Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Team Every Man Jack: Tom Trauger

For a little change of pace, we thought it would be fun to highlight an athlete from a team besides our own. Tom Trauger of team Every Man Jack fits the bill perfectly. Tom is perennially among the best in the world in his age group, despite not discovering triathlon until his mid-40's. Among other things, it was awesome to chat with him about past Kona pursuits (both highs and lows) and what motivates him to keep going strong.

Thanks for the time, Tom, and best of luck to you and Team EMJ this season!

Having gotten into triathlon later in your adult life, are you ever surprised by how far you've gone in the sport?

I've gone further in triathlon than I ever thought possible. In the past I've thought I was pretty good at some sports, but I've been better at triathlon than any other endeavors. In some ways age and maturity help as a triathlete... for long-distance triathlon you need to have the ability and willingness to suffer. I can out-suffer a lot of people... I'm pretty good at it!

What's on your schedule for this year?

I'll start the season the second weekend of April with a local Olympic-distance race in Northern California and do another one the following weekend. Then it's Ironman Texas on May 16, where hopefully I'll earn my way back to Kona. Later in the season I'm planning on Escape from Alcatraz, Vineman 70.3 and maybe Lake Stevens 70.3. Since I'm not doing Austria (Ironman 70.3 World Championships), I'll need a race to do that time of year... maybe one in New Hampshire as part of our family vacation, then hopefully Kona again in October.

Can you give us a little history on your experiences chasing Kona in prior years?

I first qualified for Kona in 2009. My hip was injured but I went to race anyway. On my second day in Kona in 2009 I crashed on Ali'i drive, separating my shoulder before the race. I had an operation on my hip in early 2010 and since I wasn't sure I'd be able to race again, I didn't sign up for any Ironman races in 2010. As 2011 rolled around I was totally focused on getting back to Kona. At Ironman St. George in 2011, I got a flat and missed by seconds. At Ironman Canada that same year I tripped coming out of T1 and, without knowing it, my front brake shifted and was rubbing on the wheel. I didn't realize it until a guy half my size went flying by me on a downhill. That's the only race I've ever mentally quit on. Afterwards I was more determined than ever, so I raced my 3rd Ironman of 2011 at Cozumel and won my AG by a lot (11 min), qualifying for Kona 2012. That was probably the best race of my life.

How frustrating was it to have that bad luck in your pursuit of Kona?

It wasn't life and death, but I was very frustrated. I'm a very goal-driven guy and I work pretty hard to achieve my goals. I will say though that not getting what I wanted made me work even harder to make it happen.

How sweet was it then to have the result you did at Cozumel?

It was totally sweet. When you get that magic piece of paper in your hand confirming you're going to Kona, it's pretty amazing.

Since then it's been relatively smooth sailing for you and Kona. How did last year's race go, and what's the competitive landscape like in your age group?

I was 5th in my AG last year (9:49). That's my best result in terms of placing, but it wasn't my fastest time.

If you look at the USAT standings for my AG, many of the top 10 are Californians, and mostly Northern CA... over the last 10 years probably, 7 of 10 of the top guys are from NorCal. So I know those guys. There were two Euros who beat me that I knew would be very tough going in, a German (Wolfgang Schmatz 9:32) and a Danish guy who won it (Bent Andersen 9:31). The latter seems to come every 5 years, when he's in a new age group. He crushed the field at 45-49, then came back at 50. Wolfgang has also won the AG several times. I actually didn't know the two Americans who beat me, which was kind of surprising (Richard Sweet 9:40 & Chris Montross 9:47, both also from CA)

How have conditions been at Kona the last few years, and how do you train for it?


It's not like Vegas heat, not 100 degrees... but the combination of wind, humidity and heat makes it feel very hot. That said I've never been on the most miserable years. Last year the wind on the bike was ridiculous, but from a temperature standpoint it wasn't bad. It was even a little overcast on the run. It's definitely humid though, you're gonna sweat a lot and need to take care of hydration needs.



I try to train for it by riding in places where I know there's going to be a steady headwind. A regular place I ride is a false flat with steady winds where I do hill repeats into the wind. Last year at Kona at times I'd look down and see 7-8 mph, but I was still passing people in my granny gear.

I like to suffer. I view myself as a cyclist, and my bike as a weapon. When conditions are really, really hard my mentality is "I must be picking up time right now." If I'm thinking "wow, this is really hard!" others must be ready to get off and walk.


You mentioned you're not going to Austria, but have you raced 70.3 Worlds in the past?

Yeah, I raced at Mont-Tremblant this past year and was 3rd in my AG. At Vegas I previously have been 4th.

Which of those two courses do you prefer?

Mont-Tremblant is a beautiful place, and I had so many Every Man Jack teammates there. Race day weather was pretty much perfect and the crowd support was amazing. Having said all that, the bike course is unbelievable in Vegas. It's a marginal swim venue, the water is not the greatest, and they could have done more with the run course to make it more scenic. Vegas unfortunately has never had good weather on race day, but both are great races. I'd have to give the nod to Mont-Tremblant though... that course and pristine water. I may consider going to Australia in 2016 in place of Kona (70.3 Worlds will rotate from Austria in 2015 to Australia in 2016). I've never been there before.

What can you tell us about team Every Man Jack?

The founder, Ritch Viola, formed the team in part with guys from a team sponsored by a San Francisco bike shop that was disbanding and originally there were just 12 of us. I'm the "old guy" on the team, and I love having young teammates to chase around who inspire me to stay at it. The motivation we get from each other is huge, knowing you better drag your butt out of bed and make it happen. I've definitely gotten better since being on the team... it's a very cool thing.

our David Wild with an EMJ team member at HITS Napa 

What are your goals for this season and looking forward?

What's fun for me is trying to still get faster; having the mentality that I can't slow down, and keeping "father time" at bay as long as I can. Racing with my teammates helps, but really it's seeing how long I can go before I slow down. It's fun still being somewhat relevant overall, not just in the geriatrics division. I'm kind of still at the pointy end of the overall field, so that's what motivates me.




Thursday, March 26, 2015

3rd Annual Ironman Challenge: Part II

What good is releasing the Ironman Challenge Bracket if you don't reveal your picks? This year my bracket had a true Cinderella dancing all the way to the finals in Steelhead 70.3 (Michigan, USA). This was the first Ironman 70.3 race I ever did back in 2007, so it has a lot of sentimental value. To be honest, it barely got out of its 2nd round matchup vs. St. George 70.3, a race I've done the past two years and really like. However, the thought of going back for a Steelhead reunion got me more stoked than a 3-peat at St. George, and it was enough to push it past more exotic locations such as Copenhagen, Turkey, and Japan. 

Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers. Simply picture yourself at both races and answer the question "which one are you more excited to be at?"

Ultimately the clock struck midnight for Steelhead, as it could not overcome the many rave reviews I've heard about Ironman Mt. Tremblant (Quebec, Canada). By all accounts it's an incredible venue with pristine water, a great course, and terrific support. It is my 2015 Ironman Challenge champion. 

Who's yours??



Monday, March 23, 2015

Partial Nudity at the Icebreaker!!

Many of our team's race reports get searched for a ton. For example, this time of year, “St. George 70.3 race report” leads a plethora of nervous triathletes to our site as they contemplate the brutality of that course and what they’ve gotten themselves into. On the other hand, I’m confident that "Icebreaker race report," the local sprint I competed in this weekend, will not move the needle on Google. Nor will it be trending on Twitter. That said, I’ve decided to forge ahead with a race report because:

A) It may inspire some of you that race season is here (or soon approaching) 

B) It involves partial nudity (always good for a laugh)

As a side note, this picture, recently posted by MA teammate Rob “The Law” Forshaw, pretty much sums up the sentiment of our team.



Anyways, the Icebreaker is the gambler’s triathlon… this time of year there very well could be a foot of snow on the ground, or it could be 60’s and sunny. This year, I and 300+ like-minded individuals rolled the dice and were rewarded handsomely.

The atmosphere was awesome, and I was surprised at the quality of the field that showed up to “break the ice” with the first legit race (albeit a pool swim) on the local schedule. This would be a short and fast sprint, a measuring stick of fitness for many of us eager for the season to commence.









The RaceTri race director is notorious for his pre-race speeches, which often involve spiking his clipboard, ripping articles of clothing, and other inspirational antics. He's a stud. As we lined up for our time trial style swim start, suddenly the entire field was clapping, with many chanting something in unison. Just when I was about to ask the guy next to me what the devil was going on, the RD did a cannonball, fully clothed. It was well received.

I’d actually never done a pool swim tri, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to wear. I settled on some old bike shorts that I don’t care about, but it soon proved to be a huge mistake.




We had lined up based on projected time for this short 300m swim, and started one after the other in 5 sec increments. After a few minutes it was my turn, and as I pushed hard off the wall, my old, stretched out bike shorts slid down a solid 18 inches. It was a full moon and then some. Maybe a lunar eclipse?? I reached back with one hand and yanked up hard, and for a few moments wondered if I’d be able swim normally the rest of the way. Long story short, I was right on the cusp of swimming right out of them the whole time, but they held on by a thread. At each wall I clutched on with one hand while pushing off. Not ideal, but thankfully it was over soon!

I can relate
I hopped out of the pool, saw 5:20 something on my watch, and sprinted towards the exits and into transition.

Swim 6:06 (with run to T1)   67th / 328

The bike was ~12 miles, but being a pool swim I didn’t have my GPS data for this one. I’m sure it was pretty close one way or the other. There were two, 6 mile loops, with one decent hill but a fast, slightly downhill finish. It was short but sweet, reminiscent of “The Long Scream,” a Sufferfest video I really like (~30 min, time trial style).

Bike 32:17   28th / 328

The run used much of the same loop as the bike course, just a truncated version, and was similarly uphill in the first half with a fast finish. I reminded myself that I asked for the pain… I wanted this early season test. This is what I came for, so suck it up! With a time trial start (not knowing exactly where you stand), I made sure to finish strong, earning the comment “Collin Swenson showing us how to fight for every inch!!” on the loud speaker. I didn’t want to lose to someone in my AG, or anyone for that matter, by a few seconds because I failed to kick it in.


Run 20:32    33rd / 328



Overall 1:00:33   26th / 328,   3rd / 30 in AG

Afterwards it was the usual euphoric post-race feeling, and I can’t wait til the next one. Whether it’s Ironman or a local 5k, go sign up for something! 

You won’t regret it.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Some Kind of Rock Star": Interview with Samantha Morrison

After absolutely destroying her age group competition at the Ironman World Championships the past two years, Air Force graduate Samantha Morrison has stepped up to the professional ranks in 2015. We had a nice chat as she drove through Middle of Nowhere USA, en route to Colorado following a month-long training block in the Arizona sun. Thanks for the time, Samantha, and best of luck this season!

What was your motivation to hang up your age group status and go pro?


I first qualified for my pro card in college, almost 5 years ago. I re-qualified a few times, but never thought I was ready. When I won my age group at Kona in 2013 I thought “ok, maybe I’ll go pro someday.” I won my AG at Kona again in 2014 after starting with a new coach (Hillary Biscay), and she encouraged me to take this step.

My motivation was obviously not money, as being a pro triathlete isn't a very lucrative occupation for most. Luckily I have a job in the Air Force, and they've been very supportive of my training and racing. I just want to see how good I can get, and am excited to be going against the best… I love chasing people! Whether I get last or somehow place someday, I’m putting myself in a situation where I’ll be challenged the most I can be.


I know you come from a big family. What do they think of the decision?

I’m the oldest of 7, and my siblings think I’m some kind of rock star. It’s so cool to me because in my mind I’m not at all! They’re also changing in a positive way as I grow in the sport, and that’s motivation to me to keep working hard.

My parents hopped on board from the start. They’re skeptical about relying 100% on prize money, but luckily I’m in a very fortunate situation right now with my job, so I don’t have that financial stress. The Air Force has been so supportive… I couldn’t ask for more.

What is it you do in the Air Force, and how has your military experience helped you as an athlete?


I’m a Public Affairs Officer. Essentially I work directly for the commanders, write speeches, and make sure they have what they need when going in the public eye. It’s a pretty fun job and I get to work with cool people.

I grew up in Virginia near the Naval Academy, and I always thought it was super cool. I just decided one day as a freshman in high school that I wanted to go to a military institution, and I never changed my mind. I was recruited to run cross country at the Air Force Academy, which was a bonus, but I would’ve gone either way.

Throughout college I was forced to make the most of free time, as I didn’t have much. For example I would study while on the treadmill, and thought that was perfectly normal. When I got out of college I was really good with time management. Waking up early isn't a big deal, and in general the Air Force built a lot of mental toughness. Mentally, nothing will ever seem worse than getting screamed at by some big scary guy at boot camp… so I can do this!



What’s your mindset right now… are you feeling nerves yet or just excited?


Well I was just training for a month with my coach in Tucson, and things were going really well. A few days ago Hillary said “I want you to race now. Ironman Taiwan is in 3 weeks, I want you to race that.” All along I’m thinking I’m not ready, not at all prepared for this, and yet I fly to Hong Kong in 2 weeks! I’m definitely nervous now, but the good thing is I don’t have much time to be nervous. As we speak I’m driving back to CO to get my passport and a bike box. I’ve never left the US, so this will be a really big life experience.

Did your success at Kona, crushing your age group like you did, surprise you or was it what you envisioned?


I dunno, I think my biggest flaw is I’m never really happy with what I do. I didn’t know I had beat my AG like that (1st by 22 min in '13 & 46 min in '14) until the next day. Instead I was thinking “man I need to get my run down!” I like comparing myself to the overall standing, not just focusing on my AG.



the top 10 F1824 in the world last October... Samantha delivered a swift butt kicking
What are your race plans and goals for 2015?

All that is locked down as of now is Taiwan (April 12) and a couple of military races: National Champs in June and World Games in Korea in October. Otherwise we’re still picking and choosing Ironmans. That’s the distance that I love, but I’m sure I’ll dabble in a few 70.3s as well.

As far as goals, as long as I know that I gave 100% every day and tried my best, I'll be happy with that. I really have nothing to lose, as I never thought I’d be in this situation. I love working hard and we’ll see how it pans out.


What now fellow pros do you most admire?

First of all my coach Hillary. She’s crazy; I never knew what I was getting myself into! I don’t complain anymore… being around her, you can’t complain. I look up to her a lot. It’s easy to work hard for her, but really hard to impress her! I admire Tim O’Donnell who as a Naval Academy graduate took a similar route as I am on, and hopefully I can have a similar trajectory in the sport!

Also obviously the now-retired Chrissie Wellington, who is seemingly always happy, and from what I know was such a hard worker. I like when people can smile while they’re racing.

What pros will you be most intimidated to line up against?

All of them honestly. I’m terrified to line up on the pro start line! I’m honestly terrified. They’re all fast, they’re all fit, and they all work hard. I don’t know what it’s gonna be like lining up next to them because I don’t quite feel like I’m a part of it yet. So hopefully I can get over that next month.


What are your strengths and weaknesses vs. other pros?

I’m very happy with where my swim and bike are at, but I think it will take a couple years to get my run where it needs to be.

One nice perk of being a pro triathlete, I gather, is seeing the world. Where are you most excited to visit?

I don't know, I’m a big homebody and I like having people I know around me. Traveling has never really been an aspiration for me. It actually makes me quite anxious, so it’s good that I’ll be forced into exploring a little bit. Triathlon will give me a lot of opportunities and I’ll take them as they come. But I probably won’t do too many “destination races.” Travel costs are also a part of that. If it were up to me I’d live at home in Virginia and race from there!



What’s your sponsor situation like… will you continue with the Snapple Tri Team?

I’m sponsored by a non-profit organization called US Military Endurance Sports (USMES)… I’m on the elite team, which Snapple sponsors, so I continue to be affiliated with them. Other sponsors include Boeing, Scott, Rudy Project, and several others. The support USMES has shown for me is unreal... I’m really lucky.

What’s the best Snapple flavor, and Rudy Wingspan or Wing57 aero helmet?

Oh my gosh the peach tea! And I’ve always worn the Wingspan, but just got a 57 for this season. Excited!

I know you come from a family of fish. Have any secret swim tips to share or is it all about repetition?

It takes a lot of time for marginal gains, but one thing we do is a lot of band work (band tied around ankles). Hillary is a big advocate of that, as it creates great core strength for open water.

What’s your favorite post-race treat?


Probably a beer and a hamburger, but usually I feel too sick shortly after. The next morning is when I like to indulge with the biggest breakfast ever. Eggs, bacon, sausage, you name it. I’m not as queasy in the morning and usually starving. That’s my favorite.









What did you watch over the winter while training indoors?

A lot of TV shows, such as House of Cards and Scandal. I binge watch on the trainer... I think it’s necessary!

Anything else to add?


Not really, I'd just like to thank my supporters and mentors from USMES. I would definitely be lost without them! Jim Weinstein, Chuck Kyle, Brad Williams, and George Ganoung have had faith in me from the beginning, even when I raced in running shorts and a t-shirt.

Also, thanks to my family for all their support!!



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Madness: 3rd Annual Ironman Challenge!

Whether you choose by mascot strength, team colors, or actual basketball acumen, your NCAA bracket is destined to go belly up by the Sweet 16.

Take comfort in the fact that the 3rd Annual Triple Threat Triathlon Ironman Challenge has no winners or losers. You are guaranteed to win your league!

Check out the 2013 post to get some details, but the instructions are pretty simple:

Given the option of two races, which would you choose? Assume money is no object. Also assume zero travel time... a snap of the fingers and you're checking in at the race site. There are no seeds (races in random order), nor right or wrong answers. Just pick the race you'd rather do, for whatever reason. I know there are lots of great races outside of the Ironman brand, but let's face it, they have the most!  

As I side note, it's interesting to see new races on the schedule for 2015... Eastern Europe has clearly been a recent expansion focus, with countries such as Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey now represented. Asia continues to expand as well, with the most notable new race in my opinion being Vietnam 70.3. Ecuador 70.3 in South America is another interesting one that caught my eye.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Nod of Approval

There are a few triathlon-related things that I always do:

  • When swimming, I always splash myself three times in the face before putting on my goggles (I think this began from watching some Olympians do it several years ago)
  • When biking, I always finish my rides practicing the one leg dismount
  • When running, I always give the “nod of approval” upon crossing paths with another runner

I’m sure that last statement has many of you nodding in approval yourselves. For the uninformed, the runner’s nod of approval is the ultimate sign of mutual respect. Although simple, the act of acknowledging another runner with a small but friendly nod has a powerful connotation, as if to say “I feel ya. Carry on, my friend.” I don’t know its historical roots, but runners have exhibited this sign of camaraderie for eons. 

As in other aspects of life, there are varying levels to the nod of approval. I had a college professor, who, although he didn’t come out and say it, had three distinct levels of approval that we picked up on pretty quickly. If you gave what was in his mind a “good” answer, he would point his finger at you multiple times in a tomahawk fashion while nodding in rhythm.  A “great” answer earned you an open-palm hand pointing in your direction while he looked at the rest of the class and nodded slowly, as if to say “this girl/guy owns you.” Lastly, an out-of-this-world comment earned both arms spread wide as he looked to the sky and nodded, as if to say “such an answer could only have come from the heavens.” I didn’t get any of those.  

So too is the case with the runner’s nod. While I always give the nod, not all are alike.  Similar to that old professor, here are my three levels of approval:


1)    It’s a nice day out and I come across someone jogging comfortably. I’ll give a friendly nod, as if to say “beautiful day, isn’t it? Way to take advantage of it.”

2)    I cross paths with someone who’s clearly in some pain, pushing the pace or maybe just new to running. The nod packs a little more punch, as if to say “you’ve got this... stay strong!”  Although the motion may be very similar, I’m sure it carries them through at least the next mile.

3)    My highest level of approval is reserved for rainy, snowy, super cold, hot, or otherwise adverse conditions. These brave warriors earn a nod that is best summed up by Walt and Jesse below. From time to time I've also been known to literally issue a fist bump or high five as we pass. Without fail it has been well received.


So… does the nod exist in biking?  In my opinion it has crossed over to some degree, but for whatever reason is not as prevalent. This could be due to the fact that turning to nod and/or wave on a bike presents greater risk of bodily harm. I don’t know. I usually give the nod on the bike as well, but it is only reciprocating ~50-60% of the time. On the flip side, I’d say the runner’s nod is more like 80-90% of the time. It’s so commonplace that when it’s not returned, I have no ill will towards the person, thinking to myself “must be dealing with a rookie here.”  However, in the same situation with cyclists, for some reason I often think something along the lines of “what a prick!” Double standard?? Yeah, probably.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Sufferfest ISLAGIATT Review

This past Saturday I had a real "first world dilemma"… it was nice out, a little windy, but plenty warm enough to ride outside. I’ve been riding in the pain cave for several months now, and part of me wanted to emerge from hibernation. On the other hand, my wife had recently bought ISLAGIATT, a Sufferfest video I had yet to experience. My curiosity got the best of me… I really despise the treadmill, but for the most part enjoy the trainer… what’s one more ride indoors?

Long story short? No regrets whatsoever.


At just shy of 2 hours, ISLAGIATT is currently the longest cycling video in The Sufferfest series. Since it features multiple mountain passes, I was under the impression that it took its name from a famous European peak of some kind… I was wrong. Instead, in true Sufferfest fashion, ISLAGIATT stands for “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” As a side note, the most famous Sufferfest acronym, IWBMATTKYT, stands for “I Will Beat My Ass Today to Kick Yours Tomorrow.”





ISLAGIATT features amazing footage from the Giro d’Italia, and the storyline is as follows:

Like all Sufferfest videos, you represent your home country of Sufferlandria. You are known simply as “The Sufferlandrian,” and are competing for the Most Aggressive Rider award, as “voted on” by race judges throughout your journey. You face some stiff competition, including the likes of “Big M,” “Billboard,” “The Columbian,” “Gloworm” and "Bluebell." The judges vote along the way and you can see where you stand vs. your rivals.




Your fellow Sufferlandrians recently organized a “lactic acid stand” in order to raise funds to watch you compete live on TV. They are stoked for you… you can’t let them down!!

You have a sizable ride ahead of you, so you’ll want to race aggressively yet smart. Like all Sufferfest videos, you’ll be guided as to the effort on a scale from 1-10 and cadence you should target, while rocking out to a quality soundtrack. ISLAGIATT is a great endurance session that also mixes up speeds, cadence, and effort amazingly well. For example, your cadence may range from ~60 on steep climbing sections to 110+. It’s a wider range than other videos I’ve tried, and I really liked the mix.


long lines at the lactic acid stand

Here’s a breakdown of the workout:

Warm-up: 15:00
1st Climb: 15:00 (+3:00 descent)
2nd Climb: 20:00 (+5:00 descent)
3rd Climb: 20:00 (+7:00 descent)
4th Climb: 8:00 (+2:30 descent)
Run-in to Finish: 7:30
Cool down: 4:00

In summary, ISLAGIATT is a high-quality, well-structured workout that will make you sweat, yell, grit your teeth, curse, and even laugh. The commentary is great, and encourages you to keep pushing for the pride of Sufferlandria. Watching your compatriots celebrate your efforts towards the end (hilarious btw) is well worth any blood, sweat, tears, and calories you may shed along the way!


I really enjoyed ISLAGIATT, and it is definitely on the podium of Sufferfest videos I’ve tried so far. I tacked on a few extra minutes to get to 2 hrs total, which in my opinion was much higher quality than an even longer outdoor effort would have been (stopping for lights, dealing with traffic, etc, etc). It was also a far superior workout compared to turning on Netflix and zoning out as I occasionally do.






Whether you’re training for Olympic distance to Ironman, cycling events, or just to get in shape, I highly recommend ISLAGIATT. Check out the trailer of this stellar training video and others at TheSufferfest.com.