Monday, March 31, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Sean McLean - Pennsylvania

Sean McLean is an awesome success story of a guy who has changed his life through running and triathlon. He toed the line for the NYC triathlon last summer 80 lbs lighter than when he began his journey, and he continues to be a man on a mission. Among other things he talks about the progress he's made, future goals, and channeling his inner Rocky Balboa in training.

What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?

Athletically, you could say I have no background; that would suggest I might have wanted to voluntarily swim, bike or run. I played baseball as a kid, and wrestled for a brief period, but nothing that would suggest ‘future endurance athlete’, and I use that term loosely!

You wrote in your application that you “started off not able to run to the mailbox just 2 years ago.” How did you spend most of your time before you started training, and what motivated you to start?

I graduated college in 2007, where I put on the freshman fifteen more than once, and after graduating I spent quite a bit of time getting acquainted with local breweries, restaurants, and craft beers. I work in clinical trial management, which involves a significant amount of travel (and the poor eating that comes along with it), and sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours a day. One day I woke up and found myself pushing 300 lbs; a wake up call to say the least. Following that dose of reality, I picked a goal and set to training. First challenge was a Tough Mudder.

It took me a few weeks just to get up to running (if you want to call it that) a mile non-stop. I started adding on the distance from there and found myself getting marginally faster and actually enjoying getting out for a run. From then on, I started signing up for running events and the occasional cycling charity ride. Early in 2012, I stumbled upon the NYC Triathlon, and like my first Tough Mudder, it looked to be a great challenge to focus my training and keep on track. Between my first time lacing up a pair of running shoes for their intended purpose and jumping into the water for the NYC Tri, I lost close to 80 pounds, and couldn’t compete in the Clydesdale class that I had originally signed up for!

Can you give us a summary of how your first triathlon went last summer, and how has the journey been since?

It was a learning experience, to say the least. Prior to the race, I shirked a lot of the training plans and advice that I had found online, and just did my own thing? Brick workout? Nah! The swim and the bike went great, but when I got through T2 and started to run, it was miserable. I hadn’t prepared appropriately, and I was paying for it and spending way more time on the run course then I wanted to, given the 90°/90% humidity day we were having. Still, I had a phenomenal time, and cannot wait to go back again – I’m actually volunteering this year to secure a redemption spot in 2015! Since then I’ve started to focus on more specific training, gotten a bike that actually fits me, and I’m looking forward to a few more races this year (Philadelphia and Atlantic City, so far).

What was your initial impression of your local running & triathlon communities? Have they been welcoming to you as a beginner?

I’ve run quite a few road races in the area, and so far they’ve all been great. From fairly competitive events like the Broad Street Run 10-miler and Cooper Norcross Bridge 10K to local races through the vineyards, the events are all very well run and cater to the elites and beginners equally.

What's your focus in terms of racing and/or goals for the 2014 season?

My racing goals aren’t too precise – I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m in danger of being on a podium, so my goals are more training oriented. Specifically, I want to get my 5K PR down 2-3 minutes, and be more consistent with maintaining my weekly long runs. With regard to racing goals, I have my eyes set on 2015. I’m looking forward to going back to NYC and knocking significant time off my 2013 result, and capping the year off with my first HIM (likely Princeton 70.3).

Can you tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I work in development for new oncology drugs; I’m responsible for managing clinical trials across the US and abroad. It’s certainly time-consuming, but it's work that I’m passionate about, and hopefully I’m making a smidge of a difference in the ongoing war on cancer. I’m also finishing up my Master’s degree at night, so between work, school, and training – there isn’t a whole lot of extra time! I try to spend a lot time with my wife and our thirteen nieces and nephews, and we try to sneak in a few quick getaways each year.

It sounds like you travel a lot for work. Where have been your favorite places to train away from home?

Yep, it comes in spurts, but I’ve been traveling a lot recently (on a flight right now, second of three cross country trips in the span of a few weeks). It definitely puts a kink in proper training and nutrition, but it provides a great opportunity to get out and run somewhere you’ve never been. One of my favorite places has been the Centennial Trail in Spokane, WA – great scenery, good running surface, and plenty of other athletes out – if you wanted, you could run it all the way out to Coeur d’Alene – beautiful area that makes me want to do the IM there someday.

Your wife is a runner as well, correct? Do you run together, and has she considered dipping her toe in the triathlon waters?

Yep, and one of the perks of finally getting into shape was being able to join her for training runs, and race together. We run most of our longer races together, but we get a bit competitive for the 5Ks. She beat me on the first race of the year, but I still hold the McLean Household PR! I’ve been trying to get her to give triathlon a try, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. I suppose watching me jump into the Hudson turned her off a bit, I might be more successful somewhere tropical with crystal-clear water. Key West Tri is on my radar.

Rank your favorite Philly sports teams from top to bottom. Also, what’s your favorite aspect of training in the Philly area?

1. Eagles
2. Phillies
3. Flyers
487. 76ers (not a fan of basketball, but this twitter account keeps me in the loop)

(editor's note: at press time the 76ers had finally broken their 26-game losing streak!)

One of the great things about living near Philadelphia is the variety of places we can train. There are wonderful trails and parks in Philadelphia, and they are creating more every day. Many of the old train tracks are being converted into paved pathways that are great for car-free cycling workouts. Outside of the city, it's quick access to great parks in the suburbs and in Central NJ where I work. There’s tons of races to choose from in the immediate area, and if I want to drive a bit – I have NY, DC, and Boston within a few hours’ reach.

On that note, my sources tell me you regularly reenact this famous Philly scene, from the attire all the way down to recruiting local elementary school kids to join. Care to comment??

No comment! 

On a serious note, I did reenact the run once with a bunch of my friends. Not the exact route, mind you – it would be over 30 miles! We had some shirts made, met down at the famous Geno’s cheesesteaks, and ran to the art museum, up the steps, and all the way back. About 7 miles all told – we were better dressed though! (Then we ate cheesesteaks and undid anything healthy we had accomplished).

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