TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Jack Shannon. Jack has been leading the Pannikin Ride for a few years and is an instrumental member of our club. I’m certain you will enjoy getting to know Jack.
Craig: What sports did you participate in when you were younger?
Jack: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I’m a life long soccer player, starting at age 7, playing on both club and school teams. I was also on the swim team in elementary and middle school. I credit this time swimming with my comfort in the water as an adult. Moving to San Diego six years ago I took up the year-round outdoor sports of surfing, biking, running, and swimming. I found many coworkers who shared my love of the outdoors who joined me on multiple lunchtime, nighttime and weekend events.
Craig: What circumstances led to your first triathlon?
Jack: Triathlon, what are you crazy? At my core all I ever wanted to do was ride my bike and see the sights along my ride. So, when I moved to San Diego in November 2011 I bought a mountain bike, started riding to and from work and on the trails including Peñasquitos, Anderson Truck trail, Black Mountain, Calaveras and Elfin Forest. Two years later my mountain bike got stolen and my friends talked me into a road bike as a replacement. I rode my new bike all around San Diego and formed a bike club where I worked. It was then a co-worker/TCSD member Steve Folio talked me into signing up for the Pendleton Semper Tri in August 2014. I was still skeptical about Triathlon until the last minute of the race. I recognized 3-4 competitors running ahead of me and it was then I told myself, I’m going to beat them. I picked up my pace and then sprinted the last 100 meters passing several competitors at the end.
After the Semper Tri race, two of my high school buddies saw my Facebook posts and challenged me to enter Ironman Boulder 70.3. The rest is history.
Craig: What was your first introduction to TCSD like?
Jack: My first introduction was the Pannikin Ride. Again, Steve Folio recommended the ride because it’s a great ride and I lived in the La Jolla village. I joined the club and started riding with the Pannikin Ride in late 2014. The athletes on the Pannikin Ride recommended participating in the TCSD Duathlon on March 7, 2015. I remember trying to keep up with Doug Small and Markus Hofmann during the final run. I think I came in 4th place.
Craig: What is the Pannikin Ride and when did you start leading it?
Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a no pressure, fun 15-mile bike ride with 1000 feet of climbing. The ride starts and ends at the Pannikin Coffee shop (7467 Girard Ave, La Jolla, California) every Tuesday and Thursday. We meet at 6:15am, ride for about an hour and 15 minutes, and then head to the Pannikin for a chat before work over coffee and/or breakfast. I’ve been leading this ride since June 2015. My predecessors are awesome people like Thomas Johnson, Brian Flora, Ryan Georgianna, Sandi Smith and Janis Intoy. I think it safe to say the Pannikin Ride participants have contributed over 3000 accents of Mount Soledad. The views of San Diego and the ocean from this spot are breathtaking!
Craig: How has taking a leadership role in the Pannikin Ride enhanced your TCSD membership?
Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a bonding experience for TCSD members, visitors and friends. We discuss races, workouts, family and even work. The most common email questions I get are centered around the ride difficulty and time the ride ends. Like I mentioned earlier the ride is a fun ride, there is no pressure, you are encouraged to go as fast or as slow as you wish. As a leader of the ride occasionally I switch up the route to add variety, we may go to Kate Sessions Park or Fiesta Island. Lasting about 60 to 90 minutes, the ride is meant to be short and sweet! For me it is the best way to start the day in beautiful San Diego. Taking this leadership role has enhanced my knowledge of the San Diego area. Looking from the top of Mount Soledad I feel like a tour guide pointing out places like where we swim at the Shores, the Miramar airstrip, Cabrillo, Downtown San Diego, and even as far as Dana Point (on a clear morning!).
Craig: You also volunteer in other ways to support triathlon. What else do you do?
Jack: For me swimming comes naturally, but I have found that is not how most people feel, so this past year I started volunteering as a swim buddy. Whether I was there to help with a fear of the open water, a beginner who just needed help with technique, or to give a boost of confidence. I have met some truly amazing people who trusted me to help them. I really enjoy being a swim buddy and would encourage anyone who loves swimming to volunteer. It is easy. Just contact – Tom Washington (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ian Kelly (email@example.com).
In 2018, I will continue to volunteer as a swim buddy at the KOZ events and as swim catcher at Oceanside 70.3. Something new I’m getting into is volunteering as a bike leader for local half marathons/marathons. My first event is in Encinitas coming in March. There are many ways to volunteer, and many races depend on volunteer help. I found out about opportunities through TCSD and race websites.
Craig: What is your favorite part of TCSD membership?
Jack: Since I’ve been volunteering at quite a few triathlons this past year, I’ve really come to love the club races. The aquathlons are my favorite events the Tri Club has to offer. They are a great excuse to get out of work early. Summertime at La Jolla Shores is an amazing place to gather with friends, swim in the State Marine Reserve (aka The Shores) while you bob-n-weave around beachgoers and tourists.
Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?
Jack: Well, at the time it was completing the Semper Tri back in 2014. I don’t remember training except for riding my bike every day. I really didn’t know what to expect from my body. I didn’t think I would even finish the race so at the end when I was able to sprint across the finish line I was very proud of myself. Now I think back to Ironman Boulder 70.3 in June 2015. That race was the original mark that made triathlon a fulltime hobby. My friends challenged me and I achieved my fastest time to date; 6 hours 3 minutes. That’s my greatest accomplishment and the goal to beat!
Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people in your triathlon life?
Jack: One reason, I moved my family to San Diego was for a healthier lifestyle. My wife Cheryl has been there every step of the way: encouraging me in my training, making sure I have all my gear for races and waking up at the crack of dawn on race days so she and the kids can support me. Cheryl will find me multiple spots throughout a race always cheering me on and ringing the cow bell. More cow bell, please! Cheryl’s support goes beyond the races. She’s a passionate cook and healthy eater. She keeps our family happy and healthy.
Doug Small is my technical guide to everything triathlon. He has shared his knowledge and specific tips more times than I can count. Now, if only I would listen I could improve my times.
Craig: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Jack: My Dad has always been there pushing me to do the best I can. To be honest, I’m not sure I truly listened to him until I was nearing the end of my college career. I cared for school but I never consistently tried to do well in school until my senior year in college. But throughout college during winter and summer breaks I would come home and work for my father. He worked for a construction company supervising the labor force and was able to hire me on part time. We didn’t work side by side but I witnessed his skills and his interactions with crew and it was then I gained a new respect for him and for hard work. I guess that’s when I partially matured. My professional career and my work ethic are a direct result from what I learned from my Dad. Love you Dad.
When I was young my Dad was there encouraging me at my soccer games, at my swim meets and to take those long bike rides with my friends. Those are the memories that stick with me and those are the actions I try to emulate with his grandkids. Especially with my son now that he has joined the Cross-Country team and Track team in high school. He hasn’t started doing triathlons, yet, but there’s still time!
Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over triathlon, what would you like to change?
Jack: This is not necessarily a change but I’d like to have a big race come to San Diego. The Tour of California started in San Diego a couple years ago which was an awesome experience. So, I’d like to see Triathlon Nationals, Triathlon Worlds or even an ITU cup race take place in San Diego.
Craig: What are your future athletic goals?
Jack: Well, my main goal is to go under 6 hours in a 70.3 race. I don’t have a race picked out yet, so I’ll keep working out on the Pannikin Ride and with the TriClub! Go TriClub! After that (or in the meantime) I also enjoy long adventurous bike rides. I usually do a Century ride once a year and one day I’ll get up the nerve to ride my bike from Temecula to Palm Springs over the Santa Rosa Mountains. The route is not bike friendly with little to no bike lanes but the scenery is spectacular. In addition to the Temecula to Palm Springs ride, I’d like to ride around the Salton Sea again. Back in November 2014 a couple friends and I circumnavigated the desert sea. 115 miles in about 8 hours. Very windy and challenging, but lots fun. As an extension to traditional triathlon I hope to one day get back into mountain biking and participate in an Xterra Triathlon.
Craig: Jack, thank you so much for sharing your story and for being such a good volunteer. It is volunteers like you who get the most joy out of their TCSD membership. I have a feeling you are going to see your Ironman 70.3 finish time start with a “5” very soon. You got this!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.