspired, by the athletes you see, that day.

Craig: What was your experience like on the Million Dollar Ride?

Tracy: Joey was a kindergarten student at my school who was born with Spina Bifada. I watched him sit in his wheelchair daily, while all of his classmates were running around the playground, at recess. I had raced the TriChallenge with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, when TCSD had a team. I wanted to help Joey be a part of a team. I decided to raise the minimum $10,000 to join the Million Dollar Challenge. One hundred people raise $10,000 and ride their bike from San Francisco to San Diego over a six day period. I asked CAF if they would allow a portion of my fundraising to help Joey get a sports wheelchair, so he could participate in sports. They agreed, and both challenges began. I had never raised that kind of money, nor had I ridden my bike 620+ miles in one week. My TCSD friends Daniel Powell, Jonathan Jefferson, J.T. Lyons, Diane Hyat, Ryan Morton along with basketball star Bill Walton, cycling legend John Howard and 95 of our new best friends, embarked on quite the adventure in October of 2011. Joey met me at the finish line near La Jolla Shores, and asked if I would ride the Million Dollar Challenge with him, when he turned eighteen. Hmmm, by then I’ll be 60. I answered, “Of course!” The following year, I watched Joey as he crossed his very first finish line of the one mile kids’ race in his new handcycle, at the Tri Challenge. Tears poured down my cheeks, when he proudly showed me his finisher’s medal.

Craig: The TCSD lost a great friend when JJ passed away earlier this year. What did you do to honor JJ at the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon?

Tracy: I was as shocked as everyone, when our TCSD friend Jonathan Jefferson was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, in 2013. He was the epitome of athleticism and paying it forward. He had taught me how to brave the open water and even gave me his first place relay team medal at my first Olympic distance triathlon, since Super Seal did not give finisher’s medals. He was my riding buddy at the Million Dollar Challenge and was truly a special friend. My favorite JJ story, was when Bob Babbitt wanted to gather a world record amount of Running Elvi (plural for running Elvis’) at the Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon in 2011. Jonathan designed a 25 pound SpongeBob Elvis costume (made with PVC pipe) in which to run the marathon, as he joined the 200+ other Running Elvi. When Jonathan’s cancer moved to his bones, and he had to have hip surgery, I asked him if he would let me run the 2015 San Diego RnR Marathon, wearing his coveted SpongeBob Elvis costume, in his honor. He agreed, and it became a joke between us, to see if I could finish the marathon faster than his seven hours. Since he passed away four months before the marathon, our “Running For JJ” team donned SpongeBob shirts, socks and made quite the scene at this year’s marathon. My two bathroom stops along the course took a very long time, as this costume was too big to fit into a porta potty or the handicap stall in the McDonalds’ restroom. As a result, I finished in 7:20, and barely passed the 92 year old woman, who completed her marathon four minutes after me. The outpouring of support from our TCSD family, as we celebrated JJ’s life continues to fill me with so much love. I want to thank Clay Treska, Rick Kozlowski, Daniel Powell, Paula Munoz, Lori Godwin, Steve Tally and Jonathan’s wife, Marilou for including me in the many celebrations we have shared, in remembering Jonathan. May we all lead a life so rich and full, as JJ did.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?

Tracy: As much as I enjoy triathlons, I consider myself more of a runner- I like having my two feet on the ground. After I ran the Boston Marathon, my next running goal was to break 3:30, which I did at the California International Marathon (Sacramento) in 2007. My next goal was to run “longer than a marathon” so I ran the Tahoe Triple (three marathons in three days to circumnavigate the entire lake) in 2010. Then TCSD friend Cathleen Stafford convinced me to run an ultra (anything longer than a marathon), so we ran the Noble Canyon 50K in 2011. Four months later Steve Tally said, “What’s a few more miles?” So Lianne Chu, Deb Hoffman, Henk Overdest and I joined him at the Catalina Island 50 Miler. A few months later, I ran the Nanny Goat 100 mile run (first time in 26:56, second time in 25:22, third time in 24:06). Hence, the Crazy Tracy nickname. When people ask me, “How the heck do you run 100 miles?” I answer, “one foot in front of the other, until I cross the finish line.” Seriously, it’s the biggest mental mind game I’ve ever played……You just keep telling yourself to move forward. The minute you doubt yourself, you’re done. It’s truly a life lesson! TCSD friend Will Mayberry once said to me, “Why be normal, when you can be Tracy?” I considered that statement a compliment. I followed my first 100 mile run by completing the “Tahoe Triple Threat.” On a Friday morning in Tahoe, my crazy friends and I ran a marathon. Saturday morning we ran another marathon. Saturday night, we ran around the entire Lake Tahoe from 8pm-2pm (without stopping). Yes, that would be 124 miles of running over a 2.5 day period. Last summer, I joined 400 other runners, as we covered 120+ miles across the Colorado Rockies over a six day period (google: TransRockies Run). This event is like a Club Med for ultra runners. What an incredibly gorgeous adventure! I was singing John Denver songs the entire time! Definitely a “Rocky Mountain High.”

When I aged up to 50, I decided it was time to train with a coach for my next Ironman, rather than just swim/bike/run without a plan. I hired Mike Plumb and his individualized training plan helped me to earn my first age group award at the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe. One of my racing highlights in triathlon, is when Mike Reilly handed me that award. Not only do I swear by a training plan if you want results, but this really helped me to hold myself accountable. When I added yoga (thank you, Wendy Harp’s Bikram Yoga studio) and regular massage to my training, I noticed even better results. I am extremely happy to report that cross training (swim, bike, run, weightlifting, yoga, massage, nutrition, sleep) has kept me injury free throughout my entire eight years of triathlon training.

Craig: What is your current status in the pursuit of the 50 State Marathon Club?

Tracy: I ran my first international marathon on my birthday, in Athens, Greece on the original marathon course, finishing in the original Olympic Stadium. I would love to run more international marathons, but currently my goal is to complete a marathon in all 50 states. I just completed my 25th state (my 68th marathon+ distance, since 2004) and hope to complete four more states in 2015. The culture, the foods, the people, and the beauty of our country are the reasons I want to enjoy each of the states, one step at a time. In my opinion, the most beautiful marathon I have run, so far, is Big Sur. The most inspiring is Boston. The marathon with the most culture is Chicago. I was able to see the sun at midnight and a moose at the Anchorage Marathon (summer solstice). I ran across the famous Route 66 in Tulsa, OK. In the Bayou of Louisiana, I heard “y’all” used three times in one sentence, and it was grammatically correct. I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song” as I ran across the 59th Street Bridge, in NYC. And I ran through all four theme parks at Walt Disney World, in less than four hours! The people that I meet at the marathons and those crazy marathon maniacs who I see at the race expos multiple times each year make traveling to these races feel like a family reunion.

Craig: What do you love about the TCSD?

Tracy: “Family reunion” are the words that come to mind, when I think of TCSD. Every time I attend a TCSD sponsored event, it feels like a family reunion. My favorite events are the monthly meetings, the aquathlons, the La Jolla Shores/Cove group swims, the potluck dinners, the networking dinners, the camping trips, the group rides and the many birthday/wedding/baby shower/graduation/going away parties I have attended. Very few of these events have anything to do with triathlons, yet every time I attend an event, I make new friends and catch up with old ones. Facebook has become a wonderful way for us to support each other with both our celebrations and our challenges. At Oceanside 70.3 I know more people on the course, than the athletes I don’t know – like a hometown gathering of friends. I feel honored to have been chosen as a member of the TCSD Ambassador Team, and I strive to represent our club in a positive way. I recruit everyone I meet, to join our TCSD family. Since I wear my TCSD kit in every marathon and triathlon, I hope to continue Jim McCann and Jonathan Jefferson’s quest to “pay it forward” and encourage all new members to become more involved, and to feel that TCSD is their family, too. Every single day I stop to “smell the roses,” and to thank God for all of the experiences I have been fortunate to experience. When Lisa Rehberg gave me a Road ID for my birthday, she had it engraved with: “You Never Fail Unless You Stop Trying.” Definitely a mantra to live by.

Craig: What is your next adventure?

Tracy: Road trip to Colorado, with my TCSD family Nathan, Danielle, Randi, Jeanette, Alaina, Chris, Audrey, Ryan, Jim, Lisa, Jeremy, Lauren and Kyra. And while we’re there, we thought we’d throw in a little Ironman in Boulder……..State #26.

Craig: Tracy, thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so proud to call you my friend. I am blessed to know you and the TCSD is blessed to have you flying our flag. Good luck to you in all your future pursuits.

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

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Chula Vista Challenge

Celebrating an 11 minute victory with an empty beer mug.

Celebrating an 11 minute victory with an empty beer mug.

On July 19th I raced in the Chula Vista Challenge. My former training partner from many years ago, Mike Drury, puts on this race. I have wanted to do this race for a few years to support Mike and this year the dates finally worked out. The race was supposed to be an Olympic distance triathlon, but due to some rare summer rain the previous day, they cancelled the swim and turned the race into a duathlon. The race went well for me as I placed 1st out of 18 men in the 50-54 age group and 11th out of 265 overall finishers.

Whenever there is measurable rain in our community the lifeguards strongly discourage open water swimming because of the run off. We had over an inch of rain the day before the race so the race started with a 2.8 mile run. My timing chip was faulty so I did not get any splits. But I would conservatively estimate that completed the opening run in 16:45, good enough for a 2 minute lead on the rest of my age group.

My age group was the 2nd group to start the race. We started 3 minutes after the oldest men and the elite men. During the opening run I passed all the old men and only had the elites ahead of me the rest of the day. The rest of the race was the loneliest I have ever been in a race. No one passed me the rest of the day. And I never did catch any of the elite guys. It was a real test of self-motivation to keep my foot on the accelerator.

The 40K bike (24.8 miles) course was a big challenge as we climbed over 1,300 feet. It was a point to point bike course so we started at 50 feet above sea level and finished at 550 feet above sea level. I pushed hard from the beginning, but felt like I ran out of gas with 7 miles to go. I thought it would never end. We had 2 separate 200 foot climbs after mile 16 so now I understand why it was such a struggle for me. My estimated bike split was 1:14:21 and that was the fastest bike split in my age group.

It was really hot to start the final 10K (6.2 miles) run. It was only 8:20 in the morning at that stage, but I bet it was already 80 degrees. I knew it would be a death march on the run which was around the Olympic Training Center. When the conditions are that tough, I usually hope for a 40 minute 10K. I would estimate my run split to be about 43 minutes as I finished the race in 2:16:21. That run was brutal! I won my age group by over 11 minutes so I really did have a good day. And I won a beer mug!

To see my race pictures, click on this link:

Living the life…

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ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships – Motala, Sweden

From left to right: Norman Kim, Kyle Welch, Craig, Laurie

From left to right: Norman Kim, Kyle Welch, Craig, Laurie

Dan Redfern on the left and Craig on the right

Dan Redfern on the left and Craig on the right

On June 27th I raced for Team USA at the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Motala, Sweden. This represented the 20th time I have had the honor to race for my country. It is a great honor and privilege to have opportunities like this. It has been a drought of 3 long years since I’ve raced for Team USA so this experience was very much appreciated.

I qualified for the race by placing 3rd in my age group at the 2014 USA Triathlon Long Course National Championships in Grand Rapids, MI. I barely edged out Norman Kim by 43 seconds who placed 4th. One of my goals in Motala would be to beat Norman. We met up the day before the race and got to know one another. He’s a really great guy, but I still wanted to beat him.

The swim was supposed to be 4K in the Bay of Motala, but the water temperature was only 57 degrees so the day before the race they shortened the swim to 1.5K. On race day the air was sunny and warm, though, so it did not seem so cold jumping in the water. I wish they would have been more flexible on race morning because they very easily could have had us safely swim 2-3K. But for the safety of all the athletes, it was best that they shorten the swim. I swam conservatively and came out of the water in 15th place with a time of 23:43.

I had a terrible swim to bike transition (T1) as the safety pin holding the Velcro for my timing chip came undone. I was really clumsy dealing with that. Meanwhile 20 guys passed me and I had a tiny cut on my ankle. That’s right. Now I’m in 35th place to start the bike. Norman was one of the guys to pass me. I never saw him again.

The bike course was 3 laps of a 40K loop to make 120K (74.4 miles). Actually it was more like 72.5 miles. The roads were great and the course was mostly flat. There was a 1K climb towards the beginning of each lap. And we faced a mild head wind on the back half of each lap. Unfortunately there was a lot of drafting on the bike which is against the rules. I’ve raced enough in Europe to know the officials will look the other way, but I’m still going to play fair. I’m sure for some guys the drafting improved their times by as much as 10-15 minutes. I completed each of the 1st 2 laps in about 70 minutes, but the 3rd lap knocked the stuffing out of me as it took 79 minutes. Overall I was happy with my effort on the bike. My bike split was 3:39:50 which was 50th best, dropping me down to 49th place. That’s about what I predicted.

The run course was 3 laps of a 10K loop to make 30K (18.6 miles). It was a beautiful run course. Part of it was next to the bay and part was through a forest on trails. It was so much fun! I ran the 1st lap in just over 44 minutes and then the 2nd and 3rd laps I clocked 48 minutes. My total run split was 2:20:24 which was the 11th best run and it moved me up to 28th place out of 69 men in the 50-54 age group and 333rd out of 807 overall finishers. I was the 5th out of 8 Americans in my age group. My finish time was 6:36:24.

Despite some challenges, I still had a great time and am proud of my race. I believe I would have moved up a few places if the swim had been the full length. I am certain the change affected the podium standings in my age group. But the drafting on the bike may have had the greatest impact on the race. It is what it is.

Kyle Welch is a friend from many Team USA’s and he went into this race as the reigning World Champion in our age group. Kyle did finish 5th this year, but his race was over before it started as he was counting on the full 4K swim. The drafters really had an impact on Kyle’s race as he was 3rd after the swim, but dropped to 12th after the bike. On a properly officiated race that would absolutely not happen. Norman finished 12 minutes ahead of me to place 23rd. He voiced similar complaints about the drafting. Dan Redfern is an athlete I have been coaching for a couple of years now. This was Dan’s first time racing for Team USA as he had a great experience placing 50th in the 55-59 age group.

To see my race pictures, click on this link and enter my race #1210:

The trip was not all about racing. My wife, Laurie, and I also did some touring. The Stockholm highlights include visits to the Nobel Museum, the Abba Museum, the German Church and Old Town. We were joined in Stockholm by Kyle.

Prior to Sweden we travelled to Norway. While in Oslo we toured the Nobel Peace Museum, Viking Ship Museum, Folk Museum, Polar Ship Museum and the Norwegian Maritime Museum. I was particularly impressed with the Polar Ship Museum which housed the Fram and the Gjoa. The Fram was sailed on expeditions from 1893 to 1912. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen sailed the Fram farther north and south than any other wooden ship. The Gjoa was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage as Amundsen completed that 3 year journey in 1906.

Living the life…

Posted in 2015, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments