303’s Bill Plock: his triathlon journey, and his lens for reporting on Kona IRONMAN World Championships

Kona was his excuse, now it’s part of is story telling passion

With my hand clasped around the door handle to the gym, I pulled it off and walked away. Inside the other players were warming up for tryouts for a high school basketball team that would eventually be nationally ranked. A team I would’ve made, not played much necessarily, but still it would’ve been a helluva journey. By our senior year, every player was offered some type of scholarship. Instead, I walked the opposite way down the long shiny tiled hall decorated with pictures of all the all-star athletes that had played sports at Wheat Ridge high school. I felt a bit defeated, maybe embarrassed and definitely unsure if I made the right decision. I kept convincing myself I would focus on soccer, a sport I loved too, but not as much as basketball. But at 5’10 I weighed the potential, maybe of playing in college, and chose “my sport.”  I never formally competed in basketball again. I was 16. I had given up my driveway dream of playing for a living, and living my dream – and I had barely learned to drive.

I followed logic, not my heart or my passion, and at some point I discovered this life-changing decision. To this day I believe I would’ve probably ended up at some small junior college trying to “make it” on the court. The butterfly effect of that decision is enormous. What major I chose, what woman I would marry, what child I would have, and on and on. And relative to you, the audience of 303triathlon, you probably would never be reading my thoughts as I travel to cover my third IRONMAN World Championships. The consequences of THAT decision also determined what friends I made, what jobs I chose, and ultimately what sport I would choose to try. It was friends who introduced me to triathlons, and ultimately one friend in particular (who is competing in Kona this year by the way), who in 2010 made me curious enough to try my first IRONMAN, and to understand its madness.

The “decision,” as I refer to my teenage forked path away from basketball, for a while weighed on me as a regret; but as experiences often transform into wisdom, I began to dissect “the decision.” I have concluded that the real regret was being afraid to try. I did make the sophomore team, so there was no reason to think I wouldn’t make the junior team. It wasn’t the failure of not making the team, but maybe it was the failure of not making my dream of the NBA. I probably knew that was almost impossible but was afraid to try. Wisdom also tells me I simply let myself down, and I defied my passion, and my heart. I think from that day forward any time I have ever made a decision that makes me feel like I did that day, it has not worked out for me. I have come to learn that feeling, and it is my compass and has been for over 35 years.

It was that moment in the school hallway, pondering my basketball future, that I have come to appreciate as a moment that has driven my overachieving nature. My never can’t-do attitude. My “chip on my shoulder,” so speak. As years passed and I continued to play hours and hours of pickup basketball and organized soccer until my early 40’s, I began to focus more on cycling as I liked the adventure of it and chance to challenge my strength in new ways. I was always a decent runner, and I learned to swim, and eventually I did my first triathlon in 2008 in Steamboat Springs—an Olympic distance race. In 2010 I did IRONMAN Arizona followed by Cozumel, Canada, Arizona and Boulder three times.

I wrestle with IRONMAN all the time, and that feeling of logic-versus-passion constantly eats at me. Of the seven IRONMANs I have finished, in five of them I had results that left me feeling like I had done well—at least in comparison to others. Two years ago I stepped onto the podium in 5th place in my age group, missing Kona by one spot. I almost made it to Kona as an athlete and I relished the thought of Kona in 2016, but that never happened. I have mixed feelings as to wanting to compete again to try and qualify. I raced an Olympic distance this year for fun, and as I get further from the fitness needed to be at the top in IRONMAN distance, it gets easier and easier to let go of the dream of Kona.

Bill Plock

If I’m really honest with myself, I suppose, I don’t dream of competing in Kona enough right now to endure the effort to get there. I’m fortunate to have the athletic ability to make a few mistakes and still do well with triathlon, but let’s face it, to qualify for Kona takes an almost perfect race and a perfect season of training to go with it. It is tough to qualify— we all know that. But the mental edge needed to push through the pressures of discipline and enduring the time and often the pain that goes with it, separates the contenders from the pretenders, as they say.

Honestly, I think Kona was an excuse more than a goal, at least at first. The journey of my why, my why for even signing up for IRONMAN Arizona in 2009 and ultimately pushing my limits to where I actually had a shot at Kona span a spectrum of motives and reasons.

It began as a curiosity wondering if indeed I could do what my friend had been doing to finish a full distance race.  Training then morphed into a lifestyle that allowed me use training as a partial excuse to hide from other life challenges. But, because I was showing promise, to myself I suppose, I let it rule my life. I think I over-hyped my need to train to avoid some responsibilities and obligations, and I often both ends of the candle. In the wake of my transition from wanna-be-triathlete to age group contender, my marriage blew up and my life took a different course. One of major discovery.  But, I gained perspective and a true appreciation of the sport and once I began to resolve some personal issues, I realized the constant of IRONMAN training, when properly balanced and executed, opened up other doors. I made many friends, and rather than dedicating my existence to “using triathlon” to run away, I embraced it. I reached a new plateau of speed and enjoyment. I loved it so much that I wanted to make my career line up with my passion for training and competition and help inspire others to reach for their dreams and potential.

I had my two best seasons in 2014 and 2015 and came to Kona with a semi-sweet attitude in 2015, feeling like I could so easily be competing and not taking pictures and writing stories. I wasn’t upset, just pulled emotionally in many directions. But I landed at home ready to tear up 2016 and come back to toe the start line. It wasn’t meant to be and my race in Boulder didn’t go as planned. But, I came back to Kona to be a journalist in 2016, and it was in that trip I came to grips to with my dream to race here.

While this race collects the best athletes in the world, it still is just a race. It still hurts; it’s still a lot to prepare for, it’s not cheap and I’m not convinced competing in it, for me anyways, is that much more exciting than celebrating it as a part of the triathlon community.  I love part of the fabric that matters, and my heart is in telling the stories and applying my “why” to the lens I report through.

My hand is firmly gripped on the camera and keyboard and I am opening the door to the gym of possibilities that is my life. I have conquered IRONMAN, I have proved to myself I can compete. Competing here doesn’t make me a better person or even a better athlete. Being here lets me share my wisdom with you. I get the race. I get what the athletes endure. Not racing here doesn’t take away from my ability to see beyond surface of this race.

Someday I may return to racing full distance IRONMANs but only if I want to qualify to be here. For me there is no other reason to try. But right now Kona calls my mind, my eye for photos, and my use of the English language. I’m cool with that. My dream is to be a story teller. That’s what my heart wants to do. Remember, I learned to listen to my heart when I was 16, I’m not gonna stop now.

I offer you this window into my perspective, my journey so that as you read my accounts of this race experience over the next few days you will know where I am coming from!

Colorado Athletes in Kona: D3Multisport Coaches NINE Athletes in Kona

by Melanie Ricci, D3Multisport

 

Coaching 9 talented athletes who have all earned slots to the 2017 Ironman World Championships is the most honored role we could have, and it’s a pleasure to turn the spotlight on the following Colorado athletes who earned this race in their own unique and respected ways.

Lisa Plunkett coached by Dave Sheanin (50-54 AG & on the D3 Elite Team)

Kristine Reinhardt coached by Alison Freeman (50-54 AG)

Casey Fleming coached by Laura Marcoux (18-24 AG & on the D3 Elite Team)

Greg Lindquist coached by D3 Head Coach Mike Ricci (35 – 39 AG)

Patrick Martinez, training plan by D3 Multisport (35-39)

D3 Coach Simon Butterworth is self coached (70-74 AG)

 

And while these three athletes do not have 303 area codes, they do have Colorado ties through D3, family and friends!

Steve Nabity coached by Brad Seng (60-64 AG from Omaha, NE)
Valerie Osband training plan from Mike Ricci (18-24 AG from London, UK)
D3 Coach Julie Dunkle coached by Mike Ricci (50-54 AG from Encinitas, CA)

 

We interviewed the coaches and athletes about their route to qualifying, favorite workouts and expectations as they head into Kona. Following are highlights from each athlete-coach interview.

Lisa & Dave

Coach Dave is most proud of Lisa’s tenacity over the years, sticking to her Kona dream through all kinds of distractions. He is proud of how she has believed in herself as she has earned her slot through the Ironman Legacy Program. Lisa has successfully completed 15 Ironman events and is a D3 Elite Team athlete. At first, the quest for Kona was simply about the Legacy Program but he has seen breakthroughs on the race course in recent seasons that have him absolutely convinced that this year’s trip to Kona is her first of many.

Lisa is most excited to experience all of it – all that Kona has to offer an athlete. She is excited to be there experiencing the big day and appreciates her long brick workouts and the hot races she’s experienced this summer to get her ready.

Kristine & Alison

Coach Alison describes Kristine with these three words: Determined. Brave. Persistent. Coach Alison recognizes that Kristine works hard at swimming, she works hard at cycling, she works hard at running, she works hard sorting through her fueling, and she works hard finding time for training. She always does her best. And that was crystal clear when she earned the honor of being the top fundraiser for the Ironman Community Foundation and thus a slot in the Ironman World Championships this October.

Her fundraising success doesn’t even begin to demonstrate her amazing ability to get things done. She has persevered through challenges many of us cannot even fathom. She is the managing partner of a global real estate firm with 350 employees. And the best part, with a family of five by her side, Kristine is headed toward a lifelong dream. She was recently recognized as the D3 Athlete of the Month.

Casey & Laura

Coach Laura is incredibly proud of Casey for her relentless motivation and work ethic, but is the most proud of Casey for getting outside of her comfort zone and challenging herself to be mentally tough. Mont Tremblant was Casey’s first full Ironman, and she overcame a few race day hurdles by staying level-headed when things went wrong (including her power meter not working). She made adjustments to her race plan, didn’t make any excuses, and never gave up. Her focus during training was to let go and learn how to not be as obsessed with metrics, let go of a little bit of control, and try to develop more of a “feel” rather than relying only on numbers. This lesson ended up being what saved her race at Mont Tremblant when her power meter stopped working, and allowed her to win her age group and qualify for Kona.

Casey is a D3 Elite Team athlete and credits those Team workouts for her Kona preparation. She says, “I love working out with my team of friends (who are all mostly faster than me) because they push me harder than I would ever be able to go alone! I’m most looking forward to the legendary Queen K winds, of course! Bring on the suffering!”

Greg & Mike

Coach Mike shared that Greg is more prepared mentally than he’s ever seen him and that’s what he is most excited to see play out on race day. Greg and his wife welcomed their new son, Andy, a few months prior to the race last year, and this past year has been about helping him balance this new and important responsibility along with his training. One of the many things I respect about Greg is that he gives 100%. From the time the gun goes off, he’ll race smartly and strategically. He is invested all the way through a race. I know Greg will capitalize on his experience from last year and we’ll see a strong race from him on October 14th.

Greg qualified for his second trip to Kona at Ironman Texas earlier this year. With two Kona races on his race resume, he looks forward to time with his entire family under one roof again (his wife and son, his parents, and his brother’s family). He is looking forward to improving upon last year’s time and will enjoy the fun of racing. He values his long Saturday rides in the mountains with friends knowing that those days are all part of the equation for a successful day in Kona.

Steve & Brad

Coach Brad admires Steve’s grit and commitment to the process. When he first started coaching Steve a few years ago, the swim was a big hurdle for him. He has worked through his initial fear of the water and continues to improve. One of Steve’s strengths has become his run. After a serious water skiing accident tearing his hamstring, the run has become a weapon for him as he consistently has one of the top run splits in his age group.

 

Steve qualified for his 2nd trip to Kona at Ironman Brazil this past year where he finished first in his age group. He knows Brad’s VO2 Max bike workouts have him ready to face the challenges the bike course is going to toss him.

Valerie & Mike

 

 

Valerie won her age group in her first Ironman at Ironman Switzerland this year to earn her slot to Kona. She purchased an Ironman Switzerland specific pre-built training plan from Coach Mike and is moving forward to Kona using a Custom Training Plan he developed specific to her needs. She shared that “the Bike 6 x 8′ Zone 5 workouts are painful but worth it.” Valerie is ready to take in the atmosphere of race week and the race itself. Just being part of it all is something she’s ready to celebrate.

D3 Coach Julie & Mike

Julie continues to raise the bar for herself with new and challenging goals. Coach Mike says it challenges him as well because he needs to be more and more creative with her workouts. To meet her goals for race day, he’s actually had to develop some workouts that push Julie to another level, mentally as well as physically. Although these workouts are pretty hard, they build confidence for what she can sustain during a race and ultimately help her achieve her goals. He says, “I’m very excited to see all this hard work come together for Julie. We’ve been strategic about her workouts going into Kona and we both know she’s been tested in training and is ready for a fantastic race.”

Julie earned her 6th spot to race Kona at Ironman Boulder this past June. She is most excited about the magical final mile down Alii Drive to the finish line! Coach Mike gave her ‘the hardest bike workout ever’ in preparation for Kona, and to get it done, she kicked it off with 10 F-bombs, donuts and red bull. Here it is: 30′ to warm up, then 2×20′ at 80%, with 10′ recovery. Then ride 10×3′ at 90% of FTP with 3′ recovery. Ride easy for 20′, then ride 15×1′ on, 1′ off at 100% of FTP. Remainder of ride is easy – aero bars – no harder than 75% of FTP.

D3 Coach Simon Butterworth

 

Simon is returning to the Ironman World Championships for his 13th time. This is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. He has finished in the top three in his age group three different times in Kona. His experience racing this course is unparalleled. He qualified for 2017 at Ironman Cozumel in 2016. Simon’s favorite workout in preparing for the race has been a long SBR day: 3800m swim, 100 mile ride, 10k run and no idling around between each. Simon also happens to be gifted at short course racing and is the 2017 70-74 USAT Sprint and Olympic Champion.

See Simon’s Colorado Athletes in Kona feature HERE

 

 

 

Patrick Martinez is also a D3 athlete.  See his bio HERE

 

 

 

 

 

We are truly excited for these athletes and their important day on October 14th. We are also excited for the camaraderie that develops over the week that these athletes come together in Kona. With team workouts and coach meet-ups, we know this group of 9 will be ready to toe the line, and ready to race with strong desire, determination and discipline!

 

As you turn the corner toward the off-season and look ahead to your 2018 race season, you can get powered up with desire, determination and discipline too! Visit the D3 Multisport website here.

Weekend Preview: It’s Still Summer in Fruita

Triathlon Events

Friday September 8th

 

Desert’s Edge Triathlon Festival

Fruita


Saturday September 9th

 

XTERRA Fruita

Fruita


IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships: Women’s Race

Chattanooga, TN


Desert’s Edge Triathlon Festival

Fruita

 


Sunday September 10th

 

Horsetooth Open Water Swim

Ft. Collins


IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships: Men’s Race

Chattanooga, TN


Desert’s Edge Triathlon Festival

Fruita



Cycling Events

Thursday Septembr 7th

 

BVV Thursday Night Racing

Erie


Ladies Only: Intro to CX Info Night

Golden


Saturday September 9th

 

Golden GiddyUp

Golden


Rocky Mountain Enduro Series – Race #3

Steamboat Springs


Nederland X

Nederland


Cougar Slayer

Nederland


13th Annual Vapor Trail 125

Salida


First Aide for Mountain Bikers

Golden


SMC Fall Classic

Summit County


Lee Likes Bikes Level 1 MTB Skills Clinic

Boulder


Lee Likes Bikes Level 2 MTB Skills Clinic

Boulder


Sunday September 10th

 

Buffalo Bicycle Classic

Boulder


Shimano Series CX: Harlow Platts

Boulder


Colorado League Race #2: South Conference

Leadville


Colorado League Race #2: North Conference

Steamboat Springs


Rocky Mountain Enduro Series – Race #3

Steamboat Springs


Avista Women’s Weekly Ride

Louisville


13th Annual Vapor Trail 125

Salida


Golden GiddyUp

Golden