Monday, April 28, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Reece Robinson - Kansas

After 20 years of "couch potatoness," Reece Robinson has been in a state of TBM (Triathlon Beast Mode) since 2008. Among other things, he is considered an expert at wreaking havoc on his age group, having a great attitude, and pulling off the occasional epic pre-race face plant.

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

I joined the high school swim team my junior year in high school and added cross country my senior year, which summed up my sports background before 20 years of "couch potatoness”. I served in the U.S. Army for three years after high school so I did do a bit of slow running a few times a week. Then I was inactive for the next 20 years.

I got into triathlon as part of the annual Kansas City Corporate Challenge. In 2008 I signed up for the Corporate Challenge swim meet TWO weeks before the meet. I then looked for a gym with a pool and basically swam every day for 13 days to “prepare”. I ended up doing the 50 and 200 yard freestyle events. I knew how to do somewhat of a flip turn but in that 200 my last wall was an open turn because I was too out of breath. After Corporate Challenge I stuck with it, swam 3-4 times a week, spent time with a personal trainer, started going to spin class and hit the treadmill. I was doing bricks even though I didn’t know what a brick meant!

Then Corporate Challenge rolled around again and I thought to myself “I’m swimming, spinning, and running, why the heck not!” It was a short but hilly course, 500m swim, 9 mile bike and 2.4 mile run. So TWO weeks before the race I bought my very first road bike. Did the race, loved the atmosphere, the people, and the competition... coming up on 5 years now.

Before discovering triathlon, how would you largely spend the time you now put to training? Is there anything you miss from those days?

Watched a lot of TV and saw a lot of movies. I dabbled in golf a little, played some beer league softball. I would watch two or three complete games on NFL Sunday, not to mention the college games on Saturday. I still enjoy watching football but the only time I’ll see a complete game is if I’m at the stadium (I’ll usually go to one or two Chiefs games each year). Over half of those years I was living in California for which I did not take advantage of that year round weather. So I guess what I miss most is the weather.

How would you sum up your 2013 season, and what was the highlight/lowlight?

2013 was a successful year even though there was a big LOW in there. I’ll start with the lowlight first. Trained fairly well for Ironman Kansas 70.3 and was ready for a PR. I even rented some Zipp 808 wheels for some of that “free” speed just to make sure. It was kind of like prom night for my bike. While coasting down the hill to transition, my plastic transition bag which was hanging from my handlebars…….do I need to say more? Yep, got caught in the spokes and I did a head first into the asphalt. I was the med tent's first customer and the race hadn’t even started yet. I had my helmet on but not strapped... still saved serious injury. The highlight was qualifying for and participating in the U.S. 5150 Championships (Hy-Vee Triathlon). In the qualifying race the swim was cancelled which initially had me bummed a little since I’m usually FOP out of the water in local races. I ended up 4th in my age group which got me free entry to the 5150 race in Des Moines. I did podium in my Age Group in all of my local races following the 5150 qualifier and qualified for Age Group nationals this August in Milwaukee.

What’s on tap for 2014, and what are your goals?

I will once again be looking to PR at Ironman Kansas 70.3 this year and there will be NOTHING hanging from my handlebars this year. To this day I STILL get grief from my friends. I’m also signed up for a couple of Olympic distance races (the Kansas 5150 and Kansas City Triathlon) and of course the annual KC Corporate Challenge Tri. My main goal is to do a little better than last year and have some fun. Although I’m not 100% sure yet, I plan on going to Age Group Nationals in August. I might add 2 to 3 races between now and the fall, there’s a sort of randomness about my race schedule each year.

I’ve swum with masters teams for several years but have never competed at a meet. What’s the vibe like at those? Can triathletes hold their own, or would most of us receive a sound spanking from the pure swimmers?

I do enjoy the occasional swim meet but for me it’s also a social event. At local meets here in the Kansas City area it’s very low key and does not have quite the energy you feel at a triathlon. We have all levels of abilities so even though I am a regular recipient of a butt kicking, it’s always a good time. It’s difficult to measure progress in open water swims, as one day an Olympic swim is actually 1400 meters, the next race it may be 1600 meters. Plus you don’t swim in a straight line etc. So meets are a good way to see progress under race pace conditions, but swimming your own 1500m time trial also lacks a little adrenaline if you know what I mean. Actually at meets I swim all 4 strokes just for fun. My 50 butterfly has been renamed the 50 "clutterfly" but hey, it’s amateur sports and just for fun, right?

The Kansas City Corporate Challenge sounds like a pretty awesome event. Can you tell us a bit about it and your involvement? 

Every metro area should have one of these! This will be the 35th annual, held during the entire months of May and June. This year there will be 200 companies in the K.C. Metro area participating, which shattered last year’s total of around 178. It’s a great way to practice team building and foster a healthy lifestyle in and around the workplace. Yes the competition is fun, but what I really like about it is that there are events for just about everyone. There are the team sports such as basketball, softball, flag football, soccer and volleyball, but also things like bowling, darts, pool, fishing, and trap shooting. Dodgeball was added three years ago; that’s quite popular as you might imagine. A couple years ago I was honored with a request to join the KCCC Board of Directors. I respectfully declined because as a board member you cannot compete, but I did accept the invitation to be a KCCC AmbassadorWhat a wonderful group of people to work with.

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?

1. Swim, I usually rank the highest here, at least in my age group. My race gear includes 
Aquasphere Kayenne goggles; they are the best I’ve used in terms of not fogging up. I have 
a DeSoto 2 piece wetsuit (T1) and love it.

2. Bike, my cycling has come a long way since I’ve started, similar to most with a swim and/or run background. My ride is a Felt F75 roadie with Shimano 105 components and Profile Design T1 aerobars. I have some 30mm Neuvation wheels and the stock wheels that came with the bike. There's very little carbon on my rig. I got a Retul fitting early last year and even had to swap out my carbon seatpost for an Aluminum Fast Forward seatpost due to budget. But fit is more important that a few extra grams, especially over 56 miles.

3. Run, this is what needs the most work. A couple years ago I got a bad case of plantar fasciitis two weeks before my 2nd marathon. Since then my running volume has been pretty low, and I'm currently running 10-15 miles per week. I’ll be trying to increase mileage slowly and carefully as I’ll need it if I ever want to complete a full Ironman event. My go to shoe was the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12/13’s but recently I’ve been running Saucony Progrid Guide 6’s, a gift from a friend of mine. I’m not an all out gadget kind of guy; I have a Garmin 305 for running but haven’t used it for a while since I discovered the Strava App for my iphone.

Who were you more impressed with meeting in person, Chrissie Wellington or Craig Alexander?

That wouldn’t be a fair assessment because my meeting with Crowie was quite short. Actually I posted on his Facebook page as soon as I heard a rumor that he was doing the Kansas race (the one where I did the pre-race face dump). He actually answered my post saying he was indeed coming to Kansas, called me “mate” even! I thought that was first class, answering a random post from some nobody in Kansas. I saw him at the race expo the day before the race and introduced myself and I told him I was that “yahoo” that asked if he was doing the race. I kept the chit chat short and wished him good luck, and he did the same. He won of course. Since then he’s continued to answer my posts on his FB page, and I have so much respect for him.

I met Chrissie at my first IMKS 70.3 race in 2011 at the Friday night charity dinner benefitting the Blazeman foundation (ALS). I was able to chat with her for a few as well as have my picture taken etc. Then she honored me once again by placing the finishers’ medal around my neck after the race. Chrissie has such a great attitude on life, and gives of her time to us amateur athletes for hours on end after a race. Both of these athletes are quite humble given their accomplishments, which you don't really know for sure until you actually meet them and see the look in their eyes, their body language etc. I started rooting for Crowie during the Ironman Championship year in which he and Macca were neck and neck and he eventually won. His interviews before and after the race left quite an impression on me, so that’s part of why he’s at the top of my list. But actually my all-time favorite triathlete is Dick Hoyt; I think he defines the term Ironman quite well.

Tell us about your family, and what do they think of your transformation from the couch in 2008 to triathlon beast?

My wife thinks I’m nuts, my kids (daughter 14 and son 17) maybe not so much but still shy away from endurance sports. My wife does not like to sweat, period, so enough on that, but I do have full support from the family. My son’s a computer geek, but keeps in shape by doing dumbbell curls and chin ups in his room while doing stuff on the computer, i.e. homework, games, etc. My daughter will ride alongside on my long runs, I just have to keep the total mileage a secret until we finish!

Do the Kansas City KS and MO folks generally get along or is there some bad blood there?

I’m not a native of Kansas, moving to Johnson County in 2003. At the time, Johnson County was one of the top 50 wealthiest counties in the U.S., something like that. Shortly after moving in, my wife bought a T-shirt that had a picture of red grapes on the front with the words “Johnson County, whine country”. So all the young folks on the Kansas side are supposedly "spoiled little brats". Here on the Kansas side we’ve got lots of graduates from the University of Kansas (KU) and Kansas State, and even that’s a rivalry. Then you have the folks from the University of Missouri (Mizzou), which is another one. From the triathlon perspective I haven’t felt any bad blood to speak of.

How is triathlon in the KC metro area?

Given that we’re mostly known for good BBQ and Jazz, the triathlon scene here is pretty good. There’s a few tri clubs, TriKC, KC Multisport and Midwest Tri Coaching to name a few. I know great people from each. There are at least 10 triathlons this spring/summer within an hour’s drive of my house in 2014. That number doubles if you extend the drive to 2-4 hours hitting Topeka, Wichita, Columbia MO and St. Louis.

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