TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I had the pleasure recently of chatting with some of the TCSD members who raced in a variety of World Championship events during 2016. These include the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, Australia, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain and the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico. I asked them 3 questions and I thought you’d enjoy the answers of our elite members.
Andy Sweet: Ironman. M55-59. 88th place.
Craig Zelent: 1) Ironman 70.3. M50-54. 85th place. 2) ITU Standard Distance Triathlon. M50-54. 17th place.
Dawn Prebula – Ironman. F40-44. 98th place.
Diana Noble: Ironman 70.3. F50-54. 25th place.
Donn Ritchie: Ironman. M65-69. 5th place.
Elaine Gower – Ironman. F55-59. 51st place.
Jeff Krebs: Ironman. M55-59. 90th place.
Julie Dunkle: Ironman. W50-54. 19th place.
Lisa Ryan – Ironman 70.3. F35-39. 105th place.
Niels Vande Casteele – Ironman. M30-34. 50th place.
Randy Schmitz: Ironman 70.3. M55-59. 98th place.
Scott Endsley: 1) ITU Sprint Distance Duathlon. M60-64. 36th place. 2) ITU Sprint Distance Triathlon. M60-64. 30th place.
Tim Stutzer: Ironman. M40-44. 186th place.
Craig: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to qualify for your World Championship race?
Andy: The only obstacle that I encountered in trying to qualify for Kona was that in the summer of 2014 I crashed my bike and broke my collarbone. I had to have surgery, and didn’t race an Ironman that year. I was signed up for Tahoe, and that year the race was canceled, so it was a good race to miss! I signed up again for Tahoe in 2015 and had a great race there, especially on the run when I passed 16 people in my AG to finish 2nd.
Craig: For the 70.3 Worlds, it was convincing my wife that it would be a good idea for me to race the 2015 Superfrog 1 week after racing ITU Sprint and Olympic Distance Worlds in Chicago. I was really tired going into Superfrog, but I rallied on race day and earned the slot. And for Tri Worlds Cozumel, it was needing to have an excellent race at 2015 Nationals and delivering the goods when it really mattered. I remember badly jamming my finger on some guy’s head during the swim warm up 5 before the race started at Nationals. Adrenaline took over when the gun sounded and I was fine. But that finger still lacks flexibility 15 months later. I wonder how that guy’s head is doing?
Dawn: This is an interesting question. To give a little background I only completed my first real triathlon in March 2015, first with the Olympic Desert Tri as a training race and then Oceanside 70.3. To back up a little more, I moved to San Diego in June 2014 and thought “This is the perfect place to train for triathlons,” immediately signed up for Oceanside and THEN bought a road bike off of craigslist. I downloaded a plan from the Internet and was off. I am not sure when I heard about Tri Club San Diego, but it was after completing Oceanside I joined. I couldn’t believe all the things I’d been missing out on from training events to meeting awesome Tri people! I’d also already signed up for Superfrog in September of 2015 before finishing Oceanside since it was another local longer distance race. I had read about the additional spots for military members qualifying for Kona, but never imagined I’d be one of those people. As fate would have it, being a 40 year old military female was in my favor that day. Please let me mention I am completely grateful for the opportunity. It isn’t lost on me others have worked for years and participated in many races or raised tens of thousands of dollars for the same chance. I still am humbled by the opportunity.
Diana: My biggest obstacle was my hamstring injury. I had a slight tear which was only diagnosed after the race. I was happy I was able to qualify with a role down spot at Superseal 70.3.
Donn: Qualifying for the World Championships is never an easy endeavor. In my age group, I know I have to place first at a qualifying race because we are never allocated more than one slot. After racing for 15 years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get mentally and physically ready for two ‘A’ races in one year, so my recent strategy has been to race in Kona, and then 5 or 6 weeks later, try to qualify at the Arizona IM race. My hope is that the build-up for Kona will give me enough strength and endurance to compete well in Tempe. For the past few years that strategy has worked, as I’ve been able to qualify in November, then take 7 months off before starting the next long build for Kona.
Elaine: Since I got in on the Legacy Program I had to complete 12 IM branded races, 2 of the races in consecutive years. Lake Tahoe would have been my 12th IM to qualify me for the Legacy Program. Unfortunately, I DNF’d on mile 19 of the run. So, I had to go back to do 2 more IM races – I did IM Boulder in 2014 and IM AZ in 2015. I raced IMAZ in that terrible cold and rain with the flu and barely made it to the finish line but I was determined to finish.
Jeff: I had a charity slot with Smile Train. The fundraising requirement was $50,000. I ended up raising about $58,000. Fundraising that much is no easy feat. I was very grateful for all of the support I received from family and friends who went on the “journey” to Kona with me. Together we raised almost $58,000! Smile Train provides surgery for children born with cleft palate and cleft lip. Surgery costs $250 and takes only 45 minutes. The money I raised will fund 232 surgeries. That’s a lot of new smiles brought into our world!
Julie: Fractured metatarsal in November pushed my season back quite a bit, while it was mostly healed when I raced Oceanside and St. George I had a set back and had to dial back the running. The plan was to qualify at IM Canada but I came up short, as in 2 minutes short and was fired up and looking for redemption. So I toed the line 4 weeks later at IM Coeur d’Alene and took the win in my age group for the Kona slot. The challenge at 50 (ugh that is old) is making it to the start line healthy. I find that is 50% of the equation at this point.
Lisa: The biggest obstacle was deciding if I wanted to race my first half IM and then hoping for a huge roll down.
Niels – Four months before the race, I was taken out by a car while biking and suffered a medial condyle femoral fracture, among other things. Although the accident set me back quite a bit and the recovery process was tedious, it’s the passion for the sport and the hunger for endurance that drove me to never give up or kick back and relax. It’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about how fast you can get up again.
Randy: Like most age groupers, my biggest obstacle was trying to step up my training to a higher level while maintaining a full time job and a balanced family life. Sleep is another story.
Scott: It was very uplifting to know that I could still run, without knee pain post replacement. See these two short you tube videos if you have any joint issues.
I was extremely pleased that only 5 months post knee replacement I was able to race against the best amateurs in the world.
Tim: An ever worsening knee (cartilage damage after two surgeries), increased work volume and decreasing motivation. Still the love for the bike kept me going and Ironman Wales did the rest. Go there. It’s a beast to be conquered! Well worth travel and expenses.
Craig: What was the best part of your World Championship experience?
Andy: The high point of the race was half way through the swim when I could tell I was swimming fast, the water felt warm and it was beautiful underwater and above. Overall, I enjoyed how international the event was–being there and hearing so many languages being spoken all over brought that element home more than I understood beforehand. My daughter and her fiancé from Brazil joined my wife and granddaughter in Kona cheering me on; it was wonderful to have great family support.
Craig: For the 70.3 Worlds we had one of our best vacations ever in Australia. 1 week before the 70.3 Worlds we visited Kangaroo Island (KI). My wife, Laurie, placed 3rd overall woman in the KI Marathon and I was the overall winner of the KI Half Marathon. We went on to enjoy visits to Adelaide, Brisbane and Mooloolaba was awesome for the 70.3 race venue. Laurie was not able to join me for the trip to Cozumel, but Scott Endsley and I shared a condo. We had a great trip. Scott was my hero as he fetched me tons of free food at the Team USA hotel.
Dawn: All of it, but especially having my husband, family, friends and three kiddos there to watch me cross the finish line.
Diana: The best part to be part of the experience was traveling to Australia. The last time I was in Australia was 1989. We were able to meet up with my aunt, uncle and cousin in Sydney. Another highlight was being able to visit the koalas and kangaroos with you and Laurie! I loved competing in an international event with such a high caliber of racing.
Donn: With the practice swims at Dig Me beach, the athlete’s village with the vendors and seminars, and the daily increase in the community’s energy as we all head towards the Saturday race, the entire week before the race is always exciting. But actually crossing the finish line has to be the best experience for me. Kona isn’t where you’ll get a PR, but the feeling of relief and satisfaction at crossing the finish line washes over you like at no other race.
Elaine: The best part or one of the best parts of my WC experience was the week building up to the race. Meeting so many new people and seeing my friends who were racing, the expo, the underpants run and in general the whole week was great. The other part of the experience was the actual race, the start just seemed surreal – here I was racing in the World Championship in Kona. Wow, it was hot, windy and humid and with some electrolyte issues I was basically just getting it done on the bike. The run was the best because people were everywhere, cheering, high-fiving you and just the whole atmosphere was great (well it was desolate on the highway and energy lab). Crossing the finish line was the absolutely best part of the day – after struggling through the run due to injuries and just plain old fatigue – but when I came down the finishers shoot everything went away (well besides my limp) on the run – having Mike Reilly call my name on my 15th IM and WC was the finale.
Jeff: My entire Kona experience was amazing. It is said that it is the journey that matters and I truly believe this. I had a fantastic coach who worked me hard during the year but got me to the start line healthy, fit and ready to race. I had the love and support of family and friends who encouraged me even when the training was difficult. Knowing that, by raising money for Smile Train, I was making the world a better place always kept me focused and gave me purpose. Race day was absolutely magical. I savored every moment of the course. It was one of the top 5 best days in my life!
Julie: Simple! The final 100 yards down Ali’i Drive on the red carpet, running towards the massive finish line and the voice of Ironman. That elation erases the hours of suffering that the Big Island serves up. And it’s the week in Kona, it is sheer bliss. Seeing friends from all over the US, rubbing shoulders with the best in this sport and experiencing a magical place.
Lisa: I got to do the race pregnant.
Niels – Floating in the water, at the start line, mindful of the pain I endured during the recovery process and that I fought hard mentally and physically to get here. Even before the cannon went off, I already had the best possible feeling a guy could have. Bring it on!
Randy: The best part of my World Championship experience was the opportunity to go to Australia and represent my country and the best triathlon club in the world, TCSD!
Scott: My run was still slow for me, but I was able to run with no knee pain, and with the uplifting belief that I may be able to run freely, and faster, and train the run for next years’ races. It’s nice to be still in the game, after two knee replacements.
Tim: I qualified for Kona 2016 at Ironman Wales 2015 and already had experienced knee issues again even after two surgeries. The doc then told me that if I wanted to avoid knee replacement before 50 I should quit running. Still I did keep the slot for Kona and did the race as my goodbye to the sport of triathlon. I could not have made a better choice to close the triathlon chapter for me right where the sport was born. I enjoyed every minute of the race – once I had decided not to care about the blatant drafting this race has going on these days, that is. I smiled all through the marathon and even had the privilege to run the last 10 miles together with a teammate. What more can one ask for? Nothing.
Kona No. 5 in the books, Ironman chapter closed. On to life!
Craig: Who has been the most influential person in your success as a triathlete?
Andy: I’d like to mention several key influential people: Jodi Hayes, Laura Sasaki, and Mike Burrows first encouraged me to try triathlons, were great cheerleaders and friendly training partners. Mike Plumb provided helpful coaching and workouts and key bits of advice at crucial times in training and races. Gino Cinco and the ART people in Kona were indispensable in getting my knee and legs to function. My wife Wendy was amazingly supportive throughout the past several years of Ironman training and especially with my “special needs” this year. Thanks!
Craig: 2016 was my 31st year racing triathlons and I am now approaching 300 career triathlons. Mental and physical burn out is a real issue, but my wife Laurie inspires me every day with her motivation to train. She loves exercise. She is up to 235 career marathon finishes. I can’t compete with that. But I watch her get out there every day and that really motivates me to do the same.
Dawn: Even though my husband isn’t stationed here, he pretty much came home every weekend to watch the kids in order for me to train. Even still, I spent a small fortune on babysitters a couple times a week over the course of a year! I would also say going to events like Masters swim in La Jolla, track with Holly and Bill & the open water workouts at Ventura Cove, and Saturday Starbuck rides were a huge part of my training success & meeting new friends that helped me get to the finish line. Like I’ve said before, there is an “I” in Ironman, but it would be really tough to make happen without the support of your team!
Diana: The most influential people in my triathlon career are my neighbor Kevin Schneider who I admired for training so hard for an ironman and eventually I decided that if she could do it then maybe I could too. Cris Huxley at the YMCA Encinitas Masters program who encouraged me to keep coming to Masters practice and eventually to be able to complete ironman swim leg. You and TCSD – Craig, I attended one of your networking dinners. After the dinner I knew triathlon was for me and I met so many people to train with and learn from.
Donn: I can think of a lot of people who have helped me along the way, from my YMCA coaches as a youngster to the authors I’ve read as I self-coach at this stage of my life. But it’s the support of my wife, who overlooks my emotional swings during the season, helps structure nutritional meals, who massages my sore muscles, who has to be the most influential person in my success.
Elaine: Well this is kinda hard to answer but I would have to say my husband Tony and then my coach Mike Plumb and a plethora of triathlete friends. My husband was good at telling me when I didn’t want to do a workout to go and just do some of it and then I would end up doing all of it. My coach for his knowledge and working so hard to make sure my schedule fit into my life schedule. I would also have to say since I have been doing triathlon for over 15 years that my first coach, Gurujan Dourson influenced me the most with his knowledge and drive for the sport. I’ve had so many people I could name but you know who you are I don’t want to forget anyone.
Jeff: The most influential person in my success as a triathlete has to be my spouse, Fritz. He allows me the freedom to train and race as I wish and never once complains. We all know how much time training for an Ironman race takes away from our family and friends. He has taken on the role of IronSherpa with great pride and accompanies me to every single race to make sure that I stay on schedule and never forget my race-day necessities. Without him, I would not be able to do what I do as a triathlete.
Julie: My first real coach, Kevin Purcell. He believed in me and got me to Kona the first 3 times. He taught me so much about racing, power meters, pacing, nutrition, patience and eventually all I know about coaching. He was not only my coach for 4 years but a mentor as I began coaching 5 years ago. He is an ambassador of this sport and always willing to help, share his knowledge and pay it forward. And my husband, he is my #1 fan, is willing and eager to go to all these races, be the Sherpa extraordinaire and believe in me and continue to support this crazy lifestyle.
Lisa: Randy Schmitz has been most influential because he talked me into signing up for Ironman Arizona a few years ago, which started this great adventure.
Niels – It’s thanks to the support from my family, coach and friends that I made it to Hawaii, only four months after the accident. My wife Djohara played an enormous role in this as she took care of me and kept supporting my goals and ambitions. It’s also thanks to my coach, Scott DeFilippis, who carefully looked after me and gave me things to do and ways to train even when I was immobile or in pain. A 9:40:58 time on the Ironman World Championship was beyond my imagination. Big thank you to the DES crew and my friends from the RIDE Tri Team that supported me throughout the season. Mahalo!
Randy: The most influential person in my success and in my life is my wife, Wendy. She supports me and motivates me when the going gets tough and without her blessing, I would not have achieved this lofty goal!
Scott: The pleasure in racing and training well, consistently, hard, and pleasurably would not be something I could achieve without my long time workout partner and inspiration Chuck Macdonald.
Tim: I’ll have to name my dad first. He got me into the sport some 33 years ago on a cold September day in Cologne, Germany 1984. First triathlon at age 10. That sets the stage, does it not? The potential I had at the sport was opened up by my first coach Andreas when I was 10 who almost instantly raised the bar of my tri game by at least 10 notches. Also my family kept supporting me all through the 10 year process. The prospect of a family holiday in Hawaii kept them motivated, I guess.
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.