What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?
Growing up I was always into team sports such as baseball, basketball, and football. In high school I was all in for football, I was an offensive lineman so my primary goal was to get big and strong. I was pretty successful doing that but after my last season of playing I realized that I wasn’t going to play in college and really wanted to lose the extra weight. I started maintaining a healthy diet and eventually took up running which led to cycling. I learned about triathlon from cycling and the community around cycling. After hearing about a local triathlon in my hometown I decided to sign up. I was instantly hooked, I loved the training the technology and the community. I placed 3rd in my age group my first race which really boosted my confidence and love for the sport.
Offensive linemen can be great athletes, just in different ways. That said, do you feel like a completely different person now in what you can do? Was it a tough transition from fasttwitch, explosive training to triathlon?
Well it's funny you mention it because when I started focusing on losing weight I only ran to burn calories. Going into for my first year of college all I cared about was getting ripped. I got really strong and my beach muscles were pretty nice. Eventually though I got sick and tired of all the micromanaging I needed to do with my diet and time in the gym to continue getting results. I one day decided to stop lifting weights and strictly run. I never really cared about time or distance I would just plan a route in my head and do it. I think it was when I was home on spring break one day I went for a run and decided to figure out how far I went. Turns out it was 6 miles and I was shocked and also proud of myself. Looking back at old photos now, I can really see a difference in my build. When I played football I had a big upper body and was pretty stocky, it’s pretty much the other way for me now.I have more of a cyclist build with big legs and a scrawny upper body.
|Rob in high school
Overall 2014 was a great season for me. I started off completing my first 70.3. I am a very competitive person so I wanted to have at the very least a competitive time for my age group. That goal changed a few weeks out however as I realized I was under trained. I had just graduated college, started my full time job and went on vacation to Ireland the month prior. Needless to say my running volume dropped and my Guinness consumption went up. In the end I finished and still managed 4th in my AG which I was really excited about considering how undertrained I was. The rest of the season I focused on the sprint distance and was able to get on the podium a handful of times. I really was using 2014 as an opportunity to grow and learn what my strength and weaknesses are. I learned a lot and I think it has better prepared me as I begin my base for the 2015 season.
What’s on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?
2015 is the year of the 70.3 for me. I have signed up for 3 70.3’s throughout the summer, and a handful of sprints and road races in between. My number one goal is to pull off a sub 5hr 70.3. I think with some good early year base miles and a structured training block I can reach that goal. My other goal is to place top 5 in my AG in all of my races. This is another thing I believe with a good structure to my training I should be able to do. Finally to end 2015 I want to qualify for the one of the best races in the world, the Boston Marathon. If there is one thing you need to know about Boston, it's that Bostonians love tradition. The Boston Marathon is one of those traditions. On Patriots Day, every year everyone in Boston turns into running fans. The whole city buys into the race and throughout the 26.2 miles of course there are people cheering you on and just being loud. As a spectator I get chills seeing that energy get runners through the race. As a runner myself that is something I want to experience so before I can run Boston I have to qualify!
What’s been the key for you in progressing so quickly as a relative newcomer to the sport?
My general interest for how things work has played a big factor. I’ve read up on all three disciplines; what works, what doesn’t and have tried to adapt the practices of successful swimmers, cyclists and runners. When I took up cycling I remember reading about Greg Lemond, the first American to win the Tour de France. Lemond had a quote that has really stuck with me, “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster”. I see that as what training for a triathlon or any endurance sport is. You will dedicate hours upon hours to get faster and fit, but in reality the pain in your legs and lungs will still be same as when you first got into triathlon. Learning to accept the pain plays a big role in an athlete’s progression into the sport. I was able to recognize that early and constantly am trying to remember that through training. I have never let the hardships from training bring me down, instead it keeps me motivated and coming back for more.
Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?
I would have to put swimming as my weakest. I pretty much taught myself to freestyle swim about a month out from my first triathlon. I actually remember the first time I went to the pool to swim laps. There was a private swim lesson for two young kids. Here I am in the lane next to them barely making it 25 yards and they are just swimming laps around me. I had to claim defeat that day and hit the showers early. I have improved quite a bit since then and have gotten pretty confident with my swimming, but confidence does not correlate to speed. I feel with time I will be able to improve because when push comes to shove it’s all about staying consistent with my swim training. Cycling and running are a close 1 & 2. I have done a lot of cyclocross racing the past two years and am pretty confident with my handling skills and being able to drop the hammer when need be.
I’ve also done a number of running road races ranging from 5k’s to half marathons. By doing a lot of bike and running races, I have taught myself to keep pushing through and suffer, which I think has helped a lot with my triathlon racing. For all three I rock my Garmin 910XT, I love having some sort of data to look at after a workout or race and the 910XT is the perfect tool for that. For swimming, I don’t get to complicated with gear. I will generally pick up whatever goggles are on sale at the moment seeing as I continuously lose them. For biking I have my pride and joy, my Cannondale Slice. I picked it up last year with the desire of slowly upgrading components as a project for myself in the off season. I am wrapping the upgrades up now and cannot wait to race with it this year. For running all I need is a nice hat (generally in the backwards position) and whatever sneakers I am rocking at the moment. I beat my shoes up fairly easily so I will generally grab a new pair ever 3 or 4 months. I don’t have a specific pair I swear by, but just pick up what feels right from the local running store at the time.
At 23 you are officially the “young buck” of the team. Do you have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon, or will you wait a while to develop your MAN STRENGTH and as a triathlete?
I do have aspirations of stepping up to Ironman soon. Right now the plan is to learn as much as I can this year at the 70.3 level. Build my bike and run fitness while continuing to improve my confidence in the water. I started doing triathlon as a way to challenge myself physically and mentally and I want to continue challenging myself. In a short race like a sprint or Olympic triathlon you don’t have the time to think much... you’re just going all out. Once you get into longer distances there is a lot of exertion both physically and mentally. I think that is why a lot of guys my age stray away from longer distances like the Ironman because they don’t have the mental toughness needed to race for 10-17 hours with the pain your body is experiencing and your thoughts. I see that as an extra discipline of the sport that I am very strong at and really embrace. To summarize I cannot wait to do an Ironman in the near future!
Can you tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?
I am a Power Hardware quality engineer. Essentially what I do is test the reliability of power supplies that are used in data centers. Most days I test new power supplies that my company is introducing. My testing pretty much entails causing the power supplies to fail and seeing what happens and determine if this is a critical failure that needs to be prevented or if it’s acceptable. Outside of work I like to read up on a variety of things from sports, entertainment, technology, you name it. I am a big Patriots fan; some might say a huge Patriots fan as I can be rather vocal when they are playing. I have also taken up golfing and have caught the golf bug rather hard. I have a killer drive that likes to slice to the left a 100 yards (I am working on it). Regardless of how bad I play I just enjoy getting out on the golf course with my friends and family.
What is your post-race food & beverage of choice?
Post-race food most definitely is something greasy. Even though I care about my fitness and health I still have a weak spot for french fries. I am notorious for taking on an entire large pizza after a long training bike ride. My friends often joke when I get something greasy that I am going “Big-Rob Status”. After a race though I will probably be stopping somewhere for a nice burger and for hydration I will probably be reaching for a nice cold pale ale. I love this brewery that’s up in Vermont called Switchback, the brewery is only about 12 guys but their beer is to die for. Currently they only sell it in Vermont and New Hampshire, but I have some family up in New Hampshire so whenever I see them I make sure to stock up. I cannot wait for the day they start distributing to Massachusetts!
What’s triathlon like in Boston, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?
The triathlon community in Boston is great. I am literally a quarter mile away from heart break hill, one of the most iconic parts of the Boston Marathon course. I can go out on the course on any given day and see runners, cyclists and triathletes alike training. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. They are more than happy to give advice and help anyway they can. Whenever you go to a race in Massachusetts you really feel a strong sense of community when you’re in transition or waiting for the swim to start. Everyone just wants to know how your season and training has been going and what races are on tap... it really is awesome. I can’t really think of cons, maybe there are a lot of fast runners in Massachusetts. I remember reading a Runners World article that said Massachusetts has the fastest 5k time averages throughout the USA. It’s probably more of a con for myself, as I consider myself to be a back of the front of the pack runner.