TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I recently had the pleasure of talking triathlon with Danny Arnold. Danny is one of TCSD’s Co-Sponsorship Directors so he is playing an active role in shaping the future of our club. In addition, Danny has built up an impressive resume of marathon and triathlon races over the last 10 years. I am very confident you will enjoy getting to know this great guy!
Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?
Danny: I grew up in Upstate New York in a town called Averill Park right outside the capital of the state, Albany, New York. While I was growing up, I played Little League Baseball. I played both third base and fill in pitcher. My large extended family, especially my father and uncles were really into sports, both baseball and football. They had a local team called the Polecats and as a younger participant of the team, I was the official bat boy. We also used to play pickup football every Sunday when my family would gather for our weekly Sunday outings.
Craig: How did your endurance sports career get off the ground?
Danny: That is a funny story. While I was busy and preoccupied with building a very successful Information Technology in the Healthcare Industry Consulting Company, I suddenly realized that on the my 49th Birthday in September of 2006, that I needed to set a goal and get fit by my 50th Birthday. So, I embarked on a regular training routine that included strength training and cardio weekly. That sparked my interest in running so in January 1, 2007 as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to run a marathon before my 50th Birthday that year. I found a local running group called Team in Training that supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I joined the group, then fundraised and trained with them for 5 months and then ran my first marathon in San Diego that year in June 2007, the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon.
Craig: What about Team in Training resonated with you to the point where you took on some leadership roles?
Danny: I was so impressed by everyone I met that was involved with Team in Training and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society while training with them that first year. Their passion to make a difference in helping people that have been inflicted with a blood disorder was very inspiring for me. I immediately returned home from the San Diego Marathon in 2007 and started fundraising and training for another marathon that year, the Marine Corps Marathon in October in Washington DC. Soon after I became a Team in Training Run Coach and continued fundraising and racing for Team in Training right up until I moved to SoCal in 2016. In 2010, I started participating in their cycling and triathlon teams as well. I also became a board member for the Upstate New York and Vermont Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Through the years, I helped fundraise close to $50,000 for the cause.
Craig: What inspired you to become a triathlete?
Danny: I had been running marathons regularly for 3 years since I started in 2007. My friends were always trying to convince me to try triathlons. So finally, in 2009 they dragged me to Lake Placid where I signed up to be a volunteer at Ironman Lake Placid. I was so inspired by the events during that weekend that I stayed until Monday after the race and signed up to train and race for the following year. I trained really hard and one year later, my first triathlon ever ended up to be Ironman Lake Placid 2010 which started the journey of participating in 12 Ironman races to qualify for the Ironman Kona Legacy Lottery. I have done 8 Ironman Lake Placid, 2 Ironman Arizona, 1 Ironman Florida, 1 Ironman Texas. To this day, Ironman Lake Placid has always been my favorite which is why my 12th Ironman finish occurred there in July 2018.
Craig: You have done over 40 marathons and over 50 triathlons over the years. What have been some of your favorite destination races?
Danny: My favorite marathons have been, of course, my first San Diego Rock ‘Roll because everyone loves their first marathon. I have run that race five times and coached it in 2010 as a Team In Training run coach. Some of my other favorites have been Disney World Races in Orlando especially the Dopey Challenge which you run a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, Half Marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday. I have run Disney World races spanning more than six years. I also love destination races like Dublin, Ireland, New York City, Big Sur, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Marine Corps Marathon.
My favorite triathlons will always be Lake Placid as I have developed many relationships in that town and a close second is Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant which I have done 3 times. I just love the beauty of both those locations and courses.
Craig: What are some of the funniest things you have seen in endurance sports?
Danny: Some of the funniest things I have seen in this sport still make me laugh today. They all have to do with wetsuits. We have all been there when first learning how to put on your wetsuit for an open water swim. I have seen people wearing them backwards, I have seen them wearing their wetsuit while biking as well. I don’t know why, but to this day, those sightings make me laugh.
Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?
Danny: After relocating to San Diego in August 2016 with my partner Tim Booth, we immediately joined TCSD so I could continue in my journey to get to 12 Ironman finishes to qualify for my Ironman Kona Legacy slot. It was amazing right from the start, the people I met, the camaraderie of the group, the opportunities that the club offers. TCSD has also allowed me to develop so many lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever. We are all so fortunate to be part of such a great triathlon club. The monthly meetings, the weekly workouts, the TCSD races, the training and coaching, social events, and sponsorship discounts are invaluable assets to all of us.
Craig: What have you done to get involved as a TCSD member?
Danny: In 2017 I was the Expo Coordinator for the tri club. I try to make myself available based on my race schedule to volunteer whenever necessary. This year, I’ve also taken on the role of Co-Director of Sponsorships with two other Co-Directors, Marc Sosnowski and Kevin Fayad. We’ve created a great team.
Craig: What are your goals as TCSD Sponsorship Director and how can other club members help you achieve these goals?
Danny: The goals of the sponsorship director team is to continue to negotiate discounts from our sponsors to make available to our members. So please members, let us know if there is a company that you’d like for us to reach out to and we would be more than happy to make that happen.
Craig: You retired in 2012. What did you do for a living?
Danny: I have been working in the Information Technology in Healthcare industry since graduating from college. First for a hospital in Upstate New York and then moving into consulting soon afterwards. I built healthcare vertical market consulting services for professional services firms until 2001. In 2002, I co-founded my own Information Technology in Healthcare Consulting Services Company called Vitalize Consulting Solutions. The business grew very quickly and 9 years later it had become the second largest privately owned Information Technology in Healthcare Consulting Company in the United States. In 2011, Vitalize Consulting was acquired by SAIC/LEIDOS and today is part of Leidos Health. I worked with SAIC/LEIDOS on the transition in 2011 and then retired in 2012.
Craig: You experienced a very severe cycling accident in October 2018. What happened and what have you learned from this experience?
Danny: I was training for my 13th Ironman in Arizona last year when on October 13, 2018, the day of Ironman Kona, I was in a horrific bike accident while on a training ride. I was rushed unconscious to Scripps Hospital Trauma Center with a cracked skull and hematoma of the brain. I spent the first week in the ICU in an induced coma and then came out of it 6 days later. I spent a total of two weeks going through rehab and then three months working with neurologists, cognitive therapists, and many other specialists. Basically, I had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and after the first three months, and after doctors gave me the go ahead, I did my first Half Marathon in Carlsbad in January this year as my comeback race and I felt so blessed, grateful and thankful all at the same time. I’m now almost 6 months post-accident, and I’m back to doing the things I love which is training and racing endurance sports again. As I look back on this incident, I was amazed and very thankful for the outpouring of support that I felt from all my friends, family and this community. I‘ve realized now that I’m at peace with the struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength which was cultivating mindfulness to monitor my mental attitude. I focused on things I was grateful for and didn’t dwell on the past as I forged ahead with my recovery.
Craig: Who have been the most influential people that have shaped you into the man you are today?
Danny: I grew up with very loving parents, especially my mother. She has been the greatest influence throughout my life. Her incredible loving support of anything I have done has been unwavering. She taught me how to be the well-rounded loving, people pleasing human being that I am today. The other two people in my life that I am incredibly blessed with and that have made me the person I am today are my two sons, Connor 27 and Nick 24. The proudest moment for me is telling others that they are my sons.
Craig: What are your future goals in endurance sports?
Danny: I am participating for the first time this year at the Boston Marathon which I qualified for in May 2018 at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in Ventura. I am very excited to be racing one of my bucket list races this year as well, Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in June in San Francisco. I was surprised and very pleased to be accepted after my first entry into their lottery process. I’m also excited to be racing my 13th Ironman at Ironman Canada in Whistler this July 28th. Most importantly, I have earned a Legacy spot at the Ironman World Championships in Kona for 10/10/2020. IM Kona has been a goal I have been focused on since Ironman announce the Kona Legacy program in 2011. WOOHOO!!!
Craig: Danny, thank you so much for sharing your story. I knew it would be a winner! Congrats on your successful return to triathlon at the Oceanside 70.3 and good luck at Kona and everywhere beyond!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.