The 303 team kept busy all last week in Kona bringing you news and stories, here are few highlights.
People wonder why we send such a group to this race and the answer is not simple, but yet it is. Kona showcases the greatest triumphs. It celebrates athletes from around the world with 2,400 stories from over 50 countries. Colorado is everywhere. From third most represented state of athletes to having many companies and industry and media professionals present. At the USAT partner party, half of the people there were from Colorado. Colorado has a big impact on Kona.
1. Colorado rocks with 38 amateur athletes competing and five of them ending up on the podium:
– Nicholas Noon 2nd
– Kelly Phuah 3rd
– Diana Hassel 3rd
– Matthew Malone 4th, this was also a 45th place finish Overall
– Simon Butterworth 4th
2. Four Colorado based pro’s ended up in the top 10:
– Tim O’Donnell 4th
– Mirinda Carfrae 5th
– Kaisa Sali 7th
– Andy Potts 8th
3. Records were broken
– Fastest Male race: 7:52, Patrick Lange, first time finish was under 8 hours.
– Fastest Female race: 8:26, Daniela Ryf, broke her own record by 20 minutes!
– Fastest Male swim ever: 46:30 (amateur set the record)
– Fastest Female swim ever: 48:14 (Pro Lucy Charles, 4 min faster than the next pro)
– Fastest Female Bike Split, (Pro Daniela Ryf, 4:26, 18 min faster than previous)
– Oldest finisher, 86 year old Inada Hiromu of Japan
4. Presumably, the most weight loss finisher with Marcus Cook losing about 250 pounds and carrying a life size cut-out of himself at his most weight through the finish line that brought a massive roar from the crowd.
5. More people seem interested in what Khem was eating than almost anything else based on our Facebook post of her “guess what I am eating contest”.
6. Colorado has great industry representation: BASE Performance, Newton, BOCO Gear, Triathlete Magazine, Rudy Project, Ceramic Speed, Stryd, Scratch, Stages, and TrainingPeaks.
7. Simon Butterworth and Bob Babbitt do look like Elvis
8. The Pros have fun too: Patrick Lange proposed to his girlfriend right after he crossed the finish line saying it “was the best part of day”, after winning and breaking a record. Sarah True said, “I felt like I was just riding bikes with friends,” after finishing her first Kona.
9. Bill Plock Sleepwalks and tries to get out of a condo in the middle of the night.
10. The 303 team went through six bags of gummy bears, 2 tanks of gas, shot over 500 pics, conducted 8 live podcast interviews, swam to the coffee boat a few times, was up at 4am and back home at 1am covering the race from beginning to end.
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to travel the world and watch you share the joy of racing and an active healthy lifestyle with your families. Regularly, I am asked about how I balance training, racing, my coaching business, and family. I gotta say, it’s not easy but it pales in comparison to the juggling act most of you have to do. I have the luxury that I don’t have a job that involves commuting, a boss, or the daily management of people. I’m lucky that when I’m training, I am working. With that, here are a few tips I have picked up over the years that could benefit anyone trying to manage it all.
1. Have a routine but don’t let your routine stress you out
Training for a triathlon is time-consuming and mentally demanding. Add in juggling a schedule, work/life and the schedule of your family makes it tougher. I have found that you have a set schedule, there is one less thing that you have to think about and by getting into a weekly rhythm you can focus on your workout instead of juggling activities. If you know that you have certain time blocks everyday and specific dates for each workout, then it makes it easier to pack your bags, have everything you need and be ready to train. Further, it allows others(like your family), to plan as well.
2. Establish expectations and communicate regularly
Critical for any relationship and a family tri relationship is establishing expectations and communicating if you need to change your schedule or needs. When my wife knows that I won’t be around on specific days/times, she can plan her life and my kids’ life around that. Conversely, my wife can let me know her expectations and needs for me so that I can plan my training around that. The key is being clear and establishing a routine. In our house, my family knows I swim early. The expectation is that I won’t be there when they wake up but I will be there during breakfast to get everything ready for school and then get the kids to school while my wife heads off to the cupcake shop. Similarly, I also spend time with my kids explaining to them what I am doing in my training and why. This lets them understand why I am going out on a 4 hour bike ride or in my training cave for hours at a time instead of going with them to the park.
3. Be in the moment
A lot of folks try to do too much. Too much at work, too much with their family and too much training. What ends up happening is they ‘fail’ at everything or are always guilty that they aren’t living up to their expectations. What I try to do is really be in the moment for whatever I am doing. If I am training, I am singularly focused on training as I would be doing a disservice to myself and to my kids if I didn’t give 100% to my training. Similarly, when I am with my kids, I am not feeling guilty that I am not training- I am 100% dedicated to my time with them. It makes everything I do more impactful and I can provide a higher quality experience in everything I do, which is what matters in the end.
4. Brick/Combo workouts
The best way to get in multiple workouts in a day is to brick your workouts. The typical brick is bike/run but you can easily swim/bike or swim/run as well. The goal here is to minimize the prep time and clean up time. Instead of splitting workouts and having to prepare and clean up twice, you can save thirty to sixty minute by doing it once. Really want to get crazy, you can swim/bike/run most days like me :).
On April 30th at 3pm IRONMAN welcomes Team Colorado members and their families to its office located at 1795 Dogwood Street, suite 300 inLouisville for some picnic fun and a short run of either a 5k or 10k, a skills clinic and a chance to see some of the behind the scenes operations of just how an Ironman is staged and supported. The warehouse in Louisville supplies everything needed for all North American Ironman races. From pallets of Gatorade, to boxes of bags and stickers and kayaks, it’s all right here.
3pm run skills clinic by D3 Multisport, followed by a 5k or 10K run
4pm bike skills clinic
4:30 to 6pm food and fun with prizes.
After the run, race directors Tim Brosious and Dave Christen will grill food for all and Mike Ricci of D3 Multisport will offer a bike clinic focusing on navigating aid stations and some bike strategy relative to the course. Please bring your bike to practice grabbing bottles and other ideas to make your ride stronger.
But not everyone Stravas, so other swag and prizes will be there as well as part of the fun. Bring the family, there is even a basketball hoop at the warehouse and maybe Team Coloradans can show off their hoop skills–or the kiddos can.
The race is almost here, come socialize, relax have some good food, try to figure out what the water temperature is going to be (joking, but the most asked question ever)–you know talk about all that stuff triathletes worry about–or not, and just show up and enjoy your Colorado triathlon community.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate for out door activities, we’ll just move it inside the IRONMAN offices.
303’s Dana Willett spoke with Eric Kenney about how he manages to land top-notch talent for his coaching services, the importance of tough love and humble pie, his newest venture – the BTC men’s elite triathlon team (and how he hand-selected each member), his non-negotiable Code of Conduct contract, and 120 seconds from the Lake Placid finish six years ago that he just can’t forget… and is a driving factor in his determination to solidify an official Elite race category.
Eric Kenney’s background & EK Endurance Coaching
Eric Kenney has been coaching a variety of endurance sports for almost 20 years. From east-coast rowing teams, to cycling, to alpine and ice climbing, to triathlon. Oh, and ski mountaineering racers – a growing sport in the U.S. But his primary focus today is triathletes, though he is quick to add he doesn’t have a preference for which sport he coaches, saying, “It’s not really about the sport or the level of an athlete’s competitiveness. It’s more about the athletes themselves, and how engaged they are going to be in their training. Conversations are usually the same, whether you have them with a pro, or someone doing his first Ironman. I just like working with athletes who do a good job, and enjoy super dialed coaching; those are the kinds of people I love working with.”
Through leading this large group of varied-abilities athletes, Eric has realized his niche for working with truly competitive individuals, regardless of where they fall on the racing spectrum. “Many of my athletes tend to be standout talents – that kind of amateur to elite athlete who has the ability to be a podium contender. And those athletes tend to be the most visible, so then I draw more clients who identify with that,” he says. “I enjoy working with all different ability levels because it makes me a better coach – as a coach, you have to recalibrate your head depending on your athlete. From Sam Long, who is a young pro and can handle an enormous workload, to someone else who might be in their first year of triathlon, making that time adjustment. I learn a lot from working with different levels of athletes. There are certain types of people you just click with right away and there are others that take more work… and so I’m always trying to be better in that sense, and give the athlete what they need.”
Sometimes what an athlete needs is a bit of tough love: “The needs and personality of a particular athlete can change; sometimes athletes need to push hard, and sometimes they need me to be hard on them. But that doesn’t work all the time. There are days you can’t be like that; days you shouldn’t be like that; that is a dynamic, changing thing. That’s also something I periodize into training; there are times during build up to a race when they need to be broken down a bit; everyone needs a bit of humble pie; other times they need to be built up, and need a bit of confidence. I try to do both, and work it in. No matter what, we’re doing this to have fun. Even for professionals, you have to have fun. Having a sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously is a good attribute.”
The start of BTC Elite
So why form an Elite triathlon team? And why men only?
The answer to those two questions is one and the same: Vixxen Racing.
“I’ve been working with Liz West for a long time, and when she started Vixxen Racing she came to me and asked me to be their performance director for the team. If there’s anyone who could do it really well, it’s Liz. I am the team head coach and performance director. The farther we got into it (BTC Elite), it was obvious it was going to be a men’s only team because of Vixxen racing – I have no interest in starting a women’s team considering my involvement with Vixxen.”
Eric continues, “I’m a huge supporter of women in sport; I love that equalizing factor – when women are actually faster than men – it’s really intriguing to me.”
“Having my own team has come up every year for three or four years… usually in the fall. I’ll put it down on paper, and then I’ve always hesitated. But last year Lance started calling the EK Team the ‘Blue Train,” and it came up again. Liz was one of the first people I talked to about this to make sure this would work out,” he explains.
Once he’d brainstormed and run his ideas by West, he started considering athletes, and sponsors. “I have partners and company associations because of the things I love – no other reason. People like Steve Richards of CMS and Kenny Withrow… I wanted to bring some of the aspects of a true team like a cycling team into triathlon.” He adds, “I wanted a small group, an easily manageable group; I wanted it to be an elite development team because I feel there is a large gap between amateurs and professionals… I wanted to do more team work, and team coaching, and have everyone truly support each other. All while being a local, really small team. Everyone has each other’s phone numbers, trains together, has dinner together, and has a HOME.”
This concept of HOME and belonging comes up several times during our conversation, and obviously resonates for Eric. He explains, “That was my vision for the team. – I wanted to branch out farther than coaching an elite squad within my (EK Endurance Coaching) business, and create a home for those people looking to make a next step – even professionals. Colin (Laughery) had no home – now that he’s on the team, he’s received increased sponsorships, coached team workouts, camaraderie…There’s no home for a lot of these people – part of that is the nature of this sport – it’s not thought of as a team sport. But there’s so many positives of being part of a team.”
The relationship with Boulder Tri Club (BTC)
BTC Elite bears the Boulder Triathlon Club name, but it’s a name-only relationship: “We decided to name BTC Elite to give the club more promotion and more presence on that upper tier racing level. One of the problems with elite teams within a larger club, the elite team can take resources away from rest of club; we have completely avoided that by having our own sponsors. The elite team is providing this promotional aspect at a different level without taking anything away from the club.”
How are athletes chosen for BTC Elite Team?
All BTC Elite members are hand selected. Eric explains, “I want to keep it small, in the range of about ten members.”
And what parameters does Eric use to select members?
“Well, it really comes down to character,” Eric says: “I wanted to have the nicest, classiest guys I could find to be on the team. The best ambassadors possible for the team, for our sponsors, and for our partners like BTC. This is priority #1, for sure. The Code of Conduct I have my athletes sign is first and foremost for being on this team. It’s a full page contract. Without that: no deal.”
The additional factors considered are #2, amount of racing, which races, ability to develop as an athlete; and #3, how fast you are.
“We have a pretty broad range of speeds and strengths on the team,” Eric points out. “Speed comes third because, if I was a sponsor, who would I want people to talk to? If I was an athlete new to the sport, who would inspire me? I want guys like that.”
He continues, “People know Colin Laughery, Conrad Rodas, Kenny Withrow – these are people who are very friendly, extremely easy to talk to, and love the sport they are in. They love all the other athletes. They are great ambassadors of the sport.”
Who are the team sponsors, and how are athletes & coaches compensated?
Athletes wear the team kit 100% of time, and no one is getting paid any money, including Coach Eric Kenney. Eric adds, “All of these sponsors on the team are in place because they are the best – I sought them out because these are products I believe in, credible products. I’m at RallySport because it’s the best gym. I reached out to CMS because they’re the best, and I trust them. I wanted to get everyone on a Felt – the best tri bikes out there – so I asked, “what’s it going to take?’ That’s how our sponsors came to be.”
And, no one on the team is getting paid by the sponsors – “So the athlete comments are genuine,” Eric says proudly. “We have the best everything.”
Wait, you’re not getting paid? Why are you doing this?
“I get to work with a great group of athletes,” Eric says altruistically. And then he adds, “You can call this giving back to the sport. I want to build this elite field. Currently no one races elite – there’s age groupers and pros… There are dozens of guys in the area who should be racing elite – it would make the entire sport better, and it would make the entire ranks better.”
Please explain the “Elite” category
“A team like BTC Elite or Vixxen is a lot more accessible and more reachable than the pro field… When you see someone above middle of the pack, or top 20 age group, those athletes can reach elite. It’s within their reach. My goal is to develop this elite/amateur level of racing – at some smaller local races you can see this in the results – the top finishers are minutes ahead of the next racers – they should be racing elite.”
Not to mention being more spectator-friendly, and a racing category that is “aggressive and extremely fun spectacle of triathlon,” according to Eric.
“The teams like this should be extremely fun to watch, and also extremely accessible; they should be incredible ambassadors for the products they are using,” Eric defines.
So many smaller, local races (like Without Limits, have an “Elite” category. BUT, Ironman doesn’t have Elite category; so… what about that?
“I think the Ironman brand of races are really missing that level. There is nothing between amateurs and pros – they don’t have elite category and the rolling starts really eliminate ‘racing,’ and so I think there’s a lot of room to have an elite category, a ‘racing’ category – people who are trying to compete and get on the podium and go to Kona. All of those athletes – elites – should come to the front of the line. I think Ironman should have an elite category.”
An edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting Ironman Finish Story… that eats at Eric Kenney to this day.
Eric underscores his enthusiasm for an Elite category through the telling this story…
“In 2011 I raced Ironman Lake Placid, and the age group below me was men 30-34. There were five spots to Kona that year, and – get this – the 2nd place through to 7th place spread between those six guys was TWO MINUTES – six guys, in a 9-hour, 45-minute race. Five spots to Kona, no roll-down. That’s the story I want to hear: guys running shoulder to shoulder – who’s going to make it, who isn’t. There’s an insane, epic, remarkable story in there. That’s incredible.
“Some guy got the last Kona spot by 20 seconds in a ten-hour race. That to me is just as crazy as the Raelert-Macca finish at Kona… that is the same level or interest for me.”
Eric’s desire to elevate interest in the sport of triathlon, both for the competitors and the spectators, underscores his effort to establish the local, elite level of racing. He says, “I want to make that professional field better, make it deeper… We’ve got the races here in Boulder – we have the Peak – HELLO! – and I think there are more Gwen Jorgensens out there, but we’re not going to find them in our current state. We have the best college tri team here in the state – these athletes need to have a place to go once they graduate. Maybe they’re not ready to go pro right out of the chute; maybe they’re worried about getting crushed because they’re not quite there yet. It doesn’t make sense to put them in the 25-29 amateur field and have them mop up everybody – That’s not going to work…
Do you Strava? Yet another verb in our language morphing from a website (i.e. googling). Join the Team Colorado Strava group and you can be eligible to win prizes for completing the D3 Multisport segment within the Ironman Boulder bike route. The segment essentially starts at 63rd and Nelson Rd., heads West to highway 36, then North to St. Vrain and East to 65th and south back to Nelson Rd.
This isn’t about coveted KOM or QOM’s (king and queen of the mountain) but rather participating. Team Colorado is initiative started by Ironman Boulder to build a stronger community feel at their race in June. It’s morphing to be an inclusive group encouraging athletes to be more engaging and have fun training. All clubs, athletes, groups and individuals are welcome at events.
Most of the prizes will be given at the Team Colorado picnic scheduled for Sunday afternoon on April 30th at the Ironman office/warehouse in Louisville. There, food and beverages will be available along with some great advice from experts of D3 Multisport along with other fun events and a chance to see some of the behind the scene happenings on how a triathlon is put together. The Ironman warehouse in Boulder is the staging place for everything needed for all of their North American events. Families will be encourage to join the picnic!