Monday, August 11, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: David Wild - Hawaii

If your last name is "Smith" or "Jones", you're allowed to be boring... it doesn't mean you have to be, or you necessarily will be, but it's acceptable. No one will blame you for it. On the other hand, if you enter this world as a "Wild", you have a duty to fulfill. In a nutshell, live life to its fullest. It's safe to say that David Wild, a San Diego native representing Hawaii on our national team, has lived up to his obligations thus far with honor. Well done, Mr. Wild... well done.

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

Growing up in the suburbs of a big city, my childhood was not unlike most middle and upper-middle class Americans. I skateboarded like a fiend with no regard for security guards and lived by the "Skateboarding is Not a Crime" credo. I didn’t ride bikes much other than a BMX with pegs for commuting purposes with my rascally friends. I ran only when asked to. Then I rode my first road bike with my dad in preparation for the Rosarito to Ensada 50 mile fun ride when I was in 9th grade. We did a sprint triathlon together shortly after that as my first foray into multi-sport in 2002. It was high school where I got more into endurance sports. I ran cross country and learned how to swim competitively. It wasn't until college at UC Berkeley, when I met some crazy ones, that I really wanted to ride road bikes. They taught me how to ride long distances, wear cleats, pack food, plan gas station breaks, and sleep on the sides of roads. After college, I worked at some start ups in San Francisco, pedicabbed along the waterfront, and traveled a lot by bicycle. The need for speed was creeping up on me, and my love for swimming in the Pacific Ocean, the Salmon River in Humboldt county where my Native American roots (of the Karuk tribe) is located, and the lakes of Berkeley and Oakland where I lifeguarded, all culminated into me becoming a full-fledged triathlete. I raced my first Olympic race in Pacific Grove in 2010. I bonked hard on the run, yet I loved every minute of being in a real triathlon. I caught the bug and I haven't slowed down since.

How would you sum up your 2013 and ‘14 season (so far)... what has been the highlight/lowlight?

2013 was an epic year. Although I had no coach and I was just pushing myself trying to break records on Strava (bad idea) and discovering the wonders of the foam roller, I was winning my age group and getting some overall top five finishes!

My biggest race was the Dolphin Club exclusive Escape from Alcatraz. I took the trophy away from the seven time winner from the opposing club, The South End Rowing Club. This race is the original Escape. Wetsuits are not allowed, and the race ends with a Double Dipsea. The Dipsea trail is a 7mi trail that ascends and descends Mt. Tam in Marin, CA. It was epic in that I took first overall, a feat I had never accomplished before. I want to take this moment to give a huge shout out to my ever supportive friend, Yael Franco, who drove me to so many races, carried my gear for so many transition areas, and made me so many good meals. Thank you to my mom, dad, and sister, and the Oakland Triathlon Club for making 2013 such an epic year!

David rocked a 4:44 & 5th OA at HITS Napa
This year, with my stellar coach, Mitchell Reiss, I have toned back the number of races and have included a lot more easy as well as more intense workouts in my training. Most importantly, I’m getting strictly structured. My highlight this year was competing in my first half ironman distance tri at the HITS Napa race in April. I placed 5th overall and felt incredible about that. The lowlight this year was my debilitating flu that I caught only 1 day before my first race of the year down in San Diego at the Superseal Olympic. I got a disc wheel and didn’t even get to use it! I’m still wearing the race t-shirt though to remind me that it’s good to know when to stop and listen to your body instead of your heart.

What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?

My biggest accomplishments are my cycle tours and academics. Since college I’ve cycle-toured the California coast, unsupported, 6 times. Most of the time I was solo. A couple times I escorted a female and we had a hoot taking our time, soaking up the sights. With a crazy friend from Berkeley, I've ridden from Reno to Las Vegas in only three days, ending with my first double century through the night. We and two others previously traversed from Oakland, CA to Malibu, CA in 52 hours, taking turns on a tandem road bicycle and motorcycle, leapfrogging our way there and never allowing the tandem to stop. I did my first tour in 2008 from Paris, France, to Utrecht, Netherlands, while studying abroad. With another friend, we spent six weeks touring from Auckland, New Zealand all the way down to Queenstown on the South Island.

After graduating from UC Berkeley with a Math degree, I felt that I could do anything. So I attempted and succeeded in riding from San Francisco to San Diego in three days flat, averaging 200 miles a day in 2012 (check my Strava for that one!), my biggest feat, however, is my 2011 ride from San Diego, California to Key West, Florida. On this “CaliFlorida” tour, I traveled solo with no support, camping most of the way, over 3,100 miles in exactly 28 days. I ended with three double centuries in Florida. I took no days off. I had the time of my life meeting the southern tier of the glorious USA. Only helping and friendly people did I encounter along the way.

David with his noble steed after riding from San Diego to Key West, Florida

Now, though, I think my greatest accomplishment is following my altruistic dreams of becoming a player in the movement of transforming America's education system. I got accepted into Teach for America last year, and just last week I started my first year as a Math teacher at an amazing school, Konawaena High School in south Kona, Hawaii.

What are your triathlon-specific goals for the future?

My big triathlon goals are to qualify for 70.3 Worlds. I also want to start a triathlon club at my high school and get more of the local youth population as amped on triathlon as I am! I plan to race in all of the Big Island races here and I am always hungry to get on that podium. Eventually, I will race in the coveted World Championship Ironman in Kona, but that may not be for another few years.

My final big goal is to do all of this without resorting to shaving my legs, arms or beard!

Rumor has it you have the mental toughness of Jack Bauer crossed with Russian chess icon Garry Kasparov and Michael Jordan in his prime... for example, you’re the only triathlete I know who implements “frigid water, non-wetsuit swimming” as a training tool. How’d you get into that and why?

I'm flattered for the comparison to some real legends! It was my strange friends who taught me how to tough it out with no supplies and little water in the middle of the desert, in the dead of summer, when riding from Reno to Las Vegas... there I learned I had some camel-like toughness. Cross country in high school really drilled that mentality into me as well. The instinct that comes with being raised in a safe and sound suburb my whole life would tell me, "no, don't do that crazy stuff!" but I learned that my body can take it and that if I dig deep and feel that animal inside of me, I can overcome so much superficial pain.

In 2012, I found my new favorite endurance club. The Dolphin Club in San Francisco is a historic landmark dating back to 1878. These old goats (as they call themselves) are still swimming into their 80's, with no wetsuit, some with cloth caps, and even a couple with wooden and glass goggles! They are the heros I want to be when I'm old and wrinkly. They taught me about mental toughness like no other.

When the water would hit 60 degrees Farenheit in the summer, they would complain about it being too hot. They taught me how to swim with the strong currents of the San Francisco Bay and how to navigate through angry sea lions and over-friendly seals. No one said that I could not wear a wetsuit, but no one in the Dolphin Club was wearing one. And in any race, if you wore one, your results didn't count. The sauna at the Club only felt good if you were going numb and lost all sensation in the extremities (or worse). So why would I want to miss out on that relief?

It's hard to find a place where you can swim an hour in 57 degree water where you see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman's Wharf to the south surrounding you. The stinging face and ears remind you of how much the body can take. When those hot flashes of warm blood start circulating from your core to your fingers and feet, that's when you know enough is enough. The Dolphin Club taught me about cold water and the Bay, but mostly about myself.

How has your transition been so far from San Diego to Hawaii?

Hawaii is treating me very well. I'm actually writing this during a mandatory day off due to Hurricane Iselle. On the Kona side of the island, we're actually sitting quite nice compared to the ravaging going on in Hilo. I even went for a ride and run yesterday! Down here near Kealakekua Bay, I can train in the most ideal conditions with so few cars. I have a huge hill right outside my door and the most gorgeous bay to swim in. The water is almost too warm! But that makes those two mile swims so great. I saw my first two sea turtles last time out! I am loving the local food here. I eat poi, macadamia nut butter, tons of fish, and more tropical fruit than I ever would have imagined. The local coconut stands on my rides provide me with some rejuvenating hydration. Plus in this fertile environment, I live near so many coffee farms and small farms that I can get all my food from so close!

The only problem here is the bugs. I've had to kill and catch and release many of them since moving here. The cane spiders are huge, but benign. I caught a scorpion in a jar and dropped it off in a lava field last week. Yesterday I had to decapitate a centipede that was attacking me in the bathroom. Thankfully at this particular spot the mosquitoes are few, but it's the cockroaches that really did me in. The worst thing that has ever happened to me happened two weeks ago. I woke up with extreme pain in my ear. I could not figure out what was happening. It sounded like rumbling, so I looked and prodded and finally shined my camera light in there and there it was. I caught it all on film too—a cockroach flew out of my ear! Now, I sleep with earplugs every night.

What is it about David Wild that strikes fear in the hearts of your competitors? Break down your swim, bike, and run skills for us.

I look unassuming. I start out slow on the swim. I take no mercy though in that water. If a leg is in my way I will clobber it like it's seaweed. If you are right in front of me, I will draft you until you can't take the tickle on your toes any longer. I end up coming out of the water at the end of the first pack or start of the second. That's when things start to click. I like to breath loud for myself, but also to give my competition that shiver down their spine that they are the prey and I am the hunter. In the Escape from Alcatraz race, I kept that analogy going the whole time and I was the hunter and never let myself become the hunted.

Can you educate us on Teach For America, and what subject/grade have you been assigned to on the Big Island?

Teach For America (TFA) is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to ensure that all children in America receive a quality education. Teach For America brings a diverse group of our nation’s most promising leaders who make an enduring commitment to educational equity that begins with an initial commitment to teach two years in high-need, urban and rural public schools.
Our funders include school systems and governments at the local, state, and federal level, as well as a mix of individuals and public and private organizations. Teach For America recruits a diverse pool of professionals and recent graduates from more than 835 colleges and universities who have demonstrated the commitment and leadership ability needed to teach in low-income public schools. While only 25 percent of corps members considered a teaching career prior to their Teach For America experience, nearly 30% of our 37,000 alumni remain as teachers, and another third continue to work in the field of education. Our corps members and alumni see their students as among our nation’s most promising future leaders. TFA intensely prepares Corps Members (teachers) and provides training and support prior to our first year in the classroom and throughout our time in the classroom.
I was so honorably hired to teach on the Kona side of the Big Island. This was my first choice, and I could not be more grateful. As a true lover of mathematics who is grateful for all of the teachers I’ve had, I wanted to teach math as well, to pass along passion and knowledge to my students. I ended up getting placed at Konawaena High School, the oldest school on the Big Island, as the only Special Education math teacher on campus. It's a big duty and I'm blessed to have this opportunity. My students are teaching me as much as I am teaching them.

Is it inspiring living and training on the holy ground of Kona? How far are you from the IM World Champ course?

To be able to see the IM World Championship course almost whenever I want is definitely a blessing. Just seeing the historic signs that mark the start of the swim or the run make me feel that I am a part of something big. I never wanted to race an Ironman until coming here and feeling the energy from the Queen K highway. I feel the triathlon vibes all around me. The town and locals know and love the race (except for the traffic part!) I do not train that much on the course now that I live 10 miles south of Kona, up and down some gnarly hills out here in Captain Cook. These training grounds may even be better though since there are less people in the water and cars on the road!

In your team application you wrote that you’re an eccentric guy and known for your race day antics. What are some things you’ve done to loosen up the crowd pre-race?

Well, to be honest, I haven't done anything that crazy since my early days of racing a couple years ago. I would come to the race with my face painted just to freak people out and see what they'd say. It's not against the rules, right? I do still come to races pumped up with my boombox usually playing some trap music or South African rap that definitely scares some people. I don't mean to be aggressive, I just mean to be me! Look up the rap group, Die Antwoord, it may not be suitable for work, but it's definitely suitable for getting me going into 6th gear.

Follow the Wildman!

Twitter: @WildDavidWild

Instagram: @DavidWildDavid



Link to David’s HITS Napa race report

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