I had the opportunity to ask some of our seasoned Powerhouse athletes a few questions about their training and experience as an endurance athlete. Some of you know Kirk..and some of you can’t catch this 54 year old triathlete on the course! Check it out!
Kirk, why do you think there are there fewer athletes in the 50+ age groups?
Not a lot of people are starting their triathlon career in the 50s, but many are dropping out. Even for a sprint or Olympic athlete, the training is time consuming and the 50 somethings often have a lot of responsibilities that keep them from training. The 50s are when nagging injuries become too much hassle to overcome sometimes. I have thought, as I come out of yet another calf problem, “Maybe it is time to switch to master’s swimming”. But then I heal up and sign up for another tri! There is also a tendency to think of Ironman and 70.3 as “triathlon” and training for those in your 50s is daunting, when you can get just as much fulfillment out of sprint and olympic distance races.
That being said, those that remain in the 50+ categories are quite serious. The “wannabees” have dropped out, leaving those that really love it and are very competitive. I can tell you the competition in the 50+ age groups is fierce, requiring a disciplined training schedule and a more serious attitude toward nutrition and weight control than was required in the past. You have to want it to be doing it this long.
How has an active lifestyle benefited/changed you, your friends, family?This is a hard one for me because except for a 5-6 year period in the late 80s early 90s, I have been active my whole life. The benefits are innumerable to me. A commitment to the sport or any of the other sports I have participated in (track, cross country, wrestling, swimming, skiing, baseball, even football) requires discipline, goal setting, planning, prioritization, execution, adaptability, improvisation, etc. These are all valuable things to practice in my non-sporting life. These are things that I have been able to model for my sons. Dealing with adversity is a key lesson for any sport, but particularly in triathlon. No race goes perfect; almost no training week goes as planned. Problem solving on the fly, mitigating damage, resetting goals; those are three things triathlon has taught me through the years. I have learned to deal with success and failure both with a sense of humor. I hope this has had a positive impact on my family and friends. And there is a lot to be said for the joy of a well-trained for and executed race, especially if it puts me on the podium!
How long have you been competing and what brought you to endurance sports? What brought you to Powerhouse Racing?
I have been competing since I was in 7th grade, first in track than in just about anything I could. As I grew older but did not grow taller, I found I could still be competitive in distance events at my size. I ran, swam, and wrestled in high school, then took up tri while I was at the Coast Guard Academy. I finished second in a tri in Maryland in 1983 I think, but waited another 5 -6 years before getting my own bike and starting in pretty much full time. I have finished somewhere around 115 multi-sport events since then.
I came to Powerhouse after riding with another group, but otherwise trained by myself for many years. It is very valuable to me to train with others, including those that are faster in the individual disciplines. Ride with faster riders, run with faster runners, etc. So many other groups I have encountered are cliquish and closed to tri bike riders or new participants, while Powerhouse is open to everyone. Many other groups are either elite only, or entirely newbie focused. Powerhouse has newbies and really fast people. The mix is great. I don’t get to enough PH workouts due to my work, but I really enjoy it and see my training improved when I do.
How do you keep injuries at bay?
Well I haven’t been too successful at that. I train hard and race hard, and that takes its toll. I have had chronic calf injuries for the last 8 years. I regularly receive ART treatments and I muddle through. I have adjusted my running schedules and slowed up my speed work (but I love speed work). I substitute a no-hands elliptical workout for one run a week and that preserves my legs. Luckily I have not had shoulder or knee issues, so when my calves are good, I am good.
How has training changed over the years?
I actually have a more disciplined training schedule than in years past. I have shortened my distances and emphasized quality. I taper more and race normally no more than once a month.
What keeps you motivated?
I like being in shape (it does not look like I am in shape from a side profile, I know, but I am normally around 11 percent body fat at 54 years old, so I think I am in shape). I like the competition of the races. It really feels good to go fast in each of the disciplines, and so as long as I can still do that, I will keep training and racing. That’s another great thing about triathlon: except for the pros, there is no real ideal triathlon body type. Anyone and any type can succeed!
What has been your greatest achievement in triathlon or endurance sports?
I have had a few, none of which exceed the other. Finishing my only Ironman in 12 hr 40 mins. Half Ironman PR of 4 hrs 54 mins. Marathon PR of 3 hrs 35 seconds. Racing in the 2014 USAT Olympic Distance National Championship and setting a PR at 52 years old. Winning my age group at the Cypress Triathlon in 2015.
Advice for your younger counterparts, or yourself at 20, 30, 40?
The lure of going long, half iron or iron, is there and you should scratch that itch. Just don’t believe that is all there is. Drop down to sprints and Olympics and actually race instead of just surviving. Long course is a tremendous challenge. The shorter races provide their own challenges. When you lift and hold your pace while your body is screaming to slow down, then you will have met and conquered a significant challenge. When you blow through T2 in 36 seconds, you will have achieved a level of efficiency you could not imagine you could. When your will is broken on a hot 10k finishing run, you will not undersell the difficulty of an Olympic race. Don’t be afraid to go hard. Sure sometimes you will blow up, but occasionally you will be stronger than you ever imagined you could be. I actually would not have changed anything about my sporting life through the years. I have enjoyed all of it, even the difficulties. The difficulties make the joy and satisfaction that much better.
How do you feel about competition at 50+?
I love it. I love passing younger racers and hear them gasp or comment or cuss! I love getting passed by someone who clearly has got it going on. It is fun going into a transition area or diving into open water and being completely at ease and in my element. I belong here. I know what to do and how to do it. I love the swim start, especially if it is off the beach. I get to run and jump and play at fifty-stinking-four years old. How cool is that?